Songs to check the back seat of your car to

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I was on my way home in the car the other week, quietly pondering my day’s to-do list in pleasant solitude. My train of thought got totally derailed though, when the next song on the radio was Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I had a bit of a chuckle at that point, because it was the middle of a busy morning whilst navigating my way out of a very busy town centre. What made me laugh like this was the memory of the numerous other occasions I’d heard this in the car, all alone, such as getting lost on the way to a party in the middle of nowhere and some of the pea-soupiest fog you’ll ever know. I wasn’t chuckling back then, I can tell you. It was more like, ‘ohhhh, shit…”

Because it’s of course one of those songs you always hear on TV shows, movies or in the middle of a game when you know it isn’t ending well for some or all participants. Normally, there is a somewhat supernatural element to this, as there often is with interpretations of the song. Werewolves, as might be expected, are probably the most regular of the options here – with perhaps the most iconic use also a very deliberate one in An American Werewolf In London. Just check out the list of TV credits for this one!

After this most recent listen, in the ‘safe’ environment I mentioned, I got around to asking myself just why the song was written in the first place. To THE INTERNET!! Well – after a quick stop to quickly check my back seat…

It wasn’t quite written about full-moon shenanigans as I might have wondered. I haven’t seen the film Creedence songwriter John Fogerty was apparently inspired by – The Devil and Daniel Webster (also known as All That Money Can Buy I am told), and would be interested to hear from anyone who has. But it appears to be more Faustian in plot than werewolf-related, despite the obvious connection people have made over the years.

Of course, ‘wiki-hopping’ can be an addictive game in itself. Looking up one thing just gives you another hyperlink that will sit there tantalisingly, promising to answer another question you never knew you had in the first place until now. Sucked into this game myself, I found something relating to The Quick and the Dead. My mind then wandered to investigating the Iron Maiden song of a similar title, as I would.

Nope – turns out this one is all to do with politics. I was almost disappointed; especially in the context of it being around in the early 90s, so I couldn’t even run off on the, ‘ooh look – it’s all about the 80s!’ thing. That would have been a tenuous horror connection I could have made, and maybe  pointed out we were about to repeat this decade on another diatribe there. Ah well…

So I went back to basics, the other obvious song to check your back seat to. It’ll be no surprise to you to know I had Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult in mind for that. Now, once again, this one wasn’t really as straightforward as may seem on the surface, but is instead something completely different. This song has faced a different challenge though, in that it had more than one alternative interpretation. My somewhat brief research turned up that this song had been connected in the past with suicide pacts. Not so much. It seems it was intended as a love song, with the love in question extending beyond mortality. Look here: . So a very easy link to an unearthly conclusion. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more vampire movies, which regularly have the topic of eternal love crop up. Heard it here first?

Actually, you’ll see this used more frequently in context with those who have good reason to fear an interpretation of the Reaper than anything else.:null
Personally, I blame Supernatural…
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…excellent as it has been at slick horror. Season One was particularly adept at producing classic rock tracks at almost comically apt times.

Finally, one I looked up more recently in its true context, but very much of the theme;  The Specials and Ghost Town. With its very deliberate haunted house style, this one really did strike a chord in 1981 when it hit Number One in the UK charts, but more for genuinely frightening reasons. Now I might have only been four years old at the time, but there was little avoiding the news headlines, even back then. It didn’t help that most of us were living nearby something happening even then (in my case, Brixton). Even the little I knew of the world felt like a deeply scary place, with all the fires and violence captured in picture. And now that I can look back at it with a historical eye, it’s kind of worse than what I knew at that age.

“The overall sense I wanted to convey was impending doom”, said The Specials keyboardist Jerry Dammers. Well, that certainly came across. The song was both a product of its time and a real snapshot of it. The connection between supernatural turmoil and real-life trouble is very close with this one.

I’d have been tempted to have said something about last year’s riots in the UK, when for obvious reasons, Ghost Town returned to a certain prominence. I was lucky enough to have been further away from any obvious hotspots this time, but overall there was less of an ‘OMG’ and more of a ‘WTF?’ about them. However, a friend of mine with better memories of  1981 than I do (a polite way of saying he’s older) observed that apparently little had changed apart for the fact that then the disorder was overall provoked by a genuine sense of social injustice, as opposed to the “nasty, thieving little bastards” of almost exactly 30 years later.

So, another playlist with a purpose, all finding common ground in television and film when it comes to apocalyptic Bad Things. Now, I shall shuffle back to figuring out how to do it on paper.

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Comments
  1. I often ponder playlists for specific things and then never bother to do anything other than think about them. Occasionally, a song will come on my MP3 player and I’ll think ‘that’ll be good for my X playlist’ but by the time I get home I have forgotten about it…

    Apocalyptica are a good band for songs that sound as if they should be soundtracks but aren’t. Thier album of original compositions (Worlds collide) is wonderful for that and the title track actually screams Waypoint at me everytime I listen to it…

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