Saturday, October 23, 2021

Halloween Song: The Umbrellas - “Vampires”

Back in 2005, vocalist-guitarist Scott Windsor gathered a secretive collection of musicians together under the name The Umbrellas. The band’s self-titled CD offered gorgeous shoegazer music with an occasional dash of energetic techno rock. “Vampires” is an impossibly catchy tune with a shuffling drumbeat amidst a hypnotic swirl of keyboards and guitars.

Windsor’s androgynous vocals ooze sophistication as he sets the scene of his arrival at a high-society bash. “Last night we went to a party./There were a bunch of big names there.” The protagonist immediately senses danger. “So I’ve got one hand on my neck to keep all the vampires out./I’m gonna finish this stiff drink and I’ll be on my way.”

Windsor shifts to a more poetic tone as he describes the car ride back home. “I think the entire existence is asleep it’s so quiet./My headlights dance pictures on the treeline./The song floats out the window into the fog-filled night.” Although it’s not explicitly described in the song, somehow he must have given in to the vampires’ lure. “Now they’re back at my neck and they’re thirsty.”

Alone in his bedroom, he reflects on what he has done. “This apple in my hand, I just took one bite.” Of course, it’s possible Windsor intended all this as a metaphor aimed at the blood-sucking entertainment industry, but taken literally, it’s a fun and seductive Halloween treat. 

Saturday Slumgullion

Congratulations to Wolf Alice on selling out most of the dates on their upcoming U.S. tour. That includes the U.K. band’s November 8 show at The Vic in Chicago. Coming up on October 27, Wolf Alice will stop by the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles for the first American screening of a film based on their latest album Blue Weekend. An acoustic set and a Q and A session will follow afterward. Fans can catch all three Grammy Museum events via a livestream for $3.99.

A new musical celebrating the life of reggae icon Bob Marley recently opened at Lyric Theatre in London. Get Up, Stand Up! features actors portraying Marley at various points in his life, with ArinzĂ© Kene particularly drawing praise for his performance of Marley as an adult. The show, which has been described as being packed with exuberant music, runs through April 3, 2022.


David Bowie fans in New York and London no doubt already have this Monday, October 25 marked on their calendars. That’s grand opening day for a pop-up store in each city that will run through late January. Both retail locations will feature immersive audio and HD video screening rooms, exclusive apparel, limited-edition LPs and CDs, and gallery installations. The New York City store is located at 150 Wooster Street; and the London store is at 14 Heddon Street, 41B, 4BZ. The pop-up stores are part of The David Bowie Estate’s grand plan for a months-long celebration of what would have been his 75th birthday. Fans can also order a variety cool things on the Bowie 75 website.

The Go-Go’s have an interview and book signing event coming up on October 29 at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland. The official RRHOF site is now selling a colorful Go-Go’s t-shirt with the message “IT’S ABOUT F#%*ING TIME” (that’s their censorship, not mine); an acknowledgement that the band should have been inducted years ago. I’d like to be able to say the same thing about the RRHOF offering a t-shirt of 2010 inductees The Hollies, but that day hasn’t come yet.

Tickets are now on sale for Beautiful - The Carole King Musical’s one-week only (November 2 – 7) run at the CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe in downtown Chicago. 

Halloweekend, the annual festival featuring local musicians paying tribute to famous rock acts, will take place at Montrose Saloon next Friday, October 29 and Saturday, 30. On Friday night, it’s Part-Time Lovers as The Ramones; The Statutes of Liberty as Velvet Underground; The Crayola Kids as The Wonder Stuff; Rachel Drew as White Stripes; Inspiral Parkas as Bauhaus; and Dream House as Siouxsie And The Banshees.

Saturday night’s lineup is Amazing Heeby Jeebies as The Cramps; Green Thoughts as The Smithereens; Guns And Ammunition as Thin Lizzy; Phil Angotti and Casey McDonough as The Zombies; The Webstirs as Paul McCartney; and Androgynous Mustache as Billy Joel. Each act takes its own approach, but Halloweekend is the most fun when the musicians go all out to look and sound like the artists they’re covering. Tickets are $20 at the door. Montrose Saloon is located at 2933 W. Montrose Avenue on Chicago’s north side. The festival starts at 8:30 pm each night, and it looks like each act will perform for about 30 minutes.

For those in the mood for Bruce Springsteen covers, Michael McDermott and his band will transform into The Duke Street Kings for the return of Halloweensteen on Saturday, October 30 at the Park West. Tickets are available at the Park West box office. The annual Springsteen tribute was knocked out by COVID-19 restrictions last year. 

The Chicago-based alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess will be playing “21st Century Druid Music” in the beer Garden at the Sketchbook Brewing Company at 4901 Main Street in Skokie on Halloween from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. The band’s new, mind-altering video for the song “Hand In Hand” from its most recent album The Alternate Boot is now available on Vimeo. 

The Des Plaines Theatre in downtown Des Plaines will celebrate its grand opening on Halloween night with a performance by the country and western act Kevin Costner and Modern West. Given that Costner’s other career involves appearing in several hit films, the venue has been making full use of the Field Of Dreams catch phrase “If you build it, they will come.” Upcoming concerts include The Orchestra, featuring former members of Electric Light Orchestra on November 4; Kenny Wayne Shepherd on November 5;. and Pure Prairie League and Atlanta Rhythm Section of December 3.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Halloween Song: Blue Oyster Cult - “Don’t Fear The Reaper”

Hair-raising scenarios come naturally to hard rock and heavy metal bands, but Blue Oyster Cult’s variety of approaches is impressive. “Nosferatu” was a majestic and brooding meditation on the original vampire tale, while the thundering “Godzilla,” with lines like, “Oh no, there goes Tokyo! Go, Go, Godzilla!” was unabashed fun. The band struck gold in 1976 with “Don’t Fear The Reaper” from their Agents Of Fortune album. 

The opening guitar riff and progressive arrangement are pure classic rock, but the song spread across genres and retains its massive popularity to this day. Which is strange, because the lyrics appear to advocate suicide as the ultimate expression of love. “Seasons don’t fear the reaper/Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain... we can be like they are.” They also promise “We’ll be able to fly” and point out, “Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity.”

Blue Oyster Cult effectively sells these sentiments through a strong melody and intricate harmony vocals. There’s even a “La la la la la la” and “Come on, baby.” It’s almost like The Beach Boys inviting a girl to the sock hop. The last verse describes a despondent woman whose lover has already died. “And it was clear she couldn’t go on.” The final image is of the reunited couple looking back and saying goodbye to the living. Or is she flying off with the Reaper himself? Either way, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” is a love song that probably hasn’t been played played at many wedding receptions. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Halloween Song: The Goldstars - “Purple Girlfriend”

When The Goldstars released their second album Purple Girlfriend in 2006, the band members were listed simply as Sal, GT, Dag, and Skipper. Avid fans of the Chicago alt rock scene recognized these guys as members of The Slugs, The New Duncan Imperials, and The Krinkles, getting together for a fun side project devoted to garage rock. So, they were the perfect choice to open for the Hoodoo Gurus at The Abbey Pub several years ago.

In addition to sharing the Aussie band’s obsession with the 1960s and an offbeat sense of humor (see yesterday’s post), The Goldstars also liked to get spooky sometimes. “Purple Girlfriend,” the album’s title track is an energetic instrumental that would have worked great as a TV show theme song in the Batman and The Munsters era. The space-age keyboards and fuzzy guitars bring to mind a discotheque, as well as an invasion of extraterrestrials. Or maybe a high-speed car chase involving spies. Since there are no lyrics, feel free to let your imagination run wild. And dance.

As memory serves, EXPO '76, a current band that includes a few Goldstars in its ranks, occasionally plays “Purple Girlfriend” at their gigs around the Chicago area.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Halloween Song: Hoodoo Gurus - "Dig It Up"

Australia’s Hoodoo Gurus
 are not only one of the most talented garage bands around, they’re also one of the spookiest. This was already evident on their rollicking 1984 debut, Stoneage Romeos, which comes across as the perfect soundtrack to a Halloween party. “Leilani” is about a tropical human sacrifice, “In The Echo Chamber” is based on a torture scene from the 1960s TV spoof Get Smart, and “Death Ship” describes a ghostly crew that lures other sailors to their doom.

“Dig It Up” features a galloping backbeat, twanging guitars that raise the spirit of The Cramps, and opens with the line, “My girlfriend lives in the ground.” Lead vocalist-guitarist Dave Faulkner sings of placing flowers on a grave each day and laments, “I want her back/Because I look so bad, so bad in black/Like a maniac.” Later, he concludes, “You can’t bury love, you gotta dig it up."

The band breaks into some wild jamming, along with Faulkner’s ear-piercing screams. The cause of the beloved’s death is never revealed, because it would be too painful. “My friends, you ask me why she’s six feet down/I can’t tell you why ‘cos if I even try/I’d fall flat down on my face.” Faulkner’s promise to paint his girlfriend’s room pink and blue doesn’t seem like much of an incentive to return from the dead, but then “Dig It Up,” like the best of the Hoodoo Gurus’ energetic garage rock, skillfully balances the macabre with the silly.

The Hoodoo Gurus have a tour coming up in 2022 that will bring them to City Winery Chicago on April 27.  Alas, the show has already sold out.


Peter Asher will be at the Old Town School of Folk Music this Saturday night to stage his A Musical Memoir Of The 60s And Beyond multi-media presentation. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous versions I saw of Asher’s show at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago and at The Old Town School Of Folk Music. Here are a few observations from a review I posted here on January 28, 2013:

Asher, formerly half of Peter And Gordon, served up an entertaining mix of live songs like “I Go To Pieces” and “500 Miles,” photographs, and vintage clips. He discussed his role in The Beatles’ ill-fated Apple corporation; his development as a highly sought-after producer for artists like James Taylor, Diana Ross, and Linda Ronstadt; and his more recent work on film soundtracks.

Admission is $38. The show takes place at the school’s Gary and Laura Maurer Hall, 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.

As previously mentioned here on BHT, a new live music venue called Madcats has opened in Palatine. It’s at the former location of Mac’s On Slade at 117 W. Slade, and like Mac’s, it serves food. Big Brother’s Vinyl, a tribute band based in the northwest suburbs, will be performing guitar-driven classic rock this Friday night. They were semi-regulars at Mac’s, and were always impressive. The music starts at 9:00 pm.

The Des Plaines Theatre in downtown Des Plaines will celebrate its grand opening on Halloween night with a performance by the country and western act Kevin Costner and Modern West. Given that Costner’s other career involves appearing in hit films, the venue has been making full use of the Field Of Dreams catch phrase “If you build it, they will come.” Upcoming concerts now that The Des Plaines Theatre has been built include The Orchestra, featuring former members of Electric Light Orchestra on November 4; Kenny Wayne Shepherd on November 5;. and Pure Prairie League and Atlanta Rhythm Section of December 3.

Go Time, The Spindles, and Vinny from Crown Vic Royal, three local acts that do a fine job of performing and recording original music, will be sharing the bill again at Q Bar Darien in Darien, IL this Friday night.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Halloween Song: Lene Lovich - “Bird Song”

The arrival of new wave and punk rock in the late 1970s introduced an exciting cast of talented and sometimes intimidating female performers like Chrissie Hynde, Deborah Harry, Annie Lennox, Siouxsie Sioux, and Nina Hagen. In 1979, Lene Lovich, a singer with a passion for bizarre outfits and even more bizarre hair, released “Bird Song” as a single on Stiff Records. While the lyrics don’t mention anything diabolical, Lovich’s high-pitched warble, the song’s gothic arrangement, and an ominous-sounding male chorus create a nightmarish ambience. All the while remaining catchy enough for the dance floor.

Basically, this is a dark twist on the old expression, “A little bird told me,” in which a scheming feathered creature steals a woman’s boyfriend by tricking her into thinking he’s been untrue. “So with the bird, one day, you flew away/I woke up too late, you had gone/Fading on . . . with this song/Of the hurting little bird.” Lovich delivers these lines, and others like, “Such a cold bird, so hard, captured your heart/Does it matter I am falling apart” with a Nora Desmond like intensity. When she later mentions “the dead little bird,” it’s unclear whether she killed it.

The avian metaphor carries over to the startling video Lovich created for “Bird Song,” which is executed in the style of a vintage European horror flick. She plays a runaway bride, leaving her guy at the altar while she runs outside to challenge a raven to a staring contest. The male chorus becomes a choir of priests or deacons, one of whom pounds away at the pipe organ like Lon Chaney. Maybe Lovich did lose out to an actual bird. “Still I watch the sky/Still I wonder why/Still I hope that I can carry on.” Regardless of whether the villain is animal or human, Lene Lovich’s “Bird Song” record and video are genuine Halloween classics.

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