Ghoul daze

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - Steve Ter­rell

In the weeks pre­ced­ing Hal­loween, the av­er­age Amer­i­can, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics I just made up, will hear “The Mon­ster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pick­ett 17.3 times. That nov­elty hit from 1962 (trivia note: Leon Rus­sell played pi­ano on the record) seems om­nipresent, but it’s hardly the only tacky rock ’n’ roll mon­ster song. They’re ev­ery­where — full of shrieks, wolf howls, cack­ling witch laughs, bad horror puns, and even worse Boris and Bela im­per­son­ations — if you know where to look for them.

From per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, I can truth­fully say that mon­sters and rock ’ n’ roll were two ma­jor cul­tural ob­ses­sions of Amer­i­can boys, and prob­a­bly some girls, who grew up in the early ’ 60s. So it’s nat­u­ral that those two realms would cross-pol­li­nate.

Re­cently, I was re­minded of a re­ally stupid horror-rock al­bum I had as a kid. The track that stuck in my me­mory was called “Franken­stein Meets The Bea­tles.” I had looked for that on­line more than a cou­ple of times in past years with­out any luck. In fact, I was be­gin­ning to won­der if the me­mory was just a hal­lu­ci­na­tion caused by smelling too much air­plane glue while putting to­gether plas­tic mod­els of The Wolf­man and The Mummy.

But one mid­night dreary, I de­cided to look again. Lo and be­hold, I found it. A le­gal ver­sion, even! It was on a record called The Mon­ster Al­bum by none other than Dickie Good­man, most fa­mous for his “break-in” songs, like “The Fly­ing Saucer” and “Mr. Jaws,” set up as news­casts in which the re­porter is an­swered by short sam­ples of cur­rent pop hits. Be­sides “Franken­stein Meets The Bea­tles,” the al­bum had songs with such ti­tles as “Ghoul From Ipanema” and “Mambo Mummy.”

A word of cau­tion: while the cover looks the same and that song about The Bea­tles is there, the ver­sion of The Mon­ster Al­bum I found on eMu­sic and Ama­zon is not the same al­bum I had in 1965. In fact the only other tune from the orig­i­nal that ap­pears to be on this is “Drac­ula Drag” (which refers to hot-rod rac­ing, not his man­ner of dress).

Bags of candy: If you’re look­ing for a good in­ter­net source for crazy old Hal­loween mu­sic, it’s hard to beat WFMU’s Rock ’ n’ Soul Ichiban! blog (http//wf­muichiban.blogspot.com/search/la­bel/Hal­loween). In fact it’s hard to beat that blog, a project of a great pub­lic ra­dio sta­tion in New Jersey, for crazy old mu­sic of any sort. Its re­cent Hal­loween posts in­clude “the swingin’est ver­sion of the Al­fred Hitch­cock theme you will ever hear” (by Stan­ley Wil­son & His Or­ches­tra); some videos set to songs from a proto-Elvira from Port­land, Ore­gon, named “Taran­tula Ghoul”; and a link to an im­pres­sive 60-track col­lec­tion of spooky in­stru­men­tals, spiced up with sev­eral au­dio clips from horror-movie trail­ers.

The col­lec­tion is from J.R. Wil­liams, an Ichiban con­trib­u­tor and comics artist from Ore­gon who fre­quently posts links to amaz­ing mp3 com­pi­la­tions on his Flickr page. Hal­loween In­stru­men­tals: Ghost Gui­tars (two CDs’ worth) fea­tures a fine va­ri­ety of sounds. There are a few artists you should rec­og­nize — The Ven­tures (“The Bat,” “Fear,” and “He Never Came Back”), Duane Eddy (“The Trem­bler”), The Champs (most fa­mous for “Te­quila,” but here they do Henry Mancini’s “Ex­per­i­ment in Ter­ror”), and Merv Grif­fin — yes that Merv Grif­fin — do­ing a faux-Lu­gosi in­tro to a rock­ing lit­tle thriller called “House of Hor­rors.”

There are also a num­ber of bands I sus­pect were one-offs — Frankie Stein & His Ghouls, The Grave­stone Four, and Tony & The Mon­strosi­ties, etc. While there’s lots of “surf” mu­sic and strip-club sax here, this col­lec­tion also in­cludes moody tremolo twang like “In­ner­sanc­tum” by Jim Wolfe & The T-Town­ers, which re­minds me of The Vis­counts’ “Har­lem Noc­turne” and even a lit­tle funk in “The Ex­or­cist” by The Devils. You can find this col­lec­tion is at www.flickr.com/pho­tos/jrpo-partz/5051642285/in/pho­to­stream. But, hurry.

Wil­liams fre­quently re­moves links to the down­loads.

Even more goblin rock is on a blog called Spread the Good Word! (www.rev­erend­frost.blogspot.com). The host, who calls him­self Reverend Frost, has 16 com­pi­la­tions of Hal­loween tunes wait­ing for you to down­load. (These aren’t sep­a­rate tracks like Wil­liams’ com­pi­la­tions. They’re all on hour-long mp3s.) I down­loaded the lat­est. A fa­vorite here is “Mummy’s Ball” by The Ver­dicts. Rock­a­billy ace Ron­nie Daw­son does his ver­sion of “Rockin’ Bones,” later cov­ered by The Cramps. There are also some more re­cent songs by groups like the Fuz­ztones (“I’m The Wolf­man”) and goth-rock­ers Alien Sex Fiend (”Now I’m Feel­ing Zomb­i­fied”). And yes, there’s Dickie Good­man: “My Baby Loves Mon­ster Movies.”

The world’s scari­est band: That’s the ti­tle claimed by Dead­bolt, a San Diego surf/pyschobilly/Spaghet­tiOs-Western trash-rock combo that’s been around for more than 20 years and makes mu­sic per­fect for this time of year. Its lat­est self-re­leased al­bum, Voodoo Moon­shiner, touches on many time-hon­ored Dead­bolt themes — crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, vi­o­lence, and the su­per­nat­u­ral.

It’s no rock opera, but some of the songs — “Voodoo Moon­shine” and “Panic in Ge­or­gia” — deal with a strange brew of moun­tain dew that turns God-fear­ing hill­bil­lies into flesh-eat­ing zom­bies. One of my fa­vorites is “Buy a Gun (Get a Free Gui­tar).” It’s a song about a pos­sessed pawn-shop gui­tar that trans­forms its owner into a great mu­si­cian — and a crazed killer.

Then there’s “The Mocker,” a se­ries of short skits about a haunted record­ing stu­dio in which a singer is taunted and trapped by a mys­te­ri­ous ghostly voice. The fun­ni­est part is hear­ing tough-guy Dead­bolt singer Har­ley Davidson croon­ing dreary lit­tle singer-song­writer dit­ties that seem to at­tract and fuel The Mocker.

Warn­ing: this CD is dif­fi­cult to find. When I last checked, Ama­zon had one copy. On your mark, get set ...

My own Hal­loween rock con­tri­bu­tions: My lat­est Big En­chi­lada pod­cast, Spook­tac­u­lar 2010, is up and ready to creep into your com­puter at www.bi­gen­chi­lada.com. The live ra­dio ver­sion of Spook­tac­u­lar broad­casts 10 p.m. Sun­day — Hal­loween night! — on KSFR-FM 101.1 and stream­ing at www.ksfr.org.

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