There are several songs out there that are readily associated with horror: Tubular Bells, the Poltergeist theme, the Jaws theme… and many others. And then, there are those songs that you wouldn’t necessarily consider to be horror themes on their own. But, once you hear them in a scary context, they no longer seem innocent. Your mind has immediately returned to the place where you first heard that song and it immediately fills you with fear. Take the Deliverance theme. On its own, it’s a down-home plucking show-down between a guitar and a banjo. Then… you watch the movie. And you understand. If you ever hear that song somewhere out in the middle of the woods, by yourself, you’d probably run a quarter-mile without ever looking back. Such is the case with this week’s inspiration through music.
I went through a staggering number of songs, picking out the best ones that I feel have a horror touch to them. These songs may seem completely normal but when given a frightening image to accompany them, are no longer safe. Warning: If you see a song you like here, then don’t read beyond that. Because I’m probably going to ruin it for you. If you don’t care, then read on! The following four were the top picks!
Life Could Be A Dream (Sh-Boom) – The Crew Cuts: It was the only song playing in the near empty cocktail bar. When she walked in, she’d expected all of the guests to be in it, laughing, drinking… but there was nobody. Nothing. Guests wouldn’t be up in their beds this early. It was a little after cocktail hour. She’d spent a few minutes in her suite making herself over a little to try and impress the men. She walks over to the bar. There’s no bartender either. “Hello?” she calls tentatively. No answer. She returns to the door and glances across the hall to the dining room. That’s empty, too. What was going on? She goes back to the bar counter and helps herself to a decanter of cordial. Surely no one would care if she helped herself. All of a sudden, she sees something shaking out of the corner of her eye. She turns to the far corner of the room. Next to the record player is a man with his back to her, shaking violently. Or at least it looks like a man. His hair is scruffy and his movements almost seem unnatural. She’s not sure whether she should say hello or not. Something about him doesn’t seem right, though. Cautiously, she places the decanter back behind the bar and starts to leave. Half way to the door, the man is suddenly facing her. She screams. He has no face. In his hand is a long serrated knife of some kind. Her legs turn to jelly as he suddenly sprints at her.
The Happiest Christmas Tree – Nat King Cole: A father and daughter are going to pick out a Christmas tree for their house. They find a lot where a bunch of trees have been brought in and set up. The area is claustrophobic. People are everywhere. The air smells of vanilla and hot chocolate. Snow looks like it could fall from the sky at any moment. As he wanders through the lot, guiding his daughter along behind him with her hand in his, he begins to feel as though he’s being watched. He looks around. But there are too many faces, too many trees to be able to get a good idea. He maneuvers between a few more trees, and realizes that suddenly, there’s nothing solid in his hand. He turns around. His daughter is gone. In his hand is her mitten, which has slid right off her hand. He calls her name. Nothing. He wanders through the trees, all the while, thinking how much his ex-wife is going to kill him if he doesn’t find her. He’d pleaded with her to have his daughter for this experience. And now he’s lost her. Suddenly, he catches sight of something else on the ground, the same color as the mitten still gripped tightly in his hand. It’s her hat. One hat, one mitten… no girl. (Granted, this scene isn’t horror as much as it is thriller. But if you’re a parent, it’s still frightening to imagine happening. This is actually a scene that I was planning to use in my U.P. novel.)
Spring Concerto – Antonio Vivaldi: The third party of the coming-out season. She had imagined more men her age would be there. Instead, it’s all friends of her father’s. A bunch of older men who looked at her with lecherous eyes. She’s tried to hide in the background as much as possible, trying to avoid being asked by any of them to dance. After all, they weren’t what she was looking for. She supposed she shouldn’t be so picky. After all, her best friend had married someone nearly thirty years her senior only a few months ago. She would have to take what she could get. But in her heart, she just couldn’t help but hold out for a true romantic. She thought she’d spotted one at one of the first parties, a young man whom had a reputation around the countryside. They’d shared a dance, even gone out onto the terrace afterword and talked. He’d even dared to try and kiss her. And fool that she was, she’d almost let him, wishing it was her wedding night already. But her father had intervened. Last she saw of the man was her father escorting him to the door to her father’s study. She hadn’t seen him at the next party and so far, not at this one either. Her father tells her to go and collect the jar of “special brandy” from his study. She leaves the ballroom and heads for his study, confused about why she is doing this instead of some maid or butler. Once the door is shut, she turns toward the desk and immediately screams. In a glass jar in amber liquid, is the head of her would-be “suitor”.
Mahna Mahna – The Muppet Show: (Oh yeah. I’m gonna.) She sat watching her son’s favorite television show. It was a bunch of puppets singing and he always liked to jump up and dance with them. She remembered when she used to watch these shows when she was little. As the program goes on, she thinks about how little time she’s had to spend with him ever since getting her new job. It seems like she’s been on the go for the last week and hasn’t been at home enough. It also seems as though this show is all he ever talks about. She wonders how often he’s been re-watching the same tape. This seems to be his favorite. “Kids love repitition.” she says to herself as it closes in on the end of the song. She’d discovered this when he fell in love with the muppets “Mahna Mahna” song and used to play it over and over again on his little CD player. The song ends. She gets up to turn off the DVD. Instead, she stands frozen, her eyes locked on the screen. The puppets are staring at her. Just… staring. As if there were no television screen between her and them. It would have been funny if one of them had said something… or if the video had just gone black. But it never did. Five minutes later, they were still staring at her. Something in their stark white eyes seemed dangerous. She quickly turns off the DVD player and then realizes that the picture hasn’t changed. They’re still there, still watching…
I love that last song. But when I heard it a few days ago, I just got the image of these freaky puppets and couldn’t help myself. Just so we’re clear, puppets are right up there with clowns and dolls for me in the list of scary things.
Sorry that I couldn’t have this up for you on Halloween. I honestly have the black plague. This cold is awful. I actually managed to sleep last night which is some good luck. Here’s hoping that one more night of sleep will help kick this thing. As for Cooking Adventures, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow night for that one.
Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be bringing you the works of Craig Armstrong, one of my absolute favorite film composers, who has been responsible for a ton of inspiration lately. Stay tuned!