We’re closing fast on Halloween, so for fun I’m going to talk about five famous rockers and five famous rockers, whose work is perfect for the season. Let’s get right into it!
Five Horrifically Good Rockers
1. Type O Negative
“Everyday is Halloween.”
TON were a gothic metal band with equal doses Beatles, Black Sabbath and Metallica thrown together. They hit it big in the 1990s with their video hit, “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All),” a piss-take on goth subculture and paean to one of Peter Steele’s many lost loves. The subject dies her blond roots black, wears wolfskin boots, smells of burning leaves, and evokes the spirit of Halloween everywhere she goes. TON were known for personal works like, “Green Man,” and “Everyone I Love is Dead,” but also Beatles medleys, and the darkly humorous, “How Could She?” and “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend.” There probably wasn’t a band who evoked the spirit of Halloween better – their second album is titled, October Rust and their songs cover emotional ground ranging from depression to joy, all with a macabre gouache.
2. The Misfits
“Mommy, can I go out and kill tonight?”
The Misfits emerged from New Jersey at the twilight of the 70s, and melded founder/singer Glenn Danzig’s obsession with b-horror and comic books with punk rock. The Misfits helped initiate punk’s DIY ethos it would embrace in the 1980s, and issued several, self-released EPs and a few LPs in its original incarnation. From songs like, “20 Eyes,” to “Static,” Misfits too ranged from darkly humorous to just plain dark. Danzig’s baritone crooning and “devil lock” hairdo earned him the epithet “Evil Elvis,” and the rest of the band continues in various off-shoots – most notably Danzig’s self-named band – and lineup revamps to this day.
3. Arthur Brown
“I am the god of hellfire!”
Not well-known outside the United Kingdom, Arthur Brown was Alice Cooper before Alice Cooper was Alice Cooper. That’s to say Brown innovated shock rock in the UK during the 1960s, combining creepy, spooky imagery with en vogue rock sounds, such as hooting Hammond organs and jangly guitar licks. “Fire,” is a single which encapsulates Brown’s musical style, and though shocking and influential in its day, Brown’s music today is a source for camp and pop culture aficionados.
4. Alice Cooper
“You’re poison running through my veins!”
It’s been restated many times that originally Alice Cooper was a band, not a person. Vince Furnier adopted the band’s name as his own though, and it’s stuck to him ever since. They might have been the first American band to make it big with makeup and costumes, and innovated a lot of what are now rock cliche’s, like pyro, lights and smokescreens. The Alice Cooper band though was no joke, combining Rolling Stones-esque grooves with more aggressive guitars and sardonic lyrics. Alice himself might be one of the most underestimated lyricists in all rock music, if tracks like, “Only Women Bleed,” “Weapon of Mass Distraction,” and “Billion Dollar Babies,” are any indication.
“‘Cause everybody else is here – watching you.”
Is there no more theatrical and Halloween-ready a band than Kiss? From forming in 1973 and partying everyday until today, Kiss has been blowing up stages literally since they escaped their New York neighborhoods, slapped on Max Factor white base paint, and strapped on platform boots. Known much more for theatrics than music, there probably isn’t a band better crafted to party. Hidden under the lipstick and spikes though are some occasionally ballsy and groovy songs, such as, “King of the Night Time World,” “Parasite,” “Love Gun,” and Stones on steroids number, “Deuce.”
Five Ghoulishly Great Writers
1. Brian Lumley
“The future is a devious thing.”
Lumley is best known for his long-spanning series Necroscope, featuring his time-traveling, mindscape scrawling, dead-talking hero, Harry Keogh. Keogh was like Harry Potter before anything like Hogwarts – a special boy with a special gift with the whole world’s responsibility in his hands. Within Necroscope, Lumley crafted a world filled with intrigue, back-dropped against both the eldritch world of terrors and the Cold War. He reinvented vampires in a unique way, and established both villains and heroes with interesting arcs that put you in their minds and saw through the consequences of their actions. Sometimes those consequences bore throughout all time itself.
2. H.P. Lovecraft
“The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.”
Lovecraft is hugely influential on horror for crystallizing and popularizing the cosmic horror concept, and perhaps the weird fiction genre as we know it. An atheist who suffered night terrors and felt horribly afraid and out of step with his own times, Lovecraft’s many vices, quirks, prejudices and insecurities took life through his stories. His Cthulhu Mythos, which other writers borrowed during his lifetime, and continued after his death in 1937, is the most famous of his writing legacy. Pretty much anytime somebody writes about a monster with innumerable eyes and tentacles, who is older than the Earth and is trying to destroy us, that author owes a debt to Lovecraft.
3. Shirley Jackson
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”
Shirley Jackson is famous for her work, The Haunting of Hill House, a novel which came to typify the 20th century paranormal novel. It’s all there, from the tragic backstory, the mystery yearning to be solved, and the doubting skeptics clashing with the open-minded wanders wanting to know more; if you’re writing about a ghost, you’re probably borrowing from something Jackson made up. Much of her horror was psychological and challenged both the readers perceptions of what was real, and whether her own characters were telling the truth.
4. Richard Matheson
“After a while, though, even the deepest sorrow faltered, even the most penetrating despair lost its scalpel edge.”
Matheson’s contributions to horror were few, but when he made them, he landed big. From I Am Legend to Hell House, Matheson could be gripping, visceral, hilarious and vivid. He offered ideas people hadn’t thought of, ideas which could be cinematic in scope (Which made sense, since much of his work was in television and movies) and personal in nature. He also helped bring the vampire out of the black and white Universal movies and into the Cold War era’s fascination with postapocalyptic dystopias. Like all the authors mentioned, so much of Matheson’s work was copied that going back and reading his work, some of it feels well-worn. Well when you steal, you steal from the best, or so they say.
5. Edgar Allan Poe
“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
Poe is often thought as America’s greatest gothic horror writer. From “The Pit and the Pendulum,” to “Lenore,” to “The Raven” and to, “Masque of the Red Death,” Poe was at the forefront of the transcendentalist movement in American literature, introducing craven and macabre imagery to what back then was limited to romantic and realistic portrayals of pioneer life, and American Western settlement. Poe’s inner life was as tormented as his work, and he died young and alcoholic, enshrining the oft-believed trope about writers. In his brief life though he left behind the framework by which all the previously listed authors – and even the musicians mentioned – would build their own horrorscapes.