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Best Halloween Rock and Roll Songs

2 Oct

The best Halloween rock songs pay homage to the fun darkness of the holiday while creating an atmosphere that conjures elements of both traditional and modern interpretations of monsters, slashers, graveyards, and hitting your neighbors up for candy–whatever that may mean to you.  What you don’t want is Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s lame Monster Mash looping in endless auditory torture.   Instead, let the rollicking music and lyrics of the following songs provide an otherworldly backdrop for your Halloween festivities.

Pet SemataryThe Ramones
A song written for the movie version of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.”  No, you can’t live your life again, even if you’re just a dead dog or cat.  Bad things will happen.  You can trust horror master King and the Ramones on that one.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead: Bauhaus
This two-chord gem is heavy on atmosphere and plays like the electrified chant of a hopped-up vampire cult.  An homage to the silver screen’s finest Dracula, it is creepy and fast and rocks with a chorus of:  Undead, Undead, Undead.

Goo Goo MuckGreen FuzCan Your Pussy Do the Dog?The Cramps
The Cramps, the unofficial official band of Halloween, rate three tunes.  While multiple songs by one artist on a playlist generally indicates a lack of imagination, The Hangover must make an exception for The Cramps and their surf-punk-rockabilly sound.  With humor and horror, these tunes would get the zombies of the Walking Dead to do the pogo. 

Werewolves Of LondonWarren Zevon
A Halloween-perfect romp with werewolves, pina coladas at Trader Vic’s, perfect hair, and a little old lady getting mutilated late last night.  Gory fun.  Ah-wooooo!

Pretend We’re DeadL7
By tying a bit of straight-forward feminist populism to traditional Halloween elements, L7 has fun and makes a statement at the same time.  The dose of reality offered by the lyrics is bitter chocolate to the bouncing chorus.   

Season Of The WitchDonovan
A natural choice for the holiday, this early piece of psychedelia is spare and moody with haunting vocals and a chilling guitar that winds its way through the melody.  A feeling of unease permeates the song.

Midnight Rambler: The Rolling Stones
The Stones provide a blues backdrop to the traditional dark side of the holiday with a gritty piece that includes allusions to the Boston Strangler and images of Jack the Ripper.  (This epic 1969 live version provides maximum effect.)

The Killing MoonEcho and the Bunnymen
This is a masterpiece of atmosphere with themes of fate and loss.  The song is performed with grace and gravity.  The lyrics and vocals drip with hurt as the music churns on.

After DarkTito & the Tarantulas
From the stylized crime and vampire film “From Dusk Till Dawn,” Tito Larriva and his band provide a haunting Latin-influenced backdrop to the dangers of the night.  Halloween doesn’t get any hotter than the dance that Salma Hayek performs to this song in the film.

SpellboundSiouxsie and the Banshees
The psychedelic punk rocker is a roller coaster ride in both sound and meaning.  The lyrics have laughter cracking through the walls and the singer spinning out of control.   Fear abounds as the music swirls.  This song’s otherworldly credibility was substantiated when the song was chosen to play over the closing credits of HBO’s Trueblood (season four, episode four) “Spellbound” episode.

Spirit In The Night: Bruce Springsteen
An early Springsteen classic on letting go of our pedestrian existences, if only for a few hours of the night..  This all happens at Greasy Lake, on the “dark side of Route 88” with Crazy Janie, Hazy Davy, and Killer Joe, not to mention lonely and gypsy angels.  Sure sounds like Halloween.

FrankensteinThe Edgar Winter Group
One of rock’s most well-known instrumentals, it is big, powerful, and fun–somewhat like the monster itself.  But that’s not where its title comes from.  The song earned its name during production and editing, in which recording tape was pieced together with legendary difficulty in the studio.

Party Time45 Grave
This was the featured song on 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead” by one the first bands to combine punk rock and horror movie themes.  Lead singer Dinah Cancer’s screeching vocals and the band’s deep-throated guitars get this song up and going. 

God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II Kiss
Perhaps no other band has spawned as many Halloween costumes as Kiss.  For that reason alone, Kiss deserves a song on the list.  From children of the ’70’s to those walking the streets today, the signature back and white theatrical makeup has shaken down countless households for Milky Ways and Three Musketeers.  Bonus factor:  This arena rocker is bound to confuse any Christian zealots who have a problem with either Halloween itself or any of the “evil” traditions that it is based on.

William and Kate, A Royal Headache

27 Apr

 This weekend the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton will command enormous attention here in the United States.  The Hangover asks, “Why?”

 It’s easy to understand why the entirety of the United Kingdom will be enthralled by the proceedings.  After all, this is their heritage, from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to Queen Victoria to Roger the Shrubber.  But even the most dim-witted of Americans must realize that the revolution that formed our country was an attempt to rid us of fops like King George and the Royal Family.  Despite saying goodbye to all that back in 1783 and then again in 1812, modern Americans seem smitten with English Royalty—this despite two hundred-plus years of “All men are created equal.”

When Prince Charles married Diana Spencer in 1981, United States media coverage would have suggested it was the third biggest event of the last century, following only the moon landing and OJ and Al Cowlings in the white Bronco.  Americans continued to adore Diana, even after she became, in the words of Mojo Nixon, a “drunk-divorced floozie.”  (Before you take offense, consider what you would call your neighbor’s ex-wife if she ran off with your town’s handsome local hero and sped around night-clubbing, drinking, and snorting blow.  “Your Highness” isn’t it; well, not unless you’re fond of ironic puns.)

 In the coming days, America will be again drowned in Katrina-like coverage of the upcoming Royal wedding.  The Hangover wishes the happy couple well. 

But what does our fascination with the event tell us about ourselves?    

Is it that: 

 a)  We no longer need to value “all men being equal” now that just about every American can afford high definition television.

 b)  We’ve become so ingrained with fairy tales and Disney Princesses that we just want the chance to imagine ourselves in the role.  After all, it’s only a matter of time before one of these Royal Highnesses will sweep into our Burger King, pull us from the flame broiler, and whisk us away to a McMansion in the clouds.

 c)  Americans are sheep.  We (at least those with cable) would watch Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie read the Los Angeles phone book if Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, The New York Times, and the Today Show deemed that it was an “event.”

d)  The less relevant something is to the reality of our everyday lives, the more it interests Americans.  This would explain the nation palpatating over Bret Favre’s emailed junk, the Octo-mom, John and Kate, Michelle Bachmann, and those teenage girls having babies on MTV.

 e)  All of the above.

 Enjoy the festivities.  Maybe the Newlyweds will even be so kind as to hop into a white Bronco as they head to the reception.  Wouldn’t that be ecstasy?

Short Stories, Long Payoffs II

9 Feb

The Hangover is pleased to announce a new addition to its fiction section, Fisher of Men by Joe Ricker.   Ricker’s story is a glimpse at the damaged underbelly of American society.    You might have passed the characters of Fisher of Men on the street; you were glad you kept walking. 

Esquire referred to Ricker as “a man of letters who’s gentle in the way that only the toughest hard-asses can be.”   If you are a fan of Tarantino films, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, or film noir, it is a piece you won’t want to miss.  Check it out here.

Hangover Blog on Hiatus

21 Aug

The Hangover is officially going on hiatus.  Faithful readers have surely noticed a considerable slowdown over the past six months.  This is one thing in contemporary America that can’t be blamed on the economy, however.    There is a novel to be completed and The Hangover is going to be totally immersed in full-contact fiction-writing.    Outside of a possible music post or two, The Hangover will resume when the manuscript is complete.

However, we do reserve the right to comment if some act completely egregious to common sense raises our ire.  This could include:

  • Health Care “reform” that doesn’t do anything except create mandatory customers for insurance companies–who are obviously the root of the problem (along with their lobbyists).   Count us among those who would prefer our health care decisions be made by a bureaucrat, as opposed to a “fat-assed” CEO or corporate drone whose bonus is tied to the greed-driven profit of a health care conglomerate.   (And why do our prescription drugs cost more than those in Canada?  Our beer doesn’t cost any more money, and isn’t alcohol a drug?)
  • Corruption in Congress that blocks common sense legislation.  Those who have the most lobbyists with the deepest pockets win.  It’s disgusting, as are our elected representivives as individuals.  None of these clowns would ever get laid if they didn’t have their government jobs.
  • A car industry that continues to build Hummers for non-military use.   Yep, that will lead us to energy independence.
  • Less prison time for a football-playing, drunk-driving, people-killer (Dante Stallworth) than for a football playing dog-killer (Mike Vick) or a football-playing dumbass  (Plexico Burress), who shot only himself in a nightclub. 

If The Hangover continues to dwell on these subjects, the long-awaited novel will never be completed.   Unfortunately, with a country like this, The Hangover could be pulled back into action tomorrow.

Sarah Palin’s Next Move (Movie)

6 Jul

After Sarah Palin’s stunning resignation, many commentators on the political scene were unsure of her real motives.  Even mastermind Karl Rove was “a little perplexed.”   On her Facebook Page, Palin offers a myriad of reasons for the move, eventually stating that it will be in Alaska’s and her family’s best interests if she calls it quits as Governor.  However, one can rarely take what a politician says at face value.  While the debate rages, The Hangover has determined it has been done for one simple and logical reason:  Sarah Palin wants to go Hollywood.   

There are any number of studios who would throw millions at Palin to make the following movies:

Fargo II:  Bismarck

During the campaign (especially in the debates) Palin’s appropriating of Frances McDormand’s “You betcha’s” and homey up-north speech patterns made her an even better Marge Gunderson than Oscar-winner McDormand.  In this sequel, Marge (as played by Sarah), guns blazing, would would take down the tall, thin, eloquent, but immoral and corrupt African-American Governor of North Dakota.

Twins (The remake)

In this remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger–Danny Devito vehicle, Palin would team with Tina Fey.  Although the comedy of the original was centered around the implausibility of physical opposites Arnold and Devito actually being twins, the fact that Fey and Palin look incredibly alike would make it easier for Republicans and other religious zealots to follow the movie.

Dumb and Dumber:  The Girls

This would be another Palin-Fey vehicle, with Fey acting and Palin practically being able to be herself.    Here, the trip starts in Wasilla, careens through Anchorage and Dutch Harbor, and then just as it appears that the film will wind up on the Bridge to Nowhere, the pair make it to Siberia. Production costs would be low because the former Soviet Union is so close to Alaska that you can see it from there.  

Semi-Pro:  The Real Thing

In a cross between a reality show and a bad Will Ferrell comedy, Palin would be given ownership of a WNBA franchise.  Known in her younger days as Sarah “Barracuda,” Palin would also play point guard for the team.  The camera would follow her on and off the court. Let’s face it, this is about the only way the WNBA could be made even the least bit interesting.

Best Fourth of July Songs

24 Jun

The best Fourth of July rock music will provide audio fireworks for your Independence Day celebration, the most American of holidays.  After all, rock and roll is American music.  While celebrating the birth of our nation, the 4th also honors all things American:  our freedoms, life in the  USA, and even summer itself.   The songs can be serious, fun, thoughtful,  thoughtless, or any combination thereof.  While there are plenty that pay homage to American values and virtues, these are the best:  

Living In AmericaJames Brown

The Hardest Working Man in Show Business sings, hoots, and howls this paean of American life.  It was recorded for Rocky IV, in which the cold-war-fighting Rocky ultimately triumphs over the Russian Drago,  symbolizing America’s greatest post WWII victory.  The American Way prevails.   Bonus feature: the film clip is also a great example of bloated American excess.

4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Bruce Springsteen

When one is young, summer is everything.  And that time is never more vital than when experienced on the edge between youth and adulthood.  This song captures that place and those moments.  So much of the American summer is the shore and the boardwalk (or Main Street), and Springsteen draws of a vivid portrait of the yearning that rises there.   If you’ve grown up in the US, this song will lead you back to place you know.

Rockin’ In The Free World & This Note’s For You, Neil Young

This medley of Neil Young songs will hit the highs and lows of the American experience.  Rocking in the Free World (from “Freedom’) is a full throttle celebration of freedom in general, and freedom of expression in particular.  Yes, we are grateful.  But This Note’s for You, on the other hand, skewers the never-ending marketing deluge that Americans face on a daily basis.   Everything is for sale here, including integrity.  Hopefully, our freedom will prove to be an exception. 

Guitars, CadillacsDwight Yoakam

For the heartbroken, lonely character of this song, the only thing that “keeps him hanging on” are “guitars, Cadillacs, and hillbilly music.”    This roots rock/country rave recognizes the basis of identitiy for many Americans:  Cars and Music.  

Rockaway Beach, The Ramones

Once again, The Ramones nail it in the simplest way possible–both lyrically and musically.  It’s summer, it’s hot, and they want to escape the city go to the beach.   They’ll hitch a ride to get there, too.

California Girls & Surfin’ USA,  The Beach Boys

The Hangover was tempted to place the entirety of Endless Summer
on this list.  The Beach Boys were at one time not just the original California band, but the American Band.  They honor the USA with their classic sound here, extolling the virtues of California women and surf culture.   No arguments accepted. 

4th Of July, X

The other seminal California band gives us a snapshot of reality–relationship discord and disappointment on the day itself.   The singer hopes that the holiday can allow the couple to step outside into the fireworks and regain what they have lost.    It’s a heartfelt, urgent slice of American life.

Fight For Your Right, The Beastie Boys

The Declaration of Independence tells Americans they are entitled to certain unalienable rights, one of which is “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  Nothing will stop the Beastie’s from this exercising this right:  Not hypocritical parents or a dictatorial educational system.   Americans have had to fight to protect the freedoms that we have been given, and the Beastie Boys take this seriously.

Surrender, Cheap Trick

On this holiday, one cannot ignore  middle-American suburbia, the  soil that Cheap Trick tills here.  Post-Vietnam America spun off its axis, and Cheap Trick’s portrayal of that era reveals a fissure that while disconcerting is far from fatal.   Weirdness is okay.  “We’re all alright.”

Route 66, Chuck Berry & Drive SouthJohn Hiatt

Chuck Berry’s 1961 cover of Route 66 brought the roadtrip  into the rock and roll world.   There aren’t many things more American than hopping into a car and just taking off.  The virtues of this particularly American  escape are echoed by John Hiatt in Drive South, recorded nearly 30 years later.  

 Living In The U.S.A., Steve Miller

In this most egalitarian of nations, it’s fitting that even a mediocre rock star can write a great song about his country.   It’s a “plastic land” that’s not quite so easy to live in as it appears to be, but it’s even harder to leave.  This nuanced, insightful look at the USA delivers much more than what can normally be expected from Miller. 

Gun Sale At The ChurchThe Beat Farmers

In the 1600’s, the American continent was settled (invaded?) by hardcore religious fanatics kicked out of England.  The musket ultimately made that habitation “successful,” and then the Winchester rifle sealed the empire by winning the West.  The very foundation of America, therefore, is based on gun and church.  The Beat Farmers skewer the irony of this philosophical dichotomy as it exists in modern America. 

American Beat ’84The Fleshtones

The Fleshtones pay tribute to the American Rock and Roll sound, so much a part of freedom of speech and our post-1950 cultural heritage.  Their homage acknowledges the American sounds of:  Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Berry Gordy, Del Shannon, the Del Fuegos, Buddy Holly, the Lyres, the Real Kids, The Modern Lovers, MC5, the Kingsmen, the Plimsouls, Los Lobos, Richie Valens, Martha Reaves, and on and on…. 

Ode To Liberty (The Protest Song), Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott shows depth as a songwriter, philosopher,  and poet with a thoughtful ode to American liberty and the need for it to exist throughout the world.  It is a poem set to dreamy, textured rock that buoys the hope and need invoked in the lyrics.  This is a song that should be heard, especially on the July 4th.

Pink Houses, John Mellencamp

Although there’s a slight risk that someone might mistakenly think you’ve slipped a Chevy commercial into your mix, Mellencamp’s Pink Houses is a wry celebration of all things American:  Freedom and the resulting absurdity allowed by that freedom.   He sings of past glories, ridiculous disillusionment, winners and losers, and the ultimate irrelevancy of it all.

Bar-Naked Cover: Esquire’s Best Ever

8 Jun

The cover of Esquire’s July 2009 issue is striking:  Bar Refaeli wearing nothing but lines from Stephen King’s short story, “Morality.”  Yes, it’s taken a naked supermodel and one of America’s literary giants to bring The Hangover out of its spring hibernation.

Read Me, Baby (Esquire, July 2009)

Read Me, Baby (Esquire, July 2009)

In the past, this space has admonished Esquire for its seemingly fading commitment to the short fiction it once championed.  But the editors have just taken a master stroke.  A painted, unclothed super model will catch the eye of most men.  Then, hopefully, the twisting language of King’s sentences will spur those potential readers to search out the story (page 57) in the magazine.  If this kind of heat can sell beer on television, why can’t it work for fiction in a glossy?

The pairing of King and Refaeli is genius.  The accompanying photos of the word-paint-splattered supermodel, July’s Esquire “Woman We Love,” speak for themselves.  And if there were a statistic that somehow averaged “book sales” and “literary quality of writing,” it’s likely that Stephen King would sit atop those standings.  Make no mistake, his story here is a contemporary, relevant monster.    

Now if we could only get some aspiring model to volunteer to be painted in the words of a Hangover Post, cultural satire would reach heights previously considered unattainable.    Applications for the position will be gladly accepted.