For "V," I was initially inclined to go with something from Van Halen, but I couldn't think of a Van Halen deep cut more appropriate for Halloween week than The Velvet Underground's "Black Angel's Death Song."
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
For "U," you probably thought I was going to go with U2. Well, I'm not a huge fan of U2, and frankly, I don't know enough of their non-popular songs to reliably give you a deep cut. Uriah Heep was another option, but I also don't know more than a handful of their songs. So, that pretty much left me with British hard rockers UFO, who, if you've ever watched That Metal Show, you know is co-host Eddie Trunk's favorite band. They weren't hugely popular outside of hard rock and metal circles, although you have likely heard their song "Lights Out" now and then on classic rock radio.
I decided to go with "Mother Mary" off of the band's 1975 Force It album. It's an awesome hard rock song, with some fantastic guitar work by Michael Schenker. I have to get home to eat some cake, so unfortunately I don't have time to say much more, but enjoy and definitely check this band out if you haven't already.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
On Saturday, former Cream bassist and lead vocalist Jack Bruce died from liver disease at the age of 71. If you're not familiar with Cream,
you can probably stop reading here and go fuck yourself, they were the first supergroup, featuring Bruce (who had been with Graham Bond Organisation and briefly John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Manfred Mann), drummer Ginger Baker (also of Graham Bond Organisation), and, of course, Eric Clapton (who had been with the Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers at that point).
Although Cream was only together for a little more than two years, they put out four studio albums and had a profound influence on rock and roll. Top to bottom, I'd be hard-pressed to find a more musically talented group. Bruce was a phenomenal bassist with a great blues-rock voice, Baker is probably one of the top five drummers ever (and was at the top of his game in Cream), and Clapton is, well, God. I consider them to be the first hard rock group, and they were certainly heavier than anything that came before them. On top of that, presumably like many others my age, some of the first blues songs I heard were played by bands like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Led Zeppelin. Cream seemed to have been more blues-based than the other two, but Cream also predated the others by a couple years. It wasn't until years later that I realized "Crossroads" was a classic acoustic Delta blues song from the '30s, "Spoonful" was a Howlin' Wolf song, and "Born Under a Bad Sign" was an Albert King song.
With that, here are my ten favorite Cream songs, in alphabetical order.
In addition to being a great song, "Badge" has a great story. It was co-written by Clapton and George Harrison, and it was untitled. The word "bridge" was scrawled on the music sheet indicating, well, the bridge, and urban legend is that Clapton read the word "bridge" as "badge" and laughed because he didn't know what it meant, and then a drunken Ringo Starr came into the studio and provided the line about the swans living in the park. '60s London must have been awesome.
2. "Born Under a Bad Sign"
This is a great, brooding blues song. "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." Glass half full, people.
3. "I Feel Free"
From the beginning "bah bah bah bah bah-bah," this is a feel-good song about feelin' free.
4. "Rollin' and Tumblin'"
This is a blistering take on a traditional blues song. The band just tears this song a new one.
5. "Steppin' Out"
"Steppin' Out" is an up-tempo instrumental where the band, and particularly Clapton, shreds, or as BBC DJ Brian Matthews says on the BBC Sessions, "fixin' to blow your mind."
6. "Sunshine of Your Love"
This is a classic. There is something primally satisfying about the riff in this song. It's so heavy, especially for that time. It's also the first bass line I learned to play (and pretty much the only one I still know how to play).
I've always like this song, but until tonight, I never thought to look up what "SWLABR" stands for. Apparently it stands for "She Was Like a Bearded Rainbow," which makes sense, given the lyric "you've got that rainbow feel, but the rainbow has a beard," even if you have to be under the influence of lysergic acid diethyl amide to really understand what that means.
8. "Tales of Brave Ulysses"
This is a dark and beautiful song about a dude who goes on journey, and it's the first song in which Clapton used the wah pedal. I love the wah pedal.
This version is from the band's BBC Sessions album, and it's pretty much just Bruce scatting some words about a train in between wailing on a harmonica while Ginger Baker plays the drums real fast. Sounds strange when I describe it, but it does sound like a runaway train, so that's cool.
10. "White Room"
"White Room" is the first Cream song I remember hearing, and it's still my favorite. That gothic-sounding intro sets the stage, before the band bursts into four and a half minutes of rock and roll heaven. Clapton is particularly good on this one, making good use of the wah pedal. I love the wah pedal. Not sure if I've mentioned that yet.
I have likely said it before, and I will likely say it again: Thin Lizzy is criminally underrated, at least in this country. Phil Lynott was a fantastic songwriter, writing interesting stories in the Irish tradition. Like with Springsteen, I think a lot of his songs would make great short stories or even movies. The band's use of twin lead guitars (for most of their existence, anyway) was both revolutionary and influential, especially in the hard rock and metal world (see Iron Maiden and Judas Priest). As Henry Rollins (a huge Thin Lizzy fan) once said, "If you like big rock music with great vocals and tremendous guitar, there's at least five Thin Lizzy albums which you need to run out and get, like right now." I agree.
In the UK, the band had 9 Top 10 albums (including live albums and compilations), to go along with 13 UK Top 40 hits (including 4 Top 10), as well as 12 Top 20, 6 Top 5, and 2 #1 songs in their native Ireland. However, as a result of some bad luck and illness while touring the States back in the '70s, the band never made it as big here as they should have. Only three of their singles charted on the Billboard Hot 100 -- "The Boys Are Back In Town" (#12), "Cowboy Song" (#77), and "Do Anything You Want To" (#81) -– and only one album cracked the Top 20 on Billboard's album charts (1976's Jailbreak). Chances are, other than their two classic rock radio staples –- "The Boys Are Back In Town" and "Jailbreak" –-many American listeners have never heard a Thin Lizzy song. Frankly, I can think of only one or two times when I've heard a Thin Lizzy song other than one of those two on the radio, and I think that's a damn shame.
When choosing a Thin Lizzy deep cut with a dark theme for Halloween week, I had a few options, but ultimately decided to go with "Toughest Street in Town" off of the band's 1979 album, Black Rose: A Rock Legend (which I reviewed on this here blog during the first year I did Rocktoberfest).
"Toughest Street In Town" is one of my top 5 favorite Thin Lizzy songs. It's a look at the underbelly of society in the bad part of town. Drugs, prostitution, muggings, murder, upper class apathy. It's all there, placed on top of a frantically paced rock song. The opening twin lead guitar riff is gritty, the drum fills are perfect, the guitars during the song are catchy at times and blazing at others, and Lynott's singing is typically soulful, complemented by the backing vocals on the chorus. When I hear this song, I really can't figure out why these guys weren't more popular. Good shit, for sure. I strongly urge you to follow Henry Rollins's advice.
Monday, October 27, 2014
It Halloween week, so it seems like an appropriate time to tell this story. I recently heard one of the most awkward/hilarious stories I've heard in a long time. To protect everyone involved, have changed change names and taken liberties with some non-essential details, but rest assured, this is a true story.
A friend of mine -- who we'll call Griffin, no, actually, Bort -- was out of town for work. Bort and several co-workers went to a bar one night. Bort and a co-worker, who we'll name Hannibal, were talking. Hannibal had a problem. The poor guy had a headache, but no pain killers. Egad!
Next to Hannibal, however, was the purse of another co-worker, who we'll call Morticia. Hanging from a carabiner on Morticia's purse was one of those little cylindrical travel vials of aspirin. Morticia was heavily involved in another conversation, and her back was turned to Bort and Hannibal. Not thinking anything of it, Hannibal grabbed the aspirin canister and popped the top open, hoping to grab a couple pills to ease his increasing cranial pain.
There were no pills inside, but rather the vial was filled with a bluish gray powder. "What the hell is that?," Hannibal muttered. Is it a crushed up drug of some sort?, he wondered silently, now looking at Morticia in a different light. Not white enough to be cocaine, he thought, but it could be Adderall? Ritalin? Heroin? Bath salts? "Maybe it's PCP," Bort cautioned, half-laughing, although visibly uncomfortable with the whole situation. Just close it and put it back, man, Bort wished he could have said, but couldn't manage to choke out the words.
Only one way to find out, Hannibal thought, his inner monologue sounding a lot like Sean Connery for some reason. He licked the tip of his finger, stuck it into the powder, placed the fingertip full of powder on his tongue, kind of rolled it around his mouth with his tongue, and then swallowed. Unable to place the taste, Hannibal said, "I have no idea," before placing the cap back on the vial, and putting it back on Morticia's purse before she could notice.
Thank God that's over, Bort thought, noticing how clammy his palms had become. "Another beer? I think it's my round," Bort said, hoping to change the direction of the conversation away from what Bort believed was not only an invasion of privacy by Hannibal, but was also the very real possibility that his co-worker Morticia was hooked on angel dust, a drug known to give its users a dangerous combination of superhuman strength and vivid hallucinations. Don't piss Morticia off, Bort thought to himself, just in case. "Yeah, I'll have another," Hannibal replied.
Bort summoned the bartender, a man-child with a black horn-rimmed glasses, a tight-fitting vintage Frankenberry t-shirt, and a full, bushy beard that hung four inches below his chin. "Two more Mich' Ultras, hombre," Bort said, even though this man was not a native Spanish speaker. "Thirteen dollars," the man-child replied in a cool, indifferent tone, while twisting the caps off of two well-chilled bottles of beer. Bort counted the money in the brushed nickel Tanqueray money clip he found on the sidewalk seventeen months earlier. Exactly thirteen dollars. God damn, Kalamazoo is expensive, he thought as he handed the money to the man-child. Bort then reached into his other pocket and fished out seven quarters, which he delicately placed on the bar in single stack. "He deserves it," Bort whispered to himself.
Bort handed one beer to Hannibal. They clinked the necks of their respective beers together, and each took a long slug, both satisfied knowing that this beer wouldn't damage their svelte, almost sickly figures. As their conversation drifted back to the office fantasy cricket league and how that prick Grant Davies was going to win it all again this year, Bort felt a quiet comfort.
Halloween week is upon us, which means the rest of the Rocktober deep cuts will feature songs with evil, dark, or demonic themes or song titles.
For "S," I'm going with '70s British glam band, Sweet (or sometimes called "The Sweet"). From 1971 to 1978, Sweet racked up an impressive roll of hits. While they were more popular in their native UK (15 UK Top 40 hits, including ten in the Top 10 and one #1), I was surprised to see that they had a considerable amount of chart success here in the US as well. Nine of their songs made the Billboard Hot 100, with five Top 20 songs and four Top 10 songs ("Little Willy" (#3), "Ballroom Blitz" (#5), "Fox On The Run" ("#5), and "Love Is Like Oxygen" (#8)).
One of the songs that either wasn't released as a single in the US or just didn't chart was "Hell Raiser," a non-album single released in 1973. The first time I heard the song was a version Def Leppard put on their 2006 album Yeah!, which featured covers of '70s rock songs. Their cover of "Hell Raiser" also featured Darkness lead singer Justin Hawkins on backing vocals. I liked the song, so I checked out the original version (which is apparently hard to find in the US), and I liked it as well. It's a great example of '70s glam rock: hard rocking, catchy, high-pitched vocals. And, of course, as evidenced by the cover of the 45 single, Sweet dressed the part.
Friday, October 24, 2014
It's Hair Band Friday, so we're going to go with a Ratt song for the letter "R." Ratt is best known for their 1984 hit "Round and Round," which made it to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to that, they had another six songs that charted on the Hot 100, as well as eleven songs that made the Top 40 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts and four platinum albums.
Their 1984 debut album, Out of the Cellar, was their biggest-selling album, going platinum three times, and it tied for their highest-charting album, topping out at #7 on the Billboard album charts. The aforementioned "Round and Round" was on the album, as well as three minor hits, "Back For More" (which was one of two videos the band had featuring Milton Berle), "Lack of Communication, and "Wanted Man" (which reached #87 on the Billboard Hot 100). And I would be remiss if I failed to mention that '80s video vixen Tawny Kitaen –- who, before marrying Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale and appearing in five Whitesnake videos, and before marrying MLB pitcher Chuck Finley and stabbing him in the leg with her high heel, was the girlfriend of Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby -- is featured on the cover of the album, crawling towards a cellar. She was also featured in the "Back for More" video.
Anyway, for the deep cut, I was choosing between "She Wants Money" and "I'm Insane," both of which are on Out of the Cellar, and are probably my two favorite songs off the album. Both are great songs, but I went with "She Wants Money" because it seems more reflective of the '80s and of the Sunset Strip, when you could write a song about a whore (who wants money) and no one would bat an eye. Plus, it's a badass song. Written by bassist Juan Croucier, it is a fast-paced rocker with typically gritty vocals from Stephen Pearcy and great guitar work from Crosby and Warren DeMartini. Enjoy.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
The moon's transition into Scorpio can mean only one thing: it's almost Halloween. Call me a pagan who occasionally drinks goat's blood and dabbles in necromancy, but Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year.
In case you hadn't noticed, I also love music. Exactly one year ago today, on a day just like today, I posted my Ultimate Halloween Playlist to significant fanfare. It has since been called "rad" and "the only Ultimate Halloween Playlist I have ever seen." But many of you bloodthirsty buggers have been openly clamoring for more than the mere 41 songs included on last year's list.
For your benefit, Countess Bathory, I have more than doubled the list this year, compiling the best songs for you to use either at a Halloween party to set the mood right or in the background on Halloween night, when you're dressed like Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, passing out candy and Jergens to the neighborhood kids.
As I so astutely observed last year, Halloween is the one time of year when it's okay to embrace evil. At any Halloween party or during trick-or-treating, you want there to be a certain level of creepiness, as well as some campiness, because Halloween is supposed to be a mixture of paganism, macabre, and fun.
As a result, the playlist below includes songs that have dark and evil themes, talk about monsters or the devil or witches or the like, mention the word "Halloween," or are just plain creepy. My mix has a lot of heavy metal, but that's kind of expected, since metal bands are more likely to embrace darker subject matter than, say, Meghan Trainor. As I pointed out last year, you don't want to go too dark, like, say, Norwegian black metal, because you're going to lose your party-goers or the neighbors are going to think you're really into church burning. And if you are into church burning, you're probably not going to want to tip the neighbors off by blaring Mayhem out your front door while handing their children fun-size Twix.
For parties, you'll probably want to mix these songs in with your regular party mix. After all, who doesn't want to hear "Bark at the Moon" after "All About That Bass"? For trick or treating, you're probably going to want to just go straight spooky, which probably means a heavy dose of Ghost BC, Pentagram, and Black Sabbath.
Halloween is on a Friday this year, which means Halloween parties should be starting as soon as this Friday. I'm having one Saturday night, which I'm pretty excited about, and you can guarantee the 85 songs below will be played (except maybe "Angel of Death" because there will be children there). You can also bet on the fact that there will be a fog machine, some fake bats, and probably a bunch of snatch.
With that, here are my recommendations for your Halloween playlist, in alphabetical order by artist, with comments where I felt it was necessary, and with an embedded player afterwards with every song, so you can creep our your co-workers for the next eight days:
1-2. "Highway to Hell" and "Night Prowler" by AC/DC
"Highway to Hell" is an obvious choice and a crowd pleaser. "Night Prowler" is a slower, creepy song that, several years later, serial killer Richard Ramirez (aka, "the Night Stalker") claimed inspired him, or something like that.
3-5. "Black Sabbath," "The Wizard," and "Heaven and Hell" by Black Sabbath
"Black Sabbath" was inspired by a vision Geezer Butler had one night after reading a book about witchcraft that Ozzy Osbourne gave to him. He woke up in the middle of the night, and a black figure was standing at the foot of his bed. The figure disappeared, and when Butler went to get the book, it too was gone.
6. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult
But do fear unvaccinated children.
7. "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow
8. "Howl" by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
9. "Halloween Theme" by John Carpenter
Instantly recognizable as one of the more creepy horror movie themes.
10. "The Night Time is the Right Time" by Ray Charles
11. "Spooky" by The Classics IV
12. "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" by The Cramps
13. "Am I Demon" by Danzig
14. "Am I Evil?" by Diamond Head
"Yes I am."
15. "A Nightmare on My Street" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
This is a classic late '80s rap song, playing off of the popularity of Freddy Krueger, who, for many of us growing up in the '80s, was the most terrifying of all the horror movie villains. I should also note that I did, in fact, perform this with a friend for our elementary school talent show in fifth grade. I was Freddy. It was pretty awesome.
16. "Dream Warriors" by Dokken
Speaking of Freddy, this was the title track to Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
17. "Season of the Witch" by Donovan
18-19. "The End" and "People Are Strange" by The Doors
"The End" is one of the creepier Doors songs, which says a lot.
20. "Murder On the Dancefloor" by Sophie Ellis-Bextor
21. "Trick or Treat" by Fastway
'80s metal band Fastway played the soundtrack to the 1986 the metal-themed horror film Trick or Treat. This is the title song.
22. "Evil and a Heathen" by Franz Ferdinand
23-25. "Monstrance Clock," "Year Zero," and "If You Have Ghosts" by Ghost BC
"Monstrance Clock" is about conceiving "Lucifer's son," and "Year Zero" is about Satan in general and has a nice gothic feel to it. To be honest, I would suggest just including all songs from Ghost's two albums, Opus Eponymous and Infestissumam, especially if you're looking for trick-or-treating background music. They are demonic in a polite Swedish way.
26. "Hallow's Eve" by Hallows Eve
27-28. "Halloween" and "Mr. Torture" by Helloween
German power metal band Helloween obviously has the right name for a Halloween mix, and their song "Halloween" is included for obvious reasons. I also chose to go with "Mr. Torture" because I like the song. So there.
29. "Friendly Ghost" by Harlem
This one's a little more light-hearted, to offset the vast majority of this list.
30. "I Put a Spell On You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
I prefer the original to CCR's cover (which is still very good) because Hawkins adds a level of voodoo campiness that CCR just couldn't have matched.
21. "I Ain't Superstitious" by Howlin' Wolf
32. "Devil Inside" by INXS
33-35. "Killers," "Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden
It was tough figuring out just one Iron Maiden song to include, so I went with two, both from 1981's Killers album: "Killers," which is essentially about someone being stalked and murdered, and "Murders in the Rue Morgue," which is not only my favorite Iron Maiden song, but is also based on short story by Edgar Allen Poe of the same name.
36. "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
This is a no-brainer and should be played at every Halloween party for eternity.
37. "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane
This is especially good if your partygoers are all on LSD.
38. "Devil's Child" by Judas Priest
39. "Hotter Than Hell" by KISS
40. "Pretend We're Dead" by L7
41. "Heeby-Jeebies" by Little Richard
42. "Look at Your Game, Girl" by Charles Manson
Recorded when Manson was still trying to break into the LA music scene and before he started ordering his minions to murder movie stars and grocery store owners, this song comes across as an innocent folky acoustic song. Then you realize it's sung by Charles Manson, and it becomes super creepy.
43. "Evil Love" by Meat Puppets
44. "Fade to Black" by Metallica
45. "Halloween" by The Misfits
This is my daughters' new favorite song. Seriously.
46. "Shout at the Devil" by Mötley Crüe
47. "Dead Men Tell No Tales" by Motörhead
48. "Spiderwebs" by No Doubt
49. "Running Scared" by Roy Orbison
50. "Bark at the Moon" by Ozzy Osbourne
51. "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr.
52. "Satan's Bed" by Pearl Jam
53. "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)" by Pentagram
Doom metal pioneers Pentagram have a good number of hard-rocking creepy songs, but this one is probably the most relevant to Halloween.
54. "Zombie Zoo" by Tom Petty
55. "The Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Crypt Kickers
This is a classic Halloween song that should be played at least once at every Halloween party.
56. "Halloween" by Matt Pond PA
57. "Going to Hell" by The Pretty Reckless
58. "Gates of Babylon" by Rainbow
The song is about sleeping with the devil. And then paying for sleeping with the devil. Probably because the devil gave you the clap.
59. "Diablo Rojo" by Rodrigo y Gabriela
60. "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones
61-63. "Soul Sacrifice," "Black Magic Woman" and "Evil Ways" by Santana
64. "Li'l Red Riding Hood" by Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs
65. "Angel of Death" by Slayer
While I would generally recommend steering clear of Slayer at parties, there is no more appropriate time to let it loose than Halloween.
66. "Bullet With Butterfly Wing" by Smashing Pumpkins
It just wouldn't seem right to have a Halloween playlist without a Smashing Pumpkins song on it. I went with this one, not only because it starts by exclaiming -– wrongly, mind you -– that "the world is a vampire," but also because it's an awesome song.
67. "Serial Killa" by Snoop Doggy Dogg
68. "Wicked Garden" by Stone Temple Pilots
69. "To Hell With the Devil" by Stryper
In case you are concerned that your playlist might be a little too devil-heavy, you can balance it out with this '80s Christian hair band classic.
70. "Santeria" by Sublime
71. "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads
72. "Here Comes the Night" by Them
73. "Killer On the Loose" by Thin Lizzy
74. "Running With the Devil" by Van Halen
75. "The Black Angel's Death Song" by The Velvet Underground
I have never done acid, but I assume this song is what a bad acid trip would have sounded like in Victorian England.
76. "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
77. "Got My Mojo Working" by Muddy Waters
78. "If My Mind is Evil" by White Lion
79-81. "Death Letter," "Little Ghost," and "Walking With a Ghost" by The White Stripes
82. "Boris The Spider" by The Who
83. "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon
"I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic's / And his hair was perfect." Great line.84-85. "Dragula" and "Living Dead Girl" by Rob Zombie