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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.

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The Hangover’s 2010 Person of the Year: Theo Epstein

22 Dec

The Hangover’s 2010 Person of the Year is Theo Epstein, General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.  It might seem odd for the Hangover to tout the GM of a baseball team when so many are doing so much in the world.  But Epstein did something that few others on the national stage have the intestinal fortitude (in the words of Gorilla Monsoon) to do:  Form a philosophy based on a set of beliefs and then stick to it, even when it is painful and unpopular to do so.    

When Epstein took over as GM of the Red Sox in 2003, he instituted an organizational approach based on player development, which could also be supplemented by key free agent acquisitions.   Prospects could be used as trade bait or to strengthen the major league team.   This strategy, Epstein maintained, would keep the Sox in contention most years.  It worked out okay in 2004, when the Sox won the World Series.  It also worked in 2007, when they won it again.

However, in 2006, Epstein briefly left the Red Sox because of interference from certain Sox higher-ups (read:  Larry Luchino) who wanted baseball decisions made with marketing and “buzz” impact in mind.  Only when owner John Henry worked things out so that Epstein could run the Sox his way, without interference, did Epstein come back to the team. Imagine that, a man with principles and integrity.  Many of The Hangover’s younger readers might not have heard of such a thing.

Which brings us 2010.  On the field, the year was a disaster for the Red Sox.  Injuries ravaged the team.  Important pitchers had sub-par seasons.  Some nights half of the lineup looked like they’d been called up from AA Portland.  Many pundits screamed that Epstein was short-changing Sox fans by playing young, unproven players and not going out and finding “major league” replacements.  Of course, they failed to realize that trading prospects for what would be overpriced “Band Aids” might hamstring the team for years to come.

By sticking to his philosophy, in the 2010 off-season Epstein was able to retool his team into one that is younger, more powerful, faster, better in the bullpen, and better defensively.  Sure, 2010 hurt; however, 2011 should be great (The Hangover is predicting an ’84 Tigers-type season).  But as we all know, (cliché alert) the games are played on the field, and (cliché alert) the games aren’t won on paper.  At least these moves should have the Sox challenging well into the future.  One can’t ask for more than that—unless, of course, you’re one of those living-in-Mom’s-basement, pre-2004 win-it-all-or-else fanatics.  If that’s the case, have another PBR and call WEEI. 

What sets Theo apart from just about every other public figure this year is that despite hardship, bad publicity, and public outcry, he stayed true to his vision.  He was willing to endure the slings and arrows of The Knights of the Keyboard, various talking heads, and countless knuckle-headed zealots.  This allowed him to place his organization on a course for long term success.  Has anyone in Washington heard of such a thing? 

Let’s compare Theo to some other public figures in 2010: 

President Obama sells out the public option of his health care plan before he even brings it to Congress.  His health care makeover creates more business for insurance companies, while claiming health care “should be a right for every American.”   The Hangover fails to see how that jibes. 

Obama then agrees to a tax cut (extending the Bush tax cuts) for the wealthiest 5% of Americans, despite saying, “I’m still opposed to it.”  The Hangover’s glad he’s not running the Sox.  Admittedly, it’s a compromise with Republicans so that unemployment benefits can be extended for two million other Americans.  Of course, Obama could have taken the fight to the airwaves and the American people.  Perhaps a populist outcry could have broken Republican opposition.  Coincidentally, it’s the five percent getting the break who contribute the most to presidential and congressional campaigns. 

Let’s not forget the Republicans and Tea-Partiers, who are intent on doing two things:  cutting the deficit and lowering taxes.  Enough said.

 President Obama recently stated: 

“We’ve got to make some difficult choices ahead when it comes to tackling the deficit. In some ways, this [tax cut deal/”compromise”] was easier than some of the tougher choices we’re going to have to make next year.”

No kidding, and with the integrity that Washington’s show this year, good luck with that.

Perhaps someone could invite The Hangover’s 2010 person of the year, Theo Epstein, to our nation’s capitol.  He might be able tell our leaders that it is important to form a set of values and beliefs based on thoughtful consideration, intellect, and logic.  Then he could reiterate the importance of maintaining that philosophy, even if it might not be popular to do so.  Perhaps he could introduce them to “long term planning” and “responsibility.”  If he shows them his shiny World Series rings, they might even listen. 

Then again, Theo Epstein’s biggest worry isn’t about getting re-elected.  He’s only trying to do what he knows is right.  And in 2010, that’s a singular quality.

Theo Epstein with the 2007 World Series trophy. Perhaps if our leaders in Washington knew they could get things like trophies as a reward, they might show some interest in long term planning.

The Hangover’s 2009 Person of the Year: Tiger Woods

30 Dec

Tiger Woods had a remarkable 2009.  He won 6 of the 17 PGA tournaments he entered, finished 2nd three times, and earned over $10.5 million in prize money.   Forbes estimates that he also made $100 million in endorsements.    In addition, Tiger managed to bed a host of smoking hot party girls and wanna-be celebrities.   If not for the fact that Tiger was married with two small children, his 2009 would have been a year for the ages.  Instead, all this remarkable success was overshadowed by his wife taking a golf club to both him and his Cadillac Escalade. 

So why does the Hangover name an apparent moral degenerate as its person of the year?  For the simple fact that in 2009 Tiger’s actions benefitted all married American men.   No matter what faults we may have, at least we’re (presumably) not Tiger Woods, out banging skanky chicks while our devoted, unsuspecting wives  remained home caring for our innocent children.   No other action (short of bringing home an STD) could anger the average American woman more than that.  Tiger has made the rest of us look good.  Really good.

For example, 

You give your wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas.  Your wife thinks: He may be an idiot, but at least he’s not Tiger Woods.”

You lose your job.  Your wife thinks:  “Well, he may be an unemployed lout, but at least he’s not Tiger Woods.”

You blow the rent money on an impossible five team parlay that busts on the Colts’  loss to the Jets.  Your wife thinks:  “He may be a degenerate gambler, but at least he’s not Tiger Woods.”

Your wife catches you checking out her sister.  Your wife thinks:   “He’s on the  couch for a week, but at least he’s not Tiger Woods.”

You get drunk and crash your car into a tree.  Your wife thinks:  “He’s a drunken idiot, but at least I didn’t have to go out in this cold and beat him with a golf club.   He’s no Tiger Woods.” 

Whatever the rest of us may do this year that our wives may deem ignorant, idiotic, or nearly unforgivable, it won’t seem as horrible to them as what Tiger Woods did in 2009.   Tiger has made the rest of us appear better than we actually are.  Thank you, Tiger Woods–the Hangover’s 2009 Person of the Year. 

Tiger’s 2009 in Pictures:

Goose Rocks Beachfront Owners Sue Kennebunkport (and try to screw the rest of us)

10 Nov

A cabal of Goose Rocks Beach homeowners is suing the town of Kennebunkport, claiming that they own the actual beach down to the low water mark.  The Hangover’s first inclination is to consider this class warfare, a case of the “have’s” versus the “have not’s.”   However, this cannot be the case, as the nature of the suit clearly indicates that these homeowners have no class at all.   Still, as a public service The Hangover has decided to explore the nature of the impending litigation. 

Newspaper reports state that the fat cat homeowners are primarily concerned with overcrowding at Goose Rocks.  This is odd.  There are a limited number of parking spaces at Goose Rocks, thereby limiting the number of visitors who can actually reach the beach.   In middle of the summer, the designated “public beach” is not ever close to being overrun.  Areas of the “private beach” are sparsely populated at their most hectic.   Even at high tide, there is always room for a family (perhaps the beachfront owners are expecting the Manson’s) to spread out and enjoy themselves.   Hampton Beach in New Hampshire is a crowded beach.  In July and  August a gnat cannot find enough room there to lay down a blanket.  This is far from the case at  Goose Rocks.

If the overcrowding issue is a smoke screen, there must be other reasons for the homeowners’ desires to keep people off a beach that has been used by the public for hundreds of years.  Here are some possible explanations:

Revenge:  As residents of Kennebunkport are well aware, there was a property tax revaluation undertaken this past year.  This resulted in property taxes rising substantially for those with beachfront and waterfront homes.  Perhaps these privileged landowners are angered by the fact that for the first time in 20 years they now have to pay their fair share of taxes.  They are extracting their revenge by taking it out on the town and those residents whose taxes were reduced.

Self-Loathing:  Twenty-five years ago, Goose Rocks was a mostly middle class enclave with the majority of its residents coming from the suburbs surrounding Boston and southern New England.  The small cottages that marked the beach then have (for the most part) been torn down, rebuilt, and expanded.  Many of these “new and improved” homeowners are from–as luck would have it–the suburbs surrounding Boston and southern New England.  Coincidentally, many people visiting the beach also come from these regions.  Perhaps the beachfront owners just don’t want to be reminded of the humble origins from which they slithered.

Health:  Everyone knows that tourists emanate from anomie-infested suburbs and angst-ridden cities.  They are mentally unclean and tainted.  Their presence on the beach could undo the serenity brought about by rolling waves and gliding sea gulls.  The horror, the horror.  Those soiled must be kept away. 

Wanna-be-ness:  The lawsuit could be a simple case of celebrity envy.  By aping various asinine celebrity behaviors, these homeowners could be hoping to view themselves as important and privileged.  In 1999, Jim Belushi sued when a house painter had the audacity to walk across the beach adjoining his property.   (Belushi lost in court.)  Entertainment industry icon David Geffen fought public access to beaches in Malibu.  He also lost.  But he did get some headlines.  Perhaps this could be a feeble attempt for 15 minutes of fame.    Maybe these landowners are hoping to be ridiculed in Doonesbury just like “The Dark Leader” Geffen.

General Snobbery:  Could it be that these homeowner’s are just your average run-of-the-mill snobs who don’t wish to associate with “neighbors” who can’t afford beachfront dwellings?  This would be an ugly reality.  That people so tremendously boring and base could actually exist in Kennebunkport would be embarrassing for the rest of us–and thus, we are doubly injured.

InAction As Action

One response to the suit would be to let the beachfront owners have the beach.   We have to consider the future.  The town would then have reason to ignore the homeowner’s  pleas for help as the beach continues to erode–and erode it has over the past ten years.   Picture a town manager smirking across his or her desk:  “Hey, it’s your beach.  You do something about it.”

Then there’s global warming and rising sea levels.  As reported by National Geographic and thousands of other reputable scientific authorities, global warming will eventually cause sea levels to rise:  “A one-meter sea level rise would wreak particular havoc on the Gulf Coast and eastern Seaboard of the United States.”   Presumably, this includes King’s Highway and Sand Point.  These homes could eventually land “below” the low tide mark.  The Hangover wonders if that wouldn’t place them in the public domain.  Certainly, the beachfront homeowners would see the justice in that. 

(It’s interesting to note that should the beach even slightly flood this winter, these same landowners will likely call the fire department to come pump out their soaked basements.  Neighbors in the form of volunteer fire fighters, although not allowed to cross their beach, would be actually allowed in the houses themselves.  The fire fighters will surely be grateful.)   

Action

On the other hand, if one is inclined to act, The Hangover is all for non-violent, civil disobedient protest.  When Tony Soprano needed to extricate himself from the purchase of a waterfront property from a high faultin’ neighbor, he didn’t call for a hit.  He brought in the music.  He had associates anchor his yacht just off shore from the would-be seller’s house and play a steady stream of Dean Martin: Live at the Sands Hotel.   After several hours of Deano, the seller cracked and the deal was off.  

This could work here.   While many of us can’t afford a waterfront manse, we do have boats and boom boxes.   Picture a pristine Memorial Day Saturday.  The Hangover envisions a fleet of 100 Boston Whalers, dinghies, sunfish, and runabouts anchored just outside the low water mark of Goose Rocks Beach.  Only instead of the sultry crooning of Martin, selected beachfront homeowners are bombarded with the non-stop punk-guitar crunch of  The Clash.  An afternoon and evening of Should I Stay Or Should I Go just might work here:

Shameless Literary Self Promotion

14 Apr

 There’s nothing more off-putting than the shameless self-promotion that permeates American society like a besotted rug three days after a keg party. That being said, the Hangover would like to announce that its editor, Albert Waitt, has a short story in the Spring 2009 (current) issue of Third Coast, an award-winning journal published by Western Michigan University. 

Mr. Waitt’s story, “You Open Your Door,”  is set in the fictional Laurel, Maine, which does bear some likeness to the town of Kennebunkport.   However, any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is purely coincidental.  

For $9, less than the cost of a martini at a decent bar, you can enjoy some of today’s best literature.  Third Coast should be available nationally at your finer book stores (especially those that sell organic coffee and 1000 calorie lattes).  It can also be ordered directly from the Third Coast editoriThird Coast, Spring 2009al offices:

Third Coast
Western Michigan University
English Department
1903 W Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5331

Enjoy.

Abercrombie & Fitch Ad a Tour de Force

30 Jan

Abercrombie & Fitch’s new advertisement (available here), filmed in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, is a tour de force of sociological documentary filmmaking.  While some critics may see the spot as just another attempt to sell shirts by exploiting sexy models and the retro rhythm and blues of Duffy’s “Mercy,” in reality the piece underscores the dire economic conditions and resulting anomie facing the region.

The opening shot of stately coastal homes and sailboats establishes a seemingly exclusive and monied setting.  However, this feint is followed by a reel of hard-hitting economic reality.   The black and white format adds  the existential gravity of film noir.

The lack of a shirt on the male character immediately symbolizes a grave issue facing young people in Maine today.  There is an undeniable lack of well-paying jobs for those in the “recently graduated” demographic. Many of our educated youth are forced to leave the state in search of employment in Boston, New York, or even the West Coast. Those who stay often can’t afford clothes. It may come to down to a choice of wearing a shirt or pants.

There are shots of the young man hauling a row boat to the shore, an indictment of the dying fishing industry. Subsequent scenes of him running with his dog show how Maine men have been reduced to their most primitive state: That of the pre-historic hunter-gatherer who domesticated wolves to aid his survival.

The young woman in the piece also reinforces the theme.  Her first extended scene shows her driving.  She is coming from somewhere else, both in place and in opportunity. Her face is serious and determined. She knows the hardship her man is facing. The film ends with the couple embracing in a field, though it is clearly established that he will be leaving with her.  Oppurtunity and hope exist where she lives.  There he will be able to afford pants and a shirt.

The Best Rock and Roll Christmas Songs

2 Dec

The best rock and roll Christmas songs can be gifts in themselves.  After all, how many times can one listen to a pack of dogs barking Jingle Bells or even the great Burl Ives crooning Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  And enough with the Fa-La-La-La-La’s.  Luckily, rock is a genre whose songs encompass all aspects of the holiday.  There’s the merriment, good cheer, hope, peace, goodwill towards fellow man, heartbreak, spirtiuality, and class warfare.   Before this holiday was co-opted by riot-inducing consumerism and Martha Stewart holiday perfection, Christmas was fun.  These songs will make it so again.

A Merry Jingle  by The Greedies (aka The Greedy Bastards)

A Merry Jingle is a 1978 punked-out mash up of Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  And it’s preformed by a legendary band:  Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, along with Phil Lynott, Brian Downy, and Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy.  This is the musical equivalent of a snow-cooled six pack delivered by a Victoria Secret model clad in a Santa’s Helper mini-dress.  (While the Greedies’ version is veritably unavailable, the Backstreet Girls worthy cover of the song is available here on Amazon.)


Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry

This is likely the first rock ‘n roll Christmas song, released by Berry in 1958.  It’s old school Chuck Berry, a holiday Sweet Little Sixteen that has Rudolph “whizzing like a saber jet” and Chuck “reelin’ like a merry-go-round.”  A fitting tribute to a great reindeer.

The Grinch by Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors

Mojo Nixon’s cover of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” isn’t one for the kids.  He lets the low-down, present-swiping creature have it in a Bad Santa, no-holds-barred, swear-filled rampage.  What else would one expect from the great Mojo, protector of virtue and wholesome Christian values?

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by John Mellancamp

This is straight-ahead holiday roots rocking where a real good time is being had by all.  You’ve got to love the accordion that gives the song a real jump.  Mellancamp’s cover songs never disappoint and just like Santa, he delivers here.

Christmas Wrapping  by the Waitresses

This is no-doubt the greatest of the new wave Christmas songs.  The 1981 song tells a story that is relevant today.  The over-worked, harried (sound familiar?) singer misses connection with a potential beau all year, only to have that Christmas magic work things out because of forgotten cranberry sauce.  A bouncy pace and excellent horns give this suburban rap a sweet bite.

Sleigh Ride by The Ventures

Instrumental greats The Ventures give their surf treatment to Sleigh Ride, and it is a beautiful thing.  No sappy lyrics. No over-emoting singer.   Just wave after wave of holiday surf.

Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon

John Lennon doesn’t go intellectual here.  There is nothing to decipher.  Gratitude, hope, and good will are up front and unabashed.  All Christmas music should have as much heart and as little pretension.    

Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys

Nothing says Christmas like the sun-drenched harmonies of the Beach Boys.  They give Santa’s sleigh the Little Duece Coupe/Shut Down car song treatment.  Christmas soars with the high notes of the vocals.

2000 Miles by The Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde’s voice has been described as snarky, sultry, smoky, and sexy.  But on this heartfelt song of longing, it’s simply pretty.  Heartache and hope never sounded so beautiful.

All I Want For Christmas Is A Rock n Roll Guitar by The Stompers

Boston club-goers will recognize this tilt by The Stompers.  Sal Baglio and the band plead for the one present that will make life complete.  And they do it in the all-out style that the band was known for.  They just don’t want the guitar, they need it. 

Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

The King puts his stamp on Christmas with several songs, but none have the depth of this one.  In an unplugged segment of his ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis lets his voice carry the song.   Elvis could do it all–and here he shows how it’s done: 

Father Christmas by The Kinks

Leave it to Ray Davies to bring a dose of economic reality to Christmas with typical Kinks crunch.  Davies points out that not everyone’s holiday is egg nog, over-sized Teddy Bears, and carols by the fire.  His character, a department store Santa, is accosted by a gang of kids.  As usual, Davies’ lyrics are humorous and poignant as the kids tell him: 

Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
Well beat you up if you dont hand it over
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

Have yourself a merry merry christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin
While youre drinkin down your wine

It’s a Christmas message for us all.