Sunday, April 29, 2007

Creepy Memory Lane

When I was a kid, I loved scary stuff, but I hated being scared. So I would simultaneously seek out and avoid creepy stuff. There was a local horror movie show that would come on at midnight on KOCO channel 5 in Oklahoma City, called "Nightmare." It would open with this guy in a long robe with a scythe and a hood hiding his face. He'd walk through a fake graveyard, CO2 fog clinging to the ground, and there was this creepy narration, and then he would pull down his hood to reveal that his face was a skull, then the movie would start.

That creeped the shit out of me. I would watch the movie, but I would close my eyes and turn down the volume, or else turn the channel knob just for a couple of seconds right before he would drop that hood. I remember one night, I fell asleep waiting for "Rodan" to start, and woke up just as Skull Guy was saying, "I hope you enjoyed the movie." I got even more creeped out than usual, knowing that the entire terrifying spectacle (I hadn't seen "Rodan" yet, so I didn't know how comical it really was) had played out right there in the room with me, without my being aware of it. Brrr....

I'm reminded of this tonight, because when I was a kid, my friends were constantly telling me about this cool scary stuff they'd either seen on TV or heard on the radio. One was "Johnny Got His Gun," which I never really watched all the way through, but I've seen bits of it on TV. The first time I saw it for myself, though, or bits of it anyway, was in the video for the Metallica song, "One." The kids at school would go on and on about the dude with no face tapping Morse code with his head, "Kill me. Kill me. Kill me."

Another one was "The Vulture," a Z-grade movie starring Akim Tamiroff, about a guy who turns himself into a hideous bird-man to kill his enemies (and I should mention here that there were a lot of commercials for horror movies that just terrified me as a kid--"War of the Gargantuas," "Dracula vs. Frankenstein," "Mad Doctor of Blood Island"--where I couldn't believe the actual movies were so cheesy and cheap-looking when I finally saw them years later). I still have never seen that one.

There was a third, a legendary song called "D.O.A.," about this guy who dies in a crash. I remember specifically being told a lyric about his arm feeling numb, and he looks down and nothing's there. It hit the charts briefly in 1971, when I was 8-9, and though I occasionally tried to listen for it, it was never on. The crazy thing was, for years afterward, I not only never heard the song, but never ran into anyone else who'd even heard of it.

And then, tonight, I'm listening to Lileks's last few Diner podcasts, and he's recapping some Seventies songs, and BAM! "D.O.A." in all its cheesy, creepy glory. As death pop goes, it's not awful. It's certainly upfront: no tiptoeing around the subject, couching things in code language. The guy's dying, his girlfriend's dead, end of story. "One" is a creepy video, but the song is sort of bombastic and dull. This song is simplistic- not scary, but certainly cold.

And then there's "I'm Cold," by Whale. Whale was this weird little Swedish group. They put out an awesome single called "Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe," a wall-of-sound assault with a video featuring their hot female singer in braces and polka dots. Their EP was followed up by a very uneven album called "We Care." None of the songs, except for "Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe," is very good.; the lead singer has an affected cutesy style, and the backup singers are tone-deaf. Everything sounds kind of cheap and off. Until you get to the next to last cut on the disc, and then there's this weird little number, with Cia Berg singing these spaced out lyrics in her little-girl voice, and it's sort of delicate and lovely until you realize she's singing about being trapped in a car after a crash, going into shock as the car burns, and this gospel chorus rises up in the background as she sings, sounding like they're taking her soul straight to heaven, and it is one of the eeriest fucking songs I've ever heard, seriously.

You can tell that "D.O.A." has got my mind going in a lot of directions, all of them backward. But I'm telling you, what a discovery to finally hear that song after over 35 years.


Bat-Cheva said...

Which particular podcast is it in? 2007 archives? Latest Diner? I'd like to hear the song.


TheyStoleFrazier'sBrain said...

It's the Diner from April 13, 2007. You may have to use the Previously button to page back two weeks. Be advised, it's not a clean recording. He talks over the songs, making ironic comments. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's too much.

Bat-Cheva said...

Thanks. I'll check it out.