Today is Halloween and this might be the most appropriate song. Released in 1993, it became an instant classic. It’s not quite as ubiquitous as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Bobby Picket’s “Monster Mash” but it fit’s the occasion like a spooky glove.
“Danny Elfman, who has scored many of Tim Burton’s imaginative films (Edward Scissorhands, his two Batman films, etc.), is a perfect musical partner for the somewhat macabre director, and never more so than here, where, Elfman gets to play the main character. The Nightmare Before Christmas is an animated movie musical about the abduction of Christmas by the denizens of Halloween land, and Elfman sings the part of Jack, the Pumpkin King.” (allmusic, edited)
Here’s an unofficial video for created by a pop music chart show from Bremen, West Germany. The song is a funky jam and I think better than their other well-known single “Come And Get Your Love”.
Redbone released a recording of the song in 1971 as a single and on an the LP Message from a Drum. Pat and Lolly Vegas, brothers and band-mates wrote the song together. Their recording combines elements of Southern Swamp-Rock, Native Folk-Rock and Funk.
Redbone was actually the first All Native American band to reach number one on a singles chart in any country. It was with this song. “Witch Queen” reached number one in Belgium. It hit number two on the UK Singles chart. It got to 15 in Canada but only 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA.
Because of the subject matter, the song has become a favorite for Halloween celebrations in the US, UK and Canada.
The song is about a 19th century Voodoo practitioner named Marie Laveau. You probably didn’t read about her in your high-school history book. She was a free woman of color, Creole, born and died in New Orleans, 1801-1881.
Her life story is long and interesting. There is far to much to cover here in this blog. The short version is that she was a famous Herbalist, Voodoo Priestess, Beautician and Midwife. Despite being a person of color, she herself owned slaves. For a while she was the elected leader of The New Orleans Voodoo Organization. This is why they gave her the nickname “Witch Queen”.
Her unique life experience has inspired many writers and musicians to referenced her in their work. You can still visit her grave today. Notice the marker refers to her VooDoo organization as a cult. Her former home and grave-site are both thought to be haunted by her dead soul.
“This song certainly did not begin it’s life intended for Halloween. The lyrics even mention summertime. Nevertheless, the obvious connection between Halloween and candy has made the song slowly find its way into Halloween mixes. It is now considered a standard include by DJs worldwide. We probably need more songs about candy.
Most of our readers will remember the New Wave version that came out in 1982. The band was called Bow Wow Wow. The single hit No 9 in the UK and 22 in the USA.
The song was originally written from the male perspective. The narrator is talking about a woman named Candy. In the Bow Wow Wow version, Candy is now a male but it feels like it’s secretly woman to woman in this listener’s mind. The subtle lesbian-code did not register with the mainstream audience at the time.
But of course the story does not end there. The song was first made famous in 1965 by The Strangeloves. The band used a type of syncopation called The Bo Diddly Beat on the track. Some footage has unearthed of the band performing on TV. It is thought to be from a show called Shindig. Tony Basil might be one of the dancers in this video, though that has not been verified. See if you can spot her.
Since then a number of other artists have performed or recorded this song. A British group called Candy Girls charted with the song in 1996. Aaron Carter performed the vocal modulation for auto-tune back in 2000. I won’t ask you to listen to Charlie XCX murder the tune live but you can find that on YouTube.
You know you’ve made it as an artist if your song gets covered by The Kidz Bop franchise. Looks like The Strangeloves and Bow Wow Wow have really hit the big time now. The Kidz Bop version appears on the 2012 release Halloween Hits.
Jonathon Round sounds like The Decepticon named Starscream in his 1971 cover of “Sympathy For The Devil” by Mick Jagger, first released by The Rolling Stones. It’s uncanny. Listen to this track.
Christopher Collins was the voice actor that played Starscream on the original animated series from the 1980s. Maybe he heard this album in the 70s and then did his own take on the voice for The Transformers original animated series. It’s plausible. At times in this recording Round sounds like Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe. Collins voiced that character as well.
Some of the Mick Jagger penned lyrics are recited in a creepy somewhat Victorian style rather than sung. Sometimes the singing sounds like it belongs on a Black Sabbath track rather than an acoustic-folk number. When he belts out “Anastasia Screamed” and also when he laughs, it sounds just like that Decepticon from The Transformers.
Ever since I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, we would pull out The Jonathon Round LP around Halloween to play this cover. Not only is the song about The Devil, it has spooky sound effects.
Round (1949-2009) was apparently from the Detroit area. This would explain how my mother got a hold of his self-titled album. I still have the LP and we play it on the live stream during the Halloween season. In researching the album, I was shocked to find out that it was also released in Germany, Britain, and Spain.
Neither discogs nor allmusic have much information about this artist. It took some digging to find out anything. I discovered a few reviews of this album transcribed to a Facebook memorial group from eBay. I could not find these reviews on eBay but they seem legit.
“John was a larger-than-life man… a self-taught guitarist. His songs were a unique blend of observation, experience, fantasy, and politics. … [He was] most noted for his version of ‘Sympathy For the Devil’. Mick Jagger even mentioned this cut on-air as one of his favorite covers” (CaptainPeace, 2009)
“If you think Jonathon’s cover shots are scary, well, just wait’ll you hear this guy sing! This is the voice of a drama student on meth – overly emotive, nearly operatic grand gestures punctuated by that downright creepy maniacal laugh.” (fourthhostcelestials, 2008)
The folk-singer fad was over by the time he recorded this album.
“What you really have to wonder is how this album came out on the Westbound label. I mean, they were both from Detroit, but Westbound was known for funk and soul artists like Funkadelic, The Ohio Players and The Detroit Emeralds. Jonathan doesn’t fit into the funk category at all, but …somehow he got it done, and then got ‘em to release it in a fancy trick sleeve, all the while captivating audiences with his demonic stage show” (fourthhostcelestials, 2008)
The Rattles were a rock band from Hamburg Germany. They are best known for the hit single “The Witch” sung in English and released in 1970 at the height of psychedelia.
Here we have a recovered copy of the original music film, probably from a VHS tape. Someone attempted to re-include the music but it falls out of sync eventually. The colors are muted as well and that makes it extra creepy. What’s not to love about this?
The single reached number 4 in Germany, 8 in the UK and 79 in the US. It was included on the album also called The Witch in 1971. We love the cover-art
Henner Hoir was a band member at the time. He eventually left The Rattles to go solo and perform in other bands. The song was also released under his name and was included on several Henner Hoir greatest hits compilations. For this reason it is frequently credited to him alone rather than the band. It’s kind of odd because he is not even the vocalist. The lead vocals on this track are by Edna Bejarano. She also sang the German version.
Herr Hoir went on to record the song again with an entirely different band called The Rivets. In this writers opinion, it’s a disappointing remake. It’s lacks the energy and pensive character of the original.
The song faded into obscurity in North America but reemerged in recent years as DJS and music fans dig for deeper cuts for their Halloween season playlists. FunHouse Radio is no exception. The remastered English version is in rotation for the season.
How cool is this? About a year ago this fanboy sent a Cameo request to Nell Campbell. She was gracious enough to accept. Then, she divinely over-delivered. We found the video she sent back to be kind and encouraging.
This is actually raw footage. We asked Nell to film herself doing a station ID for FunHouse Radio. We were able to create several with the audio from her fabulous video.
We left the footage uncut so you can see how excellent Ms Campbell is at being extemporaneous. At one point she says “cut this part out” but there is scarcely a word we couldn’t use in our audio IDs. EXCELLENT JOB.
I almost feel like I got to meet her in person. Bravo and Thank You.
Catch up with “Little Nell” with this recent write up from The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tune in to the live stream after watching this and you will likely recognize some of the audio.
This classic track by The Who was not intended specifically for Halloween, but in the recent decades, it has been added to the ever growing Halloween music repertoire.
The song may be inaccurate in assuming that the spider is male. Most of the spiders that people encounter are female. I don’t think that The Who intended any sexism, but maybe it should be “Natasha, The Spider”.
It was first released on the debut album The Who in 1966. It also appeared on an EP called A Quick One
Tim Curry appeared in a made-for-tv movie called The Worst Witch in 1986. He played the role of The Grand Wizard of The Witch Academy. Charlotte Rae also appeared as Miss Cackle the teacher, and Agatha, the teacher’s evil twin.
Curry performed a rather fetching number about Halloween Night in the film.
The movie was then released on VHS and DVD. You can still buy it on amazon but we have not found a streaming service that currently offers this film.
The movie was followed a TV Series of the same name. It can be found on free services tubi and Freevee.