Blues for Dracula: An Impromptu Halloween Playlist

phillyGood grief. As usual, the Great Pumpkin failed to show up in the most sincere pumpkin patch I could find. To keep the faith during my annual existential crisis, I compiled an impromptu playlist of Halloween favorites from the last six decades or so (clips and commentary follow). I did this while trying to decide from my short list of Halloween costumes for next year: hedge fund manager, claims adjuster, reorganization specialist, water baron, Feng Shui consultant, music critic.

Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
Frightened Rabbit, “Head Rolls Off”
Cramps, “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”
Austin TV, “Shiva”
Parliament, “Dr. Funkenstein”
Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”
Tom Waits, “Cemetery Polka”
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “I Put a Spell On You”
Sun Ra, “Space is the Place”
Dream Syndicate, “Halloween”
Philly Joe Jones, “Blues for Dracula”

Bauhaus: “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Dear Bauhaus,

Please be advised that Bela Lugosi has now been dead for 53 years. Time to move on with your lives.

Stuck Between Stations.

Frightened Rabbit: “Head Rolls Off”

Like the proper Scotsmen they are, Frightened Rabbit charms schoolchildren everywhere with this cheeky ode to decapitation.

Cramps: “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”

RIP Lux Interior, who lost his exterior this year. This one’s from the aptly titled Songs the Lord Taught Us, although the teacher may have been the other guy, the one with the horns. That is, Alex Chilton.

Austin TV: “Shiva”

From the video description, which may have lost something in translation from Spanish: Mario Lupo and his xoloscuincle dog, Kerdoc “accidentally fell in a hidden magic forest which at the end results in the Devil´s cave.” Haven’t we all had that dream?

Parliament: “Dr. Funkenstein”

If you’re George Clinton, every day has been Halloween for the last 68 years.

Rolling Stones: “Sympathy for the Devil”

A children’s craft website thanks Tyrone for this fun idea for a Keith Richards Halloween costume: “Take brown hair (wig or your own if you have brown hair), rub balloon on head till hair stands up on top and if you want to tie wide cloth ribbon around your head. Next blot lots of makeup on face so it creases. Complete with an open button down dress skirt, straight leg jeans and a toy guitar.”

Tom Waits: “Cemetery Polka”

You always have to turn to Tom Waits for touching, sentimental family drama: “Uncle Phil can’t live without his pills/He has emphysema and he’s almost blind/And we must find out where the money is/Get it now before he loses his mind.”

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: “I Put a Spell On You”

Listen to Creedence’s version if you want true grit, or Nina Simone’s version if you want erotic mystery. But nothing beats the man himself for sheer theater, and a great excuse to put on a cape.

Sun Ra, “Space is the Place”

Don’t believe those “birthers” who try to claim Sun Ra really wasn’t from Saturn. He was the real deal.

Dream Syndicate: “Halloween”

Urban myth debunked: Steve Wynn, the singer/songwriter who ran the Velvet Underground-obsessed Dream Syndicate, is not also the billionaire hotel magnate who once put his elbow through a priceless Picasso he was about to sell. That would be the other Steve Wynn.

Philly Joe Jones: “Blues for Dracula”

Hard bop may not have been the scariest genre in music history, but Philly Joe was one of its best drummers (see the unrelated clip below). On the title track of the 1958 Blues for Dracula, you can hear him mugging like the Count before getting down to business with Nat Adderly and Johnny Griffin.

About Roger Moore

rocklobster3.JPGRoger Moore is a writer and musical obsessive who plays percussion instruments from around the world with an equal lack of dexterity. An environmental lawyer in his unplugged moments, he has written on subjects ranging from sustainable development practices to human rights and voting rights, as well as many music reviews. A native Chicagoan, Roger lives in Oakland, California with his wife Paula, who shares his Paul Weller fixation, and two young children, Amelia and Matthew, who enjoy dancing in circles to his Serge Gainsbourg records and falling asleep to his John Coltrane records.

Roger Moore’s Musical Timeline

1966. Dropped upside down on patio after oldest sister listened to “She Loves You” on the Beatles’ Saturday cartoon show. Ears have rung with the words “yeah, yeah, yeah” ever since.

1973. Memorized all 932 verses to Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

1975. Unsuccessfully lobbied to have “Louie Louie” named the official song of his grade school class. The teacher altered the lyrics of the winner, the Carpenters’ “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” so that they referred to Jesus.

1977. After a trip to New Orleans, frequently broke drumheads attempting to mimic the style of the Meters’ Zigaboo Modeliste.

1979. In order to see Muddy Waters perform in Chicago, borrowed the birth certificate of a 27 year-old truck driver named Rocco.

1982. Published first music review, a glowing account of the Jam’s three-encore performance for the Chicago Reader. Reading the original, unedited piece would have taken longer than the concert itself.

1982. Spat on just before seeing the Who on the first of their 23 farewell tours, after giving applause to the previous band, the Clash.

1984. Mom: “This sounds perky. What’s it called?” Roger: “ It’s ‘That’s When I Reach for My Revolver’ by Mission of Burma.”

1985. Wrote first review of an African recording, King Sunny Ade’s Synchro System. A reader induced to buy the album by this review wrote a letter to the editor, noting that “anyone wishing a copy of this record, played only once” should contact him.

1985. At a Replacements show in Boston, helped redirect a bewildered Bob Stinson to the stage, which Bob had temporarily confused with the ladies’ bathroom.

1986. Walked forty blocks through a near-hurricane wearing a garbage bag because the Feelies were playing a show at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.

1987. Foolishly asked Alex Chilton why he had just performed “Volare.” Answer: “Because I can.”

1988. Moved to Northern California and, at a large outdoor reggae festival, discovered what Bob Marley songs sound like when sung by naked hippies.

1991. Attempted to explain to Flavor-Flav of Public Enemy that the clock hanging from his neck was at least two hours fast.

1992. Under the pseudonym Dr. Smudge, produced and performed for the Underwear of the Gods anthology, recorded live at the North Oakland Rest Home for the Bewildered. Local earplug sales skyrocketed.

1993. Attended first-ever fashion show in Chicago because Liz Phair was the opening act. Declined the complimentary bottles of cologne and moisturizer.

1997. Almost missed appointment with eventual wedding band because Sleater-Kinney performed earlier at Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street. Recovered hearing days later.

1997. After sharing a romantic evening with Paula listening to Caetano Veloso at San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium, purchased a Portuguese phrasebook that remains unread.

1998. Learned why you do not yell “Free Bird” at Whiskeytown's Ryan Adams in a crowded theater.

1999. During an intense bout of flu, made guttural noises bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Throat Singers of Tuva.

2000. Compiled a retrospective of music in the nineties as a fellow at the Coolwater Center for Strategic Studies and Barbecue Hut.

2001. Listened as Kahil El’Zabar, in the middle of a harrowing and funny duet show with Billy Bang, lowered his voice and spoke of the need to think of the children, whom he was concerned might grow up “unhip.”

2002. During a performance of Wilco’s “Ashes of American Flags,” barely dodged ashes of Jeff Tweedy’s cigarette.

2002. Arrived at the Alta Bates maternity ward in Berkeley with a world trance anthology specially designed to soothe Paula during Amelia’s birth, filled with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, and assorted other Khans. The project proved to be irrelevant to the actual process of labor.

2003. Emceed a memorable memorial concert for our friend Matthew Sperry at San Francisco’s Victoria Theater featuring a lineup of his former collaborators, including improvised music all-stars Orchesperry, Pauline Oliveros, Red Hot Tchotchkes, the cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Tom Waits.

2003. Failed to persuade Ted Leo to seek the Democratic nomination for President.

2005. Prevented two-year old daughter Amelia from diving off the balcony during a performance of Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.

2006. On a family camping trip in the Sierra Nevadas, experienced the advanced stage of psychosis that comes from listening to the thirtieth rendition of Raffi’s “Bananaphone” on the same road trip.