Once again, we explore the unknown corners of our record store to find the lost and forgotten. What horrors lurk beyond the Pixies reissues and Thee Oh Sees albums OH SO MANY THEE OH SEES ALBUMS! SERIOUSLY, DO THEY EVER TAKE A DAY OFF!
Follow the candleabra and stay close to the flame, while we peek down the dark hallways and brush aside the cobwebs to find the decaying, dusty albums that have been ALPHABETIZED INTO OBSCURITY!!!
This well known classic is a piece of radio drama history. As the story goes, on October 30th, 1938, the young actor and director, Orson Welles staged a special Halloween broadcast of an adaption of H.G. Wells novel, The War of the Worlds. Instead of reading the book word for word, which would have made for less than tantalizing radio, he instead presented the story of an alien invasion as a series of news bulletins. This caused a bit of a panic for many listeners, on the night of its broadcast, with many believing that the world was in fact, under attack by aliens. While this album might not have the same surprise effect on us, with the benefit of hindsight, it is a compelling listen; more so when you consider the state of mind of those listeners, in the late 30s, without the constant stream of information that we have at our fingertips today. If we heard a similar broadcast now, how quickly would any fears be quelled by simply googling “Alien+Invasion+Radio+Actor Guy from Citizen Kane+Real?”
This is a strange little bit of obscurity that we found hiding in our soundtrack section. While looking for fear-inducing ephemera, the eerie cover and reference to vampires immediately piqued my curiosity. Upon further inspection, I noticed the words “Original Cast Recording of the Off-Broadway Musical. Off-Broadway Vampire Musical?! Oh, this is going to be delightfully terrible! What I discovered upon listening was a sort of avant garde, modern opera. The music was filled with dissonance and nauseating drones and arpeggios. Off-Broadway, indeed. Admittedly, this is right up my alley. I could easily give this an unironic listen, anytime of year. But, perhaps it serves more sinister purposes for the holiday. You’re sure to get some…concerned looks from parents accompanying trick-or-treaters and maybe a little added reluctance to take the candy, from the young ones. But, that’s all part of the game!
Both of these stories really require no introduction and each has been adapted many ways, over many years. Those of you with a penchant for classic horror films might know Boris Karloff as the actor who portrayed Frankenstein’s Monster from the early to late 1930s films. But, if Boris Karloff is what’s drawing you to this album, you might be better served by approaching it with an admiration for his other role as The Grinch, in the 1966 animated television series “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
For having cast such a menacing voice with peppered in spooky sound effects, this album is about as menacing as an animatronic, foot high, dancing Frankenstein. Perhaps this one is more well suited for the 10 and under crowd.
Who better sets the tone for a night of unknown horrors than Edgar Allan Poe? And who better to bring an equally noble and mysterious timbre to his words than the Actor Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes: 1939 to 1946…and 1986 is you count the posthumous archival audio rendering for the Great Mouse Detective.) These recordings induce the perfect meditative, spine tingling you want from any Halloween experience. This is not to play at a costume party, or to scare the trick-or-treaters. This is for you and you alone. Find a dark room; light one single candle; wrap yourself in a blanket; turn off your phone; listen to this album all the way through; turn your phone back on and log into twitter “OMG Totes Spooked IRL Right Now. Send Pizza and Beer #halloween #basilrathbonespookyAF #whotheFisscratchingatmydoorrightnow.
Ah Yes! The holy grail of all Halloween records. Ask anyone over the age of 35 and they will most certainly tell you that this album was a mainstay in their collection, growing up. Doing a little research, I found that this album was, in fact, certified a Gold Record by RIAA in 1972 and a later reissue certified Gold in 1988. Not bad for an album with charmingly “scary” narrations of sunken ships, unsafe bridges and dynamite accidents, paired with just the type of scary sound effects one would expect from the scamps at Walt Disney Studios.
But, the charm on this one has many layers. If you’re like me and you grew up with this album, you are immediately transported back to a time when it really didn’t take that much to put a chill down your spine. Halloween was the test for what kind of horrors the world could dish at you and how you were going to handle those horrors. We didn’t throw the album away. We didn’t ritualistically burn it in the backyard. We kept it in our collection. It stayed there for years, next to the Stevie Wonder and Grateful Dead albums. It was taken out every halloween and given a spin. Every year, it would become a little less scary. And, as I grew to understand the world a little better, some of it actually became amusing on other, more comedic levels. Now, as an adult, most horrors are based more in reality (seemingly more and more, every year). But, I know not to just throw them away. It’s best to keep them amongst the good and bad things in life and give them a little time, till they become a little less scary. Hopefully, after you’re put some scratches in them and know every little surprise it’s about to throw at you, you can look back on them as something that was conquered and quelled. And, maybe even laugh at some of those things you once found terrifying.