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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

201. "Spooky" by Classics IV

Requested by Ken Ostrander.

I love this song... it's one of the few songs by one-hit artists (yes, I know they had a few other chart songs, but the list of tunes on that LP cover tells the tale) that I really dig, and I have quite a history with it. First off, it reminds me of my mom's LP collection as lovingly compiled on a series of 8-track tapes that accompanied the family everywhere in the late '70's. Secondly, it was a huge staple of the insanely elaborate themed Halloween compilations I cranked out yearly for a spell starting in the mid-'90s, at which time I began to appreciate what a good piece of songcraft it was. And thirdly, it was one of my standbys during my brief but intense karaoke period. Not kidding on that one; there was a span of time when I was trying to ease into the role of lead singer in a band and keep my mind on anything other than the deterioration of my first marriage, and a lot of that was done in karaoke bars. And seriously, it was this song, "Once in a Lifetime", "Surrender", and whatever Haggard was on offer. Except for the one time I found the place that had "Feed the Tree" in their library. Warning if you ever stray down this road: don't get excited if you see "Sweet Jane" on there; it's almost always a note-for-note recreation of the live Hunter-Wagner version.

Anyway, after at first being overjoyed to get to do this song, I reconsidered, because what's to be done with it? The original is hard to top and there are at least two iconic (again, at least to me) reimaginings of it: Barry Adamson's "Something Wicked This Way Comes", used memorably in David Lynch's Lost Highway and taking it about as far as it could go into electro-grooveland, and The Bollock Brothers' "Horror Movies". I was thinking of doing a straight ahead Buzzcocks type number on it and trying to get my fingers around some really odd chords when it occurred to me that if Adamson had looped the groove of the song, doing so was probably not too hard, so I tried it... sure enough, the guitar figure I wanted was panned hard left and ripe for the picking. But I needed some kind of novel rhythmic signature, and after mucking about a bit among all the sampled drum loops I've created since I started the project, I decided to finally unleash all the Bo Diddley beats that've piled up, and it was a good fit... Diddley beats are surprisingly common in '50s and '60s easy listening recordings.

The final touch was the use of the vintage Halloween sounds records. I'm somewhat of an aficionado of them, having a particular soft spot for the cassette versions and a fascination with how often these things recycle components of each other across decades and innumberable fly-by-night cheapo record labels. In this case I used the classic Disneyland Records LP Chilling, Thrilling Sound of the Haunted House and an '80s vintage cassette called Horror Sounds of the Night, which has special personal significance as it was the main ambient sound used by by myself and my high school friends (cf. Midlife Crisis) whenever we designed haunted houses... but that's another story.

Personnel: Rex

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