Most any Halloween playlist is rottenly ripe with overly familiar novelty tripe. Or crappy death metal cookie-monster garbage, or long instrumentals that are very dated and uninteresting but happen to be titled "Frankenstein" and played by Edgar Allan Winter or somebody or other. Here?
Your holiday Anhedonia won't be brightened that much by the six women who sing about death, or being haunted, but at least you're not being asked to suffer through the theme from "Ghostbusters." I know your thanks will take the form of razor blades in the apples I'll get on October 31st.
DREAM WITHIN A DREAM - Jennifer Hope. You've been Hope-less up till now, and don't worry, you'll stay that way. Jen's a wretched wren, a sincere, dreamy, druggy Goth chick. In her musical hobble through the misty mid-regions of her weird haunted home studio, she moans a question of whether life is but a dream within a dream. No, Jen, it's often as grim and depressing as a Sarah McLachlan animal abuse TV commercial. Like the sister of Roderick Usher, lurching through a gloomy mansion, Jen meanders through the melody but never quite finds it. If you can find some laudanum to imbibe, you'll hallucinate that her untrained voice has snagged the key to a high note like Renfield grabbed for a spider.
GLOOMY SUNDAY - Ketty Lester. Probably you've heard this one via Billie Holiday. What's nice about hep kitten Ketty's cover is that she keeps it down around the two minute mark, and slashes the cop-out refrain, "Dreaming…I was only dreaming." The American lyrics via Sam Lewis (for the music by Rezső Seress, who did kill himself three decades after he penned the song) are the ones that almost every singer has used. Two women recorded the more stark (and gloomy) set of grim grumbles as penned by British wordsmith Desmond Carter: Greta Keller and Diamanda Galas.
FLASH FROM THE BLUE - Karen Chandler. This coy 50's pop tune mentions something about a "fiery witch making love to the moon and the moon taking off like a bat." Which could be eerie and erotic if Chandler didn't sing in the bombastic style of Betty Hutton, driving the melody down Broadway with the car doors open (as opposed to her top down). It's here for a trivial reason: the lyrics are by Jerry Stevens…who wrote material for Donn Arden's Vegas showgirls to sing in revues in the late 50's. In 1960 under his real name, Joseph Stefano, he adapted Robert Bloch's "Psycho" into a hit movie, adding some key elements of dialogue and subplot. His next step beyond was the "Outer Limits" TV Show.
HAUNTED - Carole Bennett. Another single that, like Chandler's number, could've been done by Abbe Lane or Juliet Prowse on the Sullivan show, with bumps, grinds, and her jazz-hands ruffling into her mane of tousled hair. A doofus male back-up chorus does the woo-wops while Carole vamps about being a "Hawn-TED Luv-UHH." Not too spooky but if you're a cool ghoul you might play along on the bongo drum you made out of human skin. Another reason why it's on the blog: it was written by the Pockriss-Vance team, who also wrote "Ape on my Fire Escape." Don't remember that one? Alrighty then: "Leader of the Laundromat" and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." There. Now drink your soup before it clots.
DEAD - Carolyn Sullivan. Unlike Carole Bennett, this soulful lady is seriously depressed, and there's not enough oil in anyone's joint to crank her back to life. Her clam shell has shut like a coffin. She wants to be alone…six feet under. I think her record label, Phillips, did what they could to bury her and her song, but the title ("DEAD") makes it hard not to give her an airing around this time of year. What's that smell? Carolyn issued this notorious single in 1967. The following year Dana Gillespie covered it.
I DON'T WANT TO BE A ZOMBIE - Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts included the infamous (as opposed to famous) Barbara Markay, who also self-pressed an album called 'Hot Box" with liner notes suggesting she was the next Lenny Bruce. She did curse a little, that's about it. It was neither funny nor shocking. You might charitably say she was the precurser to Julie Brown, who would be much more successful in recording sassy novelty songs with a charming lack of taste. But the tastelessness was usually more violent than sexual ("Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun.") Julie mocked the notion that all a girl had to do was be blond, act as stupid as a zombie, or show off her figure. The Girl Scouts seemed to think all they had to do was show off and claim not to be zombies. And what do they have to show for it? A mention on the Illfolks blog. As Ross Perot used to say, "that's just sad."
SIX HAUNTED CHICKS A Half Dozen Tainted Clams -