Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Graphic taken from WGN Creature Features website.

Time to wind up another Halloween season here on Broken Hearted Toy. Here's a post that previously appeared in 2009 and 2010. Hey, it's a tradition.

“Experiment In Terror” had a slow, ominous beat and twanging guitars that conjured images of a monster creeping along some darkened street, but it was composed by Henry Mancini for a 1962 cops and robbers movie called Experiment In Terror. In the Chicago area, this song is much better known as the theme for Creature Features, which presented old time horror movies like House Of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy’s Ghost on WGN every Saturday night from 1970 to 1976.

“Experiment In Terror” recalls our youthful fascination with monsters; the hours we spent trick or treating; carving pumpkins; and going to neighborhood Halloween parties in garages or basements. Plus, it’s a great song. In addition to the eerie guitars, a string arrangement added drama and a cinematic feel. Later, there’s even a sexy sounding saxophone that put the vamp in vampire.

P.S. My wife and I didn't get a single trick-or-treater this year.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Song: Fairport Convention - "Tam Lin"

Before getting on with today's Halloween song repost, here are a few links to some spooky projects I've worked on recently.

First, the Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff Internet show launched its second annual Halloween special today. My wife Pam and I created four bits for this edition, including What's With Terry, where I interview novelist Cherie Colyer about her new novel, Embrace; an Old Days where Fritz Willoughby gets a hankering to go trick-or-treating; a lost episode of Manchester Gallery and how a costume party goes haywire; and our cat Phoebe gets spooky in the latest installment of Phoebe Philosopher Cat. Plus, there are clips by Willy Deal, and some scary things that host Jeff Kelley came up with. Check it out.

Jeff Kelley also teamed up with artist Dave Metzer to film a series of zombie vignettes for the suburb of Elgin's Nightmare On Chicago Street Halloween festival. I appeared in one of the clips as a doctor who's an expert on zombie behavior.

And now, on to the legend of Tam Lin, as told by the English folk rock band, Fairport Convention.

Along with Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention helped revitalize folk music in England by electrifying traditional ballads with modern arrangements. “Tam Lin,” from Fairport Convention’s 1969 album, Liege And Lief, features a strong-willed heroine in a hair-raising tale of lust, evil curses, and redemption. It’s based on Scottish folklore although variations have surfaced in other cultures as well. Brought to life by the terrific lead vocalist Sandy Denny, the lyrics warn maidens to steer clear of a wooded area called Carter Hall because a creepy elf named Tam Lin dwells there.

Some versions of the original ballad offered unsavory reasons why a particular maiden named Janet ignores the warning, but Fairport Convention goes with the more positive view that she believes she has a right to pick roses at Carter Hall since it’s part of her family’s property. “When up there came young Tam Lin says, ‘Lady, pull no more./And why come you to Carter Hall without command from me?’/‘I’ll come and go,’ young Janet said, ‘and ask no leave of thee.”

Fairport Convention breaks up the narrative with energetic instrumental passages driven by electric guitar and fiddle. Although it’s not stated clearly, Janet’s encounter with Tam Lin includes him seducing her, and later there are consequences. “Well, up then spoke her father dear and he spoke meek and mild/‘Oh, and alas, Janet,’ he said, ‘I think you go with child.”

By then, she’s fallen in love with the little guy. “For if my love were an earthly knight as he is an elfin grey/I’d not change my own true love for any knight you have.” Janet goes back to Carter Hall to see if Tam Lin wants to trade the woods for a family, castle and white picket fence. He’s game, especially since his only other option at that point is being offered up as a human sacrifice. “The Queen of Faeries caught me when from my horse I fell/And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to hell/I so fair and full of flesh and feared it be myself.”

The magic of Halloween night not only offers Tam Lin a means to escape, but through Janet’s love, it can also transform him back into the handsome knight he was before the Queen of Faeries cast a spell on him. Janet carries out the elaborate ritual Tam Lin prescribes, and wins his freedom. The Queen of Faeries is furious with the outcome. “‘Oh had I known, Tam Lin,’ she said, ‘what this knight I did see/I have looked him in the eyes and turned him to a tree.’”

The Tam Lin Balladry site lists several more sinister variations on the original ballad than Fairport Convention’s version, but there is one that depicts The Queen Of Faeries expressing a grudging admiration for Janet’s pluck. On that note, we can also thank Fairport Convention for its well-executed take on this spooky legend.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Double Dose Of Halloween Songs: Spooky Girlfriends

Last night’s Halloweekend 2011 at The Abbey Pub was an absolute blast. Unfortunately, I had to leave before American Headlight Noise took the stage as Bruce Springsteen, but the first five tribute bands nailed their targets perfectly. Hats off to Metropolly (Hole), Penthouse Sweets (Nick Lowe), The Webstirs (Chicago), Bon Mots (Alice Cooper), and John Aselin (Rolling Stones) for all the great rock and roll.

The fun continues tonight, with tributes to Huey Lewis, Joy Division, Billy Bragg, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Patty Smith. Note: Phil Angotti will be performing as Elvis Costello and The Attractions tonight instead of as The Who.

Here’s a couple of previously-posted Halloween song profiles packaged together.

The Goldstars - “Purple Girlfriend” Comprised of Dag Juhlin from The Slugs; GT and Skipper from The New Duncan Imperials; and Sal from The Krinkles, The Goldstars specialize in creating 1960s style garage rock with an offbeat sense of humor. “Purple Girlfriend,” the title track of The Goldstars second CD, is an energetic instrumental that would have worked great as the theme song to a TV show in the Batman and The Munsters era. The space-age keyboards and fuzzy guitars bring to mind a party with go-go girls, as well as an invasion of space aliens. Since there are no lyrics, you’re free to let your imagination run wild. And dance.

October Country -“My Girlfriend Is A Witch” This is just one of the many cool audio artifacts to be found on the Rhino CD compilation, Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets: 1965-1968. Recorded in 1968 by a band that never found success beyond the West Coast, this is classic garage rock, with fun, spooky lyrics like, “Riding high/Leaving trails of smoke across the sky/On a broom/Glad that I am safe within my room.” In this case, having an other-worldly significant other doesn’t seem to have any ill effects, but it does inspire a bit of competition. “What a fate/A worshiper of magic for a day/But tonight I become a warlock just for spite.”

The song was written by record producer Michael Lloyd, who also provided lead vocals and some high-powered psychedelic guitar strumming, along with Marty Arsenault. Almost half of this catchy song is taken up by the musicians’ spirited jamming, which creates a live performance at a 1960s go-go club ambience.

There’s no indication that the band took its name from Ray Bradbury’s collection of creepy short stories, The October Country. Instead, “My Girlfriend Is A Witch” has more of a 1960s TV theme feel. In fact, according to the book that comes with Where The Action Is, Lloyd recorded a second version in 1969 for the Saturday morning hillbilly feline cartoon series, The Cattanooga Cats.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Slumgullion #85

Halloween Tribute Band Madness. The Abbey Pub kicks off Halloweekend 2011, two days of local bands covering musical legends, tonight with a lineup that features American Headlight Noise as Bruce Springsteen; John Aselin (with guest Phil Angotti) as The Rolling Stones; Bon Mots as Alice Cooper; The Webstirs as Chicago; Penthouse Sweets as Nick Lowe, and Metropolly as Hole. Tomorrow night’s acts are Joel Paterson as ZZ Top; Phil Angotti as The Who; Androgynous Mustache as Huey Lewis, Unknown Pleasure as Joy Division; Grooved Surface as Bachman-Turner Overdrive; Tuffy UK as Patti Smith; and Zapruder Point as Billy Bragg The party kicks off at 8:30 each night, and there’s a $12 admission fee ($10 in advance).

I’m Not A Doctor Who Specializes In Zombies But I Play One On TV. Most suburbs base their Halloween celebrations around a few hours of officially sanctioned trick-or-treating, and possibly a party for the kids afterward. Elgin made bigger plans this year. Tomorrow evening, the western suburb's downtown area will be consumed by Nightmare On Chicago Street an elaborate mix of live music, street performers, food vendors, and special guests Svengoolie and Vincent Price's daughter, Victoria. Oh, and some zombies.

The Elgin officials also asked resident Dave Metzger to put together some footage of zombies on a rampage, bulletins, and a news conference with the mayor. The footage will be shown in segments aired on TVs scattered around the festival area. Metzger used to work with my wife Pam, and had a recurring role as a Beatles button obsessed lunatic on the Manchester Gallery series I created for the Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff Internet show.

Metzger recruited SMCWJ host/creator Jeff Kelley to tape the zombie footage, and asked if I could play a doctor who's an expert on zombies. So if you visit downtown Elgin tomorrow night, you might just see me on one of those TVs. I'm also in the press conference scene. The more conventional entertainment includes sets by the tribute bands Kashmir and ARRA, a burlesque show, and a costume contest with Svengoolie. Admission is $7.

Spinning Must Come 'Round. The Second Disc, an essential online newsletter that often seems to have the scoop on all kinds of cool upcoming CD and vinyl releases, has good news for Elvis Costello fans. A recent edition heralds the November 28th arrival of Costello's Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook. The limited edition box set (only 1,500 numbered copies are being produced by the Hip O label) will offer 16 songs that were recorded at a pair of gigs Costello and his band The Imposters played in L.A. earlier this year.

The enticing extras include a DVD of live performances from the second night that finds Costello covering The Rolling Stones and Nick Lowe, and being joined by Bangle Susanna Hoffs on "Tear Off Your Own Head." The set also includes a 10" EP, a hardcover book, poster, and autographed postcards. At $251 the deluxe edition might be out of reach for a lot of Costello fans, but as The Second Disc points out, there will also be a version that offers just the CD and DVD.

Free Falling Song. The original members of The dB's continue to keep their fans waiting for that much anticipated next CD, Falling Off The Sky, but at least they're making a new song available on the official dBs website "Revolution Of The Mind," which features Peter Holsapple, Will Rigby, Gene Holder, and Chris Stamey, is being described as an energetic rock tune with political overtones. The full CD is scheduled to be released next Spring.

Melismaticmania. Local coed rockers The Melismatics have signed to Pravda Records. Their new CD, Mania is due out January 10, 2112.

Spooky Fun. Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff will have its annual Halloween show this week. My wife Pam and I created some clips for it, and host/creator Jeff Kelley always cooks up some spooky fun.

Book Signing. Local author Susan Kaye Quinn will be signing copies of her new book Open Minds next Saturday, November 5th from 10 AM to noon at the Caribou Coffee in Palatine, 581 E. Dundee Road. The paranormal tale is book one of Quinn’s Mindjack Trilogy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

CD Review: Boo Trundle - The Vast Underneath

Here's a CD review I did for the Illinois Entertainer in 1993 that seems suitable to the season.

Listening to The Vast Underneath, it’s easy to imagine Boo Trundle as an outcast in a rural town. A mysterious woman harboring a dark secret that’s nearly driven her over the edge. The singer-guitarist, along with her band, has conjured an album with hypnotic arrangements and tales of broken relationships and betrayal.

The layered vocals and exotic percussion of “Siva” evoke vintage Pink Floyd while on “Sunshine Swimming Horse Death,” a woman afflicted with nightmarish memories of incest asks, “Did you ever wake up in a viper’s pit?” Trundle plays with crack-the-whip punk energy on the angry “Pompei,” and cranks out bizarre images on the frenetic “Playing Ghost With Mr. Q” and “Take Lightly.” Throughout The Vast Underneath, there’s an underlying sense of something being wrong, but we’re hesitant to ask what it is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Song: The Severed Limb - “The Severed Limb”

I’ve written about The Severed Limb on two occasions for Broken Hearted Toy. The first was a favorable review of the London-based skiffle band’s 2010 Woo Eee Ha Ha! EP, and more recently I covered its Double Sea Side single, “Take You Out”/”Southend Skiffle Rag.”

Today’s post harks back to band’s earlier days and a song called “The Severed Limb.” The original demo is now available on the band’s MySpace page, and would certainly be a worthy addition to any Halloween party playlist. The band also recorded a newer version which hopefully will be released soon.

“The Severed Limb” has a catchy rockabilly arrangement and clever lyrics about a guy who hears a knock on his front door at 4:00 AM and finds nothing more than a detached hand and arm waiting to greet him. “It didn’t have a brain and it didn’t have a bum/Just a tattoo on the arm that said I love Mom.”

After letting itself in, the appendage decides to stay, and the guy learns to enjoy its company. The only drawback seems to be the occasional obscene gesture the severed limb makes while playing poker or gin. “It makes the finger when it loses and makes a fist when it wins.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Song: Fingerprintz - "Shadowed"

Here's another Halloween song profile that has been previously been posted on Broken Hearted Toy.

The English band Fingerprintz zipped through a variety of genres during a brief career that lasted from 1979 to 1981. They played punk on their debut, The Very Dab, moved on to power pop with Distinguishing Marks, and by the time they released Beat Noir, they were into techno. One thing that remained constant was lead singer-guitarist Jimme O’Neill’s penchant for matching disturbing lyrics with catchy melodies.

“Shadowed,” from the aptly titled Beat Noir, offers intergalactic espionage set to a pulsating dance club arrangement. There’s a breathless chase down dark streets involving “an alien presence” and our hero. “Outside forces, foreign bodies in the atmosphere/I’ve got to shake them off and rub them out and get away from here.” Guitarist Cha Burnz throws in one of his distinctive solos, and O’Neill’s echo-laden vocals evoke U2, especially if Bono had been into comic books and sci-fi movies.

Sadly, none of the Fingerprintz albums are available on CD or iTunes. O’Neill and Burnz went on to form The Silencers UK and had a moderate hit with “Painted Moon.”

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Song: Elvis Costello - “Watching The Detectives”

A brand new Halloween song profile.

Elvis Costello had an immediate impact on the rock scene back in the late 1970s. But as much as he excelled at lacing catchy pop/punk melodies with nasty putdowns, “Watching The Detectives” was impressive in a different vein. This dark tale of a cops, a femme fatale, and a mysterious disappearance was set to a moody ska arrangement that featured twangy guitars, dramatic percussion, and a creepy farsifa organ. To paraphrase a line from Costello himself, it sent invisible shivers running down people’s spines.

Like much of Costello’s work, “Watching The Detectives” was brimming with quotable lines. “She pulls the eyes out with a face like a magnet” is an inventive way to describe an attractive woman, and there are other noir gems like the one about “the parents who are ready to hear the worst about their daughter’s disappearance” and of course, “She’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake.”

Costello doesn’t provide all the puzzle pieces for the mystery that is “Watching The Detectives.” The line, “Someone’s scratching at the window, I wonder who is it?” adds a supernatural touch to a song that already exudes a chilling ambience.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Song: Electric Prunes - "I Had Too Much To Dream"

Another Halloween repost from a previous year here on Broken Hearted Toy.

By the way, the online Illinois Entertainer has a list I put together of nine spooky songs. Check it out.

When “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes blasted from AM radios back in 1966, it was immediately evident it was different from any other Top 40 hit. Lead vocalist James Lowe kicked off the song by playing an autoharp that buzzed like a nuclear-mutated mosquito as he sang, “Last night your shadow fell upon my lonely room.” This apparition of an ex-girlfriend seeking to reconcile vanishes just as things are getting interesting. The lines “Your eyes were filled with love the way they used to be/And when your hands reached out to comfort me” are followed by one of best howls in rock history.

Surprisingly, the song was not written by a band member or any other heartbroken male. According to a post at Classic Bands website, it was the work of professional songwriters Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, who envisioned it as a ballad. The Electric Prunes had other ideas, giving it a hard driving, psychedelic arrangement that makes it an undisputed garage rock classic to this day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Song: Ministry - "Every Day Is Halloween"

This man knows his spiders and snakes. Photo from the Ministry Facebook page.

Each weekend in October, I've been featuring Halloween song profiles that were previously posted here in October 2009 or 2010. Or in this case, both.

First, best wishes to WXRT DJ Terri Hemmert for a speedy recovery. According to her Facebook page, Hemmert experienced a scare earlier this week that had nothing to do with Halloween. Fortunately, the health crisis was ably handled by doctors, and she's feeling better now. Normally Hemmert hosts the Breakfast With The Beatles show on WXRT each Sunday morning, but this week it's being replaced by an Acoustic Sunrise Special featuring Chris Martin and Johnny Buckland of Coldplay. Fans can hear a live stream at the WXRT website.

Hemmert promises that she and Breakfast With The Beatles will be back on the air next week.

With its playful “bop bop bop bop” scat singing and dance club-ready synthesized beats, it’s easy to think of Ministry’s “Everyday Is Halloween” as a happy party song. Even the opening lines, “Well I live with snakes and lizards/And other things that go bump in the night” seem to promise dark fun in a Danny Elfman/Tim Burton kind of way. A beer company even used the song for a beer commercial.

But lead vocalist/founding member Al Jourgensen has actually fashioned a defiant anthem for people who are rejected by society for looking or acting differently from everyone else. “People seem to stop and stare they say/Why are you dressed like it’s Halloween/You look so absurd, you look so obscene.” The lyrics later ask, “Why can’t I live a life for me?/Why should I take the abuse that’s served?”

The song acts as a sort of mist-shrouded bridge from Ministry’s early Cold Life/With Sympathy techno days to its later incarnation as an aggressive death metal band. “Everyday Is Halloween” keeps people moving on the dance floor with over six minutes of melodic keyboards and dj scratching, but it would be nice if they also absorbed Jourgensen’s plea to be more tolerant.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Slumgullion #84

Photo from Mimi Betinis Facebook page.

The Mimi Betinis Group will be performing tonight at The Abbey Pub on Chicago’s northwest side. Betinis served as the lead vocalist-guitarist (following after Cliff Johnson) for one of Chicago’s first and best power pop acts, Pezband. His impressive solo CD All That Glitters, released in late 2010, showcased his songwriting abilities and distinctive vocals. The show starts at 11:00 PM.

Congratulations to Little Steven Van Zandt on reaching the 500 episode mark for his Underground Garage syndicated radio show. There's a video stream of the event, which is being held today at the Hard Rock Cafe Times Square. Fans might still be able to catch at the Underground Garage website.

Singer-guitarist/artist Slink Moss has a record release show for his latest effort, Black Lake scheduled for tonight at The Wooly on 11 Barclay Street in New York


The Mutiny has an eclectic night of Halloween fun planned for Friday, October 28th that will include Stardust* The David Bowie Tribute streaming live. Comedians Patty Vaccarella, Thomas Bottoms, Chevy Debbie, and Bill Carlton will perform between 8:00 and 9:00 PM, followed by drag performer/beauty pageant contestant Elysse Giovanni. The music kicks off at 9:30, with performances by Moist Guitars, Lisa Lightning, Robert Harvey, Breadhead, Rich Experience, and Velva.

Singer-guitarist Diane Christiansen is probably best known for work with the alt rock/C&W band Dolly Varden, which she co-founded with her husband, singer-guitarist Steve Dawson. But she’s an accomplished artist as well, and will have an exhibit of her work titled Enough Space in the Head to Breathe running from October 28th through November 26th at the Kasia Kay Art Projects Gallery. There will be an opening reception from 6:00 to 8:00 PM on Friday, October, 28th, and an artist’s talk from 12:00 to 1:00 PM on Saturday, October 29th.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Everybody’s Rocking For The Halloweekend

Graphic from The Webstirs Facebook page.

People who enjoy good rock and roll with their Halloween festivities should check out The Abbey Pub’s Halloweekend 2011 on October 28th and 29th. Costumes aren’t the main attraction for this two-night extravaganza; the fun is in seeing local musicians paying tribute to legendary bands. There are a lot of interesting choices scheduled for Friday and Saturday, so you might want to check out both nights.

The lineup for Friday features American Headlight Noise as Bruce Springsteen; John Aselin (with guest Phil Angotti) as The Rolling Stones; Bon Mots as Alice Cooper; The Webstirs as Chicago; Penthouse Sweets as Nick Lowe, and Metropolly as Hole.

Saturday brings Joel Paterson as ZZ Top; Phil Angotti as The Who; Androgynous Mustache as Huey Lewis, Unknown Pleasure as Joy Division; Grooved Surface as Bachman-Turner Overdrive; Tuffy UK as Patti Smith; and Zapruder Point as Billy Bragg.

The party kicks off at 8:30 each night, and there’s a $12 admission fee ($10 in advance).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Song: Angie Mead - “You Leave (12:04 Edit)"

Angie Mead recorded two versions of the song “You Leave” for her impressive 1999 debut CD, West Of The Present. The first was an emotional ballad built on acoustic guitar, strings, and Mead’s strong but beautiful vocals. The lyrics, which depict a woman who has been spurned by either a lover or friend, are ominous but blend in with the well-crafted arrangement.

On “You Leave (12:04 Remix),” Mead transforms the song into a nightmare but moving the lyrics front and center and delivering them in a raspy whisper. It’s scary in a Play Misty For Me vein rather than anything supernatural. The 12:04 in the title seems to be the time of night the woman makes a phone call. Initially, her barely audible voice sounds sexy, but then ominous strings and percussion roll in like dark clouds, and the woman becomes a stalker.

“Hey I know you see me walk by,” Mead sings. “You see me in the corner of your eye.” It’s not clear what type of a relationship the woman had with recipient of her call, but one way or another it’s over. “Hey I know it’s been a while/You didn’t recognize me with a smile.” And there isn’t a trace of affection in Mead’s tone when she observes, “Hey my friend look what you’re doing to me.” The tension escalates until the caller finally suggests, “So let me kick you around for a while/let me bring you down.” Mead drags out the last word, a whispered threat that seems more unnerving than if she had screamed it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CD Review: Mordecai Smyth - Sticky Tape & Rust

Tom Waits Alert! B1G T1ME, the Tom Waits tribute band will be performing two sets of the gravely-voiced singer-songwriter’s tunes at Quenchers in Chicago on Wednesday, October 19th. The group will be joined by saxophone player Cameron Pfiffner and guitarist Tom McCarthy. Quenchers is located at 2401 N. Western in Chicago. Showtime is 9:30. In other Tom Waits news, I just heard on WXRT that he’ll have a new CD coming out soon.

You’d expect to encounter a certain amount of silliness on the debut from a band called Mordecai Smyth, and Sticky Tape & Rust offers plenty along those lines. The first act signed to the fledgling indie label Mega Dodo, Mordecai Smyth draws upon the satirical side of the original British Invasion, with an added dose of vintage movies and TV shows. The lyrics often deal with murder, mayhem, and the supernatural, but in such an absurd way, listeners are more likely to be amused than frightened.

Georgina Jones might not be as well known to Yanks as Emma Peel, but she was also a 1960s Brit TV heroine who was as cunning as she was beautiful. Mordecai Smyth honors her with “Georgina Jones,” a Doors-like song with peppy keyboards and lines like, “Crooks and villains better watch your step” and “She’s got a beautiful way of getting under your skin.” The spirit of Syd Barrett surfaces on “Sinister Cyclist,” which depicts a witch who travels on two wheels instead of by broom, as well as on the satirical portrait, “Herbert Frowsy.” “All Right Now” harks back to the days of England's music halls for a bump and grind look at being a werewolf.

The spooky “Mr. Hitchcock” uses a more modern power pop arrangement, while “Don’t Cross Colin” taps into The Undertones, as well as The Who’s “Happy Jack.” “Almost Murder Ballad” is a dark tale of a guy whose various attempts to bump off his lover all fail until he decides to just give up, but for true romantics, there’s some innocent, old-time crooning on “I Love You.” If you’re still looking for some songs for your Halloween party playlist, you can’t go wrong with Mordecai Smyth's Sticky Tape & Rust.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Severed Limb Reaches Out Again

About a year ago, a gentleman from London named John contacted me about reviewing an EP by The Severed Limb. They were a skiffle band he had recently signed to the indie label he runs as part of his online store Lost Johns. After checking out the clever and highly infectious songs on the band’s MySpace page, I was more than happy to give their wonderfully titled five-song EP Woo Eee Ha Ha! a thumbs up. Back then, I praised The Severed Limb’s stripped down arrangements and energetic harmonies.

Last week, John sent me another gmail, this time regarding The Severed Limb’s new Double Sea Side single, “Take You Out”/“Southend Skiffle Rag.” Like its predecessor, this latest release is available online as well as in vinyl format. The melodic first track kicks off with a chiming guitar and shuffling beat intro before singer-guitarist Robert (band members go by first name only) offers a seemingly romantic invitation to join him for a stroll through town and by the sea. But there’s an underlying melancholy to “Take You Out” in the way this guy’s returning to favorite places that for some reason he hasn’t been able to visit for quite a while.

The much shorter “Southend Skiffle Rag” is an appealing instrumental that mixes old time acoustic blues with a tropical ambience, using guitars, old fashioned percussion, and harmonica. I can easily imagine people dancing to this, although it wouldn’t be a current dance style.

John also provided a link to the official BBC site, where some live studio performances by The Severed Limb are available for viewing. Not bad for a skiffle band that started out playing on the streets of London.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween Songs: The Holograms - "Death Boy"

Another scary song rerun for the weekend. I originally did this post in 2009.

Not to be confused with the Jem and the Holograms TV show that ran from 1985 to 1988, the all-woman band The Holograms released its debut, Night Of 1,000 Ex-boyfriends in 2005. The first I heard of The Holograms was when Little Steven started playing the relentlessly peppy “Are You Ready For It” on his Underground Garage radio program. That song doesn’t prepare a listener for the nasty streak that runs through the rest of the CD, where the band performs songs like “Drunk Dial,” and “Your Ex Is Turning Tricks Again.”

Similar to The Buzzcocks, The Holograms mix revved-up punk with infectious melodies, while vocalist-guitarist Tammy taps into the 1960s girl group sound in a way that recalls Julie Brown’s “Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun.” On “Death Boy,” a song with a frantic, guitar-driven arrangement, Tammy purrs, “Death boy, you’re so cute in such a creepy way.” She goes on to lament his passion for gals who are no longer living. “I know you’ll never be true./You only wish I was Code Blue.” Another downside to the relationship is that he brings her funeral wreaths instead of flowers.

I couldn’t mention this song without giving a shout out to Desiree Burcum, who wrote a similar song called, “Dead Guy” back when I was performing with the Famous In The Future comedy group. In her version, a woman falls for the victim she accidentally ran over with her car, noting that he doesn’t do all the obnoxious things her living boyfriends have always done. Desiree also came up with the line, “Does he have a dead brother?” before it was used in Corpse Bride.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

“Alison Gross” - Money Can’t Buy Thee My Love

This profile already appeared in Broken Hearted Toy in 2009 and 2010, but since I’m using weekends in October to post spooky reruns, I figured it was okay. And if there's anyone out there actually reading this for the third time, thanks for being a loyal follower!

Steeleye Span is known for updating centuries-old ballads with modern, electric arrangements. Such is the case with “Alison Gross” from the band’s 1973 release, Parcel Of Rogues. It spins the tale of a witch who believes the way to a man’s heart is through bribery. She tries to woo a potential lover by offering him a series of riches, but he’s so repulsed by her appearance, he screams, “Away, away, you ugly witch/Go far away and let me be/I never would kiss your ugly mouth/For all of the gifts that you give to me.” Infuriated, Alison Gross waves a magic wand and turns him into a worm.

According to Wikipedia, Steeleye Span added its own chorus and left off the original ballad’s happy ending, which had the man being restored to his proper shape on Halloween by a passing fairy. Also, he may not have been transformed to an earthworm, since the original lyrics used the word wyrm, which meant dragon. Unlike some of the ancient ballads, which can be slow and gloomy, “Alison Gross” feels like a rowdy party song villagers might have sung while swinging steins of mead.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Slumgullion #83

The Bangles performing at The House Of Blues - Chicago last Monday. Photo by Andy Argyrakis of the Illinois Entertainer.

Dance Like An Egyptian. As word comes that The Bangles will be performing on Dancing With The Stars this Monday night, I’m trying to remember if this was the same show that had The Go-Go’s perform live last season. Or was it American Idol? I generally avoid this type of program. Still, if it was Dancing With The Stars on both occasions, then the producers at least have good taste in all-women power pop bands.

He’s Got The Beat. Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti will be channeling Keith Richards as part of John Aselin’s Rolling Stones tribute on Friday, October 28th at The Abbey Pub. But he’ll be performing as himself tomorrow night at Beat Kitchen on Belmont in Chicago, along with Drive Train and Chris N. The show starts at 9:00 PM.

A Royal Musical. Martyr’s night club on Lincoln Avenue has seen its share of tributes to musical artists, and on October 24th, there will be a one-night only performance of a musical concert stage play based on Prince’s Purple Rain movie. Purple Rain Live is being directed by Dre Robinson, with musical direction by Mike Przygoda. A Terrible Spaceship will serve as the opening act.

Confessions In Sin City. Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens has put together a multimedia solo revue called Confessions Of A Rock Star and he’s bringing it to The Riveria Hotel in Las Vegas for a limited engagement. The show will incorporate photos, footage, and DiNizio’s live performance of songs by The Smithereens, The Beatles, and Buddy Holly songs, as he explains how he went from being a garbage man to a power pop icon via a bass-thumping ditty called “Blood And Roses.” Confessions of a Rock Star will run Wednesday - Monday at 7:00 PM, starting November 2nd.

Aliens In Joliet. Four members of the impressive 1960s tribute band New Invaders will be performing under the name Space Invaders tomorrow night at Paulie’s Pub in Joliet. Show time is 9:00 PM. By the way, The New Invaders have named The Hollies as the October Featured Artist of the 60s in their monthly newspaper. The band has at least four songs by Manchester’s Finest in its repertoire.

Evanston Rocks. Black Forest has another local music showcase lined up for Cafe Mozart in Evanston tomorrow night. There’ll be live music from WhiteWolfSonicPrincess, which features Black Forest founders James Moeller and Carla Hayden; John Dalton, who kicks things off at 7:30 PM; Hannah Frank Trio; and Chris Bock & Vince Tuley. If you go, wish Carla a belated happy birthday.

Like Footloose - - - With Gore. A Cowardly Scarecrow unearthed its Musical Of The Living Dead at The Charnel House on Fullerton Avenue last night, and it will rampage there through November 12th. The show, which sports the tagline, “Sometimes They Come Back . . . And Sing!!” features book and lyrics by Marc Lewallen and Brad Younts, and music by Mary Spray.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Song From Dean. Veteran folkie Dean Milano will be making the French Market scene this weekend, with performances at the Lisle French Market in downtown Lisle on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and then on Sunday at the Villa Park French Market, also from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

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