The Night Stalker

October 30, 2010

As much as I love old horror and sci-fi flicks, Halloween is a holiday to which I’ve been surprisingly indifferent.

It might be because I’ve always gotten a bit wigged by attention – good or bad – and few things demand a reaction like dressing up for Halloween. The entire object is attention.

And candy.

Candy is something to which I’m also surprisingly indifferent.

As kids, candy was not as forbidden to us as it was to Tim Burton’s Willie Wonka, but it wasn’t the building blocks of the food pyramid as it was for some of my friends growing up.

Candy procured on Halloween was doled out by our mom like rations to POWs. After a few weeks things either went stale or we lost interest, distracted by the impending Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.

If I’d truly been edgy and hip, in 1974 I would have gone out for Halloween as Carl Kolchak, but I didn’t since, well, I was six and decidedly not edgy and unhip.

If you were a kid and watching television in the mid-’70s, you likely knew Kolchak, as portrayed by the great Darren McGavin, to be the rumpled Chicago reporter investigating the paramormal on Friday nights in Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Kolchak was always wandering dark alleys or dimly-lit tunnels, pursuing that week’s vampire, voodoo legend or clan of reanimated prehistoric primates.

Compelling stuff to a kid.

(one of those kids being Chris Carter who amassed a small fortune with The X-Files two decades later)

By the following spring The Night Stalker had ended its lone season on the air. It would be the early ’80s before I’d come across Cark Kolchak again and, then, it was for a period of time that one of the networks showed reruns well after midnight.

In the years since, I’ve only seen the rare episode here and there. Though the effects – just good enough to help me suspend imagination at six – now seem rather shoddy, The Night Stalker definitely had a vibe that still works.

And Darren McGavin was perfect as Kolchak.

Of course, the late actor would become a holiday institution as The Old Man in A Christmas Story.

But, it’s Halloween. So, here are four songs, chosen randomly, that might make the cut if it was possible for me to send a mixtape back through time for Kolchak…

The Replacements – Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost
from Don’t Tell A Soul

The Replacements got a lot of flack when Don’t Tell A Soul was released in ’89, with more than a few fans/critics/hipsters accusing the band of selling out. Maybe I have a soft spot for the album – it was the first album I’d owned by the group – but, though it is more polished than past releases, I dug it.

Though The Replacements earned much attention for drunken antics and raucous rackets of songs, there was a quieter, melancholic side of them that was equally as impressive.

Poe – Haunted
from Haunted

Paloma and I spent a lot of time listening to Poe’s 1995 debut Hello. I don’t think that she was nearly as fond of it as I was.

The music was a supple fusion of alternative rock and folk elements with atmospheric and hypnotic electronics. I thought that Poe was going to be a superstar.

She didn’t reach such heights and, though Hello got some notice, I thought that the album got lost in the glut of female artists at the time.

The dense, swirling Haunted is the title track of her second and, thus far, last album which came out a decade ago. It was a worthy successor to Hello, but it caused barely a ripple.

Apparently Poe spent ten years feuding with her record label, attempting to extricate herself from them, which is unfortunate.

David Gilmour – Murder
from About Face

I was on the cusp of a Pink Floyd phase when About Face came out and the album further stoked my burgeoning interest in the band.

(a year after the quartet’s iconic line-up released their final album)

I seem to recall Pink Floyd guitar great David Gilmour’ second solo album getting mixed reviews at the time, but me and my friends dug it and Murder sounded stellar on the radio.

Voice Of The Beehive – Monsters And Angels
from Honey Lingers

I’m not sure if I could picture Kolchak racing through the streets of Chicago in his convertible with Monsters And Angels blaring from the stereo, but it’s a delightful song.

Formed in London by two sisters from California who were the daughters of Four Preps singer Bruce Belland, Voice Of The Beehive was a college rock favorite with their ’86 debut Let It Bee.

I was out of college when the follow-up, Honey Lingers, was released and working at a record label where my boss – who was usually quite prescient in such matters – predicted that Monsters And Angels would be their mainstream breakthrough.

(it wasn’t)

Though it does suffer from some of the glossy production of the time, the song is candy. The song shimmers and has a towering chorus with a girl group vibe for a modern age.