Monday, April 1, 2013

Curse Of The Werewolf-Themed 45s!

My folks had my girlfriend Hillary and I out for Easter dinner yesterday, and they graciously allowed me to rummage through their old collection of 45 RPM records and take whichever ones caught my eye. Y'see, they don't have a working record player anymore, and we're reasonably new to the whole vinyl collecting craze, so I guess they figured all these singles would have a better home with us than where they were--in a big pile underneath the china hutch. Needless to say, it was a real treasure trove of campy singles that probably hadn't been spun in about thirty years, like the theme to The Greatest American Hero (or, if you prefer, George Costanza's answering machine greeting), and "General Hospi-tale", a late disco/early rap novelty song designed to cash in on the Luke & Laura-era General Hospital craze of 1981. There were also some cool finds that didn't mean much to me as a kid but are favourites now, like Helen Reddy's "Delta Dawn" (AKA the song that plays at the end of the little-seen but terrific Patton Oswalt movie Big Fan), and The Monkees' "Goin' Down" (which was featured in a great meth-making montage on the last season of Breaking Bad). But strangest of all, there seemed to be a recurring strain of lycanthropy-themed cuts in there too...or maybe that's just my werewolf-obsessed brain connecting the dots. You be the judge. First of all, there was the above number. Most people know the Five Man Electrical Band as the act behind the counterculture anthem "Signs", but to me, they will always be the guys who, for whatever reason, recorded this chilling tale of shapeshifting and sheep slaughter. Okay, maybe not quite chilling, but as a kid, I was pretty fascinated with the idea that anyone would record a pop song about such a terrifying subject. From the ominous opening ("Mama said/there's something weird 'bout Billy...") to the shrill, screamy chorus ("Is it any wonder we hate to see the sun go dooooown..."), the song is like a cool little horror movie in miniature. For the record, I still like it better than "Signs". And then there was this. It's no secret that An American Werewolf In London is one of my all-time favourite horror flicks, and I'm sure that at some point I must have become aware that its star, David Naughton, was a pop singer. But I must have repressed that memory, because this sure came as a shock to me. It's a pretty silly, but not entirely un-catchy, disco number, but I feel like the future David Kessler must have known that pop stardom wasn't in the cards. Considering that the B-side is the forgettable reprise "Still Makin' It", I think he had a pretty good idea of his inevitable one-hit wonder status. And finally, not really a werewolf song, but its inclusion in An American Werewolf In London makes for a nice little trilogy here. Nearly twenty years ago, I created a minicomic about a werewolf that took its name from this song, and, my love for CCR aside, I'll always have a soft spot for this song because of it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go fire up the record player and listen to Jeannie C. Riley sing "Harper Valley PTA" one more time.

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