Wednesday, July 16, 2014

COLUMN: Creepy Songs Pt. 2

So last week, I told you guys about my inexplicable life-long fear of the song "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers. I have no clue why it haunts me, but every time I hear that song, it gives me the willies. I hoped that publically fessing up my heebie-jeebies might make for a fun column and somehow make me feel less crazypants.

Clearly, I didn't think this plan through.

From the moment I sat down and typed the letter "B" last week, "Black Water" started playing in my head. It hasn't stopped for seven days. The old black water has kept on rolling and that Mississippi moon has kept on shining in my head for an entire week now. One morning, I even drove to work blaring dubstep techno at life-threatening decibels, and my brain just starting looping "I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland" over the top of it like it was totally natural.

My only saving grace has been you guys. Last week, I made an open call in my column for you to tell me about the songs that creep YOU out and give you the willies. Frankly, I was a little worried that I might be the only person in the world who gets irrationally skeeved out by otherwise innocent songs on the radio. It turns out I'm definitely not.

Over the past week, I've received over 200 e-mails, letters, and Facebook messages sharing your (least) favorite stomach-churning tunes. I figure we could use this list to make an epic mixtape that we can then burn without playing.

A lot of you shared songs that can be filed under a category I like to call: "Well, Duh." Of course Alice Cooper makes scary music. Of course Marilyn Manson gives you the willies - I'd hate to find the person who finds "Beautiful People" pleasant and relaxing. Same goes for Metallica, any of the many death metal ditties you shared, and pretty much anything from Pink Floyd's "The Wall." Sunshine and roses it ain't, people, so I'm going to gloss over songs that are made to be somewhat horrifying.

The most interesting revelation about the songs you shared is that the real culprit behind your heebie-jeebies is often MTV. Even songs that are relatively tame can be ruined by a creepy video.

For instance, Kelly wrote in and said, "What's that song that had the dead fish flopping around at the end? Totally that one." And she's right. The song in question is "Epic" by Faith No More, a rock radio staple of the late 80's of only moderate creepiness, but whose video pointlessly ends with a slo-mo shot of an asphyxiating fish. All I need to hear is one second of that song and I make the "eww" face because all I can think about is that poor fish.

Erin mentioned "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Good call. The band Yes were one of those prog-rock groups that always operated on a slightly more cerebral plane than your average Top 40 pop-tart, so it's no surprise that the "Owner of a Lonely Heart" video plays like an avant-garde Kakfa nightmare. It stars an average Joe walking to work who's arrested by black suits, put on trial, and imprisoned in what appears to be the set of "Flashdance." In the end, he escapes to a rooftop where the members of Yes transform into lizards, and the video ends with the dude jumping off the roof and turning into a hawk, thus somehow (I guess) damning The Man while making every impressionable child in the Western world believe that Yes are shapeshifting reptiloid suicide advocates from spookytown.

Erin also mentioned another doozy, the epic "Total Eclipse of the Heart," to which she says "no 80's horror film ever approximated the terror of my sister sneaking into my room at night with a flashlight reflecting off her glasses while she whispered, 'Turn Around, Bright Eyes!'"

The era of 70's AM Gold power-pop yielded some truly horrifying songs. My friend Jason NeSmith -- who, incidentally, plays in a great band called Casper & the Cookies, look 'em up -- wrote in to say, "Please explain a way that 'Lightnin' Strikes' by Lou Christie ISN'T about a Jekyll & Hyde date rapist." Listening to the lyrics, he's got a point.

David Baker from KALA mentioned "The Morning After," a song of triumph over adversity -- until you realize it was written for "The Poseidon Adventure," a movie where a ship sinks and nearly everyone dies.

But the most creepiest AM Gold offender was submitted by my Facebook friend Robbie: the 1971 song "Timothy" by the Buoys, the only song to ever break the Top 40 about human cannibalism. "Trapped in a mine what had caved in/And everyone knows the only ones left were Joe and me and Tim/When they broke through to pull us free/The only ones left to tell the tale was Joe... and me."

Incidentally, "Timothy" was written by a young Rupert Holmes, the same guy responsible years later for "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)", which I think makes him the Mozart of creepiness.

Even MORE incidentally, "my Facebook friend Robbie" is none other than Robbie Rist, who you might know better as Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch.

And if you think that this entire column is nothing more than a shallow excuse to brag that I'm cyberfriends with a cast member of the Brady Bunch, well, you'd pretty much be right -- but I figure if anyone's qualified to talk about creepiness, it's someone who was actually IN "Sharknado."

My favorite submissions were ones that mentioned truly random songs. Sunnie has always been creeped out by Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years."

Bambi was scared by the "la-da-di, la-di-da" chorus of Crystal Waters' "Homeless."

Scott was "tormented" by "Hocus Pocus" by Focus.

Linn says "White Lines" by Grandmaster Flash "still gives me the shivers."

But far and away, one song rose above all others and was mentioned by at least ten different people: "Hotel California" by the Eagles. The band themselves call it "a journey from innocence to experience." It's clearly an allegorical tale about the greed and excess of the West Coast music industry. But to anyone under the age of symbolism, it's a song about a dude being trapped in a creepy hotel full of warm smells, steely knives, unkillable beasts, and the never-ending horror of pink champagne on ice.

The good news is that "Black Water" is finally out of my head. The bad news is that it's now been replaced with a mashed-up cacophony of cannibalistic lizard-men in hotels full of pina coladas and dying fish. Somehow, it's still better than those dreaded Doobies.

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