Audio

I Put a Spell On You

TRACK: #184

I Put a Spell On You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Here’s a Halloween staple the blog has managed to avoid for, oh I don’t know, 5 years or so. Which is odd, considering it’s an original member of the very first Shindig CD from 2002.

Perhaps Rock ‘N Roll’s first Shock Rocker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins used to be just plain, old fashioned Blues singer Jay Hawkins. In fact, I Put a Spell On You was originally written and recorded as a love song. It was producer Arnold Maxin at Colombia Records who can take the initial credit for creeping things up, deciding the song needed a darker tone. He proceeded to get everyone shit hammered drunk during the session and Hawkins has stated he has no memory of even recording that 1956 version. Man, that’s a little bizarre. Is some more music industry warlocking afoot?

Famous Cleveland DJ Alan Freed can probably be blamed for the rest, offering Jay $300 dollars to emerge from a coffin on stage. Jay didn’t like the idea, reportedly saying “No black dude gets in a coffin alive…they don’t expect to get out!” But alive he went, and out he came just fine, with all the voodoo accoutre ma that came to define his on-stage persona. Jay Hawkins was now officially Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the rest was history.

Or was it?

Despite being edited by Colombia Records, many stations banned I Put a Spell On You for what was perceived at the time as overt sexuality. This was 1956 after all. And despite ultimately selling over a million copies, the record failed to break onto the billboard charts. The song itself would be a bigger hit for just about every other singer that covered it than it was for Hawkins himself, with white artists making the charts on it’s back only 10 years later. This was 1956 after all.

When coupled with friction Jay found with the NAACP regarding his “racially stereotypical” appearance,  one can understand and appreciate Hawkins satirical album “Black Music for White People,” which should probably be in the running for one of the greatest album titles of all time. Though many found it to be the opposite, it could be argued that Jay’s reticence to conform to an acceptably “white” appearance was itself in fact transgressive and confrontational to the white audiences that reveled in his performances. Stereotyping and the NAACP be damned, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins wasn’t gonna whitewash his act for anyone.

Still, Jay harbored bitterness toward the fact that these schlocky gimmicks were what ultimately brought him notoriety, and often blamed them for why people wouldn’t take him seriously as a vocalist. He would re-record this track on several occasions over his long career, each time shifting the tempo and either dialing back or amping up his vocals. But, it is the 1956 version (honestly, not even the most outrageous and oft-heard version) that we include here on the playlist.

However Hawkins felt about his fame, or whether or not he received it for the right reasons, he remains a massive influence on not only Shock Rock, but on hundreds of artists, not the least of which being Shindiggers like Alice Cooper, The Cramps, Nick Cave, The Misfits and Screaming Lord Sutch. And not simply for his outlandish stage persona or appearance, but for his unique talent and that wholly original and genre-defining (and defying) style.

Jay Hawkins died following an aneurysm on Feb. 12th, 2000, exactly 44 years,…to the day…that he recorded this version of I Put a Spell On You. Ya know, that strange drunken session he couldn’t remember…

A spell indeed.

 

Audio

Spooks

TRACK #181

Spooks by Louis Armstrong

Welcome back Weeners! It’s been a while. Well, that is unless you happen to be reading this in 2021 or something and just moved on to the very next post. Chances are you’re not reading this at all though, so that really doesn’t matter that much.

Anyway, the Season of the Witch is upon us once again!

And here to kick off the march to Halloween is Louis Armstrong with some words of warning to all of us this holiday season.

He’s serving up one swinging haunted boogie that just gets my foot tapping. Seriously, I love this song. It’s got a great spooky vibe and some really fun word play, all delivered with Louis’ famous throaty growl.

Now, if you’re finding it a bit difficult to enjoy a song from 1954 where a black man repeatedly belts out a popular racial epithet, I’m not exactly sure how to assuage your feelings of unease.

All I will say, is that apparently Louis didn’t have a problem with it, and I’ll wager that slur was actually used toward him directly, perhaps even many times, during his life in early 20th century America. That’s good enough for me.

It’s perhaps a bit easier to understand in context. Back then, the word “spook” found much more association with ghosts and horror than it does now, no doubt because of it’s offensive application.

This was in part because of The Midnight Spook Show, a precursor to the Midnight Movies and Horror Hosts of the 60’s and 70’s. But we’ll talk about that more a little further down the road.

For now…

Beware a dem spooks…spooks…spooks!

 

Audio

Trick or Treat (For Halloween)

TRACK #161:

Trick or Treat (For Halloween) by Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston and Mack David

Though Siouxsie Sioux’s song starts this block off rather nicely, let’s fully embrace the Trick or Treat vibe with this tune from Disney’s classic 1952 short Trick or Treat starring Donald Duck.

Full of great vintage Halloween imagery, the short features Huey, Dewey and Louie approaching their uncle’s house for a bit of Trick or Treat. But Donald’s an asshole and he promptly puts fireworks in their bags. His own Nephews? What a prick.

No matter, as the boys soon find a Witch and now the trick’s on Donald as she conjures a potion which transforms just about everything into a nightmarish object to torment Donald.

Based around this typically Disney-styled tune, the short is a great October viewing for any fans of either Disney or the season.

Twick ow Tweat!

 

Audio

Haunted House

TRACK #145:

Haunted House by Chris Kevin and The Comics

Well, here’s another Haunted House song inspiredly titled Haunted House. I suppose you can’t fault anyone for directness, or at least maybe you shouldn’t, especially not Chris Kevin or his Comics.

So, who are Chris Kevin and The Comics, you ask? Oh, you didn’t ask that just now, reading the above lead-in? Hmm, well indulge me for a moment as I pretend as though you give a shit.

Turns out I have no idea. None. And I couldn’t find much in the way of information regarding these guys on the old Internet either. Maybe one day some other goofball will be searching for information on Chris Kevin and The Comcis and stumble across this hole and shriek out in hope. Not bloody likely, and then not exactly helpful to him, as I have no damn information for that guy either. Sorry guy.

Curiously though, despite the frivolity suggested by Chris’ band’s name, their Haunted House is perhaps the least silly novelty song the Shindig’s ever run across. I mean, they’re not even trying to make this shit funny.

Quite the contrary in fact, as this song actually leans more toward religious cautionary tale about the dangers of a Haunted House. Well, the dangers of not living “right,” anyway (read: probably heterosexually.)

Your soul will be all caught up and burning and so on and so forth, you know the drill. What this has to do with a Haunted House, I haven’t the slightest idea, but if you enter this one, I guess you’ll be damning yourself for whatever reason.

Seems a little arbitrary though, no? Suppose you’re planning on battling the evil forces on behalf of Christ while you’re in there? Suppose you were selling Bibles door-to-door? Suppose you just happened to breakdown in front of this particular house and needed some assistance? That doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that should damn your eternal soul. But you’re ok, cause you got that whole “living right” caveat working for you.

So, don’t blow any dudes inside the Haunted House, have any premarital sex, light any joints or read any communist propaganda, or shit I don’t know, touch yourself or something – whatever the hell passed for not living right in 1959. I’ll bet it didn’t include gender reassignment surgery, or locking up an 8 year old in a basement for 9 years, I can tell you that much.

But hey, let’s keep this light, huh? This is a novelty song from a band claiming to be The Comics,  whoever the hell they may actually be.

 

Audio

The Haunted Mansion Theme

TRACK #141:

The Haunted Mansion Theme by Buddy Baker & Xavier Atencio

I’ll start this off with the perhaps blasphemous admission (particularly considering my Southern California residence) that I have never been to Disneyland. I’ve heard every reaction, so feel free to engage in whichever one comes most naturally to you.

It goes without saying then, that I have also never been on The Haunted Mansion ride. Though, if I were to visit the happiest place on earth, it would probably be for the explicit purpose of doing just that.

I have, however, heard its theme song an innumerable amount of times and it’s pretty damn Halloweeny, so I would be rather remiss to omit it from a playlist such as this.

There’s a lot of great voice talent on display in this old, fun tune from the 50’s. It’s great to think a song this old still plays in the halls of The Mansion some 60 odd years since its inception.
In a world that perpetually moves on, upgrades and reboots, it’s just nice to know Eddie Murphy isn’t cackling his way through some Rick James produced ghost-rap. Though honestly, having just type this out, that actually sounds pretty fucking awesome. But the Mansion is still better off without such nonsense, regardless of how much I desperately want to hear that song now.

I’ve collided the tune with the ride’s own spoken intro for a little extra spookiness. So grab a hatbox, your death certificate and don’t close your eyes! It’s time for Disney’s Haunted Mansion!

 

Audio

Punky Punkin

TRACK: #131

Punky Punkin by Fran Allison and Ollie Fame

This strange dusty Halloween relic was written by Cy Coben and originally recorded by Rosemary Clooney (yeah, George’s Ma Dukes) back in 1950.

No disrespect to Mama Clooney but the Shindig prefers this version from 1952 recorded by Fran Allison and Ollie Fame. It’s a little sillier, a bit more up-tempo and generally more fun to listen to, in our opinion.

I always say “our.” Why do I do this? Who exactly is the “we” in this equation? I’m the only one here, so who the hell am I referring to, exactly? I think this is perhaps burgeoning psychosis, but I digress.

Looking online it seems a lot of people have memories of learning and singing this tune in grade school around Halloween.

I have no such memory.

In fact, I have no memories attached to this song whatsoever. I don’t even know when I first heard it, where I heard it or why it was even being played. It’s just been on my computer (and the playlist) for some years now, defying my temporal lobe.

I enjoy this song a great deal, though. It makes me happy when I hear it. It’s a nice little Halloween ditty that’s fun to play.

I think I may be the only one who feels this way however, for it’s a weird number that’s always sure to turn a head or two in the party crowd:

Angry Listener : “What the fuck is this? Some kinda Christmas song or some shit?”

Me: “No, but it does kinda sound like one, huh? It’s just an old Halloween song about pumpkins. It’s for kids, I think.”

Angry Listener: “Well why the fuck are we listening to it then?”

Me: “Cause it’s Halloween and we’re at a Halloween party and she’s singing about a pumpkin that’s all stoked it gets to be a Jack-O-Lantern instead of a pie. Why else?”

Angry Listener: “Oh Yeah? Well this song punkin’ sucks. In fact, it can suck my punkins. How bout that?”

Me: “Go suck your own punkins, pal. Fran Allison is a sweetheart, you hedonistic dildo!”

This exact conversation (or an entirely less confrontational version of it) has happened every year with someone listening to this playlist since Punky Punkin’s inclusion.

Maybe this will happen at your party.

Or maybe it won’t because you wouldn’t be caught dead playing this kind of bullshit at your Halloween party.

That’s fine. In fact, that’s exactly what The Shindig is here for. To be a convenient one-stop hovel of Halloween hits where we talk about and provide Halloween song suggestions you can peruse or listen to or download and add (or not add) to your own party playlist.

You can’t honesty be expected to want to add all of them. Nor could you be expected to even listen to all of them much less like all of them. We wouldn’t begin to presume such things. But they are all here, ripe for the picking this harvest season.

But seriously though, if you don’t like this song you’re probably an asshole.

 

Audio

Vampira

TRACK #62:

Vampira by Bobby Bare

The Misfits weren’t the only cats to sing about Vampira. In fact, they weren’t even the 1st.

Back in 1958, marginally successful country singer Bobby Bare recorded this ode to Ms. Nurmi.

Though not the impassioned and awesome tune Danzig and Co. deliver, this strange old ditty is surefire Shindig fodder all the same.

 

Audio

The Monster’s Hop

TRACK #56:

The Monster’s Hop by Bert Convy

Several years before he became the host of Super Password, Tattletales and Win, Lose or Draw, and 4 years before Boris Pickett would soar to #1 on the wings of The Monster Mash, Bert Convy recorded this tune about a bunch of monsters dancing around inside a spooky house.

Though lacking the character and humor that ultimately made The Monster Mash such a smash, I rather enjoy The Monster’s Hop, maybe even a bit more than Pickett’s seminal Halloween hit. I think it’s catchier, certainly more up-tempo, and nowhere near as played out as The Monster Mash. Those are some pretty big checks in the plus column, you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a better song, not by any stretch of the imagination, but when listening to the Shindig leisurely (as is my wont) I will usually skip The Monster Mash, yet I always have 2 minutes to spare for The Monster’s Hop.

 

Audio

The Mummy’s Bracelet

TRACK #51:

The Mummy’s Bracelet by Lee Ross

Here’s a bizarre Shindig entry from singer Lee Ross.
Never heard of him? Well, don’t let it bum you out, cause neither has the Internet apparently. Digging up information on Lee seems to lead to a lot of cold trails.

What we can be sure of however, is that Lee definitely performed this catchy little number about the Mummy. Which Mummy, we’re less sure of, as Lee’s story doesn’t seem to match up to any Mummy film that I can cross reference.

This matters little however, because Mummy songs aren’t exactly falling out of pockets of novelty-rockdom. In a genre choked with Vampires, Ghosts and Frankensteins, a song about a Mummy is a breath of stale and musty air.

So lets sit back and enjoy this strange little ditty about the Mummy, and his bracelet.

 

Audio

Beware Of The Blob

TRACK #29:

Beware of the Blob by The Five Blobs

Sometimes in my attempt to mix things up and keep an even distribution of styles and bands, the Shindig kinda seems a bit musically schizophrenic.

So, in the spirit of cohesion, here’s the Beware Of The Blob, which I think doubles up pretty nicely with The Purple People Eater, and is even from the same year.

Much like The Dudes of Wrath (though the ridiculousness of comparing these two groups is not lost on me) The Five Blobs were assembled for the singular purpose of singing this tune, penned by the late Burt Bacharach.

Easily one of the oldest (semi) Title Tracks on the Shindig, Beware Of The Blob is also one of the more curious tunes on the playlist.

Such a fun and upbeat song for something so horrendous as The Blob is kind of alarming, and as such, a bit creepy. There’s no immediacy to their tone, almost as if you really needn’t sweat this whole indestructible and unstoppable goo-monster. Seriously gang? Its eating fucking everything, maybe a little urgency, or god forbid, terror?

Naw, they’ll just keep it light and breezy. Shit, it’s only The Blob.