Time for the third annual Gimme Five Halloween spectacular, where we stalk through the rock ‘n’ roll graveyard and dig up some of the scariest music on this side of the mortal curtain – or sometimes just stuff that’s offbeat and weird.
GUADALCANAL DIARY, “GHOSTS ON THE ROAD” from WALKING IN THE SHADOW OF THE BIG MAN (1984): One of the many alternative rock bands that came out of Athens, GA (or close enough to it) in the 80s, Guadalcanal Diary sometimes strayed into cow-punk territory as in this cut from their debut. Great little tune which just confirms that even cowboys get the boos.
FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND, “WEREWOLF” (single, 1974): Canadians have a reputation for being very darn polite, so it’s hard to explain this moderate hit that graced Canuck radio back in the 70s. Mama says, “There’s something weird about Billy/He’s my own flesh and blood, but he makes my blood run chilly,” so Papa melts down the silver dinner bell to a single shot … and Billy never comes home. Gotta wonder how this violent tale of a family in crisis ever got past the airwaves censors.
ROKY ERICKSON, “TWO HEADED DOG” from THE EVIL ONE (1981): “I’ve been workin’ in the Kremlin with a two-headed dog,” sings Roky Erickson on this cut from his post 13th Floor Elevators solo career. But what does it mean? Maybe it needs to be put in context: a recent documentary about him suggests he might have been suffering from a lifetime battle with schizophrenia. If you like this song there are plenty of other Roky titles you might enjoy, like: “I Walked with a Zombie,” “Night of the Vampire,” and “Creature with the Atom Brain.”
JOY DIVISION, “ATROCITY EXHIBITION” from CLOSER (1980): No idea what this this song is about, but it’s right creepy – like if you went down to Frankenstein’s lab, and listened to his monster sing while trying to decide for himself if he was truly murderous or just bored to tears. Just like Joy Division: it’s always about the overall package, not the details.
JIM STAFFORD, “SWAMP WITCH” from JIM STAFFORD (1973): A pretty mysterious song, all things considered. How does a three chord novelty song drenched in wah wah pedal guitar sneak into the Top 40? Likely due to Jim Stafford’s ability to weave a morality tale into the lyrics – either that or some kinda swamp witch magic thang.
THE SHAGGS, “IT’S HALLOWEEN” from PHILOSOPHY OF THE WORLD (1969): For those of you unfamiliar with this band, consider this song to be a special Halloween surprise; it’s truly one of the most frightening recordings you’ll ever hear. Check it out, but don’t say you weren’t warned.