Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rocktober first!

As a person who loves all things Halloween, I am continually disappointed every October when the only Halloween songs I hear on the radio are "The Monster Mash," "Weird Science," "The Monster Mash," "Thriller," and "The Monster Mash." Now I'm not saying these songs are bad; in fact, I like all of them in moderation, all throughout the year. (Yes, even "The Monster Mash."  Actually, I think I only like that song when it isn't October. Heard in the dead of winter, it becomes a heartwarming monster love song.) Since there are so many more great creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky songs out there, I have to wonder, why aren't we hearing them?

I don't have a good answer for that, other than commercial radio DJs are lazy, or perhaps the stations don't want to spend extra bucks on songs they will only play for one month out of the year. Whatever it is, this year I want to start rectifying the problem. Which brings me to the point of this blog - every day for the next thirty days, I will post a non-"Monster Mash" Halloween song, along with a bit of commentary about the day's selection. Some will be old, some will be new(er), some will be forgotten gems, and some may have never gotten much airplay at all. But whatever the case may be, I ghoul-arantee each one will be a spookarific, creeptastic, teeth-rotting treat of aural Halloween goodness!

So what is the first selection? Well.... recently I listened to an interview that Rex Doane from Fool's Paradise on WFMU did with one of my all-time favorite Halloween-loving bands, The Cramps. During that interview, Poison Ivy, the female half of the band, mentioned the same argument that I just made above - that there are too many great spooky songs out there not being played each October. One song that she mentioned as an example has always been one of my favorites - "The Martian Hop" by the Ran-Dells. I first heard it years ago on an Elvira compilation and it was immediately my favorite song on that album. Poison Ivy said that when she was a little girl, her brother used to play it when his friends were over because it would always cause her to start spinning around the room like a dervish!

Why is it so great? For one, the melody is insane and as Lux Interior, the late male half of The Cramps, used to say about music he liked, "It makes you feel like you're on drugs." The story of the song is equally insane - essentially, as the voice in the beginning tells us: "We have just discovered an important note from space; the Martians plan to throw a dance for all the human race." Important, indeed! 

The writers and performers of the song, the Ran-Dells, were two cousins from New Jersey who started out playing guitars and bongos with friends on the Jersey shore in the early 60s. Excited about John Glenn's orbit and the impending moon voyage, they decided to write a space song and "Martian Hop" was it. One of the members was a student at Brandeis at the time and had been experimenting with early synthesizers, which led to the spacey effects you hear on the song. The song became a hit in 1963, but alas, the Ran-Dells were a one hit wonder. But man, what a hit!

So here it is, in all its boppa mmm ipp ipp glory! And remember to stay tuned for tomorrow's selection - I can promise it won't be "The Monster Mash"!



  1. "I first heard it years ago on an Elvira compilation" - i love that no one else in my life has, or will ever say something like this

    JBC Rules!