Back in the 70s, one of the Philadelphia UHF stations dedicated its Saturday afternoon airwaves to B-grade horror and science fiction movies. Horror Theater and Mad Theater (the show name varied according to the genre of movie being shown) were presided over by local personality Joseph Zawislak, aka Dr. Shock, an amiable vampire/mad scientist hybrid. Perhaps it is exposure to this program during my formative years that has always blurred the distinction between horror and sci-fi for me. In any case, it is with a tip of the cap to the good Doctor that I offer up a double bill of Halloween-ish playlists.
Some years ago—enough that don’t recall exactly when—I compiled an iTunes playlist of “Halloween” music. rather loosely defined. I assume my method was my typical one for creating thematic lists: start with a handful of songs I knew I wanted to include, and supplement by doing a bunch of title searches for likely keywords. In this case, I know I took a pretty broad approach, as the range of plausible Halloween content spans psychos to Satan, cemeteries to candy. Over the years, I added to the list irregularly by doing similar searches on new additions to my library.
Going into this year, “Scary Monsters”, as I called it, had just under 200 songs, but as I started updating it for the 2018 season, I became increasingly aware of a number of omissions, songs I knew fit the theme of the list but which had never made it on. So I did an even deeper dive into my library to look for these stragglers, and “Scary Monsters” ballooned out to over 250 entries, which got me thinking that maybe it could do with a little pruning.
“Allhallowtide” is the product of that pruning. I kicked out songs that were starting to feel like a reach thematically or that I just didn’t like very much. I also got it into compliance with 8tracks’ limit of only two songs from any single artist or album (a restriction that impacted some artists more than others: the Mekons, Tom Waits, and the Gothic Archies could each populate a modest Halloween soundtrack all on their own). By then, I had cut my list down by almost 50%, to 8 hours worth of reasonably spooky-sounding songs I feel like I can stand behind.
Because of the length, I'll forego a full track listing and offer up some demographics instead. Among the 131 songs, one can find: 16 ghosts, 15 devils/demons, 12 graves/burials/cemeteries, 10 deaths (personified and literal), 9 vampires, 8 dark nights, 8 miscellaneous monsters and beasts, 7 zombies, 7 corpses (or other remains), 6 killers, 5 acts of black magic, 4 hauntings, 4 damned souls, 3 cannibals, 3 werewolves, 3 Frankensteins, 3 generalized fears, 2 hangmen, 2 witches, 2 pieces of candy, and 2 mentions of Halloween itself.
Little Green Men
While trimming down the "Allhallowtide" playlist, I ran across a few songs referencing space creatures of various sorts. I opted to omit them from that list as being a little too far off-theme, but it got me thinking about alien creatures in music (Wussy’s excellent cover of the Twinkeyz’ Aliens in Our Midst from this year’s What Heaven Is Like being very much on my mind of late), which led me down yet another playlist-building rabbit-hole. I broadened criteria a bit to a more blanket “sci-fi” theme but tried to be more rigorous about songs actually being on theme rather than simply referencing it. After trimming for 8tracks-compliance (sorry Man or Astro-man?, whose entire discography could probably have qualified otherwise), I had what seemed like a fairly tight 42-song playlist, “Little Green Men”.
- Game Theory (with Donnie Jupiter), Aliens in Our Midst [live] (Blaze of Glory, 1984)
- Man or Astro-man?, Destination Venus (Destroy All Astromen!, 1994)
- Veronica Falls, Shooting Star (Waiting for Something to Happen, 2013)
- The B-52’s, Hallucinating Pluto (collected on Time Capsule: Songs For a Future Generation, 1998)
- Wussy, Asteroid (Strawberry, 2011)
- Yo La Tengo, Satellite (May I Sing With Me, 1992)
- Man or Astro-man?, Junk Satellite (Made From Technetium, 1997)
- Lou Reed, Satellite of Love (Transformer, 1972)
- Patti Smith Group, Space Monkey (Easter, 1978)
- Ass Ponys, Astronaut (Some Stupid with a Flare Gun, 2000)
- Mekons, Ghosts Of American Astronauts (So Good It Hurts, 1987)
- Sonic Youth, Silver Rocket (Daydream Nation, 1988)
- Shonen Knife, Riding on the Rocket (Pretty Little Baka Guy + Live in Japan, 1986)
- The Baseball Project, Ichiro Goes To the Moon (Volume 2: High and Inside, 2011)
- Sugar, Man on the Moon (Copper Blue, 1992)
- Yo La Tengo, Moonrock Mambo (Summer Sun, 2003)
- Jonathan Coulton, Redshirt (collected on Jonathan Coulton’s Greatest Hit (Plus 13 Other Songs), 2012)
- The Only Ones, Another Girl, Another Planet (Why Don’t You Kill Yourself?, 1978)
- The 18.104.22.168’s, My Boyfriend From Outer Space (collected on Bomb the Rocks (Early Days Singles 1989 to 1996), 2003)
- Lora Logic, Martian Man (Fanfare in the Garden, 1982)
- The Modern Lovers, Here Come the Martian Martians (Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, 1976)
- Chavez, Little Twelvetoes (Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks, 1996)
- The Byrds, Mr. Spaceman (collected on Greatest Hits, 1966)
- The B-52’s, Planet Claire (collected on Time Capsule: Songs For a Future Generation, 1979)
- The Magnetic Fields, Alien Being (The House of Tomorrow [EP], 1999)
- Le Tigre, Phanta (Le Tigre, 1999)
- The Pretenders, Space Invader (Pretenders, 1980)
- Blue Öyster Cult, Godzilla (Spectres, 1977)
- Sufjan Stevens, Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois (Illinois, 2005)
- Hüsker Dü, Books About UFOs (New Day Rising, 1985)
- The Rezillos, Flying Saucer Attack (collected on A Reference Of Female Fronted Punk Rock 1977-89, 1978)
- Creedence Clearwater Revival, It Came Out Of the Sky (Willy and the Poor Boys, 1969)
- Adam WarRock, I Will Do Science To It [kHill remix] (I Will Do Science To It [single], 2011)
- Thomas Dolby, She Blinded Me With Science (The Golden Age of Wireless, 1982)
- Parliament, Dr. Funkenstein (The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, 1976)
- Rhett Miller, Happy Birthday, Don’t Die (Rhett Miller, 2009)
- Jonathan Coulton, The Future Soon (collected on Jonathan Coulton's Greatest Hit (Plus 13 Other Songs), 2012)
- The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, 2002)
- Daft Punk, Robot Rock / Oh Yeah (Alive 2007, 2007)
- Gorillaz, Starshine (Gorillaz, 2001)
- Wooden Shjips, Other Stars (Back to Land, 2013)
- Wussy, Aliens in Our Midst (What Heaven Is Like, 2018)
Let there be fright!
I turn 50 this year, a milestone that is neither particularly unusual nor particularly difficult to reach. Nevertheless, custom seems to dictate that I mark such an event in some way. So I rolled out of bed one morning, recalled the Magnetic Fields’ 50 Song Memoir from last year, and decided if Stephin Merritt is allowed the indulgence of writing a song for every year of his life, I could at least get away with making a playlist of songs from every year of mine.
Somewhat uncharacteristically for me, I tried not to overthink my selections: I simply went through my iTunes library “Perfect Songs” list year by year, grabbing songs more or less by gut instinct. My one constraint was to allow only one song per artist, but I resisted the temptation to use that as an excuse for second-guessing earlier choices. A few years didn’t have any 5-star rated songs, and that did require a bit of extra deliberation. I also had to make a couple adjustments when I discovered that songs I’d chosen had been filed under the wrong year, but for the most part, I was able to stay true those initial gut reactions. Here's the full list:
- 1968: The Rolling Stones, Sympathy For the Devil (Beggars Banquet)
- 1969: Fairport Convention, Matty Groves (Liege and Lief)
- 1970: James Brown, Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine (Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine [single], collected on Star Time)
- 1971: Gil Scott-Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Pieces Of a Man) — 4-star song
- 1972: Al Green, Let's Stay Together (Let's Stay Together)
- 1973: Bruce Springsteen, Wild Billy's Circus Story (The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle)
- 1974: Big Star, September Gurls (Radio City)
- 1975: Bob Dylan & The Band, You Ain't Goin' Nowhere (The Basement Tapes)
- 1976: Michael Hurley/The Unholy Modal Rounders/Jeffrey Frederick & The Clamtones, Jacknife/The Red Newt (Have Moicy!)
- 1977: Parliament, Flash Light (Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome)
- 1978: X-Ray Spex, Genetic Engineering (Germfree Adolescents)
- 1979: The Clash, Rudie Can't Fail (London Calling)
- 1980: The Feelies, The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness (Crazy Rhythms)
- 1981: Soft Cell, Tainted Love (Tainted Love [7"] collected on The Very Best of Soft Cell) — 4-star song
- 1982: Minutemen, If Reagan Played Disco (Bean Spill [7"], collected on Post-Mersh, Vol. 3)
- 1983: U2, Two Hearts Beat As One (War)
- 1984: Big Black, Racer-X (Racer-X [EP])
- 1985: Tom Waits, Jockey Full of Bourbon (Rain Dogs)
- 1986: The Costello Show, American Without Tears (King Of America)
- 1987: Sonic Youth, Schizophrenia (Sister)
- 1988: Scrawl, Green Beer (He's Drunk)
- 1989: De La Soul, The Magic Number (3 Feet High and Rising)
- 1990: Deee-lite, Groove Is In the Heart (World Clique)
- 1991: Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nevermind)
- 1992: Bettie Serveert, Tom Boy (Palomine)
- 1993: Liz Phair, Fuck and Run (Exile In Guyville)
- 1994: Five Eight, Weirdo (Weirdo)
- 1995: Old 97's, Victoria (Wreck Your Life)
- 1996: Imperial Teen, Butch (Seasick)
- 1997: Aviso, Babyfat (Aviso)
- 1998: Watershed, Superstressed (Star Vehicle) — 4-star song
- 1999: Le Tigre, Deceptacon (Le Tigre)
- 2000: PJ Harvey, This Is Love (Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea)
- 2001: The Moldy Peaches, Steak For Chicken (The Moldy Peaches)
- 2002: Mekons, Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem (OOOH!)
- 2003: The Wrens, This Boy Is Exhausted (The Meadowlands)
- 2004: The Mountain Goats, Linda Blair Was Born Innocent (We Shall All Be Healed)
- 2005: Gogol Bordello, Think Locally Fuck Globally (Gypsy Punks (Underground World Strike))
- 2006: The Thermals, Power Doesn't Run On Nothing (The Body, the Blood, the Machine)
- 2007: The New Pornographers, All the Old Showstoppers (Challengers)
- 2008: Frightened Rabbit, Head Rolls Off (The Midnight Organ Fight)
- 2009: Wussy, Happiness Bleeds (Wussy)
- 2010: Titus Andronicus, Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Dimensions and the Madness of Crowds (Responsible Hate Anthem) (The Monitor)
- 2011: Swearin’, Kenosha (What a Dump [EP])
- 2012: Hop Along, Tibetan Pop Stars (Get Disowned)
- 2013: The Uncluded, Teleprompters (Hokey Fright)
- 2014: Parquet Courts (as “Parkay Quarts”), Pretty Machines (Content Nausea)
- 2015: Sleater-Kinney, Bury Our Friends (No Cities to Love)
- 2016: The Goon Sax, Telephone (Up to Anything) — 4-star song
- 2017: Thurst, Distance (Cut to the Chafe) — 4-star song
- 2018 (one to grow on): Screaming Females, Shake It Off (The A.V. Club Sessions [single])
The reasons behind the specific choices are varied and idiosyncratic. They aren’t necessarily the “best” songs of their respective years, nor even of their respective artists, but it’s safe to say that I’ve obsessed over all of them at one point in my life or another. In many cases, a song is indelibly tied to a particular time in my life, but a fair number (especially in the first third of the list) are anachronisms I only discovered years, even decades, after they were released. Some of the choices may have been skewed by the “vinyl limbo” effect (there are a number of albums—particularly from the 70s and 80s—that I dearly love but which aren’t in my iTunes library because I own them on vinyl and won’t let myself re-purchase them on CD or digitally). In short, there is a story behind every one of these songs. Perhaps I will get around to telling those stories one of these days.
A not-so-new, but perhaps seasonally appropriate playlist. This had a long gestation period, like most of my mixes, but in an unfortunate coincidence of timing, I was finalizing it on 8tracks just as news of the the Orlando nightclub shootings last June was breaking. By that point, I was kind of wedded to the title, but it seemed in very poor taste to publicize it, so I let it sit. I still like the playlist, even if I strayed outside the Corvidae family to populate it.
- Los Campesions!, The Black Bird, The Dark Slope (Hello Sadness, 2009)
- The Mountain Goats, Magpie (The Sunset Tree, 2000)
- The Gothic Archies, Crows (from The Vile Village) (The Tragic Treasury: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2006)
- Yo La Tengo, Tiny Birds (Summer Sun, 2003)
- Peter Gabriel, This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) (So, 1986)
- The Ramones, Surfin’ Bird (Rocket To Russia, 1977)
- The Coathangers, Jaybird (Larceny & Old Lace, 2011)
- Neko Case, Magpie To the Morning (Middle Cyclones, 2009)
- Doc Watson & Merle Watson, Cuckoo Bird (More Music from the Florida Folklife Collection, 1977)
- The White Stripes, Little Bird (De Stijl, 2000)
- Neil Young & Crazy Horse, (Zuma, 1975)
- Ass Ponys, Dead Fly the Birds (The Known Universe, 1996)
- Quasi, Bye Bye Blackbird (American Gong, 2010)
My neglect of this poor old blog has been an ongoing source of shame for me. The meager trickle of new content over the past few years is one aspect of that neglect. There are multiple reasons for the lack of output, but I will save that discussion for another time. Nearly as embarrassing has been the state of the site’s plumbing, which was still largely based on the HTML templates I cobbled together back in aught-three. Table-based page layout may have been acceptable back then, but they’ve been a thorn in my side for a number of years now. I’ve tried, at various points, to move to a tableless layout, but all the solutions I could find either were hacky, or I couldn’t figure out how to adapt them for my needs.
Then CSS Flexbox came along, or more specifically, Philip Walton’s Solved By Flexbox demos came along and finally worked their way through the internet grapevine to somewhere I would actually hear about them (a few months ago). It took me some time to try out Walton’s methods and get confident about using them myself. It took a while more to get them to do more or less what I wanted them to do. And because I was going to be ripping out the guts of my templates anyway, I wandered down some side-paths about improving my typography and some other aspects of the design. Finally I had to dive into the templates themselves, remind myself how they all fit together, and brush up on my rather rusty Tinderbox skills. Altogether, I’ve spent about 3 weeks on the modernization project, but, with this post I can finally unveil my all-new, mobile-friendly, responsive blog layout. Huzzah!
To be sure, there are probably a few rough spots lurking in these pages. I’m still, at best, a mediocre typographer, and I suspect my choice of color scheme is deeply offensive to someone with a more refined visual palate than I’ll ever possess. But as far as I can tell, the new stuff basically works, and I at least don’t have to be ashamed of my janky old tables any more. It’s a start.
Despite what the timing might suggest, this is not a Valentine’s Day mix, unless you equate Valentine’s Day with mistakes, regrets, and apologies, in which case I guess it is, albeit a few days late. Just one more thing for me to feel sorry about.
- Tsunami, Enter Misguided (A Brilliant Mistake, 1997)
- Wussy, This Will Not End Well (Wussy, 2009)
- Old 97’s, Crash On the Barrelhead (Fight Songs, 1999)
- SLUTEVER, So Prone (Pretend To Be Nice [7” EP], 2011)
- The Buzzcocks, Something’s Gone Wrong Again (Singles Going Steady, 1992 [re-release])
- Lemonheads, Fucked Up (Hate Your Friends, 1987)
- Hüsker Dü, I Apologize (New Day Rising, 1985)
- Velocity Girl, Sorry Again (Sorry Again [7” EP], 1994)
- Wussy, Dreadful Sorry (Wussy, 2009)
- Wye Oak, Regret (If Children, 2008)
- Galaxie 500, Sorry (This Is Our Music, 1990)
- The Magnetic Fields, I’m Sorry I Love You (69 Love Songs, 1999)
- The Waco Brothers, Regrets (The Waco Brothers, 1999)
- Luna, Bobby Peru (Pup Tent, 1997)
- The Costello Show, Brilliant Mistake (King of America, 1996)
- The Mountain Goats, Cotton (We Shall All Be Healed, 2004)
I am acutely aware of the lack of activity here on Donut Age of late, but I’m not prepared to resume even my decidedly irregular posting frequency yet. So in lieu of real content, I will just share some music mixes I’ve created in the past few months.
A long playlist (63 tracks) of barn-burners and blood-pumpers. Field tested during hours 11 and 12 of what was supposed to be a 10-hour drive and proven effective at combatting road madness and/or somnolence.
Testing the tensile strength of metaphors
It has become something of a tradition for me to make a Valentine’s Day mix. The 2015 edition explores some of the unlikely and/or tortured metaphors for love, lust and heartbreak.
While Midlantis has not suffered as much as some other regions, this winter’s tenacity has been such as to put one in an apocalyptic frame of mind.