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?
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)