Monday, October 29, 2012


With the Halloween season upon us, it's time to bring out something SPOOKY. Especially since November 1st is right around the corner - and that means TWO MONTHS of Christmas music on the damn radio. Not only does Thanksgiving get cut out completely, but even Halloween gets the short end of the stick - brain-dead radio programmers will say, "oh, since it's Halloween, let's pull out 'Monster Mash' and play it once a shift and call it a day." There are exceptions, of course - but only on non-commercial radio. When I was on the air, my favorite show every year was my Halloween broadcast (in my last years at WFDU, those Halloween shows were pretty much the only time I had fun).

Most Halloween records, truth be told, aren't scary. Funny? Yes. But it's pretty hard to make a truly scary record. But if there was one guy who was equal to the task, it was Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Screamin' Jay (b. Jalacy Hawkins, July 18, 1929, d. Feb. 12, 2000) is well-known, of course, for his 1956 record "I Put A Spell On You", which also used to get play on the radio around Halloween. But besides the truly frightening power of Screamin' Jay's voice (he originally studied to be an opera singer), the record's not really all that scary (though it did scare a lot of radio programmers; the record was banned for "suggestiveness" because of the ending, where Jay simulated - depending on who you ask - either orgasm, buggery, cannibalism, or just plain madness).

This record, however, doesn't play around. It's just plain FREAKY. It starts with a piano and guitar that sound like they're being played in a dark basement, followed by an eerie chorus wordlessly humming an evil chord Then Jay comes in, screaming like a madman as usual, but this time he seems tortured by something, even scared. He sings some weird lyrics, such as "Most lovers are blind/the rest just lose their minds" and "I long so much to be/the way I was before I was me." Even better is the fact that, when Screamin' Jay sings the title, he follows it with this noise that sounds like "affaffaffaffaffafffaaaafafaa". Meanwhile, these strange sounds come out of nowhere from all angles, and at unexpected times. Even the recording engineer gets in on the act, making very weird edits in the record at about 1:39 and 2:27. The record ends with Jay screaming his head off as the weird backing voices take over.

Happy Halloween - and DO NOT listen to this record by yourself in the dark. I can't be responsible for what happens next.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Hear Voices (Enrica 1010) - 1962

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