This week in RCS Music News Weekly – The Halloween Edition: Encounters with rock star ghosts, the haunted LA mansion that influenced MCR’s “The Black Parade,” the enduring story of Robert Johnson and the Devil at the crossroads, and AC/DC’s whiskey-fuelled hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. But first…
5 Disturbing Songs That People Love
Right now, someone somewhere is cranking up a favorite tune and saying, “I love this song,” unaware the song contains dark lyrics and subject matter. Even some of the catchiest and seemingly innocent pop songs hide a dark side. Here are a few of them:
- Born in the U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 hit from his album of the same name is about a man who got into trouble as a kid, got shipped off to Vietnam, saw friends die there, and was outcast from society after returning home. Yet for some reason, it’s played all over the place as a patriotic anthem.
- Semi-Charmed Life: Third Eye Blind’s catchy 1997 hit sounds like the soundtrack to summer and “everything’s going to be fine!” Yet the song is about a drug user’s descent into crystal meth addiction and unbridled sex while trying to find something else.
- Every Breath You Take: Regularly interpreted as a love song, this 1983 smash by The Police is really a stalker’s anthem.
- Jeremy: Standard for any Pearl Jam cover band, this 1992 song was inspired by the real-life suicide of high-school student Jeremy Wade Delle, who shot himself in front of classmates in January 1991. Though police never revealed the contents of Wade’s suicide note, Pearl Jam’s video portrays Wade as a confused, frustrated teen who was ignored at home and bullied in school.
- Santa Monica: This deceptively sunny 1995 song by Everclear was allegedly inspired by the suicide of band leader Art Alexakis’s teenage girlfriend, as well as his own unsuccessful suicide attempt by jumping off the Santa Monica pier.
Are there other disturbing songs out there that people love? You bet your Halloween pumpkin there are, like “The Tipping Point” by Tears for Fears (featured in last week’s RCS blog), but RCS Music News Weekly advises caution before hitting Google to search for disturbing songs that people love. There are some rabbit holes you just don’t want to drop into, especially when some corridors contain things that are truly disturbing.
Was “Zombie” Really About a Zombie?
If (or when) the zombies attack, it’s easy to imagine them hearing the Cranberries’ 1994 song “Zombie” and saying, “Hey! We have a theme song!” Sadly, such is not the case. The Cranberries’ immortal song was penned by the band’s late singer, Dolores O’Riordan, in memory of two young victims of the 1993 Warrington Bombings, which may place this song among the list of disturbing songs that people love.
The Monsters of Rock Now Include Actual Monsters
Eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley wasn’t imagining Frankenstein rocking a leather jacket and bass guitar when she wrote her immortal Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1816 and the line, “If I cannot inspire love, I will inspire fear!” Yet if she had been, her thoughts probably looked like Rhythm and Beats’ Frankenstein Guitar T-Shirt, which equally seems to evoke the Frankenstein line, “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” (Respect.)
You can also grab one of these snappy Frankie T-shirts at Redbubble.
AC/DC’s Whiskey-Fuelled Hunt for the Loch Ness Monster
Some while ago while chatting with NME, AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson fondly recalled the time he and the late Malcolm Young head out on a whiskey-fuelled quest to find the Loch Ness Monster. What did they bring along to attract the attention of the elusive water beastie?
A big box of fireworks, naturally.
Did it work?
As told by Johnson to NME, “Mal had a drink in one hand, a box of fireworks in the other, and was trying to set fire to the loch. We were just howling. By the time we got back to our wives, we had straw in our hair and were covered in mud. What a night!”
Nessie experts who may not be experts (or even exist) believe that if the sea beastie did see the spectacle, he or she likely thought, “That was epic! You guys rock.”
Some Rock Stars Might Still Be Lurking About in Ghostly Form
Most rock stars survive beyond the grave in the hearts of fans and the music they’ve recorded. Yet according to certain Halloween-flavored tales, some rock stars may still be lurking about in ghostly form.
- The Lizard King may not have broken all the way through to the other side. In 2009, a purported photo of Jim Morrison’s ghost lingering over his grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, was deemed authentic by researchers.
- Elvis may not have completely left the building. According to The King’s second cousin, Danny Smith, Elvis may have touched him on the shoulder during lockdown. (Smith did not indicate whether The King may have used hand sanitizer first.) In 2019, Chef Dez allegedly photographed the ghost of Elvis hanging around the trees of Graceland, and in 2020, KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas reported on numerous sightings of the ghost of Elvis at the Westgate Hotel. Given the sheer geography involved in the reports, RCS Music News Weekly can only speculate that some of the sightings may be the ghosts of Elvis impersonators.
- Gram Parsons may still be hanging out at the Joshua Tree Inn. In 1973, American singer-songwriter Gram Parsons died in Room 8 of the infamous Joshua Tree Inn from a combination of morphine and alcohol. Yet in a 2015 Exclaim! interview, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves said how she experienced the ghost of Gram Parsons while staying at the inn during filming for her monster single “Follow Your Heart.” In 2015, inn manager Deedee Rusich also spoke of mysterious occurrences, including discarnate voices, doors inexplicably opening and closing, and other things suggesting the Halloween veil is always a bit thin at the inn.
Is Guelph similarly home to rock star ghosts?
Certainly, memories of past Guelph performances by rock legends like Iggy Pop still linger, but spectrally speaking, no rock star ghost sightings have been reported in the Royal City. Yet the Visit Guelph website includes tales of ghosts at the Baker Street Parking Lot, the Albion Hotel, the Guelph Armoury, and other locations.
How a Haunted Mansion Influenced MCR’s Biggest Album, The Black Parade
In 2006, My Chemical Romance took up temporary residence at LA’s Paramour Mansion to record their third studio album, The Black Parade. Having heard stories about the Paramour being haunted, the band thought the place would be the ideal location to record their otherworldly rock opera—the story of a character called The Patient, who dies of cancer and must deal with the grief of death while coming to terms with his past. Yet a short time into the recording, they weren’t so certain about their chosen location.
While there (according to Loudwire), the band noticed doors slamming and opening on their own. Singer Gerard Way experienced night terrors, echoed in the album track “Sleep.” Bassist Mikey Way (already experiencing mental health issues) was filled with a discomforting feeling and wound up sleeping on the floor in Gerard’s room before temporarily leaving the mansion to seek help. According to Songfacts, Gerard said, “It felt like something was coming after us. Every time we turned a corner, it was staring at us.” While it’s unclear where Songfacts got this quote, one thing is known. The entire band left the mansion before their scheduled time, and a curse seemed to follow the them before the band decided to figuratively kill their Black Parade alter-ego in 2008 by declaring The Black Parade Is Dead!
Robert Johnson and the Devil at the Crossroads
In the long history of “the Devil’s music,” one of the most well-known tales is that Mississippi-born blues guitarist/songwriter Robert Leroy Johnson (1911-1938) gained his legendary skills after heading to some crossroads to meet the Devil, who tuned Johnson’s guitar and gave him mastery of the instrument in exchange for his soul.
While the story certainly has all the colors of Halloween, fuelled by Johnson songs like “Hell Hound on My Trail” and the fact that little is known about Johnson (including his death and where he was buried), the 2019 Netflix documentary Devil at the Crossroads examines the most likely reason Johnson became a blues master. He simply went off for a year, practiced and practiced, and got very good through hard work and dedication.
Still, the Devil myth and its connection to music endured, reflected in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band, tales of Satanic messages in recordings (revealed only when the recordings are played backward, naturally), and the hilarious Kids in the Hall classic “Bobby Versus Satan” in an epic rock showdown.
A Nightmare on King Street – Live Music and Halloween Costume Party
Royal G Symphony, Ethan Luce, The Empties, and Baybe perform live on Halloween night (October 31st), 7-10 PM at the Casbah Lounge, 306 King St. W. in Hamiton.
>> Tickets just $15 at Eventbrite.
Limited capacity. Proof of vaccination required to attend this event.
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