So we’re here: First Halloween at last. And if you’ve been here with us previously, you know what tonight’s pick is. But first, our #TrackoftheDay. This is “The Gonk,” by Herbert Chappell, and quite familiar to fans of both Shaun of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead. It’s a strange song, to be honest, mostly because I can’t entirely figure out what the story behind it is.
It’s got a sub-title (but only when it’s listed certain places) of “(Seeing & Doing).” What the hell does that mean? Not entirely sure. If you go to the De Wolfe Music Library (where you can license the song), it lists it as “Seeing and Doing Theme Tune.” And there was a Seeing and Doing TV show that started in 1971…but the two clips of it I’ve found online have a completely different tune. No idea.
The penultimate night of 32 Days of Halloween XII is upon us! Before we get to the Big Day itself, we’ll start with an absolutely fantastic cover: it’s “Sympathy for the Devil” by Motörhead. It’s the last song Lemmy recorded with the band before his death. And what a song to go out on. It kicks some serious demonic arse.
Tonight, let’s kick things off with a fantastic novelty track from 1932. It’s “It Must Be Swell” by Alex Bartha & His Orchestra. I tried to find a decent picture of Bartha and could not. And I’m not sure how many other recordings we have extant from them, either. Because this one is fantastic. I’m surprised I only recently ran across it.
For today’s pick, we have a 1975 track from the UK band Babe Ruth and their self-titled album. It’s “Jack O’Lantern.” You probably know them best for “The Mexican,” which has been sampled in scads of tracks, not the least of which is “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force.
We’re closing in on the end of this year’s 32 Days of Halloween, believe it or not. And for today, we begin with our #TrackoftheDay, “Inner Sanctum” by Charlie Spivak & His Orchestra with vocals by Irene Daye. A gorgeous song, thought I’ve never been able to tie it officially into the Inner Sanctum franchise. Thought it would make sense, since it came out in 1947, which is the right time period for it. And the subject matter fits.
So for our #TrackoftheDay, some context is in order. Recently I did state that some songs are chosen because of their association with Halloween as opposed to them being Halloweeny in their own right. A perfect example is “Fast as a Shark,” the 1982 metal anthem by German band, Accept. Befuddlement is in store if you just listen to it and don’t know why it’s been chosen. More on that in a moment.
While the George Romero Dead series is obviously near and dear to our hearts, let us not forget the John Russo side of the house–he who gave us the excellent, original Return of the Living Dead. Along those lines, we have the band Zombies! Organize!! and their track based on the film, “Trioxin.”
So there are a ton of instrumental songs whose tenuous connection to Halloween is only the title. However, tonight’s music pick from 1961, “Night of the Vampire” by The Moontrekkers, suffers no such problems. Listen for yourself.
Then we come to another episode of the old-time radio horror show, The Weird Circle. This episode, from 1943, is based on “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Poe. It’s story that may make even you feel better about your existing family relationships.
Lastly, we come to The Beast With Five Fingers from 1946. So, you know it’s never a good start when a horror movie features a not-well person who is talking about their will. Because where there’s a will, there are people who really to see it. And because this is a horror movie, prepared to die to get people out of their way for it. Enjoy.
First, we go to the band Baroness and their excellent double album, Yellow & Green. It’s “Board Up the House.” And working on a massive Halloween playlist over in Spotify has brought something important to light: just because a song has something Halloweeny-sounding in its title, doesn’t mean it’s a very Halloweeny song. So check the lyrics. For example, Matt Pond PA has a song called “Halloween.” It’s not very Halloween-y. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a damn good song.
So somebody might say the same about “Board Up the House.” It’s not overtly Halloweeny, no. But once you read the lyrics, there’s just this sinister undercurrent that gives me the heebie jeebies. Something’s going on in there, and it ain’t good. But the song sure is.
As we round the corner of a circle which leads toward the inevitable First Halloween of 2019, we pause for a musical interlude from 1937. It’s “With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm” by Rudy Vallee & His Connecticut Yankees. You should know your English history, but just in case you don’t, the song sort of explains itself as it goes along.