Friday, 29 October 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 78 (Top Five): Halloween!

And so what better way to celebrate Halloween than with our top five celebrating all things ghostly, ghouly and downright scary? Apart from watching a Spice Girls video? (Those things give you nightmares!)

5) “Walpurgis Night” (Allan Clarke, ‘My Real Name Is ‘Arold’ 1972): Alright so those who know their German will recognise that this song isn’t about Halloween at all but the night of April 30th which is recognised in Germany as being the witches’ Sabbath and their equivalent of our rather Americanised version of Halloween on October 31st. Still, the images fit, what with Lucifer hailing (does he control the weather then?!) and evil prevailing. The Hollies singer is on his first sabbatical from the group and recorded this on his first and rarest solo LP in an American studio (still not available on CD, curses!) Intriguingly the band he left behind are busy recording their Halloween song at exactly the same time back in the UK and yet neither party will ever record a Halloween-themed song ever again. Spooky! All together on that chorus now: Ha ha ha ha!

4) “Witchy Woman” (The Hollies, song recorded during sessions for ‘Romany’ but unreleased until that album came out on CD 2004): What used to be one of the most obscure Hollies tracks of all time – never heard except on bootleg until five years ago – seems to have a life of it’s own. I recently saw a Halloween-themed disco CD featuring this song and heard it crop up on a film soundtrack too – could it be the world just wasn’t ready to hear The Hollies going ‘woo-hoo witchy woman’ but they’ve somehow been hypnotised into it in the past few years? Listen out on this track for Swedish singer Mickael Rickfors having perhaps his hardest day of having to decipher words from a foreign language (what is our Halloween ritual all about?!) and Tony Hicks’ metallic guitar parts that sound more like Led Zeppelin than The Hollies we know and love.

3) “Passing Ghosts” (Lindisfarne, ‘Fog On The Tyne’ 1971): This song about suddenly coming face to face with something from your past is perhaps the band’s finest example of their famous sweet-and-sour harmonies, giving this novelty song from Alan Hull and extra added weight. There’s some grave images here (literally so in the third verse when the narrator sees his own coffin), but the whole thing’s treated as a joke, as if time is playing some great game with us all and aging and killing us before we’ve had a chance to do the jobs on earth we were meant to do. Spooky.

2) “Ghost Town” (Cat Stevens, ‘Buddha And The Chocolate Box’ 1974): Come on, baby, let’s go down town. You see Cat’s just been telling me about a great town he’s come across where the Marx Brothers are still alive and up to mischief (picking on their more serious brother Karl in one of Catty’s funniest lines) and Walt Disney is there to greet us (he never really had his body put in a fridge when he died you know – that’s a modern myth!) With all those spooky goings on, it’s a wonder that Cat can actually hear the funky beat to sing along to.

1) “Wicked Annabella” (The Kinks, ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ 1968): perhaps the definitive Halloweeny track, though, comes from The Kinks’ much heralded but poor selling masterpiece. In this collection of very English vignettes, there’s always a place for villains and Wicked Annabella, the village green’s resident witch, is given a terrific sneering quality courtesy of a terrific vocal from Dave Davies, rattling drums from Mick Avory on what sounds like cauldrons and Pete Quaife doing his best Bach impressions on the bass (no kidding – see our Pete Quaife special a few issues ago). It’s Ray Davies’ story-telling, though, that makes this song a two minute wonder, making this song sound quaintly middle-ages like and very 1960s all at the same time, suggesting perhaps how little our society have moved on from the days when we branded people as witches and tried to drown them (we just do so metaphorically nowadays – and no our campaign against the Spice Girls doesn’t count as all five are clearly witches).  

Well, that’s it for another issue! Be sure to tune in next time – unless the goblins, ghouls and ghosts get to us first!

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