The Headless Maiden*

October 23, 2010

moonGrowing 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 which sped travellers into a vast stretch of sparsely populated farmland. 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.

It was dark out that way at night.

A classmate lived in a large two-story house which was one of the last homes before reaching the bridge. Running past their home, off that main street, was a tree-lined lane which led to,a half-mile or so from the street, a cemetary.

The trees grew more dense as you walked deeper into the grounds, culminating in a woods, separated from the cemetary by a small ravine. 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 or more earlier, the property had been owned by a vicious racist. One day, as he was hunting in those woods, 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. I remember our classmate saying, “Her head popped off and rolled into the ravine.”

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

It would make the tale more eerie I suppose if I could tell you that townsfolk had claimed to have seen a headless spirit or heard mournful wails from those woods. But, as far as I know, there no such stories.

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.

I might have to trek back there the next time I visit.

Curve – Horror Head
from Doppelganger

Curve caught my attention when Doppelganger arrived in our record store at the time and a few of us played the hell out of it. The British duo’s music was dense and cacophonous, but there was also melody underpinning the towering layers of guitars and swirling electronics and Toni Halliday’s vocals were provocative and sensual.

Queen – Don’t Lose Your Head
from A Kind Of Magic

My friends and I remained devoted to Queen throughout high school, even though their popularity in the States cratered following the massively successful The Game and that album was released while we were still in junior high school. A Kind Of Magic hit stores just weeks after we graduated and we were stoked to check it out as it featured a number of songs from the movie Highlander which we had seen months before.

For the most part, I was disappointed in the album, but the dance rock workout Don’t Lose Your Head was one track I did dig. And, the song features a cameo by singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading that’s always struck me as anu unusual union.

Rage Against The Machine – Bullet In The Head
from Rage Against The Machine

I didn’t immediately gravitate to Rage Against The Machine. I thought their politics to be somewhat half-baked. However, seeing them live, opening for U2 – a band against whom the same accusation could be made regarding politics – made me a fan of the sheer sonic force of Rage’s music.

Concrete Blonde – Your Haunted Head
from Concrete Blonde

I didn’t truly fall for Concrete Blonde until their third album Bloodletting, but I quickly went back and grabbed their two previous albums. Both Bloodletting and the trio’s eponymous debut were staples in college and the band was also much beloved on alternative radio.

Though Concrete Blonde was quite adept at producing quasi-gothic tracks with crooned vocals, there were also songs in their catalog like Your Haunted Head that brought the grit and the snarl with equal aplomb and harkened to the band’s punk roots.

*reposted – with some alterations – from Halloween ’09

Great, Now We Have An Alligator Problem

March 20, 2009

The other night, I fell under the spell of a show about an expedition to find giant alligators living in the sewer system of New York City.

How could I pass on such riveting and educational fare?

How could anyone?

There were a lot of eerie shots from remote portions of the sewers – absolute darkness illuminated by the cameras and insects buzzing about in the glow.

Nothing of significance was found, but the interviews with a retired, long-time sewer system employee were interesting. His vibe had me expecting him to, at any moment, blow his stack and colorfully express amazement that anyone would doubt that mutant alligators live below the city streets.

He had plenty of tales from the briny deep (and has probably frightened his grandchildren into a catatonic state).

The expert leading the expedition concluded that, based on footage filmed by remote cameras, the sewers of Manhattan are an environment in which alligators would thrive.

Another expert disagreed. The skeptical expert offered up his thoughts on the subject while lounging next to large alligators in some game preserve (or such) in Florida.

Finally, out of nowhere, some fellow in flannel weighed in from what appeared to be a cabin in the Pacific Northwest.

He warned ominously of a future New York overrun by hordes of alligators from the deep if this threat was not addressed.

He was, if I heard correctly, described as an expert on Bigfoot.

I suppose he might need a bit more vetting.

And, it seems to be an immutable law of personal physics that I will watch anything involving a giant lizard or amphibian.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Gator On The Lawn

Southern Pacific – It’s A Cold Night For Alligators
A cover song from the tribute to the legendary Roky Erickson, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye.

Curve – Alligators Getting Up

John Cale – Gatorville & Points East

There’s A Place In This World (and whatever world which might or might not come next) For A Gambler

August 21, 2008

…not that I know much about gambling beyond some basic things nor engaged in much gambling. I do know that it is apparently possible to place a bet on pretty much anything. So, I thought, why not place wagers on the afterlife?

You could bet your entire life savings as, if there turns out of be no afterlife, no one could collect and no one would be the wiser. Make it interesting and have the wagers be on possible outcomes.

“Put me down for ten grand on the likelihood of Bea Arthur being some bar wench in the afterlife at six to one.”

If you get a bit over rambunctious in Valhalla and Bea is the one tossing your ass, you’d collect a cool $60,000.

Then, I realized that, unless the afterlife takes place in a casino (which might be some folks’ idea of heaven), there might not be a need for ducats. If there was, though, you’d have the chance to start out with wads of cash – snack money.

Talking Heads – Heaven
Quirky, brainy and surprisingly funky, but pretty isn’t a word that comes to my mind when I think of The Heads. Heaven is pretty, though. It’s a very soothing song and Fear Of Music (from whence it came) is likely my favorite record of theirs – I Zimbra, Mind, Life During Wartime, and Heaven.

Curve – No Escape From Heaven
I loved Curve’s sound from the first time I heard them on their debut Doppelganger. At times edgy and cacophonous, there’s always a melody underneath the layers of guitars and effects – and Toni Halliday provides some provocative vocals.

Bob Dylan – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Paloma has prodded me to devote an entire entry to Mr. Zimmerman. Maybe. Anyhow, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is a song I never tire of hearing. There’s just something about it and it’s vibe of resignation. I know it was from the movie Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, but I’m not certain if Dylan actually appeared in it (I’m thinking he did).

Whale – Born To Raise Hell
Whale. I really expected great things of them from the moment I first heard Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe. They were Swedish, the lead singer wore braces and, this song, was from their debut, We Care, which featured Tricky. Born To Raise Hell makes me think of Bjork fronting a Motorhead cover band.

I don’t believe that I ever heard their second (and last?) album, but I do remember thinking its title – All Disco Dance Must End In Broken Bones – was brilliantly twisted. Then, they just vanished.

The Clash – Straight To Hell
One of my favorite Clash songs and I suddenly realize that I don’t recall seeing any Clash on vinyl since Paloma and I have been buying albums.

Pink Floyd – Run Like Hell
I spoke with Roger Waters once on the program Rockline – a weekly call-in show on Monday nights in the ’80s. As I remember, it was a national broadcast in the US and maybe even stations in Canada. Whatever its reach, it afforded me the opportunity to – in a deer-in-the-headlights moment – call Roger Waters “Rog” (as though we were long-time drinking buddies) before a very sizable audience.