It’s episode 3 of FRIGHTENING FUN FACTS. Learn the evil truth about SEA MONKEYS, the mating habits of BIGFOOT, the macho man behind KING KONG, why SCORPIONS are nature’s superheroes, and more incredibly strange stuff. ENJOY!
SERIES SYNOPSIS: A trio of dim witted 1960’s stoners ingest a mystical strain of marijuana, sending them into Rip Van Winkle comas. They awaken in the year 2021, to a brave new world where pot is legal but the populace is too zombified by mobile devices and technology to care. Their adjustment is, to say the least, awkward.
Gilbert Shelton’s The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers was part of a vanguard of 1960’s underground comics. These alternative publications thumbed their nose at the stringent Comics Code Authority by including drug use, sex and violence. Shelton, along with artists like Robert Crumb (Fritz the Cat) and S Clay Wilson (Checkered Demon) aimed their works directly at the counter culture, selling them through head shops and alternative businesses. Woodstock era readers embraced these iconoclastic comics, inspiring regular reprintings and anthologies. At the tender age of twelve, I blundered across a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers anthology, and the taboo content made me an instant fan.
The Freak Brothers comedy utilized recreational drugs the way the Three Stooges relied on bodily injury. Phineas, Fat Freddy and Freewheeling Franklin were rudderless, none too bright stoners living in a roach infested tenement in the heart of San Francisco’s Haight Asbury district. Their endless search for drugs put them squarely into the crosshairs of law enforcement, particularly DEA agent Notorious Norbert the Narc, who played Javier to their Jean Valjean. Gilbert Shelton’s stories also took swipes at hippie culture, commercialism, and suburban America, but the humor was firmly rooted in the heroes’ ‘rebel without a clue’ lifestyle. It was a one note joke, but it struck a chord with readers, ultimately inspiring the likes of Cheech and Chong.
And that’s where the new Tubi animated series initially stumbles. Releasing these three stoned stooges into the modern world, where their raison d’ētre is now legal, short circuits the core concept. This problem is escalated by the fact that the boys aren’t bright, so their observations about 21st century society aren’t exactly rapier sharp.
They don’t get much comedic support from the contemporary characters. Social justice lawyer Gretchen (La La Anthony) only exists to solve the trio’s problems, while her silicon valley mogul sister Harper Switzer (Andrea Savage) is sentenced to endlessly repeating the same “Get out of my house!” schtick. I couldn’t help thinking that this all would be funnier if those characters were propelled back in time and forced to deal with the Freak Brothers in their own world.
It should have been a warning sign that the “stoned man out of time” concept was also the plot of a Cheech solo movie (Rude Awakening, 1989) and a Chong solo outing (Far Out Man, 1990). Neither were hits, and the pilot episode seemed to be hamstrung by the same limitations as those films.
The show’s synopsis states that, “The Freaks, who are unburdened by the baggage of modern life help the Switzer family embrace the values of a simpler time.” With that promise in mind, I streamed the second episode, only to have said promises flushed down the toilet… literally. Episode two resorts to cranking the scatological humor up to eleven. It felt like the writers had already thrown in the towel—and that’s coming from someone with no objection to bodily fluid comedy. The final moments of Fat Freddy spraying feces like a firehose pretty much sums it up.
But I hadn’t given up yet, and was happy to discover that episode three was genuinely funny. It took a few steps towards social satire, while keeping the fecal matter to a minimum. Jeffrey Tambor was great as an assistant to Jeff Bezos, who’s plotting to launch our trio to mars. If the show continues climbing a few creative rungs with each episode it will eventually live up to the comic that inspired it.
The Freak Brothers’ secret weapon is its great voice cast, especially Woody Harrelson’s pitch perfect Freewheeling Franklin. John Goodman’s voice is almost unrecognizable as Fat Freddy, but the sweet natured man-child character shines through. Pete Davidson’s manic Phineas certainly checks all that character’s boxes.
The genuine scene stealer is Tiffany Haddish as Fat Freddy’s Cat. Interestingly, the television adaptation gender swapped the cat from male to female, which is amusing considering that the comic’s tomcat sported the biggest pair of cullions in comic book history. The mini strip style Fat Freddy’s Cat adventures were one of the comic’s high points, especially his ongoing war against a fascist army of cockroaches. I hope the television version mines that material.
You can only go so wrong with the dream cast the producers have assembled. I truly hope the writers keep strengthening their creative muscles and, maybe, try doing some flashback (no pun intended) episodes, putting the boys back in their own time zone. The comic book’s longer story arcs like “The Idiots Abroad,” would make fun episodes. And perhaps we could call a general moratorium on jokes about Alexa, and the phrase, “LOL.” Those gags have been done to death.
Final verdict: Check out the first three episodes for the talented cast alone, and here’s hoping that the show finds its creative feet during the fourth installment. And, above all, more cat!
Fun fact: An unauthorized live action version of The Freak Brothers, along with Robert Crumb’s Mr. Natural character, starred in the 1978 porn film Up In Flames. It’s an agonizing viewing experience, even by porn standards, providing neither laughs nor arousal. Its internet search keywords would be, hairy, flabby and sexual-performance-anxiety. This has been a public service announcement—you’ve been warned.
And if you’re looking for a mind-altering horror adventure check out my novel PRIMEVAL WATERS, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
James Mullaney is a literary renaissance man, dedicated to keeping the spirit of pulp literature alive—and I consider the term “pulp” to be high praise. He kick-started his writing career by authoring 26 novels in the popular adventure, semi-superhero series “The Destroyer.” His association with that character carried over to collaborating on a big-screen adaptation with screenwriter Jim Uhis (Fight Club). And, if those demonic entities from “Development Hell” are exorcised, the film will be directed by Lethal Weapon screenwriter, Marvel Universe director, and Destroyer mega-fan Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Predator).
For the uninitiated “The Destroyer” book series was created in 1971 by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. The ongoing saga of reluctant assassin Remo Williams and his Korean trainer Chiun was part of a tidal wave of men’s action series published in the wake of Don Pendleton’s “The Executioner.” But “The Destroyer’s” authors were happy to bite the hand that feeds by satirizing the testosterone action genre. The amount of humor and social commentary snowballed with each book.
That quirky humor helped “The Destroyer” bloom into a pop culture phenomenon, selling over thirty million copies. Along the way it spawned a Marvel Comics series and the love-it-or-hate-it film adaptation, Remo Williams, the Adventure Begins. Sadly, the film’s script discarded much of the book series’ charm and the adventure began and ended with one movie.
“The Destroyer” had been running for nearly thirty years and a hundred and ten books when James Mullaney took the writer’s chair in 1998. Over the next five years he pushed the aging series back onto Amazon’s top seller charts.
Independent of “The Destroyer,” Mullaney created the satirical action series “The Red Menace.” Its five (and counting) novels follow the exploits of 1970s-era, commie-smashing hero Podge Becket. On the purely comedic side he’s also authored nine hilarious “Crag Banyon” novels (and an anthology), chronicling a booze-soaked private eye with a client roster that’s included Santa Claus, leprechauns and Greek gods. And, thanks to Shane Black’s support, the Banyon novels may become a Fox Television animated series.
Jiminy Christmas, that’s a lot of writing! Yet, somewhere amid that writing frenzy, he attained every comic book fan’s dream by working with Marvel on its “Iron Fist: The Return of K’un Lun,” series.
Most recently, he’s revived the classic “Destroyer” book series with Brotherhood of Blood, pitting heroes Remo Williams and Master Chiun against an insidious race of Chinese vampires. Rest assured, the blood sprays and the quips fly in equally generous portions. As a long-time fan, I can tell you it was worth the wait.
I’ll let James Mullaney take it from here.
WB: I understand your transition to becoming “The Destroyer’s” principal writer was very unique in that you submitted a spec novel. Can you share that story?
JM: Let’s see. How to answer that diplomatically. Nope, I can’t. That’s too bad, because it’s a tale full of deceit and sabotage. I can say that it was very lucky I had that spec manuscript. I had something that I could send to Gold Eagle, the publisher at the time, to let them know that I wasn’t the no-talent that they had been led to believe. Maybe I can tell that story on my deathbed. Which could be tomorrow, if I tell that story today.
WB: I’d be remiss not to include the series’ creator Warren Murphy, who, in addition to being a prolific novelist with over 60 million books sold, was also a screenwriter on The Eiger Sanction (1975) and Lethal Weapon 2 (1989). Was he a mentor to you?
JM: Warren wasn’t really a mentor to me. I’d spoken to him only a couple of times while I was working on “The Destroyer” for Gold Eagle. We were friendly, but it was only after I’d finished a 21 book run for them that Warren and I became friends. So, I was something like a million and a half words into a writing career by then. If I still needed mentoring at that point I was in the wrong line of work. But Warren did give me a great compliment once that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned publicly. I’d sent him a note grousing about something or other, and he said it sounded like his younger self writing to him. There’s no way that doesn’t make you feel good.
I still miss him. I’ll always be upset that he didn’t write an autobiography. It would have been hilarious.
WB: What condition was the book series in when you stepped in—both creatively and sales wise?
JM: “The Destroyer” was pretty old at that point. It’s not a crime to say it. It wasn’t old enough for Medicare, but it was about thirty years old back then. It’s hard to keep reader interest from waning after so much time. I tried to bring it back to what I loved about the series as a kid. The fans responded to that. I got many notes back then from former “Destroyer” readers who came back to the series because of my work. I mention in an introduction to one of the two recent books I did that by the end of my Gold Eagle run I’d dragged the Amazon rankings up to around 120 each time a new book was released. You’re doing something right if you can get a thirty-year-old series to within 119 points of the latest Harry Potter. Avada Kedavra, indeed.
WB: Allowing a single writer to helm an entire series was unusual for publisher Gold Eagle who constantly changed authors on their Mack Bolan books. Did “The Destroyer’s” creator, Warren Murphy, have to fight to retain that creative control?
JM: That was me, actually. At first, they wanted to keep on a couple of writers who did three bridge books between the previous full-time ghostwriter and me. I said no way, which was kind of funny for some little snot-nose just starting out. But I’d seen those books and they were –how do I say this diplomatically? — utter crap. Believe me, any “Destroyer” fans who slogged through those books know that I’m being kind. I told them I didn’t want my good books propping up lousy books. I guess they wanted me to work for them, because they agreed to let me be the solo writer for the next five years.
Interviewer’s note: Mullaney isn’t exaggerating about the bridge books being bad. Legions of “Destroyer” fans would testify to just how terrible books 108-110 were.
WB: As a relatively new author how did you deal with the pressure of writing 21 consecutive novels over a mere five years?
JM: I have no idea how I did it. Not a clue. That is an astonishing output. Many of those books were either approaching or exceeded 90,000 words. I couldn’t do that now if you, unlike Gold Eagle, paid me.
WB: One of the most memorable aspects of the series was the humorous interaction between aged Sinanju Master Chiun and his American pupil Remo Williams. That humor was in previous books, but you honed it to a fine edge while emphasizing their surrogate father/son relationship. Was that aspect of the books a personal favorite of yours?
JM: Very much so. It should be fun playing around with these (or really any) characters. If you’re not having at least some fun as a writer, you can’t expect readers to do the job for you. I hadn’t written a “Destroyer” in thirteen or fourteen years when I did the two recent ones. It was so easy to step back into writing these guys. It is just so much fun to put words in their mouths.
WB: Why did Gold Eagle cease publishing “The Destroyer” while their other less inspired series like “Mack Bolan” and “Stony Man” kept chugging along?
That was Warren Murphy’s doing. He pulled the plug. Warren had signed a final four-year contract around the time I quit, so Gold Eagle did sixteen more books after mine. (What’s a polite way to say “stink out loud?”) Gold Eagle had wanted to continue publishing the series, but after those sixteen literary cowpats, Warren said no way.
WB: How did you become involved with Marvel’s “Iron Fist” series?
JM: I’m terrible, because I don’t remember some things like I ought to. Thirty years from now someone will be giving me a cognitive test, and the only difference between me failing it now and me failing it then is that now I’m not wearing my underwear on my head. I know I’d just finished up my Gold Eagle work on “The Destroyer,” and someone at Marvel who was a fan of my books found out I was free. They contacted me. I remember it was fun because it was so different from anything I’d done before. I also remember it was scary because it was so different from anything I’d done before.
WB: What inspired you to revive the “classic” “Destroyer” novels with Blood Brotherhood?
JM: A cluttered shelf. I had two full-length “Destroyers” that had never been published sitting on my shelf for years. I thought I could give them a quick polish, clear off part of my shelf, and make a couple of bucks. And then I wound up chucking the original Blood Brotherhood manuscript because it was crap, and I wrote a whole new book. Not all at once, of course, because I had to torture myself first. I’d save one line from one chapter, then rewrite that one line. At one point I had 35,000 words that I’d pushed off to the end of the book as I was working on it thinking that there had to be something salvageable in it. Then one day I deleted it all. Just unreadable crap. At least I was able to use some of the original manuscript as a sort-of outline. Outlines are always the hardest thing for me anyway. Everything else is just filling in the blanks.
WB: Blood Brotherhood represents your return to the series after many years. During that period potential readers have been immersed in plot-driven video games like Grand Theft Auto that unspool non-stop action and violence. Likewise, Hollywood now unleashes mega-budget, spectacular super hero movies on a semi-weekly basis. Did you feel the need to address that shortened attention span and slam bang mindset when you were writing?
JM: Nah, I’m too dim to learn new tricks. I just write the way I’ve always written. I mean, hopefully I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but I’ve never written anything other than what I’ve wanted to write. Which is probably why my bank account isn’t bursting at the seams. But since I do what I want, I’m happy with my work. I win.
WB: I’m jumping around in time here, so forgive me. I genuinely enjoyed the “Crag Banyon” books. I always felt it was an example of a writer creating freely, without an annoying publisher hovering over him. How did the concept of a classic film noir PI living in an alternate mythological, fairy tale universe come about?
JM: To your point about publishers. They are horrible. I hate them. If I never have to work for another traditional publisher, I will die a happy man. Or at least as happy as you can be when you’re dying, which I imagine is probably a pretty terrible experience. Nearly as bad as working for a traditional publisher.
As for Banyon, he only exists because of another series of mine, The Red Menace. The first or second Menace had just come out, and I wanted a little cheapo short story that I could give away as an ebook that might help promote the Menace. I dug out a story I’d written years before about a reporter investigating a murder at the North Pole. It was pretty poorly written, but the idea was good. It was only supposed to be a one-off about Santa and Mrs. Claus and all the usual Christmas stuff. But at one point early on I needed to get Banyon out of a tough spot I’d put him in. He was in a police interrogation room being questioned by a cop who hates him. Then I thought to have him call not a lawyer, but summon a genie who owes him a third wish. And that opened up everything. Suddenly everything could exist in Banyon’s world. Angels, demons, leprechauns, mad scientists, mermaids, giants. And Banyon just sort of grumbles his rumpled way through it all, the greatest detective in the world who only wants to get the latest case over with so he can get drunk at O’Hale’s Bar.
So, the reporter from that original short story became a detective, and the short story grew into a novella that has now grown into ten published novels, with three more already written in the wings, plus a short story collection. And they’re funny. I’ve read some books that claim to be comic, and they are nearly all terrible. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to get the jokes in those other books. With Banyon, I’m writing comic novels for people who actually like comedy.
The Banyons are the best things I’ve ever written. They’re also the hardest books I’ve ever written, because they’re first-person and Banyon has a very unique voice. So even though they are often torture, they are also a joy to write. I guess that makes me a happy masochist.
WB: Your action/adventure series “The Red Menace” is unique, in part because it’s a 1970s period piece that doesn’t mind messing with history’s actual timeline. Can you tell readers about the character and how the books came about?
JM: The Red Menace is me writing myself into two eras. First is the men’s action-adventure era of the 1970s. Then there’s the earlier pulp hero age of The Green Hornet, Zorro, The Shadow, etc. My main character is Patrick “Podge” Becket, who was a guy who went up against the Russians at the start of the Cold War. He was a menace to the Reds, hence “The Red Menace.” I’m super-clever like that. Podge went into retirement at the end of the 1950s but comes back out for the first book, which takes place in the early 1970s. He has to come back because he is, of course, the only man on earth who can stop the villain. Then more bad guys start showing up, and he winds up staying on the job. But he can’t do it alone. He’s assisted by his chronically annoyed best friend, Dr. Thaddeus Wainwright. Wainwright is a medical genius who patches Podge up when necessary. He’s also had a hand in pretty much every great scientific achievement in human history, including the formula that keeps the Menace in the game long after a normal man would have had to retire. He also may or may not be immortal. Wainwright is great fun to write, and I’ve barely scratched the surface with him.
WB: What does the future (or is it the past?) hold for “The Red Menace”?
JM: I hadn’t written a new Menace in a bunch of years. I’ve done two more now that are waiting in the wings: Red Devil and Ruses are Red. In the meantime, the original five Menaces are in the process of getting makeovers. New interior formatting and new cover art. Four of those books had never been released in paperback, but that’s about to change, as well. Bold Venture Press has the rights now, and will be releasing them all. #2, Drowning in Red Ink is already out. The rest, hopefully soon after. That’s the plan, anyway. I don’t know how many more I have in me, but I do hope to write more Menaces. But sales will dictate that. All I can do is write the best books I can and hope that they find an audience.
WB: Shane Black seems to be a genuine fan of “The Destroyer” and ’70s-era action/adventure novels in general. He even created an Amazon pilot adapted from the western book series “Edge” which were billed as ‘The most violent westerns in print.’ How did you and Black cross creative paths?
JM: A fan told me that Shane liked my Destroyer work. I wasn’t sure I believed it, but then I found out that it was true in the most boring way possible that I won’t share. Not because it’s some big secret, but because it would put you to sleep. The funny thing is that the first time Shane and I ever spoke he read some Crag Banyon at me, not The Destroyer. I think it was the second one, Devil May Care. Then he told me that someone who writes dialogue like that should be writing movies. If Shane Black says that to you, you should probably listen. So, thanks to Shane, I’m doing that sometimes now, too.
WB: Where is “The Destroyer” film currently at?
JM: Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say I’m no longer on the project. I’m not. I was on it for six years. I got paid. So that part was good.
WB: What’s next on your seemingly overflowing creative plate?
JM: It’s not as overflowing as I’d like. You lose steam in middle age. Still, I wrote two Destroyers earlier this year. The first one has been incredibly well-received by fans. The next one, Trial By Fire, should be out soon. I just finished the first draft of the thirteenth Crag Banyon Mystery, which I’m almost certain will be titled Simian Says. We’re working on bringing Banyon to TV for Fox. I wrote the pilot episode either earlier this year or late last year. I don’t remember now, I only know it was during the Zoom twilight age. Shane is onboard with that, and we worked on the story together. The two of us will be executive producers if it becomes a series. That’s actually pretty astonishing to be able to say something so cool so casually. Who wouldn’t be happy about all that? Not me, baby.
I want to thank James for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s hope that Fox TV jumps aboard the Crag Banyon PI animated series. Who knows, maybe Banyon has another genie’s wish he can cash in.
Conspiracy theories are everywhere, and they’re bad. But travel back in time with author William Burke to discover how the first Mockumentary film turned into a full blown conspiracy theory with millions of believers. It’s ALTERNATIVE 3! Hint: it involves living on mars. And remember, it’s all true… except for the lies. Enjoy!
Huge thanks to ALTERNATIVE 3’s director Christopher Miles for his assistance in separating fact from fiction.
And for a truly terrifying experience, pick up a copy of William Burke’s novel PRIMEVAL WATERS. It’s available on Amazon on paperback and Kindle.
Most author biographies are full of self aggrandizing nonsense, but mine is more like a cautionary tale. Here’s how my childhood in a semi-cult, led to my adult career working in horror movies and dirty movies… until I found my true calling, writing novels. Get all the gory details of my strange life and why I write the things I do… and why I’m so darn good at it!
And please, pick up a copy of my latest book PRIMEVAL WATERS, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
I’m back with a brand new collection of weirdly wonderful facts—and they’re all true. Learn all about the deadliest amusement park, America’s most inept assassin and the secret mind control powers of cats. It might mess with your mind, but it’s still safe for work. Enjoy!
And don’t forget to buy your copy of PRIMEVAL WATERS, by William Burke. Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Yeah, you knew I was going to try to sell you something.
AND if you’ve already read PRIMEVAL WATERS, check out Burke’s previous novel, SCORPIUS REX. It’s like reading the creature feature playing in your mind… whatever that means. Here’s the book trailer.
Hey folks, here’s a little history lesson about the comic books that twisted my mind and made me the marginally successful author I am today! It’s TALES OF VOODOO, the most gruesome, irresponsible comics ever marketed to children… and the gun toting maniac that created them. Enjoy!
And don’t forget to check out my latest novel PRIMEVAL WATERS, from Severed Press. Get it on AMAZON in paperback and Kindle.
Welcome back to Part 2 of our Halloween inspired “Songs from the Crypt,” playlist, though I think these songs are winners any day of the year. We’ll kick things off with a semi mainstream number and let things get weirder from there. THIS ARTICLE CAN ALSO BE SEEN ON HORRORNEWS.NET.
Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” is a mainstay of Halloween playlists and drunken sporting events, but for my money the title track of his second album represents ‘Mr. Bad Example’ at his ghoulish pinnacle. It’s a bouncy, piano driven track that suddenly screeches one hundred and eighty degrees into utter darkness for its final verse—that’s when the titular character leaps from mischief to sexual assault and murder. He dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones—a brilliant song with lyrics awash in Heartbreak Motor Oil and Bombay Gin. That’s a line from the Zevon runner up, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” from his eponymous debut album, (not to be confused with Bon Jovi’s pop track).
What you gasp? How can Dolly Parton, that smiling, national treasure, who distributes books to children be on this list? Well, those of you who aren’t hardcore country aficionados probably don’t know about Ms. Parton’s Appalachian goth period. Inspired by the ‘Murder Ballads’ sung in her Tennessee mountain home young Dolly spun some truly dark social justice tales. Unwed mothers leapt to their deaths (The Bridge), outspoken wives were dragged to mental hospitals by their angry husbands (Daddy Come and Get Me), and babies were burned alive while their drunken parents whooped it up (The Party). In “Evening Shade,” the abused children trapped in a reformatory take their revenge by burning the place down, with their sadistic matron locked inside! Now that it’s all over and the sun is going down. There’s no Evening Shade, cause we burned it to the ground. Evening Shade was burning, just like the hell it was. Truly haunting stuff from a master songwriter who could be the diva of darkness when she put her mind to it.
“Don’t Fear the Reaper” rests atop every horror rock playlist and has been hailed as a classic by no less than Stephen King and Halloween director John Carpenter. But there’s more to BOC than that FM staple. Prior to “Reaper’s” ascent to Billboard heaven the band cut three overlooked, but brilliant proto-metal, semi-prog albums. “Astronomy” is the haunting closing track from their third LP, Secret Treaties. From its sweeping grand piano intro, to its roaring guitar and organ crescendo, Astronomy stands as the group’s sonic masterpiece. The clock strikes twelve and moon drops burst out at you from their hiding place. Like acid and oil on a madman’s face his vision tends to fly away. The arcane lyrics are actually selections from producer Sandy Pearlman’s cryptic Imaginos poems, so read into them what you will. Blue Oyster Cult’s sinister second bests include “Transmaniacon MC”, from their self-titled debut album, “Wings Wetted Down” from Tyranny and Mutation or the silent movie put to song, “Nosferatu” from Spectres.
During this song’s two minute spoken intro, Frank Zappa sagely explains, “Cheapness, in the case of a monster movie, has nothing to do with the budget of the film, although it helps.” This 1974 live track is his love letter to B-Horror movies in general, and Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World, in particular. The lyrics tell the tale of a giant alien poodle from planet ‘Frunobulax,’ terrorizing the 1950’s populace. On top of its copious monster movie references the seven-minute track features great vibes playing from Ruth Underwood along with stellar work from the legendary, but ever revolving, Mothers of Invention. Frank Zappa’s monstrous runner up tracks include Over-Nite Sensation’s “I Am the Slime” and “The Torture Never Stops” from 1976’s Zoot Allures.
And here’s a pair of instrumentals with a creepy retro vibe…
This Kurt Weil-esque track is the overture to a concept album exploring alien abductions, government conspiracies and general paranoia. Amazingly, this record predated the similarly themed X-Files by over a decade. The alien invasion concept was first introduced in my runner up Stranglers song “MeninBlack” from The Raven. “Waltz” resurrects that tune’s giggling aliens who chillingly refer to mankind as, healthy livestock so we can eat. Clearly this is no interstellar social call!
Trouser Press proclaimed this New England combo, “The band that poured the first shot in the cocktail revolution.” They were indeed the forerunners of a short lived, kitschy lounge music revival, that inspired the 1996 film Swingers. But Combustible Edison took their lounge music roots seriously, creating tracks that would have done their idols like Martin Denny and Les Baxter proud. 1994’s instrumental “Carnival of Souls,” perfectly captures the essence of a late-night horror flick, enhanced by Liz Cox’s ethereal background vocals. If you want to have some fun, play this track over the opening credits to Reanimator—It fits like a hand in a surgical glove.
And finally, here’s a bit of spoken word, beat poetry, guaranteed to turn your mood all Halloween orange and chimney red….
He hung up his wild years on a nail he drove through his wife’s forehead. Thus begins Waits’ saga of a depressed man ‘selling used office furniture out there on San Fernando Road.’ This ditty is by turns haunting, funny and creepy… and that’s pretty amazing considering it’s under two minutes long! I suggest popping open a Mickey’s Big Mouth and whistling along to Waits’ breezy Hammond Organ accompaniment. For more terrifying-Tom-tunes check out… oh hell, anything from this album onward.
Those are my contributions to your Halloween playlist. And if you need a break from scarfing chocolates and ogling naughty nurses, check out my horror novel Primeval Waters, from Severed Press. Readers’ Favorite Magazine just gave it five stars, stating, “William Burke delivers the whole horror package with Primeval Waters.”
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.