The Mixtape That Wouldn’t Die

Jakob Fisher, Editorial Cartoonist

Trees are dying and the smell of latex fills the air; it’s that time of the year again.

Something about Halloween makes me roll my eyes. I just can’t get into the festivities, even though I enjoy dressing up in costumes. However, if there is one thing I can appreciate, it is music. Stories of spectacular spooks, ghastly ghouls, and murderous monsters abound. Believe me, some of these songs are more than a little weird. You have been warned.

“Godzilla” – Blue Öyster Cult

Why not start the list with a king? Born of a love for monster movies, guitarist and lead singer Donald Roser (AKA Buck Dharma) meant it to capture the campiness of the inspiration. There are even lyrics describing events from the movies like, “He picks up a bus and he throws it back down, as he wades through the buildings toward the center of town.” Though this song was never really a hit, it still remained one of the band’s most popular songs in concert. So much so, that fans and even the band were disappointed when it was not in the 1998 remake of the original movie. Supposedly the directors wanted a “more contemporary” soundtrack. Upset by the inclusion of a P. Diddy song over his own, Roser recorded an alternate version of the song with lyrics like, “Oh no, say it ain’t so, There’s no “Godzilla,” and “Millions spent on special effects, And our tune just ain’t getting no respect.” As for me, This song makes me think of my childhood. I loved this song as a kid.

“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

Reaching number 21 on the Billboard Top 40 chart, this was the biggest hit Warren Zevon got as a singer. Zevon wrote this malicious melody with guitarist Robert “Waddy” Wachtel while working with The Everly Brothers. One day, Phil Everly asked them to write a dance song called “Werewolves of London.” What the duo ended up with was probably not what either party had in mind at the beginning. Wachtel and Zevon began passing ideas for lyrics back and forth until we eventually ended up the grim, yet slightly humorous song we have today. Several violent crimes are described such as, “Little old lady got mutilated late last night,” and “He’s the hairy handed gent who ran amok in Kent, Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair.” Yet there is still a line about a werewolf “looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook’s” (which was a real restaurant in London, by the way). It is all just part of the charm. This song is unique, or as Zevon himself put it, “It was just fun, a joke between friends…an adult joke maybe.”

“One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)” – Coven

Released in 1969 for the movie “Billy Jack,” a folk hero who saves horses and protects school children, the song has a strong message about the futility of conflict. During the Vietnam era, it gained a lot of popularity for this very reason. It tells the story of the people of the valley, and the kingdom in the mountains. One day the valley hears of treasure in the mountain kingdom and demands it for themselves. The kingdom is happy to share, but the valley wants it all. They kill everyone and all they find is a rock with “peace on earth” written on it. Dark. Not as dark as the band itself though. Yeah, it is not just a name, they actually practiced black magic. Lead singer Jinx Dawson described herself as a “Left Hand Path High Priestess and Ceremonial Mage.” In fact, their first album had a song titled “Satanic Mass” which the band claimed to be an actual recording of a black mass they performed. I can’t make this stuff up.

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

Why is it people feel the need to question the explanations behind songs? Writers Glen Frey, Don Felder, and Don Henley have made it clear through the years about the meaning they intended for their song. The band says the song explores the dark side of success. “Which was sort of what we were experiencing in Los Angeles at that time,” said Frey. “So that just sort of became a metaphor for the whole world and for everything you know. And we just decided to make it Hotel California.” But that did not stop the fans from trying to find the “real” Hotel California. Some theories include a satanist church, a psychiatric ward, and even an inn run by cannibals. A few even claim it could be the Playboy Mansion! Though the song is not exactly the happiest in the first place, these outlandish theories certainly do not make it cheerier. I, for one, am sick of this song. For being 43 years old, it sure gets a lot of play time on the radio.

“Dead Man’s Party” – Oingo Boingo

Not quite a hit, but popular with fans, “Dead Man’s Party” is certainly different. On the surface, it seems like it could be about a funeral (“Waiting for an invitation to arrive, Goin’ to a party where no one’s still alive”). One theory that seems to make sense is that the song represents loneliness. How we deny our true selves and put on a facade to interact with others. Which could explain lines like: “It’s a dead man’s party who could ask for more, Everybody’s comin’, leave your body at the door,” and “Don’t run away it’s only me.” I have no doubt it could be something like that, after all, it was written by Danny Elfman. Elfman is a long-time friend and frequent composer for Tim Burton but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of his work includes the Batman theme, the opening for the Simpsons, and even the singing voice for Jack Skelington in “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” It is in my humble opinion that this song seems to go on too long. There just is not enough of interest to make me listen for six-plus minutes.

“The Legend of Wooley Swamp” – The Charlie Daniels Band

A list like this would not be complete without a backwoods ghost story. The Wooley Swamp is actually in an area known as the Booger Woods (heh), but the story itself is based on the Dismal Swamp near where Charlie Daniels grew up in North Carolina. It tells the fictional story of an old man named Lucius Clay, a recluse who was obsessed with money. So much so that he buried large amounts in the ground on his land, occasionally digging it up just to roll around in. One night the Crayton boys (described as “white trash”) get the idea to “pitch him to the alligators,” and take his fortune for themselves. Unfortunately, they were also sucked into the swamp never to be seen again. Now, “On certain nights if the moon is right, And you’re down by the old footpath, You can hear three young men screaming, And you can hear that old man laugh.” This is the king of storytelling I wish you could get more often from songs. An entire ghost story with adjectives and descriptors to boot.

Oh boy, these songs are weird, but that is why I love them. You may see them as old, irrelevant, and even a little tacky at times, but I see them as history. We might never see songs like these again, and is that really a bad thing? They still exist, and they sure are not going anywhere. Maybe we could just dredge them up from the depths of obscurity once a year, on Halloween.