In The Darkest Corner Of A Cemetary On The Edge Of Town…*

October 30, 2011

Growing up, there was no house in my hometown that the kids passed warily, whispering amongst themselves as they eyed the dilapidated structure and weed-riddled, overgrown yard reined in by nothing more than a decaying wrought iron fence.

However, I know from the television and movies I’ve consumed over my life, that everyone else had such a landmark in their life.

In fact, I can think of nothing in my small hometown that had a paranormal bent to it – no legends, no lore, no creatures lurking in the woods. There was simply no sinister goings on and never had been.

(perhaps the townsfolk lacked imagination)

The closest thing to the macabre I recall was one grave.

On the southwest edge of town, one street led to a small, non-descript bridge. There were fewer homes as you approached the bridge, even though it was no more than a twenty-minute walk from the center of town; travellers crossed into a vast stretch of sparsely populated farmland.

It was dark out that way at night.

A classmate lived in a massive, three-story Victorian which was one of the last houses before reaching the bridge. Running past their home, off the main street, was a tree-lined lane which led to a cemetary a half-mile or so down the gravel road.

The trees grew more dense as you walked deeper into the grounds, culminating in thick woods, separated from the cemetary by a small ravine.

There was little reason to go back there. There were a number of places for the high school kids to escape from supervision, so that cemetary wasn’t even a gathering place where minors might smoke or drink.

But, there, under a canopy of thick trees, was a rectangular, stone slab, with weather-worn scripture quotes and no name.

At one end of the slab was a small stone lamb with no head.

The story our classmate had told us was that, a hundred years earlier, the property had been owned by a well-known racist. Hunting in those woods one day, he spotted a young Native American girl on the far side of the ravine.

Then, like Roland did to Van Owen in Warren Zevon’s Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, the racist land owner raised his gun and blew off the Native American girl’s head.

“Her head popped off and rolled into the ravine.”

It was the Native American girl supposedly buried beneath that slab.

I suppose that it would make the tale eerie if townsfolk claimed to have seen a headless spirit or heard mournful wails from those woods.

If there are such stories, I’ve not heard them.

Here are four songs for the Halloween season…

Outlaws – (Ghost) Riders in the Sky
from Ghost Riders (1980)

The radio station in our small town had flipped from Top 40 to country around the time that Southern rockers Outlaws released their cover of (Ghost) Riders in the Sky. The radio in the kitchen was usually tuned into the station and I think I heard it every morning for months on end during breakfast before school.

I was just beginning to be interested in music at the time and the spectral song always caught my attention as I listened for the school closings, hoping that the previous night’s snowfall was enough to merit a reprieve from trudging into the elements.

Annie Lennox – Love Song For A Vampire
from No More I Love You’s single (1995)

If it’s between vampires and werewolves, the lifestyle of the latter holds more appeal to me. Chicks might dig vampires, but immortality sounds exhausting, you have to dress like a dandy, and you can’t go in the sun.

As a werewolf, you’re like a big dog, you don’t have to wear pants and you can pee wherever you please.

As for the ex-Eurythmics vocalist, I prefer my Annie to be more edgy like her classic stuff with partner Dave Stewart, but even on something more slight – like her track from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 Dracula – her voice is still mesmerizing.

Ozzy Osbourne – Bark At The Moon
from Bark At The Moon (1983)

I could never take Ozzy Osbourne seriously, certainly not after seeing the goofy covers for albums like Blizzard Of Oz, Diary Of A Madman, and Speak Of The Devil. However, the ex-Sabbath singer was a favorite of most of my junior high/high school classmates.

Then, Ozzy issued Bark At The Moon and the hallways were filled with hushed whispers usually reserved for a cheerleader pregnancy over the inclusion of So Tired, a ballad, on the album.

But I do dig some of Ozzy’s catalog and the lupine-laced Bark At The Moon is good fun.

The Hooters – All You Zombies
from Nervous Night (1985)

All You Zombies, with its reggae hitch and portentous lyrics, hooked me first time I heard it in late winter/early spring of 1985. Though Nervous Night left me mostly underwhelmed, the Philadelphia band’s debut had several hits over the next year or so.

Their second record came and went pretty quickly (though I thought it had a couple of decent tracks), but main lyricists Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian have certainly received some nice royalty checks over the years for penning Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time.

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Is It Possible To Put A Hit On Some Fish?

September 22, 2008

The fish reside in a small tank; no more than five gallons, and the entire set-up was a gift from Paloma several years ago. We’ve gone through several generations of fish, the population fluctuating and currently a trio.

Now, Paloma – ever the trooper – has actually been the one who has taken responsibility for their care. A couple of times, she’s lost one while cleaning the tank. She takes each untimely death quite personally (I on the other hand, while sympathetic to the animals, shake it off more easily as they don’t have names).

The other morning she crumbled some food into their tank and, staring down into their home, declared “I’d almost rather see you dead than see you live like this.” The fact that she delivered this assessment with a sigh added to the ichthyological melodrama.

She looked at me. I looked at her. Then, I burst into laughter and she followed suit.

The fish have no names and, at best, they’re ability to entertain is minimal. But, neither of us has the heart to send them to a watery grave, either.

If only Jean Reno lived next door.

Instead of fish songs or songs about assassins, I was inspired by JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ who recently lamented that “1983 was not one of pop’s grander years.” So, I followed the link he had posted to a chart from this week in 1983 to see if it lived up/down to his assessment.

As music was a relatively new obsession to me at the time, I likely view the hits of the time with a bit less discrimination and considerably more nostalgia, though there was some fairly dire stuff. But, I thought that I’d post a quartet of tracks that I’d consider highlights a quarter century later.

Def Leppard – Foolin’
1983 was the year that folks who didn’t read Circus likely discovered Def Leppard – Pyromania was truly a phenomenon. The band was big with the metal kids I knew, but Def Leppard was hardly metal in a dungeons and dragons, we’re so evil way. Oh, they could be silly in their own fashion, but they also were musical toffee.

Elvis Costello- Everyday I Write The Book
I don’t think I’d ever heard Elvis Costello until I came across Everyday I Write The Book on 97X in the early autumn of ’83. I feel horrible to admit it but as much as I respect his work, Elvis isn’t someone I listen to as often as I feel I should. I’m not sure why. But, I did love this song from the outset and it’s still one of my favorites of his.

Talking Heads – Burning Down The House
In high school, my good friend Chris was a major fan of the Heads. Burning Down The House was the first time I ever heard them on the radio and, perhaps because one of our friends was a bit of a pyromaniac, we all loved the song. Of course, the atmospheric video (brought to us via WTBS’ Night Flights as MTV wasn’t available to us, yet) sealed the deal.

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Q102, the most popular Top 40 station within reception, was playing Sweet Dreams heavily by the time I heard it on American Top 40 (which didn’t seem to happen very often with new artists). Nonetheless, this sounded so different to my ears – none of the female singers I’d heard or was listening to possessed the Arctic cool of Annie Lennox. Eurythmics, visually and musically, were one of the most exotic things I’d ever come across.

They’ve always seemed a bit underrated to me. Dave Stewart was a fantastic architect of sound and the perfect foil for Annie. To me, their catalog is similar to Blondie’s – ambitious, drawing on a lot of diverse musical influences, and, at their best moments, pretty classic stuff.