Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween! Music Video Round-up Madness

In celebration of the greatest holiday ever, Mondo Heather is pleased to present you with some of the scariest, silliest and creepiest music videos that I could come up with in 10 minutes. Halloween is my Christmas, minus the awkward family gatherings and plus lots of pumpkins, plastic skeletons and monster masks. Granted the latter two have a semi-permanent place in my life, but I digress.

Anyways, if you love all things ooky, spooky and sonic, then read on! If you dare.....

Starting things off is Landscape's "My Name is Norman Bates." A quirky and unique UK band that became best known for their hit, "Einstein a Go-Go," Landscape contributed a nice tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, PSYCHO, and its main character. The video itself features some lovely B&W visuals, a scary castle and an actress that is a dead ringer for Janet Leigh. This would make an awesome double bill with The Hitmen's "Bates Motel." (A fantastic song and one of the best music videos ever. Too bad that the version on Youtube is complete crap quality, including the color being muted out. Hence why it is not on this list. otherwise it would be top dog here.)

Up next is one of my personal heroes, Thor aka Jon Mikl Thor, the Canadian Heavy Metal Thunder God. Not only has the man been involved in some wonderfully cheesy horror movies, including the b-movie epic ROCK & ROLL NIGHTMARE, but he is Thor. Screw Hollywood, accept the one true deity only! This video is not really scary but it does feature some sword & sorcery imagery and the song kicks ass. Plus Thor attacks a fortune teller??? Awesome.

In a darker vein, there's Patrick Cowley's "They Came at Night." Cowley was an electronic-pop wunderkind who helped breathe in new life for drag legend and vocal angel Sylvester's career. Cowley was also an early casualty of AIDS, something that is reflected in this song. This piece of music is already eerie, but when you factor in that this is about a man dealing with death being at his door, it is even more haunting. It is a testament to Cowley's talent that even in such a state, he was able to create such good music. (And yes, I do realize that this is not a music video proper, but given that this is one that tends to get left off a lot of lists like this, I had to mention it.)

Speaking of real life, after that we have Falco's "Jeanny." While most Americans probably remember Falco for such danceable pop songs like "Rock Me Amadeus" and "Der Kommissar," the man also created one amazing and disturbing song in the form of "Jeanny." Inspired by the very real crimes of Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger, this is definitely dark musical territory, especially for a pop artist. For more info on this song and its history, you can check out an article I wrote back in 2010.

In a more surreal vein, there is Icehouse's "Icehouse." The band formerly known as Flowers were part of the Australian New Wave scene, they created such pop classics as "We Can Get Together," "Can't Help Myself" and "Great Southern Land." In an odd move, they also made this song, which has a sort of cold yet sad starkness about it. Add in director's Russell Mulcahy's surrealistic and subtly nightmarish visuals and you have a recipe for a perfect for a cold, Autumn night video. Plus, this was apparently at one point banned on Australian TV! Have a day.

 Speaking of music videos that were banned, up next we have Blue Oyster Cult's "Joan Crawford." Yes, this creepy gem was banned, not on Australian TV (that I know of) but on MTV. Despite some revisionist nostalgia, MTV was never really as cool as some people will try to tell you, kids. Blue Oyster Cult need no introduction, being one of the greatest rock bands ever. Plus, never has the whole schoolgirl/rock video theme been more suitably disturbing.

Now on a lighter note, there is the master of all things horror and rock, Alice Cooper. I adore Alice Cooper and realistically, about 3/4 of his catalog could comprise a list of this nature. But instead, to keep things interesting, here is "Identity Crisis," an obscure tune from Claudio Fragasso's 1980's horror film, MONSTER DOG.

You cannot have a Halloween themed music list without featuring Australia's own Skyhooks and their song, "Horror Movies." I first heard of this band via Elvira's compilation, "Haunted Hits," which led me to their other work, including the kickass rocker, "Women in Uniform." (Which went on to be covered by Iron Maiden by the way.) "Horror Movies," while not their best song, does feature the catchy hooks and tongue-in-cheek humor that helped define this band.

 From campy back to moody, we have Marilyn Martin's "Night Moves," a song that would have been perfect for the soundtrack of a horror themed show, like "The Hitchhiker" or the massively underrated "Forever Knight." The latter would be especially fitting, given the obvious influence the music video has from the vampire 80's classic, THE HUNGER. It's a good, moody pop song and a far better thing to associate with the lovely Ms. Martin, than her more famed duet with angry-Gerber baby man himself, Phil Collins.

If you want dark eroticism, then look no further than France's Mylene Farmer. This artist has amassed a brilliant body of work, often tackling some rather shadowy themes and layers that most singers shy away from. She was another one, like Alice, that proved to be harder to pick just one video, but I ended up settling on "Beyond My Control." The wolf and blood imagery and repeated loop of John Malkovich from DANGEROUS LIASONS uttering the song's title is beyond perfect. I love Mylene Farmer.

 Speaking of musical genius, after that we have Nash the Slash. The one man band who first made his name playing for Canadian progressive rock band, FM, has built an extremely striking body of work, whether it is working a John Hinckley reference in his cover of "Psychotic Reaction" or composing a lovely score for F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU. Every heart should make room for some love for this man and "Swing Shift" is a big reason why. The video is properly low budget and is as uncomfortable and riveting as the song itself.

One of the greatest bands to have emerged from the shadows of the UK music scene in the late 1970's is undoubtedly, Bauhaus. A band whose music still sounds as fresh and unlike anything else to this day, despite inspiring a slew of musicians, their song and video for the track "Mask" is one of the best examples of the beauty of nightmares and decay.

The next video might seem initially like an odd choice, unless you too have seen the William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST, TO LIVE & DIE IN LA) directed video. Laura Branigan's "Self Control," a cover of the Italo-Disco hit by Raf, is a perfect, adult pop song. Branigan does not get enough love nowadays for my money and this song/video are evidence why she was truly a star in the way that most pop singers nowadays wished they could be. (The fact that she actually had a great voice without the aid of Protools helps. A lot.) The video itself plays out like some kind of wonderfully lurid, pyscho-sexual Italian Giallo. All that is missing is a black gloved killer but given that there is an uncut cut floating around somewhere, you never know. Until then, we have this still racy version to enjoy.

Now is the time for some spooky garage rock revival, New York style, with The Fuzztones and their creepy epic, "Ward 81." The Fuzztones are, simply put, awesome and this song should make a convert of anyone that likes their rock and roll a little rough around the edges with some organs to boot. What's even more of a treat is how good this video is, looking like a B-Movie style horror film from the late 60's. (Special thanks goes out to Scott Law for introducing me to this one years ago.)

Speaking of retro with a modern twist, after that we have Australia's Beasts of Bourbon and their faithfully, skin crawlingly scary cover of the Leon Payne classic, "Psycho." The video is just as good, with some murky looking proceedings going on in the distance behind singer Tex Perkins anguished facade. (If your not familiar with this band, look up more of their stuff on Youtube. They are phenomenal.)

 Rounding things up is Vinnie Vincent Invasion's "Love Kills," which was the main song from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER. Granted, this is not one of their better songs but still deserves to be featured for two very good reasons. First of all, it is Vinnie Vincent, who is a guitar god and by far, the most underrated member of Kiss ever. Secondly, it's Vinnie Vincent playing guitar with the Freddy Krueger glove and then winking and smiling at the camera. It's awesome, adorable and worth sitting through the overall average video alone.

I hope you've enjoyed my mighty list of spooky musical video goodness and even more, that you have a wonderful holiday season! May your treats be plenty, your tricks few and all of your masks be Don Post.

Copyright 2011 Heather Drain