Halloween always means tons of candy, horror movie marathons, naughty nurse costumes, and, of course, holiday song lists. These “horror rock” rundowns usually put “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Pet Semetary” near the top, alongside a parade of Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie tunes. But, to shake things up, I’ve hit the vinyl boneyard to unearth a few less touted, but equally carnivorous ear worms. Some are loving homages to the horror genre, while others are dark tales set to music, and one of them is, well, just plain disturbing. I’ve intentionally left off any artists who made horror their stock and trade, as they’ve already achieved brand awareness.
The Doors debut album finale, “The End” is considered the band’s macabre magnum opus. But for this list I’ve opted for this gem from their third album, Waiting for the Sun. The band’s first two albums had nearly exhausted Jim Morrison’s poetry notebooks, leaving the band with little to draw on for number three. Among the unused material was an eighteen-minute poem entitled “Celebration of the Lizard.” But, due in part to the Lizard King’s prodigious drinking, every attempt to lay it down as the album’s B-side failed. As a compromise one section of the poem became “Not to Touch the Earth.” Morrison’s lyrics are enhanced by nimble interplay between guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek who adds a cathedral worthy organ closer. Some outlaws live by the side of the lake, the minister’s daughter’s in love with the snake—the song packs plenty of surreal nightmares into its three-minute run time. I’d crown the same album’s “My Wild Love,” as Miss Runner Up. You can hear the full version of “Celebration of the Lizard,” on the band’s Absolutely Live album.
The Dictators debut album, “Go Girl Crazy,” was a critical success and a commercial disaster, leading Epic Records to drop them. Their new label, Asylum pressured these proto punk palookas into sounding at least slightly mainstream. While the end result only earns a B+ on the “Tators” scale, this ode to late-night monster flicks is spot on. In a world gone haywire. Radiation only added fuel to the fire! Vocalist ‘Handsome’ Dick Manitoba snarls Andy Shernoff’s witty lyrics, backed by searing licks from guitarists Ross the Boss and Top Ten. If you want to hear the “Tators” in their unbridled, almost live form check out their third album, Blood Brothers; a blistering LP that confirmed they were too sarcastic for most metal fans to embrace.
This EP was produced in Memphis by rock and roll eccentric Alex Chilton, and, with a mere five tracks, a new genre, christened psychobilly was born! Human Fly became a college radio staple and the centerpiece of their live shows. Lux Interior’s pleading vocals perfectly mesh with “Poison” Ivy Rorschach’s grinding guitar. Her Bill Lewis model six string sounds like its amp has been blasted with a shotgun. I’m an unzipped fly and I don’t know why, I got ninety-six tears and ninety-six eyes —lyrical gold! Lux and Ivy spent the next three decades cutting records and playing gigs, without ever compromising in their promise to stay sick and stay together. They’d been married thirty-seven years when Lux passed away in 2009. How many so called “normal” folks can make that claim? Some creepy Cramps runners up include Psychedelic Jungle’s, “Goo Goo Muck,” along with their rendition of the High Five’s 1956 classic, “Green Door.”
Dave Edmunds and his Rockpile bandmate Nick Lowe were kind of the Scorsese and DeNiro of seventies pop rock. This tune, penned by guitarist Billy Bremner, is about the titular creature, though his courtship rituals sound closer to those horny monsters in Humanoids From the Deep. The unsuspecting maiden will be clutched from where she sleeps. And taken to a home down under the water, and that’s for keeps. It would be pretty grim stuff, were it not for Dave Edmunds thinking man’s bubble gum music style. Creature is a quirky addition to an album chock full of winners like Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk,” “Crawling From the Wreckage,” and “Queen of Hearts.”
With their short running times, minimal cords and barely chorus-length verses the Ramones personified brilliance in brevity. This Johnny and Dee Dee penned horror movie homage is so on the money that it should have been recorded in a Times Square grindhouse theater. Mama, where’s your little daughter? She’s here, right here on the altar. You don’t know what I could do with this axe. Chop off your head, so you better relax! Oops, that was actually the whole song. My runner up is “Chainsaw,” from their debut album.
Remember how I mentioned a disturbing piece of music? Well, here it is! In the early seventies, Manhattan’s Mercer Arts Center became an incubator for iconoclastic acts like the New York Dolls. Those performances inspired Mercer regulars Martin Rev and Alan Vega to form the electronic duo, Suicide. Armed with only a Farfisa Organ, a primitive drum machine and Vega’s tortured vocals they devoted themselves to challenging, and enraging audiences. One of their performances even devolved into a full-on riot. Frankie’s lying in hell. We’re all Frankies. We’re all lying in hell. Well, let’s hear it for Frankie—This emotionally wrenching ten-minute track chronicles a depressed man’s descent into hell. Be warned, If you’re struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts do not listen to this song! Vega’s tortures of the damned screams, combined with Rev’s droning keyboards can induce severe reactions. Devoted Suicide fan Bruce Springsteen emulated Vega’s howling on Nebraska’s, State Trooper, but it’s nowhere near as gut wrenching. “Frankie Teardrop” even inspired the disturbing 1986 film, Combat Shock—just so you know what you’re in for.
On that discordant note I’ll close the lid on Part 1. But don’t miss Part 2 where we’ll dig up some more goodies from the vinyl graveyard, including instrumentals, some spoken word poetry and even a dark foray from America’s most beloved songstress.
And, if you’re tired of thumbing through that dogeared copy of your favorite Stephen King book check out my horror novel “Primeval Waters,” which Diane Donovan of the Midwest Book Review praised as, “Horror/thriller adventure writing at its best.” It’s available on Amazon from Severed Press.