For some people, Halloween is seen as an evil holiday and rebukes those who participate in this dark and festive time of the year. Yet, for others, it’s a fun, traditional celebration that includes costume parties, watching scary movies, and listening to some really spooky and goofy music that makes you cringe. Centuries ago, the devil was said to exist in a particular musical tone known as the “Devil’s Interval” – it’s a wicked-sounding combination of notes designed to create a chilling or foreboding atmosphere, and used most effectively with heavy and death metal bands. Why do we have such a fascination with hiding behind a mask while being tantalized by evil? Tonight on Ground Zero, Clyde Lewis talks with Dr. Demento and Mr. Lobo about BEYOND THE MONSTER MASH.
Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love it because it is a holiday where people get to pretend that they are somebody else, wear a crazy costume, shock and surprise people for one day, and then safely return to the comfort of their homes, their lives, and personal identities.
But this year something has put a stake through the heart of the season. Covid-19 has taken us away from the spirit of the Holiday –and the police have warned us that there may be fentanyl in the children; s candy.. just like that the authorities take all of the fun out of a Holiday that is supposed to be festive.
We have been told to hide behind masks for so long some of us – can’t take the thing off – and so a Halloween mask may be more difficult to put on now.
We want to breathe free I suppose – but I find it quite interesting how the word Mask – has a connection to the Latin word Larva and also the word ghost.
That the word “larva” also denotes the disguise of a person who wants to hide his evil plans.
And that “Larva”, is also is also a stage of development in insects. I find it ironic that larva and various other insects are the proposed diet for all of us in the future.
How ghastly is that? They want us to eat larva to eventually become worm food after we die.
The supra-national entity run by sociopaths and psychopaths which wear masks behind masks to conceal their lack of empathy decreed that the public should also wear actual masks, to conceal their actual empathy for their fellows.
There seems to be a ritual component to this.
Masks are often used in ritual to ward away evil spirits. Sometimes the masks are worn to transform the identity to that of the being represented by the mask. Other times the masks themselves represent the diseases that cause the sickness.
They all want us to be faceless actors on a stage that they set.
Shakespeare, the ultimate wordsmith, was right, of course, to tell us that “all the world’s a stage,” though I would disagree with the bard that we are “merely” players. It does often seem that way but seeming is the essence of the actor’s show and tell.
But who are we behind the masks? Where does the facade end and the fun begin again?
I am not satisfied with the gloom of the past two years — in fact I was itching to do some fun Halloween shows to try to get into the spirit of the times,
Halloween. The children play at scaring and being scared. Death walks among them and they scream with glee. The play is on. The grim reaper walks up and down the street. Treats greet them. The costumes are ingenious; the masks, wild. It’s all great fun, the candy sweet. So what’s the trick? When does the performance end?
As Halloween ends, the saints come marching in followed by all the souls. The Days of the Dead. Spirits. Ghosts walk the streets. Dead leaves fall. The dead are everywhere, swirling through the air, drifting. We are surrounded by them. We are them. Until…
Until when? Perhaps not until we dead awaken and see through the charade of social life and realize the masked performers are not just the deadly politicians and celebrities, not only the professional actors and the corporate media performers, but us.
And while these days of the dead and children’s games can bring us to wonder whether we act like people or actors– or is there something more to the holiday– maybe the old fashioned cider and bobbing for apples should be renewed and the parties should return.
There are plenty of people out there that will tell you the Halloween is a day set aside for Satan. I figure that people who say this are joyless about the Holiday because they do not like things that scare them.
I sometimes forget that there are some people out there that are afraid of those things that go bump in the night. But Halloween is more than that — it is more than just an excuse for good girls to dress up like naughty nurses and pregnant Nuns.
The festivities include the fun parties, the scary movies on Cable and some really goofy Halloween music to make you cringe.
Even though it is always an opportune moment to break out the Monster Mash and play it until someone threatens to smother you with a pillow — there is a history of dark Halloween music that begins with the Devil’s chord.
Everyone knows the sounds of Halloween: creaky floorboards, howling winds, the amplified sound of a beating heart. But back in the day, the devil was said to exist in a particular musical tone. For centuries, it was called the devil’s interval — or, in Latin, diabolus in musica. In music theory, it’s called the “tritone” because it’s made of three whole steps.
It goes by many names: Diabolus in musica (devil in music), the devil’s interval, the tritone, the triad and the flatted fifth. As its Latin moniker suggests, it’s an evil sounding combination of notes that’s designed to create a chilling or foreboding atmosphere.
The interval was given a sinister name since listeners originally found it unpleasant and surprising. Before the tritone became a common tool in rock, listeners expected artists to play chords and patterns that were pleasing to the ear. When a tone that wasn’t mellifluous – such as the triad – was inserted into a musical passage, it was unsettling since it didn’t conform to the listeners’ expectations.
This simple technique has been used most effectively in heavy metal, and is often credited to Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi who played it in the song “Black Sabbath” from the band’s 1970 self-titled first album.
Although Iommi was untrained in music theory, he devised the three-note passage after listening to a piece of classical music he and bassist Geezer Butler enjoyed by Holst called “Mars, The Bringer of War.”
Many are familiar with the classic triad form Holst’s masterpiece and you can hear the inspiration in the Black Sabbath track.
When Iommi imitated the sound on guitar he liked the unsettling feeling it created. He experimented with the passage and slowed it down to a crawl.
Many consider “Black Sabbath” and Tony Iommi’s genius as the birth of heavy metal.
Throughout the decades, countless bands including Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot have all relied on the devil’s interval to add darkness and power to their music. Slayer even named their 1998 album Diabolus in Musica in homage to the technique.
And while those who hate heavy metal because it uses the Devil’s Chord it may be surprising to learn that the devil’s chord was used in songs like Leonard Bernstein’s Devil’s triad in “Maria” from West Side Story in the simple vocal chorus line “Ma-ri-a” and Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz integrated the devil’s interval into their hit “The Girl From Ipanema.”
The beginning of Rush’s “YYZ” is all triads, King Crimson use a descending tritone in “Red” and Primus play flatted fifths throughout the South Park theme song.
It may also surprise you that The first three notes of The Simpsons theme song by Danny Elfman is a triad.
One of the first songs I learned on the Base was Smoke on the water by Deep Purple which also was the forbidden chord.
There used to be rules against writing music that contained this interval.
During the Renaissance, all music had one purpose: to be beautiful and express the majesty of God. Anything otherwise was studiously avoided. But once music was no longer shackled to the church, it was free to express all kinds of tension. The devil’s interval was ideal for that.
Ever wonder why the Twilight Zone theme is so creepy? It cleverly drills us with the eerie Devil’s Interval.
Play the root note twice, the diminished fifth once, and then the fifth, and repeat the sequence, and the tune will jog your memory of the musical interval from The Munsters.
Rob Zombie who has directed the new Munsters movie is well renowned for using the devil’s chord in a lot of his songs.
Many popular bands use it — it somehow resonated with us and we seem to be empowered by it.
There is more to the Devil in music –and Halloween tunes usually are far far away from anything that would be considered heavy and terrifying.
Most of the songs that are played at Halloween parties are usually harmless goofy songs about Dracula, the wolf man and Frankenstein’s monster.
One such song is the Monster Mash.
Sung with a perfect Boris Karloff impression by the one and only Bobby “Boris” Pickett, “The Monster Mash” really did become the hit of the land. Since its debut in 1962, the seriously goofy novelty song has been a perennial hit, scaring its way onto the airwaves and into the hearts of generation after generation.
Even though it can be tedious like singing Happy Birthday — it is a staple for every Halloween Music countdown.
The year “The Monster Mash” topped the Billboard charts, on Oct. 20 of that year. The song married the popular “dance-style” songs of the day—like Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time (1962)” and Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again (1961)”—with the doo-wop style so prominent in the 1950s. Crafting lyrics based around Pickett’s Boris Karloff impression proved to be a stroke of genius the song needed to be a hit. The song would go on to hit the charts again in 1973—a full decade after its initial release! Today, it’s probably the quintessential Halloween song.
The song took less than an hour to write and featured piano playing by Leon Russell and be produced by Gary Paxton—the guy who did another popular novelty song of the day, “Alley Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles.
“With lyrics like ‘it was a graveyard smash,’ the BBC failed to see the funny side and banned the song for being ‘too morbid.’”
The song wouldn’t be heard on the BBC until 1973, when it hit number three on the UK charts.
Like every good Horror movie even the Monster Mash Got a sequel called the Monster Swim. The song is weird and the lyrics insist that doing the monster swim is great because it’s “bigger than the mash”—but that’s simply not the case, as it didn’t really chart it sank like the Creature form the Black Lagoon.
But Others covered the Monster Mash it like Vincent Price, The Beach Boys, and the Misfits.
In 1965 a song that was in the same vein was actually considered a Teen Tragedy Song by Jimmy Cross. The song called “I want my Baby Back” is one of those songs that again was seen as too morbid to seriously be considered a hit novelty song.
This song was re-released, unofficially, in 1978, after being voted the worst record of all time on Capital Radio’s The World’s Worst Wireless Show,
The song is actually about a guy who wants his baby back a little too much as she is killed by the Leader of the pack in a car crash.
We finally find out how he is reunited with his baby — with a shovel.
Halloween ends is the last movie in the Halloween Franchise and it arrived for Halloween to frighten die hard fans if Michael Meyers and how he has been casing Jamie lee Curtis into retirement. The new film features an old song that seems to be another song that captures the attitude of the Monster Mash called Midnight Monsters Hop by Jack & Jim. The song was recorded before the Monster Mash in Texas in 1959 and it is rumored that Buddy Holly played on the single and it was sung by Buddy Holly’s drummer.
Another great song that goes beyond the Monster Mash was a tune called Monster’s Holiday sung by Buck Owens and the buckaroos.
It was released in 1974.
The song gave him a hit that landed at Number 6. “Monsters’ Holiday” was never known to be one of his signature songs, but it definitely should have been – and it remains one of the most beloved and treasured country Halloween anthems ever written.
You see Halloween does have its fun moments and the music of course is corny — but it is all done in good spirit.
SHOW GUESTS: DR. DEMENTO AND MR. LOBO
Dr. Demento has been celebrating “mad music and crazy comedy” on the airwaves playing everything from Spike Jones to Frank Zappa for nearly five decades. He is responsible for introducing the world to the Dr. Demento Show’s #1 most requested song of all time, “Fish Heads”, and even launching the career of the most successful artist in the entire history of funny music–“Weird Al” Yankovic. Throughout the years, the world-famous Doctor’s influence on pop culture has earned him induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame, an hour long Anniversary special on Comedy Central, featured guest appearances on Late Night with David Lettermen, Larry King Live, and countless others including the award winning animated sitcom, The Simpsons.
Dr. Demento is a world-renowned record collector and music historian, whose lifelong passion for music of all kinds is reflected in the weekly selections heard on the Dr. Demento Show. In addition to live appearances and performances nationwide, the Doctor lectures at educational institutions drawing on his extensive knowledge of the history of Comedy, the music of Frank Zappa, the history of punk rock, and many other topics. His website is drdemento.com.
MR. LOBO’s CINEMA INSOMNIA–a late-night cult TV sensation for “20 or So” years–is now on ROKU channel OSI 74, Twitch, YouTube and has over 22 episodes available on Alpha Video DVD. Host of BLOBFEST at the COLONIAL THEATRE for 9 Years and producer and curator of many CREATURE FEATURES tributes and live SPOOK SHOWS. He has appeared in many MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 Box Sets and nostalgic documentaries-like AMERICAN SCARY, MONSTERS AMONG US, VIRGINIA CREEPERS-talking about “Bad Movies” that he claims are “Just Misunderstood”. He’s THE AMAZING CRISWELL in PLAN 9(2016), a remake of Ed Wood’s PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE (1959). He worked on the retro horror flick THE RANGER for SHUDDER. He was even spoofed on SCOOBY-DOO and attacked by wrestler CHRIS JERICHO on TMZ. He will be seen in the upcoming horror film FEEDERS 3.
Mr. Lobo is a Three Time award winning Horror Host including the Rondo Monster Kid Hall of Fame Award, The Horror Host Hall of Fame Award and The Forry Ackerman Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mr. Lobo lords over slumber party movie fun with his patented blend of humor & satire and claims “They’re Not Bad Movies–Just Misunderstood”. His website is cinemainsomnia.com.