At This Time Of The Night…*

October 21, 2012

Maybe it’s the quiet and the rustling of the leaves outside the open windows of our treehouse living room.

(the temperature is surprisingly mild)

Maybe it’s having spent some time checking out blogs counting down to Halloween.

But it’s just past midnight on a Saturday night and the hour is perfect for the glow eminating from the television screen to be from some old horror movie or sci-fi flick.

On such a night – and at such a time in the night – thirty-years or so ago, the channel would be turned to Sammy Terry. Sammy was a ghoul who hosted such movies on an independent television station from Indianapolis.

The movies were rarely great works of cinema, but Sammy was there to empathize, make banter with a rubber spider named George, and crack bad jokes during commercial breaks for Don’s Guns and a used car dealer who would admit that “Old Dave needs the cash.”

Now and then, though, there would be a movie that was genuinely eerie.

(of course, I was a kid, so I recall finding portions of movies like The Deathmaster – some hippie/vampire/biker flick from the early ’70s – to be creepy)

Sammy has been retired since the late ’80s and, though I now have twenty times the viewing options, surfing through those options yields nothing.

There’s no Japanese man-in-a-suit movie or giant, radioactive ants rampaging through the desert to be found.

Apparently it’s too much to ask that one of the stations available be airing an old classic in glorious black and white like a Boris Karloff movie from the ’30s or something starring Vincent Price from the ’60s.

I’d dig finding a ’70s drive-in flick like The Legend Of Boggy Creek or The Boy Who Cried Werewolf or, perhaps, something from Chuck Heston’s oeuvre from that period – The Omega Man, Soylent Green – but no such luck.

Syfy Channel is airing some movie about bird flu that meets that station’s usual standards of excellence.

(the maddening thing about the bad movies that Syfy airs is that they aren’t even entertainingly bad)

It’s ten days before Halloween, but the late-night landscape is littered with little more than infomercials, some reality shows, and reruns of Roseanne and The Nanny.

(all frightening in their own ways, but…)

Sure, there’s DVDs, Netflix, and a number of other options for a fright fix, but there’s something about stumbling upon an old horror movie on television, late at night, that, I suppose, harkens back to childhood.

Here are four songs that will have to substitute for a midnight feature…

The Judybats – Witches’ Night
from Down In The Shacks Where The Satellite Dishes Grow (1992)

The Judybats came together as students at the University of Tennessee and released a handful of albums in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but I don’t believe that I ever heard them on radio or even happened across a video on MTV.

I did get a couple of their albums as promos and hearing them again after so many years makes me curious to go back and relisten to them.

Witches’ Night, about a Halloween party, is engaging, jangly, folk-tinged alternative pop that certainly would have fit well on college radio in 1990.

Ozzy Osbourne – Bark At The Moon
from The Ozzman Cometh (1997)

At the risk of being accused of blasphemy – possibly by Paloma – I’ve never thought much of Black Sabbath. Sure, they might have been influential, but, aside from a handful of songs, their appeal has been lost on me.

And, even twenty-five years ago, I found Ozzy’s Prince of Darkness schtick to be laughable. Would the Prince of Darkness have a paunch?

Seriously?

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

Mazzy Star – Ghost Highway
from She Hangs Brightly (1990)

Mazzy Star rose from the ashes of the band Opal and consisted of the duo of singer Hope Sandoval and guitarist David Roback (who, in the ’80s, had been a member of paisley-tinged rockers The Rain Parade). She Hangs Brightly was the twosome’s debut effort, arriving in 1990.

With Sandoval’s aloof vocals and a sound that was atmospheric and dreamy, Mazzy Star’s artistic slant on psychedelic rock earned comparison to acts like The Velvet Underground and The Doors. The group would navigate a record label bankruptcy to notch a hit with the wispy Fade Into You three years later.

R.E.M. – I Walked With A Zombie
from Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute To Roky Erickson (1990)

It was Paloma who turned me on to the eccentric brilliance of Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators with their album Easter Everywhere.

That was four or five years after acts ranging from ZZ Top and T-Bone Burnett to The Butthole Surfers and Bongwater paid tribute to the legendary Austin cult musician, covering his songs on 1990’s Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye.

(The Judybats had actually made their debut on the compilation)

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Honey, I Love You, But I Love Attention More So Shut Your Piehole And Go Live With Gary Busey For Awhile So I Can Be On Television

January 3, 2012

I don’t do reality television. Watching nimrods behaving like nimrods is not entertainment for me.

(I work in corporate America)

But I couldn’t help but be drawn to a commercial for Celebrity Wife Swap. Amidst the flotsam and jetsam of Dee Snider, Flavor Flav and other past-expiration date notables, there was Gary Busey.

I shuddered a bit as I realized that, though I have no idea who might reign as America’s idol, star dancer, or top chief, the idea of some C-list celebrity handing over his wife to Gary Busey – in exchange for his – intrigues me.

There’s something about the deranged leer of the hyper-orthodontal Busey that commands my attention.

It could be because I have feared that I might discover Busey hiding in the house since I saw him hiding in a house in the movie Hider In The House.

(I wrote of it many moons ago)

Busey also is shown in tears in the commercial and I can’t help but wonder what could have reduced him to such a state. It might be good to know how to effectively neutralize him should, indeed, I find Gary Busey hiding in the house.

In the meantime, here are four songs devoted to crazy…

Flesh for Lulu – I Go Crazy
from Long Live The New Flesh (1987)

In the mid-’80s, I remember a buzz for fifteen minutes or so surrounding Flesh For Lulu, but it passed in about ten minutes.

I Go Crazy has a catchy little chorus, but it does sound tied to 1987 (especially with the goofy lyrical reference to Miami Vice). I also seem to recall the gothic rockers sounding both more gothic and more rocking than they do here.

However, the song did end up on the soundtrack to John Hughes’ underrated Some Kind Of Wonderful, so I suppose Flesh For Lulu did achieve some measure of immortality.

Nazareth – Crazy? (A Suitable Case for Treatment)
from Heavy Metal soundtrack (1981)

I’m familiar with little by Nazareth aside from Love Hurts and its accompanying album, Hair Of The Dog. My buddy Will had an older brother and the eight track seemed to be permanently lodged in his Trans Am’s player.

One of the few other songs I knew by the Scottish band was Crazy? which was on the soundtrack to Heavy Metal, which as a teenager, was a late-night cable favorite with me and my friends.

Heart – Crazy On You
from Greatest Hits (1998)

Though Heart might have had a commercial lull in the early ’80s, the band remained popular on radio stations in our area of the Midwest. Then, the band exploded in the mid-’80s, notched a string of massive hits and platinum-selling albums that not only revived their career but took it to new heights.

Personally, I dug a lot of their mid- to late ’80s hits, but I preferred their less-varnished ’70s stuff. The ubiquitousness of that later period made it easy to forget how much raw energy the band possessed and how utterly fierce they could be.

And Crazy On You – made transcendent by Ann Wilson’s piercing banshee wail – was as fierce as a band could hope to be.

Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
from The Ozzman Cometh (1997)

I willingly confess I’ve always found Ozzy Osbourne to be goofy and not necessarily in a good way. I do not, have not, and – much to Paloma’s chagrin – probably will not ever have much affection for his work with Black Sabbath aside from a few songs

(as opposed to giving them credit as an influence for legions of bands, I blame them for a lot of very bad imitators)

But I have liked some of Ozzy’s solo stuff throughout the years and near the top of that list would have to be the thundering Crazy Train. And, as a recent television commercial has proven, the song is, at heart, simply a very heavy pop song.


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.