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.

Incoming


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.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Halloween Song: The Social Act - “Heaven Is Waiting”


The Social Act was one of the first local bands I interviewed when I started writing for the Illinois Entertainer. I think it was following a show they did at Park West, but after all these years, my memory could be foggy. Lead vocalist Ellis Clark was already a veteran of Chicago’s alt-rock scene by that time, having been a founding member of Epicycle. After The Social Act broke up, he went on to various projects, including solo efforts and a stint with The Handcuffs. These days, The Social Act is back in action, and Clark performs with Ary Paloma from Amazing Heeby Jeebies as a psychedelic country duo called Big Hair Big Trouble. They also front the George Harrison tribute act My Sweet George, which has performed on the Apple Jam Stage at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago.

“Heaven Is Waiting” is from Uber Der Berlin Wall, a 1990 ambitious 17-track album that came with an illustrated lyric booklet. Its seemingly benign sentiments are set to an incongruous and haunting arrangement that suggests God and Goth are closely related. At the very least, he has a deep voice with an ominous echo. “Heaven is waiting,” Clark/The Almighty beckons as the percolating beat continues. “All aboard the train/Heaven is waiting/No time for delay.”


When he specifically invites a Mrs. Jones to make the trip, we picture an old lady like the one Ruth Buzzy played on Rowan And Martin’s Laugh-In. It could be the song is taunting a neighborhood busybody who goes to church every day but peeks out at her neighbors from behind her living room curtains. Or maybe the final line is what’s meant to scare us the most: “We all got to go sometime.”   

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Halloween Song: The Human League - "Darkness"


George Harrison once warned us to “Beware Of Darkness,” but in 1981, The Human League created a song in which a mere flick of a light switch resulted in a terrifying, mind-altering experience. Like everything else on the band’s groundbreaking and platinum record, Dare, the melodic “Darkness” was driven by synthesizers. But they’re used here to establish a spooky ambience as well as to get people dancing.

The lyrics describe darkness as a place “filled with sounds of fear” where the imagination runs wild. “I see shadows (don’t turn out the light)/Moving, changing shape.” Even the senses become a confusing mishmash. “I hear colours black and red/I see sounds that fill my head.” This was the only song on Dare that founding member/lead vocalist Philip Oakey didn’t have a hand in writing (other than the instrumental snippet, “Get Carter”) but his chilling delivery goes a long way toward conveying its emotional power. “And the clock stops as darkness closes in./I hesitate but it’s too late, I scream and scream again.”

“Darkness” has that unmistakeable allure of 1980s synth rock, but its message stretches back through the centuries. For anyone putting together a Halloween party playlist, this is a good candidate for the opening track. The Human League is still active, and has a tour in the works for 2022.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Halloween Song: Shelivade - “Into The Night”


The Chicago-based, four-woman band Shelivade served up a hard rock vampire tale titled “Into The Night” on its 1994 debut CD, One More Than Ten. The duet between lead vocalist Jean Iversen and guest singer Jon Dobbs is both seductive and threatening, especially on the lines, “Darkness wakes my love/Lures me into the night/Haunts me with desire/My fate is your fire.” Iversens vocal firepower is reminiscent of Ann Wilson from Heart, and the give and take with Dobbs creates a theatrical ambience.

Vanessa Eichelberger’s guitar playing provides an energetic backdrop while the vampire’s modus operandi is rendered in short, poetic bursts. “Rapid pulse, empty veins/Feel my throat, blessed pain.” The nearly five-minute song ends with the line, “Vacant mirror, then I’m gone,” followed by one of the best evil laughs in rock since Vincent Price added his chuckle to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” 

Saturday Slumgullion


The David Bowie Estate’s plans for celebrating what would have been his 75th birthday include pop-up stores in New York City and London from October 25 through late January. According to a post on the official David Bowie Facebook page, both retail locations will feature immersive audio and HD video screening rooms, exclusive apparel, limited-edition LPs and CDs, and gallery installations. Fans will be able to don Bowie costumes and pose within set pieces for photos to be shared on social media. The New York City store is located at 150 Wooster Street; and the London store is at 14 Heddon Street, 41B, 4BZ.  Those of us who won’t be traveling to New York or London can order a variety cool things on the Bowie 75 website.

And if youre counting, London now has Queen, Rolling Stones, and David Bowie retail stores.

The 50th anniversary edition of the Chicago Reader arrived in my mailbox yesterday, and I immediately decided it will be added to my library of favorite issues of the long-time free publication. I also have vintage copies of New City, Illinois Entertainer, Time Out, Matter, and several other local magazines and newspapers. The current issue offers, “A deep dive into how this city’s alt-weekly made it through five decades” and is a respectable 72 pages. A number of regular contributors offer essays on their tenure with the Chicago Reader. I’ve been subscribing to the paper since I started working from home, but it’s still available in boxes around the downtown area and on the north side.


Roger Dean, long known for his colorful and other-worldly album covers for Yes, Badger, Uriah Heep, and other prog and hard rock bands, is currently showcasing his art at The Owl Pass Exhibition at the Trading Boundaries venue in East Sussex in the U.K. Original paintings, drawings, and sketches, along with signed books and calendars, are available for sale.


The Power Pop Shoppe Showcase, a live performance extension of the Power Pop Shoppe show Kirk Fox hosts on radio station WNUR 89.3, will be coming to Montrose Saloon on Saturday, November 13. The three acts participating are Gal Gun Band, Golden Richards,  and The Dry Look.


The 10-inch vinyl version of Ringo Starr’s new four-song EP Change The World is now available on the Fest For Beatles Fans online store. The record includes “Let’s Change The World,” “Just That Way,” “Coming Undone,” and a cover of “Rock Around The Clock” featuring Joe Walsh on guitar. The EP is also available as a cassette, CD, and as a digital download. As always, the Fest For Beatles Fans online store is loaded with lots of cool Beatles merchandise.


Go Time, The Spindles, and 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 next Friday night.


Susanna Hoffs has released a cover of Badfinger’s “Name Of The Game” as a new single that can be heard on Spotify or YouTube. The introspective ballad features The Bangles vocalist-guitarist performing with Aimee Mann. As revealed in an interview with Warren Huart on his Produce Like A Pro YouTube program, Hoffs has two albums on the way. One with all new material, and the other being a long-lost effort from 1999 that was recorded with Charlotte Caffey from The Go-Go’s and other musicians. For the full interview, check out the official Susanna Hoffs Facebook and Instagram sites.


The two new songs I’ve heard so far from Sting’s upcoming album The Bridge strongly suggest he’s at the top of his game. The light and clever “If It’s Love,” embraces inclusion and diversity, while “Rushing Water,” which I’ve been hearing on WXRT recently, feels more like vintage Police, with a hint of Squeeze.


Halloweekend, a beloved, two-night, multi-act, annual tribute festival, will be haunting Montrose Saloon this year on October 29 and 30. Tickets are $20 at the door. Montrose Saloon is located at 2933 W. Montrose Avenue on Chicago’s north side. See my 10-13 post for a more detailed profile.


The Go-Go’s have an interview and book signing event coming on October 29 at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland. The band has finally been inducted.


Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock And Roll Revue with Los Straitjackets comes to the Park West in Chicago on November 20. Other cities on the current U.S. tour include Austin, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Minneapolis.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Halloween Song: The B-52’s - “Planet Claire”


Back in 1979, there had never been a group quite like The B-52’s before. They were part of the punk movement but used a toy piano, fire alarm, and a walkie talkie along with standard rock instruments on their self-titled debut album. And their lyrics were consistently pure nonsense. Starting with a four-and-a-half-minute track on Side One about a fictional orb in a distant galaxy.


Opening with a lengthy instrumental passage that features eerie keyboards, “Planet Claire” introduces us to an unnamed alien who came from the title planet via a Plymouth Satellite she drives faster than the speed of light. Like all Clairelings, she doesn’t have a head, so it’s hard to imagine how she could see where she’s going. Then again, you could say the same thing about Earthlings who text while driving.

Vocalist Fred Schneider, who composed the song with drummer Keith Strickland, affects an appropriately silly tone throughout the song. Especially when he screams, “WELL SHE ISN’T” in response to speculation that the alien is “from Mars or one of the seven stars that shine after 3:30 in the morning.” Unlike other outer space invaders, this visitor from “Planet Claire” doesn’t appear to have any evil plans. She’s been partying here on Earth for three decades, and she might even be a Kardashian. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

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


Somewhere around 2010, the London-based skiffle band The Severed Limb took its name from one of its best, and most unusual compositions. “The Severed Limb” is set to a bare bones rockabilly arrangement and spins a tale that starts scary, but turns out pretty funny. A guy hears a knock on his front door at 4:00 am and finds nothing more than “an arm and a hand all pale and thin” 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 is 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.” Listening to the homespun instrumentation and goofy backup vocals, it’s easy to picture The Severed Limb performing this song on a front porch while waiting for trick or treaters.


“The Severed Limb” is one of 14 tracks on a compilation titled Kill You And Bill You The Price Of The Bullet the band released in 2013. Other clever songs on the album include “Woo Eee Ha Ha!,” “Washing Machine Bop,” “Welcome To The Boneyard,” and “Are You Loathsome Tonight?”

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Halloween Song: Phil Angotti - “I See Spaceships”


“I See Spaceships” might be the only rock song that simultaneously evokes The Byrds and The Who while spinning a tale of intergalactic visitors who love to party. Amazingly, this whirlwind of vintage rock from Phil Angotti’s recent Life And Rhymes CD was conjured by just three musicians: Angotti on guitars; Casey McDonough on bass; and Brad Elvis on drums. If you’re looking to create a Halloween playlist, you might want to sandwich this Roger McGuinn/Keith Moon homage between the lighthearted “Mr. Spaceman” by The Byrds and the more ominous “They Are Among Us” by The Redwalls.

“I’ll tell you my story but you won’t believe me,” Angotti predicts as the song kicks off. He goes on to describe how the little green men who crash-landed their saucer in his garden are now driving his car, and staying up late to party. Angotti, a 1960s fanatic, specifies that these Martians are listening to LPs (as opposed to streaming) and watching movies. They’re also often intoxicated, which might explain why their calls for help to their planet have gone unanswered. Maybe they keep dialing the wrong number. With all the rowdy behavior going on, it’s tempting to think Angotti’s homeowner is near-sighted and is really watching the neighborhood teenagers.


Whoever they are, this guy isn’t about to do a Clint Eastwood and tell them to get off his lawn. “I hope that they stay here, at least until Sunday,” Angotti sings. “I See Spaceships” has a rousing instrumental coda featuring Angotti, McDonough, and Brad Elvis, with a snippet of Orson Welles from his notorious War Of The Worlds radio broadcast layered on top.

You Be Me For A While - 2021


Halloweekend, the beloved, two-night, multi-act tribute festival, will take place at Montrose Saloon on October 29 and 30. This event has always featured local musicians delving into a variety of genres, but for 2021, the emphasis is on covering counter-culture acts. Friday night is especially adventurous, with 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. 

On Saturday night, Amazing Heeby Jeebies take on The Cramps. The rest of Saturday’s tributes are more mainstream, but still well-chosen. The lineup features 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. Some of the performers’ names could be one-time pseudonyms for Halloweekend, but regulars of Chicago’s north side club scene will be familiar with Rachel Drew, Guns And Ammunition, Phil Angotti, Amazing Heeby Jeebies, The Webstirs, and Androgynous Mustache.


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. I’ve enjoyed going to this event at various venues over the years, and this looks to be a particularly good one. 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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Halloween Song: David Bowie - “Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)”


Few songs have a more chilling intro than David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out The Fire).”
 Amidst a tribal drum beat and swirl of synthesizers Bowie sings, “See these eyes so green/I can stare for a thousand years” in a voice is so dark it’s impossible not to believe him. The theme from director Paul Schrader’s 1982 horror film, “Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)” is set to a guitar-driven arrangement crafted by veteran film composer Giorgio Moroder of Flashdance and Midnight Express fame.

Bowie’s lyrics are from the point of view of Irena and her brother Paul, played in the film by Natassia Kinski and Malcolm McDowell. They’re descendants of humans who mated with leopards centuries earlier. This causes them to turn into panthers during sex and they can’t return to human form without killing somebody.


Bowie’s music often featured fascinating characters, so he was the perfect choice to convey Irena and Paul’s tortured emotions. “Still this pulsing night/A plague I call a heartbeat/Just be still with me/Ya wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through.” Cat People tapped into long-held superstitions regarding felines and their mysterious nature. Even today, it’s a good idea to make sure black house cats are kept indoors on Halloween to prevent deranged people from hurting them.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Halloween Song: ANC4 - “The Man Who Is Afraid Of Everything”


In yesterday’s post about Little Steven Van Zandt’s Halloween A Go-Go compilation, I noted that a few tracks weren’t really that frightening. Which proves (at least in my opinion and obviously Little Steven’s) that it’s okay to finesse your Halloween party playlist as long you have enough ghosts, witches, monsters, and other paranormal creatures lurking throughout most of it. Just make sure your occasional non-creepy tune relates to the playlist in a clever sort of way.

“The Man Who Is Afraid Of Everything,” by ANC4, is a good example. Like the other 15 tracks on the Swedish band’s recent Strange Tide album, this is supremely done power pop. It’s similar to XTC’s “I’m The Man Who Murdered Love,” not only in its title but also with its catchy arrangement. As for lyrics, “The Man Who Is Afraid Of Everything,” brings to mind that classic bit in A Charlie Brown Christmas when Lucy Van Pelt suggests Charlie Brown might have pantophobia.


“I need to know what’s wrong with me,” the title character admits at the start of this guitar-driven song, adding, “I’m always scared of something.” He doesn’t offer specifics, other than his constant fear is embarrassing. Think about dropping this tune between Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and Henry Mancini’s “Experiment In Terror,” and you’re sure to impress your party guests with your eclectic taste in music.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Halloween Album: Various Artists - Halloween A Go-Go


Back in 2008, musician/actor Little Steven Van Zandt’s goal of bringing the campy fun of his syndicated radio show’s annual Halloween bash to a CD format was a rousing success. Released on the Wicked Cool Record Co. label, Halloween A Go-Go offered all the treats of his Underground Garage program except for the B-movie sound bites. The CD’s consistently energetic tracks ranged from the 1950s rockabilly of Carl Perkins’ “Put Your Cat Clothes On” to the modern garage rock of Minus 5’s “Lies Of The Living Dead.”

Just as Van Zandt always aimed for variety on Underground Garage, Halloween A Go-Go’s 15 tracks included Howlin’ Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Darlin’,” Roky Erickson And The Aliens’ “I Walked With A Zombie,” and Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch.” The only dud in the batch was John Zacherle’s cornball oldie “The Cool Ghoul.”


Not all of the songs qualified as genuine Halloween fare. The biggest stretch was “Restless Nights” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (which includes Van Zandt), although it did fit a nocturnal theme that ran throughout the album. “I Had Too Much To Dream” by The Electric Prunes and The Pretty Things’ psychedelic “Walking Through My Dreams” were likewise more concerned with disrupted sleep than frightening apparitions. Veteran garage rockers The Chesterfield Kings, who always seem to be in a Halloween party mood, definitely had the right spirit with their Rolling Stones influenced “Running Through My Nightmares.”

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Halloween Song: Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon”


Stevie Nicks has explained that her melodic and haunting composition “Rhiannon,” a Top 40 hit from Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 self-titled LP, was about a Welsh witch. Rhiannon was also a goddess in Welsh mythology who wore a gold dress and rode a white horse. Some sources claim Nicks based her “Rhiannon” on Mary Leader’s supernatural novel Triad, and discovered the mythological connection later.

Actually, the song’s mysterious lyrics such as, “Would you stay if she promised you heaven” and “She is like a cat in the dark/And then she is the darkness,” could refer to either the deity or the sorceress. Fleetwood Mac, having already recorded scary songs like “Hypnotized” and “Black Magic Woman,” knew how to bring “Rhiannon” to life with a classic rock arrangement. And Nicks was certainly able to make it mesmerizing in live performances. 

Saturday Slumgullion


The Hollies 2022 60th Anniversary Tour now includes concerts in Germany, which prompts the question as to whether some U.S. dates will also be added. We can certainly hope. In other Hollies news, drummer and (almost) founding member Bobby Elliott has a solo event titled An Evening With Hollies Drumming Legend Bobby Elliott coming up on November 13 at the Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford, Nelson in England. All proceeds (tickets are £15) will go toward maintaining the Pendle Heritage Centre.

Congratulations to the God Is In The TV Zine website on raising £5000 with its A Carnival Of Sorts R.E.M. tribute on Bandcamp. The money will go to the Help Musicians fundraising organization. The compilation has a lot inventive takes on classic R.E.M. material and is still available on Bandcamp for £5. I highly recommend it.


Dropping by Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue last night proved to be a fab way to wrap up the work week. I caught the first two sets of singer-guitarist Phil Angotti’s ambitious 81 Songs For 81 Years: John Lennon Birthday Bash, and found it to be one of his most impressive tribute shows. And he’s done a lot of good ones. Working with a rotating ensemble of local musicians, Angotti started with Lennon compositions from the earliest Beatles albums, and moved on to his solo material.


The musicians on stage would definitely be familiar to fans of Chicago’s north side club scene; Casey McDonough, John San Juan, Ellis Clark, Eric Howell, Tony Richards, John Perrin, Blair Holmes, Tom Ryan, and Mike Zelenko. The first two sets were filled with impeccable harmony vocals and superb musicianship, and I’m sure those standards were upheld through to 81st and final Lennon song of the evening. 

 

The Logan Center Blues Fest takes place next weekend, October 15 – 17 at the Logan Center for the Arts. Shemekia Copeland and Ronnie Baker Brooks; Bobby Rush with Jontavious Willis and avery r. young with Melody Angel are the headline acts, and the Fest will include Paul Natkin’s Wall Of Blues photo exhibit. In addition to the concerts, there will be conversations and special activities. All programs will be livestreamed for free; see website regarding ticket prices for in-person events. The Logan Center for the Arts is located at 915 E. 60th in Chicago. 


By November 8, it will be too late, baby. 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. 


Daryl Cloran’s swinging London interpretation of As You Like opened this week and will run through November 21 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. The production will feature several Beatles songs.


Theatre Nebula’s production of Something Rotten! - A Very New Musical continues its run at the Cutting Hall venue in Palatine. Tickets are available from the Cutting Hall box office online.


Tickets are still available for the premiere of director Balin Schneider’s Out Of Time: The Material Issue Story at Lincoln Hall on Chicago’s north side on December 2. The film will be screened in Minneapolis at some point in November, but the date has been revealed yet.

   

Award-winning director Mary Wharton’s new film Tom Petty - Somewhere You Feel Free - The Making Of Wildflowers will have its global premiere on October 20. That’s also Petty’s birthday, so the event is being promoted as a celebration of the late rock rock star’s legacy. Some of the theaters participating in Illinois include AMC River East 21 at 322 Illinois Street in Chicago; AMC Streets Of Woodfield in Schaumburg, and Regal Lincolnshire and IMAX in Lincolnshire. Tickets and information are available at the film’s website https://tompettyfilm.com

Friday, October 8, 2021

Halloween Song: October Country - “My Girlfriend Is A Witch”


October Country’s “My Girlfriend Is A Witch” sounds like it could have been the theme song for a mid-1960s sitcom. Which makes sense since it was written, performed, and recorded in 1968 by producer Michael Lloyd, who would later use an updated version for the Saturday morning cartoon series The Cattanooga Cats. He formed October Country with guitarist Marty Arsenault, keyboards player/vocalist Jimmy Greenspoon, and drummer Jim Gordon but the act never achieved a following beyond the West Coast music scene.

“My Girlfriend Is A Witch” is just one of the many audio artifacts to be found on the Rhino CD compilation, Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets: 1965-1968. The boxed set comes with a book that provides background info for each track. In addition to singing lead, Lloyd joined Arsenault on some furious garage rock guitar licks. Almost half of this catchy psychedelic gem is taken up by the band’s spirited jamming, creating a live performance at a go-go club ambience. 

Lloyd introduces the lead character with the opening lines, “Riding high/Leaving trails of smoke across the sky/On a broom,” and quickly adds “Glad that I am safe within my room.” The girlfriend’s telepathic ability and other creepy talents don’t seem to cause any harm, but they do inspire a bit of competition. “What a fate/A worshiper of magic for a date/But tonight I become a warlock just for spite.”

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Halloween Song: Amazing Heeby Jeebies - “The Mummy”


I’m back to reruns for today’s Halloween song, but at least this post is only a year old.

You’d expect a band named Amazing Heeby Jeebies to throw a few chills your way, and the Chicago-based quintet came through on its 2018 Bad Feeling album. Led by vocalist Ary Jeeby and propelled by guitarists Bob Hyatt and Tom “Boss X” Klein, Amazing Heeby Jeebies combine garage rock and rockabilly while spinning tales of werewolves, mummies, and cannibals. They don’t always aim for the dark side, but when they do, listeners are more likely to dance than cringe.


In fact, “The Mummy” suggests the legendary monster prefers sipping martinis in a 1960s discotheque to trudging after anthropologists in pyramids. Ary Jeebie belts out quick rhymes like “King Tut’s got nothing on this guy/When he left, Cleopatra cried.” This mummy’s a recording artist with a least one album under his bandages and hosts a television show. With bassist Earl “Wolfdaddy” Carter and drummer Jerry King adding to the mayhem, “The Mummy” proves to be a rollicking Halloween treat. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Halloween Song: Wolf Alice - “Sky Musings”


Photo of Ellie Rowsell from the Wolf Alice Facebook page.


Here’s a brand new Halloween Song Profile. Well, sort of a Halloween song.


Sometimes in the course of researching a potential Halloween song, I discover it’s not as scary as I thought. Particularly, after reading the lyrics. Such is the case with “Sky Musings” by Wolf Alice. The band is currently enjoying loads of favorable press in its native U.K. for its new album Blue Weekend. I’d be more than happy to swap some of the songs I keep hearing on American radio for a few Blue Weekend tracks.


“Sky Musings,” though, comes from Wolf Alice’s 2017 album Visions Of A Life. The rampaging arrangement (like Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell,” only faster) and such lines as “Fear inducing/Tears producing” conjure a desperate need to escape. The situation vocalist-guitarist Ellie Rowsell describes so intensely starts simply with a passenger watching a film on a redeye flight. The opening lines, “How high do planes fly?/40,000 feet in the sky’s how high.” offer a bit of foreshadowing, but initially the woman is just watching a romantic drama.


The flick’s star-crossed lovers trigger some soul-searching on the viewer’s part. “And now I think of all the people I’ve cared for/Did love pass me by when I had feelings I was scared of?” She fights off her sorrow, thinking, “Look out of your window you’re on top of the world/23 years old and you’re acting like it’s over.” That’s when her mood takes a harrowing turn. “Only over if we crash./Hit the ground down below./As if we’d crash./Imagine that./If we crash.”


By now, the passenger is in full panic attack, being asked by the flight crew to fasten her seat belt and settle down. The situation ends peacefully, with the passenger praying for guidance. Not exactly vampires and zombies, but I doubt I’ll ever listen to “Sky Musings” while I’m flying.


I’ve included two links. One is a simple recording because the audio is better, and the other is a live performance to show Wolf Alice in action.

Incoming


Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue is the place for Chicago-area Beatles fans to be this week. Two local acts  known for an ability to faithfully recreate the sounds of popular rock acts will be performing at the venue on separate nights. Each has chosen a member of The Beatles to honor.

Depending on when you read this, you can still catch Tributosuarus as it becomes George Harrison tonight. Tickets are $30, but be sure to check in advance, since they were going fast. The show starts at 7:00 pm. Friday night brings Phil Angotti And Friends Play 81 Songs For 81 Years: John Lennon Birthday Bash. Doors open at 6:00 pm; admission is $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Anyone attending either of these shows will need to provide proof of being vaccinated. 


Also, of note for Beatles fans: Daryl Cloran’s swinging London interpretation of As You Like It opened today (October 6) and will run through through all of November at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. The production will feature several Beatles songs.


English rocker and former Soft Boys founder Robyn Hitchcock’s 2021 U.S. tour starts tomorrow, Thursday, October 7 in Vienna, Virginia. Other dates will follow throughout the month in New Jersey, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania.


The upcoming U.S. tour for Wolf Alice will include a stop on October 27 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles for the first American screening of a film based on the band’s recent Blue Weekend album. Wolf Alice will be doing an acoustic set, as well as a Q and A afterward.


Theatre Nebula’s production of Something Rotten! - A Very New Musical continues its run at the Cutting Hall venue in Palatine. Tickets are available from the Cutting Hall box office online.

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