As influential and essential as Alan Howarth may have ultimately been to that “Carpenter” sound, nothing proves John’s singular mastery like his score from 1978’s Halloween.
Everyone knows the iconic theme. Hell, people that have never even seen the movie recognize it’s repetitious, modulating sound.
However, John’s score is more than just that simple and oh so effective opening number. The entire sonic landscape of Halloween is synthy and unnerving, with buzzes and stabs that have become icons in and of themselves.
So we’d be remiss, particularly since our block of synthetic horror themes has bleed into Halloween, to leave out the man himself and one of his lesser heard arrangements from that classic seasonal favorite.
So, tingling your 31st spine is Shindig All-Star John Carpenter with the haunting and memorable and succinct, Laurie’s Theme.
Phantasm (Intro and Main Title)by Fred Myrow & Malcolm Seagrave
With so many great horror scores from the 70’s and early 80’s, you might be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. Maybe Carpenter’sHalloween Theme is your choice. Perhaps it’s Michael Oldfield’sTubular Bells. Would you select Charles Bernstein’s theme from A Nightmare Elm Street? Maybe even Wendy Carlos’ work on The Shining? Or is it something from Goblin?
All great choices, without question.
However, I don’t think any horror fan would fault you if your selection was this opening number, from Don Coscarelli’s 1979 classic Phastasm, performed by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave.
This entire score is great, fashioned as it is with a veritable dream-list of vintage electronic gear. Frequencies from an ARP Odyssey to a Moog Model D, to a Mellotron and even a Fender Rhodes buzz all over this thing, and it simply oozes a warm, green slime of 70’s electric creepiness.
Spooky, unsettling and perfectly matched for Phantasm’s eerie, fever-dream otherness, it ticks every box you could want for a Horror Theme.
On top of that, it’s Halloweeny as all get out, and I can’t think of a more fitting track to start of this October 31st.
I don’t know if I could ever actually pick a favorite horror theme, but if I was in a pinch and hard-pressed to give a knee-jerk answer, I might very well just pick this one.
No Goblin block (or indeed even any brief conversation about Goblin) exists without a mention of perhaps their most famous of all arrangements, that from Argento’s Ballerina-Witch-epic, Suspiria.
This spooky, ethereal and very Italian supernatural shocker is classic horror business.
It has captivated and inspired fans and other filmmakers since its release in 1977. Not the least of whom being John Carpenter, who’s own classic horror offering, Halloween, has hallmarks of Argento’s masterpiece all over it.
And not the least of that being it’s music, which takes much inspiration from Goblin’s kinetic and prominent score.
Presented here number 176 and rounding out our Goblin-Fest is the title theme from Suspiria.
When George Romero’s highly anticipated sequel to Night of the Living Dead hit Europe, Dario Argento recut it as Zombi, which is why sometimes you’ll see Fulci’s Zombi titled Zombi 2. This can get get a little extra confusing by the time you get to Zombi 3 and 4.
But I digress.
Dawn of the Dead’s soundtrack features a bevy of strange, incidental musical arrangements (like Track #89 The Gronk) but the actual score was composed by frequent Argento collaborators Goblin. And though it plays more prominently in Dario’s European cut, some of the tracks ring out through all versions of the film.
Most especially this tune, L’alba Dei Morti Viventi, which roughly translates to “Dawn of the Living Dead.” Seems appropriate.
Here’s Goblin, at the top of their game, the height of their popularity and firing on all cylinders,… just before they breaking up entirely. At least for little while anyway.
Despite being represented on the original Halloween Shindig mix CD back in ‘02, or their standing as the Horror Themes icon since this site launched, Italian prog outfit Goblin has yet to see any action in 170 tracks. What gives?
Well, they’ve always just kinda gotten shuffled around. Maybe it didn’t felt like quite the right moment, or maybe some other song seemed better to load up next. “Yeah, we’ll get to them later” always seemed like the move.
Whatever the reason, we’re correcting that this year with a solid block of voltage-controlled chaos from Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante and Fabio Pignatelli.
Let’s begin at the beginning. First up from the boys is from their first foray into the world of horror scoring, Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso. And when it comes to Italian horror scores, this ones a doozy.
Originally named Cherry Five, Goblin actually changed their name to Goblin specifically for this soundtrack. See, they had a debut album due out as Cherry Five, and didn’t want any confusion regarding their output. That was until this song blew up all over Italy.
Profondo Rosso, much (I’m sure) to everyone’s surprise, was a legitimate #1 hit in Italy in 1975, spending 5 weeks in the top slot. Not bad for the bands first stab at scoring.
Particularly considering they stepped in last minute,…almost literally. Original composer Giorgio Gaslini was either fired or quit (depending on which Wikipedia article you believe) and Goblin was asked to fill his shoes. Supposedly Dario’s original choice, Pink Floyd turned down the offer.
Dunno if I believe that either. Nor is it disappointing to hear, as I believe Goblin performed the tasked exceptionally and I’m not sure how well Roger and the guys from Floyd would have fared.
But I digress.
Argento supposedly gave Goblin a night to write the new score and then the following day to record it. I’m not sure how true that is, but it sounds cool and I want that to be the story, so I’m choosing to believe it.
Because to bust out the score for a horror movie, particulary this score, on-the-fly mind you, and have it reach number #1 on the charts is absolutely insane.
Here’s the song that put Goblin on the map, in more ways than one, and (with help from Mike Oldfield’sTubular Bells) shaped the sound of horror to come.
Speaking of Paul Williams, let’s take this moment to segue right into one of Horror’s most beloved rock operas, Brian DePalma’s 1974 pitch-perfect send-up of the entire recording industry, Phantom of the Paradise.
Elements of Faust, Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, Portrait of Dorian Gray and even a little Dr. Phibes are fused together to tell a tale of love, betrayal, fame and revenge set to the backdrop of the doped-out, sinister 70’s music scene.
The Phantom, Winslow Leach, in his awesome modular tomb!
Williams scored the entire film for DePalma, and stars as Swan, the unscrupulous producer who collects talents and souls for his Death Records label.
Phantom is unique, visually arresting, kinetic and humorous all in equal measure. From DePalma’s active camera, to Gerritt Graham’s flamboyant Beef, to Winslow’s killer Phantom disguise, to Swan’s bitchin’ giant record-shaped desk, to the parodic music, to the satire – it’s all just works.
Even getting Rod Serling himself to handle the opening narration is like a stroke of genius.
Here we have the film’s final track, a rocking little number played over the picture credits, that has all the seeming of Satan himself speaking directly to Swan.
If you’ve never seen Phantom of the Paradise, give this pop-rock-horror-satire a spin this October. And if you already love it, watch it again, just for the hell of it!
The Time Warpby Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell and Charles Gray
You all know the moves, most assuredly, because you all know the song and the musical it originates from, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, all too well.
It’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right. Pretty simple shit honestly, but here’s a diagram anyway. Act like you know.
Halloween is inexplicably associated with Rocky Horror. I may never understand exactly why, within the larger culture, these 2 things are so entwined but VH1’s Halloween showings of it in my youth have forever bonded them together in my own consciousness. Perhaps that’s the case for a lot of people.
According to the production however, the laboratory sequence and Rocky’s creation were filmed on the 30th of October in 1974. So there’s that and that’s pretty Halloweenish, not that Rocky Horror really needed any justification.
The most well known, oft played and Shindigable track is the bizarre inter-dimensional dance craze that was all the rage on Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.
Is it about sex? Probably, everything else in Rocky Horror appears to be. Or perhaps it’s more literal, as they use a time warp to transport themselves back to Transexual. Maybe it’s both.
I’ve heard it interpreted that Riff Raff’s initial verse is about feeling horny and then orgasming. Magenta’s solo describes the viewing of pornography or perhaps a more direct for of voyuerism, while Colombia’s solo is a depiction of a rape scenario. Dunno if I cotton to all of that exactly (particularly since Colombia doesn’t seem to mind all that much) but it’s as solid a read of the songs intentions as anyone could ask for. And of course, there’s all that pelvic thrusting.
Whatever the hell the Translyvanian’s are on about, it’s certainly getting them riled up and causing them to dance like buffoons all over the place, just as you should be doing at your Halloween party right…about…now.
Just remember to hit the floor when it’s all said and done.
Vampire Hookers; honestly I could have used a little more nudity.
Nathan “Unpainted” Arizona and I guy I thought was Michael Rooker for the about the first 20 minutes play a pair of bumbling greenhorn sailors on shore leave in the Philippines. At the local cemetery, they run afoul the pimp-hatted head vampire John Carradine and his titular hoes. Late 70’s porn music and goofball shenanigans ensue.
They’re trying, I’ll give ’em that.
It’s filled to the brim with silly slapstick and toilet humor that’ll probably set both of your eyes on a pivot, but it’s rarely boring, and at 78 minutes it feels pretty brisk and good natured.
Poor John Carradine though stumbles around waiting for a check, spouting Shakespeare and poetry, which could either be interesting or irritating depending on your temperament.
There’s also a fat Filipino familiar who farts a lot for comedic effect. Whether you laugh at his flatulence will also depend on your temperament.
Seen as well is a ladyboy pissing at a urinal, which apparently doesn’t tip off old Nathan Arizona, who proceeds to engage in a sexual transaction. Later Michael Rooker yells “Oh God! Balls!” which is always funny to hear someone shout after grabbing a lady’s crotch.
A few silly fistfights later and where onto the cemetery and our plot.
Though severely deficient in the generalized sleaziness and nudity you’d expect for a film called Vampire Hookers, you’re eventually treated to a 7 minute slow-mo vampire 4-way between Michael Rooker and the 3 sex-starved immortals. Thankfully, John Carradine bows out of that one, but the fat familiar watches and farts a bit. Probably jerks off too, couldn’t really tell and thank god for cinematic ambiguity. It’s pretty awesome though, complete with its numerous and repetitious cutaways to the lascivious murals painted around the room of beasts and Devils fornicating. Who’s turn is it?
And that’s not even the best part of the movie.
That would be our next Shindigger at #105, the Title Track Vampire Hookers, played to rousing appreciation during the picture credits at the end of the films. I love picture credits! And Title Tracks! And hookers! What an ending. If only we knew who the hell was performing this tune. It’s a Shindig first; an Unknown Artist! I searched endlessly to no avail as I could not track down the culprits. If anyone happens to know who performed this tune, we’ll gladly update the entry.
“Blood is not all they suck,” informs our unnamed composer. The Skinemax orgy sequence tells a different tale, I’m afraid. However, I think it’s safe to assume some sucking has taken place regardless, one way or the other.
While never terribly funny, it is somewhat fun, particularly in a group setting and there’s plenty of worse ways to spend 78 minutes. Plus, those’ll typically end up sucking an extra 20 minutes from your life and still not have the goddamn common decency to give you the reach around of an awesome Title Track.
So, as far as The Shindig is concerned, Vampire Hookers, you’re all right. As Lord Summerilse might say “you will sit with the Saints, among the elect,” here in our Title Track-heavy center block.
Roky Erickson’s a pretty far-out cat. So literally far-out in fact, that he once claimed he was an alien.
He was also admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane where he underwent shock treatments, but that’s neither here nor there. Though the latter did occur before the former, I don’t mean to suggest that this clearly means he’s not actually an alien. Just saying…that happened too. It’s all pretty far out.
Originally the front man for psychedelia pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators, Roky embarked on a solo career after being released from the hospital in ‘74. What resulted was an altogether different experience in the form of Roky Erickson & the Alien’s The Evil One.
The Evil One is a pretty great album featuring all kinds of groovy monster tunes that could easily find a home on the Shindig. Particularly, I Walked With A Zombie, which has been a standing member of the playlist for some time.
There’s not much to it, honestly. It’s just the title, repeated over and over again, with the addition of the words “last night” attached to every 3rd go ‘round.
However, I like this song. Its got a cool and catchy, almost 50’s sound to it that I can’t help but sing along to. Maybe you’ll find yourself doing the same.
Included are some samples from the songs namesake, 1943’s I Walked With A Zombie. Here’s Roky & The Aliens kicking off a little zombie block here on the Shindig.