Horror Themes

Novelty Songs--Weird, wild, and wacky-- novelty songs were a popular form of rock 'n' roll in its early years although virtually non-existent today (except for perhaps "Weird Al" Yankovic) .  However, decades ago, it seemed that every vocal group had at least one novelty song in their oeuvre and numerous acts, such as Bobby "Boris" Pickett, The Coasters, The Hollywood Argyles, and John Zacherle, built their careers entrie on novelties.  Often humorous, the novelty song depended on being out of the ordinary for its success.  According to Steve Otfinosky in The Golden Age of Novelty Songs, the novelty song "has often shown a fondness for the wild, the strange, and the bizarre, whether it be the gimmickry of funny, high-pitched voices and ear-arresting sound effects or such taboo subject matter as sex, insanity, or death."  This list of subject matter could easily apply to the horror genre, and, indeed, many novelty songs dealt with horror subject matter in one way or another, usually with humor.  One typical novelty song with horror overtones is "Transfusion," by Nervous Norvus (aka Jimmy Drake), which relates the story of the hapless speaker whose continued catastrophes require him to get "juiced up" on a regular basis.


Boys and Girls--First and foremost, the subject of teenage romantic love dominated the pop charts during the early years of rock n roll.  For the first time, teenagers had a music genre all to themselves. Tin pan alley had a limited thematic palette at the time, so boy/girl romance featured prominently in the majority of songs that were released, even in songs that fell into the horror genre.  Surprisingly, the topic of teenage romance and the horror genre dovetailed nicely.  First, since horror appeals largely to a teenage audience, connections to puppy love, a concern of primary importance to the teenager, were inevitable.  Furthermore, on a deeper level, horror's uneasiness about sex and sexuality coincided with pre-sexual revolution attitudes on the subject.  Thus, at this time in music, the association of sex and horror, destruction, mayhem, and death prevailed.  "Jekyll and Hyde, by Jim Burgett, illustrates this nexus as it tells the story of a young man whose sexual advances are stymied by his girlfriend, and thus, he's force to lead a double life, with his dark side becoming uncontrollable, as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  (Notably, the song makes reference to a classic horror figure.  Many horror songs from this era pay homage to the classic monsters or reference subjects from other media.)


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