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Tom Tobben

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Popular culture, including popular music, is filled with images of monsters, ghouls, and downright creepy people. This week we will feature four such classic songs and well-known artists, and hopefully everyone will add a bunch more songs about scary monsters and creepy characters over the course of the week. (When Al recently mentioned that this past week’s battle included some "monster" songs, little did he know that he was foreshadowing what was to come this week.)

Without further ado, here are this week’s four contestants:

Song #1 - “Psycho Killer”, Talking Heads. (1977) This early creepy classic that helped put Talking Heads on the map was a featured song on their first album Talking Heads: 77, and it became a staple of Talking Heads concerts. It was also the featured song David Byrne and the band used as the opening song on their classic concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by famous scary movie director Jonathan Demme (e.g., Silence of the Lambs). Though all the other songs on their debut album were written by David Byrne, this song was co-written by band members Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz:

Though we’re voting on the original song version above, here for your added entertainment is the interesting live version from the concert film Stop Making Sense, which features Byrne performing solo on an acoustic guitar:

Song #2 – “Thriller”, Michael Jackson. (1982) This ghouly hit from Jackson’s iconic career-defining album of the same title was accompanied by an extended length video (nearly 14 minutes long) featuring additional narrative by horror film legend Vincent Price.  The Thriller album is the worldwide best-selling album of all time with nearly 70 million albums sold, and the original “Thriller” video is often considered the best music video ever made. It has been viewed on YouTube nearly 600 million times. The song itself begins at about 4:13 into the video.

Song #3 – “Monster Mash”, Beach Boys. (1964) Originally a novelty hit recording by Bobby “Boris” Pickett in 1962, this fun “monster” song was subsequently covered by numerous other artists, including the Beach Boys on their 1964 Beach Boys Concert album, featuring lead vocals by Mike Love. It was also an early concert staple for the Boys:

Song #4 – “Werewolves of London”, Warren Zevon. (1978) What started out as a joke made by Phil Everly to Warren Zevon in 1975, Zevon eventually turned into a creepy hit song on his classic 1978 album Excitable Boy, and perhaps the signature song of his career. Perhaps even creepier was the B-side of this single, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”.  Backing Zevon on his classic recording of “Werewolves” are noted guitarist Waddy Wachtel, along with Fleetwood Mac co-founders drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass guitarist John McVie:

 

I hope everyone has fun listening to (and watching) this week’s songs, and that you will add some more of your favorite songs about “Scary Monsters (and super creeps)”. Though I did not include this classic song by David Bowie, it served as the title that inspired my theme for this week’s battle. As a bonus non-voting extra for this week, here it is, from Bowie’s 1980 album of the same name:

 

For your cut and paste convenience, this week’s battle songs:

“Psycho Killer”, Talking Heads

“Thriller”, Michael Jackson

“Monster Mash”, Beach Boys

“Werewolves of London”, Warren Zevon

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t bedford

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Jekyll & Hyde (Dickie Goodman): Frankenstein Meets the Beatles
youtube.com/watch?v=uR3LfX1dPXY

Screaming Lord Sutch & the Savages: She's Fallen in Love With the Monster Man
youtube.com/watch?v=4XSJPYI_gGg

Gentle Giant - Alucard
youtube.com/watch?v=RdqSmXXFQ7Y

Todd Rundgren - Wolfman Jack
youtube.com/watch?v=U3JD3d65coY

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Al Forsyth

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Tom, wow, yet another challenging week. Give me some time with one.
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Larry Franz

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The horror, the horror....

Gold -- Talking Heads -- I like them a lot and this was one of their best.

Silver -- Warren Zevon -- One of those artists I feel like I should enjoy more. Also one of his best.

Bronze -- Michael Jackson -- It seems pretty clear this song's great fame and popularity were due to non-musical elements. 

Tin -- The Beach Boys -- It was fun at the time but hasn't worn well. However, it's great to see the real Mike Love revealed for once.


Sufjan Stevens -- "Wallowa Lake Monster"

The internet says:

Quote:
Wallowa Lake Monster, also known as Wally, is a lake monster alleged to inhabit Wallowa Lake, Oregon

A local legend among the Nez Perce tribe states that when the Nez Perce and Blackfeet were at war, the daughter of the Nez Perce chief fell in love with the son of the Blackfoot chief. One night, the couple took a canoe from the Nez Perce camp and rowed out on the lake. Eventually, the rival tribes realized what was happening and set out after them. The monster then came up out of the lake and attacked them, killing them all. To this day, the Nez Perce do not venture out on the lake.

Many "sightings" have been reported since the 19th century.

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Cindy Hood

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Great theme this week, Tom!

My votes:

Gold:  and by a LANDSLIDE - Michael Jackson for Thriller!  I think this is not only a very good song, but the best rock video ever made.  

Silver:  Talking Heads for Psychokiller.  Actually, I hadn't heard this one before today, but I really like it!

Bronze:  Warren Zevon  for Werewolves of London.  I remember this one well.  Pretty good and pleasant to listen to whenever it comes over the airwaves.

Tin:  The Beach Boys for Monster Mash.  Sometimes the Boys cover a well known song and it's very good.  Not this time.  Sorry, Boys!

My votes are in and now I can relax a bit.

Thanks, Tom!

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Darren J. Ray

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Gold - Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon - 1978)
After the opening riff, it was refreshing to hear Warren Zevon’s vocal come on instead of Kid Rock's. I was well aware of the Phil Everly connection (and mentioned it a couple of weeks ago here). Warren was pianist and bandleader with the Ev’s in the early ‘70s and also on their early solo stuff. Waddy also played in that band. 

Said Warren on an Ev’s documentary: 

“My first road job was playing with the Everly Brothers and it was a fantastic introduction to the road. For one thing, we were very proud of them, you know, every night – they sang that way wherever they were, [whether] it was Albert Hall or an oyster bar in Maryland, they always sang that way. I think the picture I still have of Don and Phil in my mind...it was a little two-prop plane to a ski resort – and it was turbulent. It was the kind of flight where they serve you coffee and a moment later it’s dripping from the ceiling. When I say turbulent, I mean it was like a Jeff Bridges movie. And I looked around – Don was sitting in his seat, calmly, with pitched-black dark glasses on, calmly reading a magazine, reading Time Magazine. The plane was all over the place. I looked around to the other side – Phil, he was smiling, he had his camera out and he was taking pictures out the window of the engine that was failing. And I thought: this is cool.” Warren is quick to point out the brilliance of Don’s guitar playing. From the same doc: “You can’t have ‘Bye Bye Love’ or ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ without those guitar pickings, without those guitar riffs we all remember, and they’re always Don Everly. And Don may say that he’s playing Bo Diddley’s lick but it’s just the modesty of a genius; they’re all Don Everly parts.”

“I remember him saying, ‘Why don’t you guys write a dance song for me, and, call it ‘Werewolves of London’.’ We didn’t know what he meant but we did. Of course, uhm, ‘Werewolves of London’ turned out to be a kind of a big international hit for me – thank you. So, it was Phil’s idea entirely.” 

This is the only song this week I could really palate; well, sink my teeth into, anyway. 

 
Silver - Monster Mash (The Beach Boys - 1964)
At least Mike had the balls to do it. 

Bronze - Thriller (music video) (Michael Jackson - 1983)
If it was just the song, possibly higher. Has it started yet? Hard to take that face (and jacket) seriously. Am I the only person here who didn’t buy Thriller? I sat with Wade Robson and his mother at a dinner one night. Look him up. 

Participant - Psycho Killer (Talking Heads - 1977)
The only song I remotely liked of theirs was ‘Once in a Lifetime’. I think my sister bought the single. I take it that the guy is talented. But his talent just doesn’t appeal to me. 

 

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Larry Franz

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren J. Ray

At least Mike had the balls to do it. 


I don't think anyone ever accused Michael of lacking balls. I do think Brian or Dennis could have done it, but they had other jobs.

Now this is not a total surprise: Gary Usher put together a studio group in 1964 called the Ghouls. The rest is history.

https://www.discogs.com/The-Ghouls-Draculas-Deuce/master/526293

"Be True To Your Ghoul"  ("When some big zombie tries to put me down....")


"Dracula's Deuce"
youtube.com/watch?v=GKdw5I7cu0w

"The Little Old Lady From Transylvania" (this one is rather disappointing)
youtube.com/watch?v=-LMznZjzlsM

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t bedford

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GOLD - “Psycho Killer”, Talking Heads. It was about time for something new.

SILVER - “Monster Mash”, Beach Boys. Why would anybody perform this at a Christmas show!?!

BRONZE - “Werewolves of London”. Warren Zevon. A title suggested by Phil Everly can't save this turkey.

TIN - “Thriller”, Michael Jackson. Awful.


Revillos - She's Fallen in Love With a Monster Man (Screaming Lord Sutch cover)
youtube.com/watch?v=EdWVQQbYDY8

Revillos - She's Fallen in Love With a Monster Man (LIVE!)
youtube.com/watch?v=WUWlnNcI6Co


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John B

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1.  "Psycho Killer"

by the Talking Heads and

2. "Werewolves of London"

by Warren Zevon 

 both great in the 70's and even the bleak 80's. 

Love both David and Warren.  Between the 2?  tough, but gotta go with Warren. tougher, like the ad lib, 'draw blood!' and  Funnier.  like "Let Nothing Come Between You."  I say that all the time: 'there are frustrated people in town, who are envious and may want to bring us down, though they don't really mean us any harm, that doesn't mean we gotta let em hang around!'    dee dee dee dee dee, dee dee dee dee dee. Let Nothing come between you.  I say!'   great singer.  one of Hunter S. Thompson's favorites. 
By the way: has anyone heard Van Dyke's track on the tribute album?  "Keep me in your heart (strings only)"? 

3.  "Monster Mash"

it was okay on that live album.  kind of rocked.

4.  "Thriller" never thrilled me.  ...well, I guess I liked "Human Nature" okay.
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Al Forsyth

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Tom,  = REAL Monster Music.  Okay, granted some novelty all over the place.  My top two had their own significance.  

Votes first:

Gold - The Talking Heads 1977 - they were the change that was much needed.  Their first song of note.  I'm a real live wire alright: Psycho Killer Qu'est-ce que c'est ?  The Heads were funky.


Silver - Thriller by Michael and sooooooo many others.  This song transcended its time.  The album was a monster.  Darren,  I didn't own it either, but in it's own way, it was like Sgt. Pepper - you heard it everywhere.   The work put into the album by Quincy Jones and all involved with Michael in his glory.  It put production values into MTV even - thankfully.  And of course you could dance to it:

STLL!
My favorite Thriller songs:

and PYT

Tough to decide the bottom two.  I do like them both.

I'll give Warren the nod for bronze.  GREAT album!!!!!
Favorite song on it:



Tin (unfortunately) 
The Mash
Brian as Boris - kinda scary too:


Trent and the boys kind of scared me.  I was in the lower left of the crowd - just behind the mosh.  Sorry about the language - but it is what it is:

You'll have to log into the Director's Cut and verify your age.  That's scary!

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Tom Tobben

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Thanks to all our early contributors -- t, Al, Larry, Cindy, Darren, and John B -- for your comments, votes, and additional creepy/monster songs. 

t, good finds with those interesting and novelty monster songs. As always, your knowledge of Gentle Giant impresses, including their song "Alucard" (Dracula spelled backward), which appears also to use some tapes played backward. ("turn me on, dead man"?) I enjoyed hearing your Rundgren's "Wolfman Jack" song again after a long time, from his excellent early album Something/Anything? And interesting to hear the multiple versions of "She's Fallen in Love with a Monster Man", which was new to me. Thanks also for your votes -- Talking Heads certainly were a breath of fresh air on the music and concert scene in the late 70s and 80s, and they created a lot of excellent and innovative music. I suspect that "Thriller" may be a bit of a polarizer this week; seems people either love or hate Michael Jackson's solo career, without much middle ground. Time will tell how he fares this week with one of his big hits from his biggest album. 

Larry, thanks also for your early votes and the added songs/videos. Another first for Talking Heads -- I was curious how they'd do this week since only a few of their songs made it to Top 40 radio, although they were an FM/alternative music staple of the New Wave era and recorded lots of great songs, as their excellent 2CD retrospective album Sand in the Vaseline readily demonstrates. I always enjoy your diverse Sufjan Stevens finds. His topics and music  are so eclectic, including this song based on a Nez Perce tribal legend. And an excellent Brian Wilson-connected find with Gary Usher's "Ghouls" project -- funny lyrics on their "Be True to Your Ghoul" and "The Little Old Lady from Transylvania"! Thanks for all the interesting and lesser-known music you contribute to our weekly battles!

Cindy, as is often the case, your votes came in early and decisively, including a gold for Michael Jackson's MTV classic song and video, "Thriller". Compared to his early Jackson Five years, Jackson showed so much young adult talent and diversity of styles on this album, which featured an amazing seven out of nine songs on the album that became Top 10 hits in the US, including three songs that made it to #1 or #2 (Billie Jean, Beat It, The Girl Is Mine). If you're not very familiar with Talking Heads catalogue, they're worth checking out further beyond their few Top 40 hits, including their excellent version of Al Green's "Take Me to the River". Here it is, from their live concert film Stop Making Sense, including David Byrne's famous "big suit" and band member introductions:

 
Darren, thanks for that additional thorough background information about Zevon's connection with the Everly Brothers, including his playing in their band for a while before he broke out on his own. Based on the early voting so far, it appears you may be on the polarized side of the voting for "Psycho Killer". I'm sure that a good portion of the song "Thriller"'s success was due to its innovative extended form video and distinctive dance choreography. That said, as big as that album was, I think the song "Thriller" still stands well enough on its own, when I've listened to it so many times on the original album version without the video, costuming, and dance choreography. It's got a great dance beat as well, which had become so popular in that era and on that album more specifically:


John B., thanks also for your early votes and comments. Looks like you had to work a bit to sort out your top two and bottom two votes, with a strong first and second for Zevon and Talking Heads. And looks like you, t, and Darren are in the same camp with regard to Jackson's "Thriller". 

Al, thanks also for your early votes and for all the interesting additional songs/videos. Another gold vote for "Psycho Killer" -- looks like a trend! I'm pleasantly surprised how many Talking Heads fans we appear to have here. This early song with the super creepy guy from their first album definitely helped to get listeners' attention, and it proved to be well worth it over time! After their time in the limelight was over, Talking Heads were also a quick inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame once they became eligible. Your favorites on the Thriller album were interesting picks and totally different from mine, which were "Billy Jean", "Beat It", and "Thriller". I got a kick out of that recent "Thriller" flash mob video -- the song's dance popularity still endures after nearly 35 years! Thanks also for sharing your favorites from Zevon's Excitable Boy album. And a fascinating find with Brian's early band performing a sound check version of "Monster Mash". Was that Paul Mertens doing the lead vocals? Finally, what would this week's battle theme be without a super creep song by Nine Inch Nails like "Closer". What a dark song and definitely a super creep protagonist in the lyrics.


Finally, to flesh out this week's theme a bit further, here's an old monster hit from 1958 and a much newer super creep song from 2009:



Keep the comments, votes, and monster/super creep songs coming, everyone!


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bonnie bella

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Hi Tom. An interesting theme and I immediately think of this song - which reminds me of monsters under the bed.



Radiohead, of course.



I'm getting into David Byrne and his solo career at the moment as he recently toured here with that excellent performance that I didn't go to. This is more creepy than creep, but it's appealing in a strange kind of way.





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t bedford

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One more from Screaming Lord Sutch - Dracula's Daughter
youtube.com/watch?v=Z2HkrWkKzZo

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Al Forsyth

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Tom,  Thanks for the detailed replies to everyone.  Interesting to get your take.  And now, indirectly here, you have hinted at what my week will be upcoming next.  Stay tuned.  

The Heads were kind of our answer to punk, don't you think, but with so much "other" going on from the artiness from their own backgrounds.  What goes on in David Byrne's head?  

With NIN, don't forget that Atticus Ross, of Love and Mercy film sound fame has been involved with Trent Reznor.  And here they are at work:


Surely, there will be scarier music to come this week.  

This is the remaster from a piece of whatever you want to call it - a sound collage - that always troubled and scared me. It's even creepier in the remaster.  


Sound is important.  

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Tom Tobben

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bonnie, t, and Al, thanks for those additional songs and comments!
 
bonnie, I had heard of Fur Patrol before but hadn't previously heard their music. I looked them up and saw that they're another of your kiwi groups and had a number of albums, but I don't think they got much exposure over here. With that title, I was curious about the lyrics, but I wasn't able to find them on line. I'll have to try to go back and listen to the song's lyrics more closely. "Creep" was Radiohead's first hit and it became an international success. It's still perhaps my favorite song by that group, and I have a number of their albums. Thom Yorke must be one unusual guy with the type of music he writes and records with his group, who have had a long string of successful albums over the past 25 years. Interesting to learn that you're investigating David Byrne's solo career, because his music was so fascinating as a member of Talking Heads. If your example above, "Horses (The Ghost Song)", is any indication, I'm not sure I'd be enamored with such new stuff of his. I'm hoping to check out some of his solo music myself, in hope that it will be more akin to his Talking Heads stuff than to this experimental electronic sound piece. 
 
t, that Screamin' Lord Sutch must have been something else with all those odd novelty songs. I looked him up on Wikipedia and found this interesting tidbit:

Quote:
"Sutch's album Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends was named in a 1998 BBC poll as the worst album of all time, a status it also held in Colin Larkin's book The Top 1000 Albums of All Time,[citation needed] despite the fact that Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins performed on it and helped write it."
 
Interesting that he could attract such talent to work with him but still create such a dud of an album. 
 
Al, you're so right -- sound IS important. How a particular piece of music sounds, or is arranged and recorded can make all the difference. And Nine Inch Nails does make such a statement with how much of their music sounds, most of which doesn't appeal to me because of its harshness. I wonder whether kds, a long-time participant in our battles, would like this group, since he generally seems to like the harder and edgier stuff.  I'm surprised t hasn't chimed in yet regarding NIN, since the band was formed in Cleveland. I was amused recently when watching Ken Burns' excellent documentary series, Vietnam, to notice that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross wrote a lot of the incidental music for all the episodes of the film, in addition to all the classic rock and other music that was featured in the documentary's soundtrack. An interesting pairing of selecting these guys to write a bunch of the backing music to this excellent, gut-wrenching documentary.   
 
Regarding that most unusual Beatles recording "Revolution 9" from the White Album (The Beatles), it certainly is an interesting piece, trying to absorb all the various snippets that Lennon put together and how they were put together. While I truly love the White Album, "Revolution 9" always seemed to me that it better belonged on one of Lennon's separate avant garde recordings with Yoko from around that era. 


Before this week's battle gets too far along, I wanted to share one of my favorite Frank Zappa & The Mothers songs about old cheesy monster movies, "Cheepnis", from Zappa's excellent live album Roxy & Elsewhere from 1974. I had seriously considered this song for this week's battle, but it seems there aren't very many serious Zappa fans here, so I didn't want it to fall low in the voting. The song begins with a 2-minute monologue by Zappa about cheaply made monster movies, then gets into the entertaining song itself. Here's the official version from Roxy & Elsewhere, followed by a live version which includes an entertaining montage of scenes and images from a bunch of cheaply made monster movies from the 1950s and 60s to reinforce the point of the song:




Looking forward to more comments, votes, and theme-related songs from everyone as we enter the middle of this week's battle.
 
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