Halloween Horror

SONG HORROR PART I

by Tony Maygarden

John Zacherle Monster Mash LP cover

Monster Mash, John Zacherle

John "the Cool Ghoul" Zacherle started his monster shtick hosting old horror movies on a Philadelphia TV station in the late '50s. In 1958 he released the hit single "Dinner With Drac," a twangy guitar mid-tempo rocker filled with Zacherle's bad "monster" puns (part 1 of the single is on the Monster Mash LP).

1n 1962, to cash in on the ongoing monster craze, he released Monster Mash on the Parkway label. The cover version of Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash," is not bad, but not as good as the original. The rest of the album contains "monster" versions of hit songs by artists on the Philadelphia based Cameo/Parkway label, most of them penned by Mann & Appell. They include: "Hurry Bury Baby," "The Pistol Stomp" (The Dovells' "Hully Gully Baby" and "The Bristol Stomp," respectively); "Gravy (with Some Cyanide)" (Dee Dee Sharp's "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)"); "The Weird Watusi" (The Orlons' "The Wah Watusi"); "The Ha Ha Ha" (Bobby Rydell's "The Cha-Cha-Cha" -- this cut makes far too much of Zacherle's "ghoulish" laugh); "The Ghoul From Wolverton Mountain" (Jo Ann Campbell's "(I'm the Girl On) Wolverton Mountain" -- this one is pretty weird); "Let's Twist Again (Mummy Time is Here)," "Popeye (The Gravedigger)," and "Limb From Limbo Rock" (Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again," "Popeye The Hitchhiker," and "Limbo Rock," respectively. The last is my favorite -- Zacherle gets torn apart to a limbo beat!

One other interesting note about this album is that there are strange electronic sound effect intros to all the songs -- as if it all wasn't weird enough already.

 

Monster Mash, Bobby "Boris" Pickett
and The Crypt-Kickers

"Monster Mash" is certainly one of the strangest songs to ever hit #1 on the U.S. Top 40 singles charts, which it did in 1962. The creation of Bobby "Boris" Pickett (nicknamed for his effective Boris Karloff impersonation), veteran vocal group producer Gary Paxton, and tunesmith Leonard Capizzi, "Monster Mash" infectiously fused the late '50s/early '60s monster infatuation of young America with a hip Rock 'n' Roll dance beat. It helped that "Monster Mash" was a well-crafted pop song (Leon Russell reportedly plays the keyboards) with obscure, bizarre lyrics that begged deciphering:

"From my laboratory in the castle east/to the master bedroom where the vampires feast/the ghouls [almost pronounced as "girls"] all came from their humble abode/to get a jolt from my electrode."

Somehow these lyrics passed the reactionary censors of early '60s America. Maybe they just couldn't make any sense out of them.

The album contains eleven more songs in a similar style, including the not quite so successful follow-up single "Monsters' Holiday," the "Monster Mash" single B-side "Monster Mash Party" and "Blood Bank Blues" (sung by Pickett in a Bela Lugosi/Dracula voice). Some of the songs on the album like "Fabian The Fiendage Idol" and "Me & My Mummy" are a little corny and tedious -- hard to keep the concept going. The album cover shown is from the Parrot label reissue in 1973 (when "Monster Mash" again hit the Top 40 both in the U.S. and Britain). The album was originally released on the Garpax label. Bobby Pickett passed away in 2007.

 

Monster Rally, Hans Conried, Alice Pearce &
The Creatures, orchestra conducted by
Frank N. Stein. Cover art by Jack Davis.

This 1959 release was an obvious attempt to cash-in on the monster craze, fueled the previous year by Zacherle's "Dinner With Drac" (see above) and Sheb Wooley's "The Purple People Eater" (a cover version is on Monster Rally). Other than vocalists Hans Conreid (fondly remembered by fantasy/horror film buffs for his role in the 1953 film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T) and Alice Pearce, there are no credits.

The mostly original songs, with titles like "Flying Saucer," "Not of This Earth" (doesn't have anything to do with the movie of that name), "Mostly Ghostly" and "The Invisible Man," are credited to Fred Hertz & Joel Herron. This is mostly corny, overdone novelty stuff, with arrangements straight from vaudeville or Broadway. The vocal group The Creatures sound like the novelty offerings of the Playmates ("Beep Beep") or the Ames Brothers ("The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane"). Only "Take Me To Your President" has anything resembling a Rock 'n' Roll beat. "The Dracula Trot" may be the best thing here out of sheer weirdness.

The liner notes say the album was recorded at "Castle Dracula...at 15 screams per second." They may have been screaming when they made this album, but I don't think they were screams of terror. Can't forget the great Jack Davis cover -- follow this link to a higher res scan of Monster Rally.

 

Gene Moss Dracula's Greatest Hits LP cover

Dracula's Greatest Hits, Gene Moss and "The Monsters", musical arrangements by Billy Riley. Cover art by Jack Davis.

"Warning! This is a HORRIBLE record!" states the box on the cover, and, while I don't think this is really that bad, I'm sure there are some listeners who would conclude that the cover statement should be taken literally.

Gene Moss, in the voice of Bela Lugosi's Dracula, does rocked-up "horror" versions of songs ranging from "I Want to Bite Your Hand" ("I Want to Hold Your Hand) to "Carry Me Back to Transylvania" ("Carry Me Back to Ol' Virginny") with a few originals like ""King Kong Stomp" and "Surf Monster" (which shifts neatly between Bo Diddley and surf beats) thrown in.

The sound is late '50s early '60s Rock 'n' Roll, with lots of twangy guitars and Coasters-style sax lines, and, unfortunately, an annoying female chorus. The high point is perhaps "Monster Bossa Nova," which appears to be an answer song to "The Monster Mash." Moss does a Boris Karloff voice along with Drac. The album was released on RCA Victor in 1964. Those interested in cover artist Jack Davis may want to take a look at the Endless Groove's gallery of his album covers.

 

Spike Jones in Hi-Fi LP cover

Spike Jones in Hi-Fi, Spike Jones and the Band That Plays For Fun featuring the voice of Paul Frees

This album is a showcase for the brilliant impressionist Paul Frees. Here he portrays Dracula (in the voice of Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein (in the voice of Boris Karloff) as well as "Alfred" (Alfred Hitchcock). As Dracula, he sings a number of duets with Vampira, including "I Only Have Eyes For You," "(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings," and "Tammy." All are chock-full of Forrest Ackerman-style monster puns ("Count Dracula, sir, the Invisible Man is here." "Well, tell him I can't see him."). Also included are some Rock & Roll cuts such as "Teenage Brain Surgeon." Extremely well performed and produced, this is also a great stereo "gimmick" album with lots of stereo sound effects. The "Two Heads are Better Than One (Beatnik Duet)" track has each voice of the two-headed beatnik panned hard left and right as it carries on a "cool" conversation with itself. Also, there is some nifty use of a theremin in some of the instrumental interludes.

 

Philly Joe Jones LP cover

Blues For Dracula, Philly Joe Jones Sextet

The 8 minute title track features an instrumental blues (written by tenor sax player Johnny Griffin) over which someone ( Jones?) does a Bela Lugosi/Count Dracula "bebop vampire" comedy routine, full of typical "monster" puns. Fortunately the voice-over doesn't go for the whole tune, and it's the only novelty track. Otherwise this is a pretty good legit jazz album featuring Nat Adderly (cornet), Julian Priester (trombone), the aforementioned Griffin, Tommy Flanagan (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Jones (drums). Other long cuts (lots of blowing) include Miles Davis' "Tune-up" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow!" This particular copy is a Japanese pressing, and as you might expect, they transcribed the Dracula routine (which is a whole lot funnier to listen to than to read). Great cover.

 

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