Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Rock

The songs one might consider placing under the broad rubric of “Halloween Rock” occupy a curious niche in rock music history. They do not especially exhibit the tendentiousness of the “novelty song,” those occasional or ad hoc songs recorded to raise money for a certain charity, for instance, or recorded to capitalize on a current consumer fad or craze. Nor do they form a coherent subgenre of rock music, having no recurring, identifiable characteristics, thus making them different from a highly commercialized popular musical form such as the Christmas song. Another difference from Christmas music is that “Halloween Rock” is not necessarily music one plays at Halloween, but all year long. Nonetheless, there are certain tunes that one inevitably is compelled to play at Halloween, such as “The Blob,” “Monster Mash, “Psycho Killer,” “Werewolves of London,” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, the latter song actually used in the movie Halloween. None of these aforementioned songs are particular “scary” in my view, although they are all highly memorable pieces of music, and somehow seem especially appropriate to play at this time of year.

Yesterday Scene-Stealers.com posted a list of the “Top 10 User-Submitted Halloween Rock Tunes,” consisting of readers contributing to “the perfect Halloween rock playlist.” I invite everyone to check out the list—complete with videos—that, while extraordinarily heterogeneous, marked by different styles and different historical periods, actually contains some interesting choices: among them, The Kinks’ “Wicked Annabella,” The Sonics’ “The Witch,” Electric Light Orchestra’s “Fire on High” (from the album Face the Music, the back cover of which is pictured above), The Who’s “Boris the Spider,” and what, for me anyway, is the most interesting choice, Crispin Glover’s rendition of “Ben.” Crispin Glover, remember, starred in the 2003 remake of Willard (1971), a story about a young man’s fascination and strong identification with rats. “Ben,” a huge hit for the young Michael Jackson, was the title track to that film’s 1972 sequel, Ben. Although Willard and its sequel are generally considered “campy,” for an alternative view I would recommend everyone to read Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille Plateaux, in particular the chapter titled “1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible.” Deleuze and Guattari are especially fond of the film Willard as an illustration of the principle they name “Becoming-Animal,” the strong identification certain human beings have with certain animals, imitating them, modeling their behavior on them, in short attempting to become them. Contrary to a film such as The Wolfman, for instance, which depicts the horror of becoming Other, Willard explores the deep desire to do just that. (Vampire films often explore similar territory.)

At any rate, over at Scene-Stealers.com a list of favored “Halloween Rock” tunes follows the “Top 10” Halloween songs, and I invite everyone to peruse it. Moreover, I wish all my readers, now and in the future, a Happy Halloween!

2 comments:

FF OCONNOR said...

Doc,
You simply, in my mind, can't talk about the darkness of halloween rock with out talk of the Misfits. Granted they are not in the same era that you have listed here, but the very essence (to me anyway) of thier songs envokes dark demons and graveyards etc etc. However they are far less "i hate my folks I want to kill myself, dress in black and watch bettle juice all day" than The Damned. my recomendation: listen to "die die my darling" and/or "last caress"

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