Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

The most wonderful day of the year has finally arrived! It's always a little bittersweet because that means Halloween is over for now, but it's also time to start making plans for next October. For me, it'll be a tall order to top this one--Sharon Needles, the B-52, a visit to one of Poe's homes, horror films galore, a Halloween party filled with friends last night, and tons of trick or treaters tonight--but I'm up for the challenge!

The last song of this year is also bittersweet because it comes from one of the saddest losses of a year filled with sad losses. "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps" comes from David Bowie's 1980 album of the same name. Bowie's influence on those of us who love the inventive, the strange, the glamorous, and fearless risk-taking can't be measured. He's left this realm, but the dead are always closest to us on Halloween, and we can still celebrate the immense body of amazing music he left us throughout his long and eclectic career. So until next year, let's dance! 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Shake it like an Egyptian!

The most wonderful time of the year just keeps getting more wonderfuller! Last night I fulfilled a bucket list item by seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, the B-52s, play their Halloween Scream show. Naturally, it was a scream! The B-52s still rock the house down almost 40 years into their existence. They played plenty of classics and some of my particular faves--finally got to hear Fred Schneider say "Going to the store for hot dogs and wine" in person when they played "Is That You Modean?"! Also decided my next pet is going to be named Modean. 

Although Fred, Kate, and Cindy were the spectacular main event last night, I was also excited to be introduced to their excellent opening band, Mother Feather! They are a local NYC group who recently released their first full-length album on Metal Blade. Imagine if Siouxsie Sioux started a metal band and hired Gozer to play keyboards, and maybe added a dash of Peaches. Aural ecstasy! They also look pretty fine too, as you can see in the video for today's song, "Egyptology." Why bother walking like an Egyptian when you can shake it like one?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Who's going to build my death ray?

While off traveling the country on my custom Sanderson Sister vacuum cleaner over the past week, I left the blog in the care of my so-called trusty henchmen. And what did they do while I was gone? Not a damn thing! It's so hard to find good toadies these days. Next time I'll just snatch a few toads and make my own.

Only a couple days left before the big day, and so much spooky music still to cover! So why not start up where we left off? This song is another from Mono Puff, whom we heard a little from last week. While "Pretty Fly" was an acapella number sung by the lead singer's wife, "Poison Flowers" is by the usual Mono Puff lineup with John Flansberg on vocals. It's the lament of a man who worries over who will continue his nefarious deeds when he is back in school, like typing his manifesto and growing poison flowers. I'm so glad I'm not the only one with minion trouble! You better listen closely to this one, Igor... your job is on the line.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's a hard world for little things.

One of my favorite scary films isn't a horror film, but a film noir built on childhood fantasies/nightmares called Night of the Hunter. It was made in 1955 and is the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed. Robert Mitchum gives a career-high performance as the evil Reverend Harry Powell who menaces a little boy and girl because they know the whereabouts of some money he wants. They flee down the river in one of the most beautifully eerie sequences ever filmed. As John and Pearl drift through the night on a rowboat, we see a star-speckled sky, luminous cattails, a frog, a turtle, and rabbits--all of nature combining to give the film the look and feel of a surreal storybook. Pearl sings a haunting song called "Pretty Fly" as they float, which you can hear below. The scene continues after the song, so enjoy more of the Expressionist spell Laughton cast upon this film! Too bad it wasn't well-received when it was released, or maybe we would have more masterpieces like this from him.

In the late 90s, the band Mono Puff included a cover of "Pretty Fly" on their album It's Fun to Steal. It's acapella, with just the sound of crickets in the background as accompaniment, so it casts a similar spell as the original. The singer is Robin Goldwasser, wife of Mono Puff/They Might Be Giants founder John Flansberg. Check out her plaintive rendition below and see how you think she measures up to the timeless Pearl.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sing along with the Munsters!

All that talk last week about the Addams Family got me missing The Munsters something fierce! While I love both families, The Munsters hold an extra-soft spot in my heart. It's been a while since we visited with them, and although we've heard their theme song before, we haven't yet heard it with lyrics!

Nothing can really improve on the original surfy instrumental theme song, which is so good it was nominated for a Grammy in 1965 and remains iconic today. Still, it's fun to hear the words one of the show's producers came up with to describe the Munsters. The version with lyrics was never used on the show, but was included on a 1964 album called At Home With The Munsters. It includes such neighborly numbers as "Everyone Is Welcome," "Meet Our Pets," and "I Wish Everyone Was Born This Way." So if you hear mysterious feet at night and find the Munsters are following you, don't scream and run away! Just turn around, shake their clammy hands, and accept their invitation for a hot drink from the cauldron.

And what goes better with some classic Munsters than a nice bowl of cereal? This weekend I went to the Halloween edition of "Spoons, Toons, & Booze" at a local movie theater, where they show beloved cartoons on the big screen, have an open cereal bar, and serve cereal-infused cocktails. I was enjoying my Halloween Cap'n Crunch (it turns your milk green!) just fine through Halloween episodes of Beetlejuice, DuckTales, and Pinky and the Brain until a disturbing majority of the audience voted to watch Rugrats as the last selection of the day. Talk about frightening! We had the opportunity to watch some little-seen gems, like Count Duckula, The Real Ghostbusters, or Groovie Goolies, and they picked that dirty diaper full of baby talk. Barf! To make it all better, let's enjoy some Cheerios with Herman Munster. After all, they're the greatest things since bat wings!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Dukes of Alhazred

Last night I saw a RadioTheatreNYC performance of two of H.P. Lovecraft's classic horror stories, "The Horror in the Museum" and "The Call of Cthulhu." I saw this company perform some Edgar Allan Poe stories a few months ago, and once again they delivered the bone-chilling goods with just their voices, a few sound effects, and simple lighting. Who needs lame digital effects and movie theaters that rain on you when you can get more and better frights from real people who know how to deliver a scary story?

Since last night was all about the Old Ones and the Outer Gods, today we're going "Down to Dunwich" with The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets to see what that noise in the barn is all about. The Thickets are a Canadian group that specialize in songs about H.P. Lovecraft's extensive mythology. That's quite a specific niche, but so far they've gotten four full-length albums out of it and toured with groups like Bad Brains, GWAR, and They Might Be Giants. Even their name is taken from a Lovecraft story, "The Tomb": "I will tell only of the lone tomb in the darkest of the hillside thickets."

"Down to Dunwich" focuses on Lovecraft's story "The Dunwich Horror," written in 1928 and published in Weird Tales magazine. The story concerns Wilbur Whateley, a man of unfortunate parentage (his dad is Outer God Yog-Sothoth) who is shunned by the townsfolk and their animals for being so ugly and strange. Luckily his grandfather is a sorcerer and teaches him some very important life skills, like how to keep his invisible twin brother alive in the barn by feeding him cows. The story was made into a fun film in 1970 that doesn't completely follow the original plot, but is worth seeing anyway.
Hug Yog!

So are you ready to go out to the barn and see what that noise was? And where did that slime in the kitchen come from, anyway? Maybe you should bring a cow along, just to be safe...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bloodsucking vampire? Too bad, so sad.

I'll skip the blood today, thanks. Instead, I'm a sucker for any song that opens with a thunder storm, like "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath, "Dirty Black Summer" by Danzig, and today's song,"Keep on Runnin' (The Vampire Song)" by The Hot Toddies. All I know about this band is they're from Oakland, they're all women, and they wrote the poppiest song I've ever heard about a vampire. It even name checks Mary Poppins! That's more than enough for me. Besides, isn't it time we visit with some lady bloodsuckers again? The Hot Toddies haven't put out an album in a while (2013), but they're still playing shows here and there, so we can hope the future will bring more infectious songs about the heartsickening troubles that come with graveyard love.

Wield the Square Hammer! It is your destiny!

In a few weeks I will get to see a band I've wanted to see live for  a few years--Ghost! We heard a song from them here a few years ago, but since then they've released another full-length album, Meliora, and a brand-new EP called Popestar, just out last month. Today's song, "Square Hammer," is from the EP, and in my opinion is one of their best yet! Not only is it insanely catchy and rocking, but the video is a masterpiece. It weaves many of Ghost's loves (and mine) together into a beautiful tapestry: art deco horror art, a vintage movie palace, real film projection, lightning made of negative scratches, bats flying out of a movie screen... all of this backed a kickass song that will have you swearing to the devil before you know it! I know I'm ready for the altar call when I go see them in November. Until then, let's all feel the power of the square hammer, the test of blood and spirit...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Addams Crazy Bunch!

After yesterday's song from the Addams Family musical, I realized that in six years of doing this blog, I hadn't yet posted one of the most iconic pieces of Halloween music ever written--The Addams Family theme! Sure we've covered the The Munsters, and mentioned the Addamses in passing, but never have we honored their most well-known ditty. Today that wrong gets righted. Or would the Addams prefer if the right got wrongded?

The theme was written by Vic Mizzy, who was something of a jingle genius. Not only did he write the theme and scores to The Addams Family, but also for some of the other great loves of my life: Green Acres, five Don Knotts films, and three William Castle films! Just a few years ago, when Vic was hitting 90, he even helped out Sam Raimi on music for two of his Spiderman films. Talk about holding a special place in my heart! 

Vic died in 2009 at the ripe old age of 93. I hope he's now dancing the Mamushka with Raul Julia and Charles Addams himself! Happily we still have Vic's wonderful music to remember him by, in all its creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, finger-snapping glory. Below are two versions of the theme--the first is a fun reworking of it by comedian Joey Gaynor doing his best Frank Sinatra. It was originally on an album of celebrity impersonators covering TV themes called Rerun Rock, although I know it from an Elvira compilation. The second is the beloved original from the show. Let's get our witches' shawls on, broomsticks we can crawl on, and snap along, shall we?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Death isn't just around the coroner...

As mentioned in the last post, a few years ago there was an Addams Family musical on Broadway that has since toured nationally and will soon open in England. Sadly it was not well-reviewed, but it was quite popular and did well financially. One interesting aspect is that it was based on the original Charles Addams cartoons rather than the TV series or the movies. With so many adaptations of those iconic characters over the years, it's easy to forget where they came from.

Another bright spot was that the always-wonderful Bebe Neuwirth played Morticia. Other than being an incomparable dancer and singer, as well as a glamorous vamp in her own right, Bebe used to idolized TV's original Moriticia, Carolyn Jones. As a child, Bebe wanted to embody that wry wit and dark beauty. If you think about, wasn't Lilith from Cheers and Frasier basically Morticia in a power suit? Frasier was no Gomez, but Lilith certainly had more than a little Morticia blood flowing through her icy veins.

Today's song is the same Morticia number Jinkx Monsoon has been performing in concert on her recent RuPaul tour. "Just Around the Corner" is a feel-good song Morticia sings to remind herself that no matter how bad things get, there's always a silver lining--sweet, sweet death is always just around the corner. I couldn't find a decent video of Bebe singing it, so here's a shaky one someone in the audience recorded. The version on Spotify is from the cast album, so enjoy crystal clear audio of it on the playlist. At least we can see a little of how Bebe brought Morticia to life/death:

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Creeps 'n Weirdos R Us

Continuing our praise of drag queens of Halloween, today's song comes from another devotee of the macabre--Jinkx Monsoon! Jinkx was inspired to try out for the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race (which she won) after seeing Sharon Needles win the fourth. Jinkx isn't as all-out goth as Sharon, but she does have her creepy leanings, as we saw last year in her video honoring the gold-digging Debbie Jellinsky from Addams Family Values

In addition to her creepy kookiness, Jinkx has the heart of a comedienne and the voice of a Broadway star. Earlier this year I was lucky to see her combine all her loves in a performance of "Death is Just Around the Corner" from the Addams Family musical during an NYC stop of the RuPaul's Battle of the Seasons tour. Of course she killed it, and I'm sure made Morticia proud!

Today's song is a cover of a different sort--"Creep" by Radiohead. Jinkx puts her unique stamp on it vocally, but also pulled out all the stops for the video. In this black and white and orange masterpiece, Jinkx is not only a creepy clown, but a crooked one. She arrives at an all-girl school like the anti-Mary Poppins, presumably to entertain the students during a party with puppets and tricks. But things start to deteriorate when Jinkx serves kitty poo pie and uses the birthday cake as a weapon. Make sure you watch till the end, it's quite explosive! Jinkx, you're so fucking special.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

You're my Dracula-la-la-la-la!

Last night I was part of an intimate audience for one of my favorite people on the planet, the (drag) Queen of Halloween, Sharon Needles! Sharon's appearance on this blog has become a yearly ritual, and since she released her sophomore album Taximdermy last Halloween, obviously it's time to include a song from it.

"Dracula" was the first single from Taxidermy. In the video, Sharon spans the entire spectrum of Draculas, from Nosferatu to Bela Lugosi to a Lost Boy to Count Chocula. The song rocks as hard as the video, and even when she sang it last night as a cabaret piece, she showed she could still hold her own with just piano accompaniment. Her pianist used to play for Joan Rivers, and Sharon was performing on the hallowed stage where Joan used to do her standup, so surely the spirits were smiling up from below!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mama's got a brand new bag!

If Miss Sharon Jones, a.k.a. the female James Brown tells you to back off, you know you best do it! Today's song "Retreat" comes from her 2014 album with the Dap-Kings, Give the People What They Want. The album was recorded just before Sharon was diagnosed with cancer, which delayed its release for several months. Her battle with the disease is documented in the recently-released film Miss Sharon Jones!, directed by the great Barbara Kopple. It's a heartwrenching look at Sharon Jones' strength and talent, as well as her triumphant career. 

Sharon Jones' route to stardom wasn't easy--in the 90s she was told by a record producer that she was too fat, too black, too short, and too old. She worked as a corrections officer at Riker's Island prison and as an armored car guard before getting a call in 1996 from an acquaintance to work as a back-up singer. By 2002, Sharon had done her time singing back-up and she and the Dap-Kings had formed their own label and built their own studio. She was already 46 by then, but her singing career was just catching fire.

Since then, she's released seven successful albums and whipped cancer's ass. Today's song and video show her fiery, indomitable spirit--all the big bad wolves in the world can't get the best of Sharon Jones! Her animated self wanders through a surreal, Beetlejuice-like dreamscape, scaring off wolf specters left and right. Ignorant record producers, trifling men, and cancer cells better hide!

I've already got tickets to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings do their Christmas show in December. I can't wait to finally witness her fierce vocals and dynamo dancing in person! Until then, let's all enjoy Sharon and the Dap-Kings serving up a hot slice of unbeatable soul.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Serena stops the show!

Me and Brooke with Sam
In addition to enjoying some Hocus Pocus sites while in Salem last month, I also did what any tourist in that town is required to do and took multiple pictures of and with the statue of Samantha from Bewitched. It graces the town square and has a commemorative brass plaque in the sidewalk that sings her praises: 

Hair of gold, eyes that twinkle
A nose that neatly twitched
Clever, charming and enchanting
Samantha left us all Bewitched

The statue and plaque are courtesy of TV Land, in honor of a few episodes of the show that were filmed in and around Salem in 1970. A notable plot point of those episodes is when Samantha is stalked by an antique bedwarmer from the House of Seven Gables. It follows Sam and Darrin to their car and Darrin is thrown in jail for stealing it. Serves that loser right for always cramping Sam's witchy style!

Samantha never really sang in the show, but her sort-of identical, way cooler and hotter cousin Serena sure did! Like Samantha, Serena was also played by Elizabeth Montgomery (although in the credits she's Pandora Spocks), but in a black wig and a much hipper wardrobe. Serena is the wild and uninhibited witch I always wanted Samantha to be. She'd never end up with a bore like Darrin telling her to spend all day doing housework rather than using her powers to get it done in a flash. She'd smash her guitar over his head, like she almost does in one of today's clips.

Elizabeth Montgomery had a fine voice, but was intimidated to sing at gigs or on the show as Samantha. She said she took comfort in the spunky role of Serena, though, so she rocked it out a few times to so much acclaim she was asked to perform in nightclubs and on variety shows! My favorite Serena gem is "I'll Blow You a Kiss in the Wind":

Ugh, don't you want that guitar to land right in Darrin's smug smacker? Good thing Serena's song went on to be a hit at the witches' Cosmos Cotillion. Serena sang a couple other times in the show, proving both that Elizabeth Montgomery had quality pipes and Serena was seriously the coolest. Here she is singing "The Iffin' Song" and "Rock-A-Bye Baby." Dig it if you can, mortals!

Just a bunch of Hocus Pocus.

A few weeks ago, I made a pilgrimage to the witchy homeland of Salem, Massachusetts. Among the many witch shops, witch tours, and witch museums were some locations from one of the greatest witch/Halloween movies ever made: Hocus Pocus!

by Miles Teves
As you should already know, the 1993 film concerns three witch sisters who are brought back to life on Halloween night when a virgin lights the black flame candle. The movie is so beloved and fan demand has been so high that for years rumors have flown that a sequel is in the works. All three Sanderson sisters--Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker--have said they would be on board, but so far no concrete plans have materialized. Bette Midler says this is due to the difficulty in finding a virgin to re-light the black flame candle. Ho hum. I hope we don't have to wait another 300 years like the Sanderson sisters did the first time.

One of the filming locations in Salem is the exterior of the building in today's song, which is also one of the best scenes in the movie. While the Sanderson sisters are on a mission to suck the souls of the town's children, they stop in at a Halloween party and bewitch most of Salem's adults by embedding a spell in their performance of Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put A Spell On You." With all the childrens' parents taken care of, the Sandersons are free to continue their witchy pursuits.

Old Town Hall
Winifred on tour
The interior of the party was filmed on a set, but the exterior is Salem's Old Town Hall, right in the middle of downtown. Just last year Bette Midler reenacted her performance of that scene on her Divine Intervention tour, where she once again donned Winifred Sanderson garb and performed "I Put A Spell On You" with her back-up singers as Sarah and Mary Sanderson. Really sad I missed that show! 

Also sad I missed a Hocus Pocus reunion screening at Disneyland in 2013, which several of the original cast and crew attended. Then just last year Disney did a Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular as part of their annual Halloween celebration. With all the love and attention Hocus Pocus keeps getting, seems like a sequel isn't too much to ask for! Let's all cross our broomsticks and say a little spell along with the Sanderson sisters. 

Here's the other classic song from the film, "Come Little Children." This one is sung by Sarah Jessica Parker, and is the one song from the score written by James Horner. He was supposed to score the whole film, but had to drop out at the last minute. If you have children, make sure they listen closely to this one in order for it to have its full effect.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Voodoo Child, Slight Return

What if Sugar Hill from yesterday's post started her own modern day rock 'n soul band? They would probably sound a lot like the group featured today, The Seratones. And not only would they sound like The Seratones, they would probably look a whole lot like them in the video for today's song, "Necromancer." Big sexy afro on the lady lead singer? Check. Swampy southern setting? Check. Zombie groupies? Triple check! 

The Seratones formed in Louisiana in 2013, but sound like they could've come straight out of Motown's funky heyday. They just released their first major album this spring on Fat Possum Records, called Get Gone. Last year they got a lot of attention for the single "Necromancer," which could liven up even the deadest of graveyards. No wonder the dead rise up in this video just to get on down again! Enough of boogie men, let's bring on the boogie woman.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

She do voodoo on you!

This spring I was lucky to catch several blaxploitation films at Anthology Film Archives as part of their American International Pictures retrospective. A couple were B-horror gems, like Blacula and the movie today's song is taken from, Sugar Hill

Sugar Hill follows the path Pam Grier paved in Coffy, which was released one year prior in 1973. Both films feature strong young women kicking the asses of powerful people who are taking advantage of them and their loved ones. Only Sugar Hill also has zombies! 

Diana "Sugar" Hill isn't your everyday badass, after all--she's also a voodoo queen with an army of zombified slaves at her disposal. They're more the zombies of tribal legend than the brain-munching rot bags we're used to seeing in horror movies. They'll do whatever their master tells them, which usually means doing away with evil white gangsters.

The theme song to Sugar Hill is by a classic Motown R&B group, The Originals. It's sexy and sultry and more than a little dangerous, just like Sugar herself. Supernatural Voodoo Woman... do her wrong and you won't see the light!

Blood is red, voodoo is blue, sugar is sweet, revenge is sweeter... Meet Sugar Hill!

My sweet 6(66)!

by Noelle Criminova
Welcome to October, ghoulfriends! This is year 6 of this blog, and I'm still happy to serve the big red man downstairs by doling out the spookiest songs I can find for the next 30 days. We Old Ones love our rituals (especially if they're evil), so as with previous years, we'll start off with a song from the original inspiration for this blog--The Cramps. 

Do you have a mixed-up woman in your house? Does she have cobras in her hair? A cobweb stare? Like Sheena in today's song, there's a good chance she's in the forbidden vampire underground, a.k.a. a goth gang. We all know Sheena started as a punk rocker, but now she's all black lips and black nails. I dig her deeply!