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Dr. Demento's Blog - October 24, 2011
Happy Halloween everyone! The first of our two new Halloween shows for 2011 is up and ready for streaming.
I’ve had lots of fun mixing together some old favorite “spooky tunes and scary melodies”, and ghosts of Halloweens past that we haven’t heard for a long time, with some funny and exciting new stuff.
We’ll hear the Cool Ghoul, longtime TV horror movie host John Zacherle (who just celebrated his 93rd birthday). Zacherle’s late night TV screamfest inspired dozens of imitators around the country, featuring such hosts as Seymour, Elvira and one Bob Guy. Like Zacherle before him and Elvira more recently, Bob Guy made a novelty record, which was written and produced by a young Frank Zappa. We’ll hear that, along with such other collector’s items as “With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm” by Stanley Holloway, “The Loch Ness Monster” by Thurl Ravenscroft and “Little Orley and the Haunted House” by Uncle Lumpy Brannum.
When I was a little boy in Minneapolis, Trick or Treat was a big deal in our neighborhood. Several neighbors invited all the kids in to bob for apples, pin the tail on the donkey, and other amusements. Nobody had any qualms about letting us 6- and 7-year-olds roam the neighborhood on our own after dark. It was the same way in Kenilworth, Illinois, where I spent one very snowy but festive Halloween at age 8.
There weren’t many songs specifically about Halloween in those days. We heard spooky tunes from the classics – “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens (my third-grade teacher played a record of that in class, and told the whole story of the Dance of Death), “Night On Bald Mountain” by Moussorgsky, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt, and “Funeral March of a Marionette” by Gounod (best known as Alfred Hitchcock’s TV theme). And then there’s that little two-bar musical phrase that’s so often used to set a spooky mood, the one quoted at the start of Jon Schwartz’s version of “Mr. Ghost Goes to Town” (on this week’s show). Does anyone know where that originated? I wish I knew!
As long ago as the 1920s, pop singers and bands would do occasional novelty numbers about ghosts and graveyards. There are some wonderful graveyard scenes, with music to match, among Max Fleischer’s cartoons, including “Mysterious Mose” and others with Betty Boop. The theme song of that one was a hit in 1930, and Mose is of course the namesake of our worthy webmaster. In 1990 a label called Jass Records put out a fine CD of spooky jazz and swing, mostly from the 1930s. They called it Halloween Stomp, and even though there’s little if anything about Halloween in the lyrics, it’s a fitting title for a very entertaining disc. Alas, the CD is long out of print and hard to find, but a couple of tracks are on this week’s show.
Next week: rock ‘n roll Halloween.
DrD: I have never heard The Who's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde--is it demented Halloween material? Any thoughts regarding Careful with that Axe Eugene (by Pink Floyd)? […] Current popular music seems to lost its sense of humor. –John
John – Pop music took a serious turn in the early 1970s…and Pink Floyd was a big part of that. Humor has been in short supply ever since…which is one of the reasons the Dr. Demento Show took off when it did. “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” is mostly instrumental, except for some screams in the middle, which you will hear on this week’s show if you listen closely! On the other hand The Who has had its moments of levity, especially in the early going. John Entwistle’s B-side “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was part of that (along with his “Boris the Spider”). We hear both on this week’s show. I use the UK mix of “Dr. Jekyll” which is a little different from the US release.
DrD: Just wanted to say thanks for the many many years of joy your show has brought me…and now that i have found you here on the internet you can bet that my children will be listening as well.:) –lindaheern
Lindaheern – thank you!!!
A Halloween request... too late!
Dr Demento: Greetings from the northeast, where frost on the pumpkin is not unusual, but a foot on snow is! Reading your blog brought to mind a song that I don't recall ever hearing on your show. The song is called "Gwendolyn and the Werewolf" by Hutch Davie and his Honky Tonkers. Maybe you can start a list for 2012. Keep up the good work! -Mark.
Music phrase in "Mr. Ghost Goes to Town"
DrD: The exact origins of that two-bar phrase seemes to be shrouded in mystery, but it would appear that it's called "Mysterioso Pizzicato". This is as much as I could find out about it:
Just heard the scream from Careful With That Axe Eugene upon relistening. Very good job Dr D.
Dr D, my tee shirt is getting old. When is the next generation Dr D tee shirt going to be ready?
Spooky Tunes and Scary Melodies on Teenage Vintage Vinyl FB Page
Hello again, Doctor.
Through Halloween, I'm posting spooky tunes and scary melodies on the Teenage Vintage Vinyl Facebook page. Maintained by veteral Flint MI DJs Bill Pearson and Marty Natchez, it showcases rarely heard musical gems from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. My groundrules for inclusion in that FB page are the recording must be from the mid-1950s to 1967 which was the year that popular music was radically changing and it didn't make the Top 20 on the pop charts. Enjoy and Stay Demented!!!