I am sorry for this sounding like something from the presidential campaign. This election is probably the worst I’ve ever seen in my entire lifetime. But enough of that. I will now grope toward the keyboard to write this entry into posterior posterity.
I will forgo the usual litany of shows I’ve been to, even though seeing The Strivers (Lorelei & Jon Garner) at the Riviera Supper Club was a nice surprise,
…and that the Strings of Thought house concert in La Jolla was simply amazing,
…and that a jazz interpretation of West Side Story at Dizzy’s was totally awesome,
…and that Robin Henkel Horn Band at Lestat’s was really cool,
…and that Billy Watson with Junior Watson (of Canned Heat fame) at Proud Mary’s was as entertaining as hell,
…and that the Swing Thing Duo (Liz Grace & Jon Garner) at Riviera Supper Club was as great as ever, …and that Plow with new fiddler and mandolin player, Alex Sharps, at Urban Solace was fun. Whew!
Never mind all that. We have Halloween at the end of this month!
Wowie zowie! The holiday that brings thoughts of trickery, seduction, witches, ghosts, and goblins is upon us. Whoooooaaaaa! And, of course it brings scary music! So this time around I want to talk about some of the fun and not-so-fun music that reminds me of Halloween. I will approach this by first discussing those artists who promise big things in the thrills and chills department, but end up giving us nothing for our listening efforts. Then I will look at the stuff that makes Halloween fun. And last I will discuss those who are as scary as hell because we know their intentions are dark and maybe even evil.
Just a disclaimer before we get into this: I have an enormous collection and it contains artists who come from all angles of the human condition. When I post something about them, it does not mean I am advocating a particular religious, spiritual, scientific, metaphysical, or behavioral way of thinking. I simply post what I have and my brief impressions of the art and/or artist.
Let me list some from my collection here:
AC/DC – Highway to Hell and Back in Black: The first album is straight-out 70s hard rock. Nothing more, nothing less. On the latter, the boys played with the idea of a darker side, especially with “Hell’s Bells” but, still, it is just hard rock albeit well done.
Black Sabbath – s/t: This album has one of my favorite cover photos, designed perfectly for Halloween, but while the band plays some great bluesy hard rock, it really loses the “chills and thrills” factor after the first song.
The Fuzztones – Lysergic Emanations: Scary photo on the front cover leads you to believe this will be more than good solid rock, but it isn’t. And the lysergic connections are tenuous at best. They attempt to redeem themselves with song titles like “Living Sickness”, “She’s Wicked”, “Epitaph for a Head”, and “Green Slime” but it is not enough to convince me.
Plan 9 – Dealing with the Dead: Like The Fuzztones, it just doesn’t convince me of anything but that they were good neo-psychedelic rockers.
Ghost – Second Time Around: Another good neo-psychedelic rock band, this time from Japan, but there’s nothing ghostly about this group.
Pulsar – Halloween: Now you would think that with an album title honoring the holiday, they would live up to the title, but they don’t. If you like your 70s progressive rock a-la-France, then Pulsar is for you!
The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request and Beggars Banquet: Two classic 60s Stones albums. The former is more psychedelic while the latter is harder edged rock, but all the allusions to Jagger being the Devil are just plain silly today.
Vampire Weekend – s/t: Great NYC modern rockers without an authentic bite. Ho hum.
Werewolf – Creation: This 1984 progressive band from the Netherlands crafted an enjoyable set of tunes here but there is more werewolf in “Werewolves of London” than on this disc.
Witch – Lazy Bones: Zambian 70s rock band with nothing to do with witches. Instead, the name is actually an acronym for “We Intend To Cause Havoc”. Welllll, sorta witchy, I guess. Enjoyable rock.
The Satans – Raisin’ Hell: This Andover, MA prep school band from 1962 thought it would be fun to use a devilish name and album title. But it was all in fun and there are no occult references in their music.
The Fun Seekers
Now, a lot of the attraction to the holiday is having fun! Here are some selections thaare intended to be fun.
Robbie the Werewolf – At the Waleback: This 1964 live comedy record only has tangential ties to the dark side. The humor is old and stale, but the album cover is priceless.
Bill Cardille – Chilly Billy Goes on Record: The late great Pittsburgh television host of Chiller Theater made an LP back in the late 60s that is full of puns and bad jokes but with a spooky twist.
David Greenberger and Phil Kaplan – Duplex Halloween Planet: These are Halloween-themed statements from the Duplex nursing home residents’ newsletter “The Duplex Planet”. Some are totally whacked-out, such as confusing Groundhog Day with Halloween. In a sense it is sad, but funny in a dark and twisted way.
Fun World – Thriller/Chiller Sound Effects: This was taken from a Halloween-themed sound effects tape to be used at children’s Halloween parties. Quite effective.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Original Soundtrack: All fun. The music is great, especially Tim Curry’s songs. But it seems something is missing when listening without the movie.
St. John Green – s/t: From psychedelic 1967 Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, we have a group of artists with a one-off album with an occult theme. Only convincing at times, but it is obvious they just wanted to make a fun LP. And they did! Cool LP cover also.
Various Artists – Spooky Tunes: This is a collection of tunes from various sources with a Halloween theme. All light, somewhat naughty, somewhat scary with many standards such as “Zombie Stomp” by Elvira, “Halloween Spooks” by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, “Welcome to My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper and, well, you get the idea.
Various Artists – Halloween Fairy Scary Tales: This is a collection of less popular but still fun recordings such as “Punky Pumpkin” by Rosemary Clooney, “Transylvania Twist” by Baron Daemon and the Vampires, “Dracula’s Wedding” by Lord Chatterly, “Voodoo Doll” by Rhonda Silver and the like.
Then you have the very underground, but all in fun, pirate radio shows. Halloween is a time where mysterious stations pop up suddenly on shortwave, and then disappear just as quickly without explanation. Many wish to hear from listeners, but cannot reveal their location so they use “mail drops” to communicate. Just like amateur radio operators and many legitimate broadcast stations they provide QSL cards to verify the reception of appreciative listeners. Here are three that stand out for me:
The Voice of the Purple Pumpkin – First broadcasts appear to have been heard in the late 1960s from a location in south-central Pennsylvania or northern Maryland, with anti-Vietnam War and anti-establishment themes. They were shut down by the FCC in 1971 but then reappeared in 1982, only to disappear again until 1989, when they began to do annual appearances at Halloween, and then adopted a mix of popular and Halloween music. In the mid-90s there was a brief appearance of New Voices of the Purple Pumpkin that outlined the history of the station. Since then there have been many other stations using that moniker but none that live up to the mysterious originators.
Voice of the Abnormal – This broadcaster only appears at Halloween, with host, Yukon Jack, who sounds quite similar to Wolfman Jack. This show is totally Halloween songs with a mix of obscurities and popular tunes, and humorous banter in between. Very enjoyable and professionally done.
Tube Radio – Halloween Special, Straight from Hell – Tube Radio was quite active in the early 1990s but then disappeared with this being their last broadcast. This broadcast was quite eerie with announcers Ray Cathode and Lady Diode, and much mention of their third-but-deceased announcer, Zippo Hiplock. They apparently went to Hell in search of their deceased friend. Howling wolves appear throughout the show and are even superimposed on the already eerie music. Only a half-hour broadcast, they closed down so that “the FCC would not have to go to Hell”.
Some of my favorite compositions to play around this holiday were not intended for Halloween but really do fit the bill. They include:
The Mothers of Invention – “The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet” in 2 Tableaux, “Ritual Dance of the Child Killers” and “Nullis Pretii” This is from the 1966 LP, Freak Out!, and takes up all of side four. Percussion, “audiosonic hypophone” in high-pitched ear piercing tones, random piano tinkling, and seductive moans amidst party banter and screams. Spooky and sexy at the same time.
Pink Floyd – “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” from the album UmmaGumma from 1969. Sounding like it was indeed recorded in a cave, there are munchkin-like voices representing a variety of indescribable creatures, and then a Scotsman begins reciting something like a warrior tale to them in a thick Scottish brogue. With the accent and the cave echo effect it is hard to decipher what he is saying. Haunting to say the least.
Can – “Aumgn” from the 1971 LP Tago Mago. This side long selection has no words but the pronounced song title in heavy reverb while assorted percussion, barking dogs, screams, and weird instrumentation perform an obviously improvisational directionless chaos for your listening pleasure.
Vanilla Fudge – Season of the Witch from the 1968 LP, Renaissance, this is a cover of the Donovan hit, but it is greatly slowed-down, and organ heavy, with additional dialogue and weeping and moaning, ending with, perhaps, the death of one as he says “Momma, I’m cold.” This is a classic. Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xld25GDuBYM
Down to Business
All right, enough of the light and fluffy. Let’s sink our teeth into someone’s neck some really serious stuff.
Aleister Crowley – 666: Some have called him the evilest man who ever lived, or “The Great Beast”. This album has original recordings Crowley made from around 1914. One disc is all Crowley. The other is Crowley enhanced with electronic music performed by Barn Jehovi.
Anton LaVey – Satanic Mass: Exactly what it says. LaVey plays dark, self-composed pipe organ music on one side of the LP and conducts an actual mass on the second side.
Coven – Witchcraft – Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls: Rock band, Coven, played Satanic-themed rock on one side of the LP and had a “Black Mass” on the second. The inside photo of the LP’s gatefold cover revealed female singer, Jinx Dawson, lying nude on an altar, with her nether parts covered by a human skull while surrounded by the other (male) members of the band sporting ritual outfits. Coven might sound familiar due to their hit, “One Tin Soldier” from the movie “The Legend of Billy Jack”.
Lucifer – Black Mass: All electronic music by one Mort Garson, posing as “Lucifer”. Not quite as authentic-sounding as the others above but still a bit curious.
Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allen Poe: Various readings by Ken Nordine, Diamanda Galas, Dr. John, Iggy Pop, Deborah Harry, Ed Sanders, Jeff Buckley, and others. Galas’ reading is especially enthralling. Dark and sinister, as only Poe could be read.
Paul Chain – Dies Irae: This is totally out-there electronic music with Sandra Silver doing vocals in an imaginary language. Quite eerie and sensual at the same time. I keep coming back to this one.
The Wicker Man – Music by Paul Giovanni and Magnet: Soundtrack to the original movie. The movie is dark and wicked, and this music does it justice. Don’t listen alone. Don’t listen in the dark.
Jacula – Tardo Pede in Magiam Versus: This is music leading up to and a part of an actual séance. Quite disturbing, especially since it is all in Latin. The music is not as scary as one would expect, however.
Devil Doll – Eliogabalus and Sacriligium: I have all five of the albums produced by Devil Doll. They are some of the most commanding progressive rock / symphonic rock ever recorded. Ever! I have listened to tens of thousands of recordings from a variety of artists and these Slovenian occultists are thee best. The two mentioned here I believe present the most sinister sounding of the set, but they are all damn close. The singer sounds like the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera. Totally theatrical. The band broke up when their recording studio and all their equipment were destroyed in a fire.
Barbara the Gray Witch – s/t: Barbara recorded a double album in the 70s that describes various types of witchcraft. Not really wicked-sounding. More informational than anything else.
Louise Huebner – Seduction Through Witchcraft: Another self-described witch from Los Angeles who produces an instructional album on this topic with electronic music.
Antonius Rex – Ralefun: If you notice, the work “Funeral” is hidden in the LP title. One of the bands created by Antonio Bartoccetti. He was also the founder of Jacula. Both albums mentioned here were from the early 70s Italy. This, while attempting to sound sinister, is simply light progressive rock with annoying bird sounds. A similar group, Cherry Five, changed its name to Goblin and recorded several horror flick soundtracks. Neither Cherry Five nor Goblin sounded the least bit scary to me.
The Occult Explosion – Nat Freedland and others: This is a documentary album that touches on all forms of occultism, and unfortunately mixes new age thinking, Eastern religions and astrology into the mix. But of course it is the 1970s so what would you expect. Some of the topics are quite interesting but not scary in the least.
English Heretic – Curse of the Conqueror Worm and A Hilltop Hanging from Witchfinder General: These are just two of several releases I have by this collective of musicians who research historic events that are tied to the unexplainable or exceptionally sinister. They perform music frequently at the sites of these historic events and it always has an other-worldly, dark ambience. Some of the darkest music in my collection.
Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood – Lucifer’s Bride: One of several BOTOS releases. All are dark, acoustic instrumental with occasional voice humming and electronic sound. Cacophonous and sometimes sounding directionless, they keep my attention always.
Other dark recordings are listed here:
- Comus – First Utterance
- Current 93 – All The Pretty Little Horses – The Inmost Light
- Eleanor’s Visceral Tomb – Lady, Hap Yer Lingcan
- Shibboleth – Winter Heresy
- Paul Roland – Danse Macabre / Burnt Orchids
- Stone Breath – Songs of Moonlight and Rain
- Ruth White – Flowers of Evil
- Shub Niggurath – Les Morts Vout Vite
- Sol Invictus – Lex Talionis
- Univers Zero – Heresie
- Terry Earl Taylor – Another Time
- Sharron Kraus – Beautiful Twisted
- Kenneth Anger – Lucifer Rising
So there you have it. Some from my collection of dark, brooding, sinister, occult sounds. Just fit for a frightful Halloween. Some of these recordings are becoming nearly impossible to obtain while others, from the more popular artists are fairly accessible in stores and online. If you ever want to know more about any of these, or others to recommend, just let me know.