Legends of the British Blues – Volume 2

January 19th, 2015


This home-made two-hour CD I made is the second collection of my favorite British blues recordings. It was the Brits who turned me (and millions of others from my generation) on to our very own homegrown genre of music: The Blues. Crank it up!

1) The UK blues super-group The Blues Band originally consisted of ex-Manfred Mann members Paul Jones (vocals & harmonica) and Tom McGuinness (guitar), drummer Hughie Flint from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, vocalist, ex-John Dummer Blues Band Dave Kelly (vocals & slide guitar) and ex-Wild Turkey bassist Gary Fletcher. When their first LP debuted the press headlines ran “From ‘Doo Wah Diddy’ to ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’”, highlighting the Willie Dixon/Bo Diddley song chosen for inclusion here.

2) Jeff Beck’s powerful guitarwork propels The Yardbirds cover Elmore James’ “I Must Have Done Somebody Wrong”: “I Ain’t Done Wrong”.

3) Humble Pie, another British “super-group” boasted Steve Marriott (ex-Small Faces) and Peter Frampton (ex-Herd) on guitars and vocals, plus Greg Ridley (ex-Spooky Tooth on bass and Jerry Shirley (ex-Apostolic Intervention) on drums. Here is their re-arranged cover of the Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters blues classic “I’m Ready”.

4) Ian Anderson and Mick Abrahams of Jethro Tull perform a blues duet on “Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine For You” from 1968’s This Was LP.

5) Before Eric Clapton recorded Freddie King’s “Steppin’ Out” with his bands The Powerhouse and Cream, he cut this version with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers.

6) The last single recorded by Fleetwood Mac when Peter Green, the group’s founder, was still a member of the band was his haunting “Green Manalishi (with the Three-Pronged Crown)”.

7) Willie Dixon’s song “You Need Love” was first recorded by Muddy Waters. This version by Steve Marriott and The Small Faces (renamed “You Need Loving”) was covered by Led Zeppelin as “Whole Lotta Love”.

8) “Porcupine Juice” was one of three terrific instrumentals recorded by Santa Barbara Machine Head. That’s future Deep Purple founder Jon Lord on organ and future Faces and Rolling Stones member Ron Wood on that wild lead guitar.

9) The most unusual twelve-bar blues on this disc is “For Example” by The Nice. Keyboardist Keith Emerson became even more famous after he co-founded Emerson Lake & Palmer.

10) Tom Jones and Jools Holland perform a rollicking version of Cab Calloway’s classic blues hit “St. James Infirmary”.

11) Jellybread was led by piano whiz Pete Wingfield, whose “Eighteen with a Bullet” was a hit in 1975. That’s his vocals and playing on the blues-rock classic “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”.

12) Eric Burdon never lost his love for singing the blues as evidenced by this recent recording of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man”.

13) Freddie King’s great blues instrumental “The Stumble” is well-covered by Peter Green from back in his John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers days.

14) My favorite version of the eerie Screamin’ Jay Hawkins blues classic “I Put a Spell On You” is by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. “Stop it! Stop it! Please — PLEASE!

15) The Pretty Things were rough and raw during their early days, as evidenced by their hit “Rosalyn”, a song later covered by David Bowie on his Pin-Ups LP.

16) Before the membership of the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation solidified, they cut “Stone Cold Crazy” when Rod Stewart and Peter Green were briefly part of Aynsley’s group.

17) Koko Taylor’s Chess Records hit “Wang Dang Doodle” gets covered in a lively version by the Welsh band Love Sculpture. That’s Dave Edmunds on guitar and vocals.

18) UK pop star Lulu recorded “Drown in My Own Tears” with Jeff Beck on guitar for the Martin Scorsese PBS television series The Blues.

19) Jeff Beck strikes again, giving support and inspiration to Paul Rodgers on the Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters blues classic “I Just Want to Make Love to You”.

20) Where would the blues be without great train songs? Savoy Brown (formerly the Savoy Brown Blues Band) hit with their great 1969 blues composition “Train to Nowhere”.

KIM FOWLEY 1939–2015

January 17th, 2015

If you spent any time on the streets of Hollywood in the 1960s or 70s, you were bound to eventually run into Kim Fowley.

Who was Kim Fowley? That answer depended upon whom you asked. His indentification varied greatly: pop Svengali, hit record producer, hip scenester with his tap on the latest music trends’ pulse, womanizer extraordinaire, dark overlord, talent scout, songwriter, monster, friend, chameleon, singer, opportunist, self promoter…

You get the picture. He was all that and more — a real, bonafide Hollywood character.

Kim was easy to spot in a crowd. He was rail thin and very tall. He moved through crowds with an elegant grace, his heavy-lidded reptilian eyes always on the prowl…

Living in Hollywood, I saw Kim from afar a lot, often in the company of the “Mayor of Sunset Strip”, little Rodney Bingenheimer. They made a real Mutt ‘n’ Jeff pair.

I first met Kim at a rock festival at Devonshire Downs in the San Fernando Valley, ca. 1968. The Doors had finished their set. Next up was a band called Solid State. Kim Fowley was the festival’s master of ceremonies (a service he later provided for John Lennon at the Plastic Ono Band‘s first public appearance in Toronto). He gave hip advice and peppered the crowd with dryly hilarious bits of pop wisdom in between acts. I sensed a distinct lag in Solid State’s coming to the stage, despite the fact that they seemed all set up. I was close enough to the stage to hear that their drummer had gone missing, caught in Valley traffic. Kim stepped up to the mike.

"Is there a drummer in the house?"

“Is there a drummer in the house?”

I leaped on to the stage. Kim handed me a pair of drumsticks and said, “Go.” I was suddenly playing before a crowd of several thousand people, providing the rhythm for a band I had never met, whose music I had never heard. It was absolutely exhilarating. After a couple of songs there was a line of drummers waiting to take their turn at the stool. Kim gave each one a shot (I thought I was great at the time but, in hindsight, I probably sucked. But man, what a rush!).

Kim is watching you...

As I became more and more of a part of the Hollywood music scene, I heard more and more Tales of Kim. He produced a few hits you might have heard: His first pop hit was “Cherry Pie” by Skip & Flip (warmly covered later by the great Australian band Daddy Cool). “Alley Oop” was a #1 record for the Hollywood Argyles. Fowley produced The Murmaids’ “Popsicles Icicles” (a #3 hit written by a pre-Bread David Gates, whom Fowley had picked up hitchhiking) as well as “Bumble Boogie” (#21), a driving rock version of Rimsky-Korsakov‘s “Flight of the Bumble Bee”, followed by “Nut Rocker”, a rocked-up boogie piano version of Tchaikovsky’s “March” from his “Nutcracker Suite” (UK #1; US #23 — a big influence on Keith Emerson who later recorded it with ELP) both recorded by a session band under the moniker B. Bumble and The Stingers.

Kim Fowley, the Glam Years

The long fingers of this pop Zelig touched The Byrds, the Beach Boys, P. J. Proby, Cat Stevens (Kim wrote the B-side to Cat’s first single), Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Gene Vincent, Alice Cooper, Leon Russell, Kris Kristofferson, Helen Reddy, Warren Zevon, KISS, Ariel Pink, Sky Ferreira and Slade, among many others.

Glammier and Glammier...

Kim Fowley recorded solo LPs as well, all of which found their way into my record collection. When he wanted to, Kim could sing with a classic rock voice similar to Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere & The Raiders.

Kim is perhaps most well-known for putting together, mentoring, producing and (reputedly) having sex with The Runaways.

The Runaways

Fowley recruited the Runaways in 1975 by placing an ad in Who Put the Bomp magazine (I became the magazine’s art director when it shortened its name to BOMP) and ended up producing the band’s 1976 self-titled debut album and co-writing their biggest hit “Cherry Bomb”. This all-girl group would become an icon and inspiration to girl rockers everywhere. Included in this tight rocking unit were future stars Cherie Currie, Lita Ford and Joan Jett. The Runaways, a movie that was made of their rise-and-fall story, painted Fowley as a dark villain.

Kim was nothing if not always eminently quotable. He described himself thus: “I’m everybody’s worst nightmare and somebody’s wet dream. I’m a horrible human being with a heart of gold, or a piece of shit in a bag of diamonds. I’m a bad guy who does nice things, as opposed to a nice guy who does bad things.”

His (accurate) description of the Sunset Strip scene:

“The Sunset Strip is a civilization for the broken-hearted, the mistreated, the overlooked, the underloved and the doomed.”

I got to see some sides of Kim up close when I ran into him in my Sunset Boulevard bank one day. I introduced myself and told him I was in a band. He immediately dropped whatever he was doing and took interest in me. We went up to his office (same building; the entire structure later became the headquarters for the L. A. branch of Motown Records) and he gave me a few 45s. “Learn these songs and get back to me.” They were singles he had produced. The records had gone nowhere but he still believed in the songs — and, for some reason, in me (despite my pleading that this was “our big chance”, my band lacked interest in learning or recording Kim’s material. I’ve still got the singles).

I had heard of Kim’s reputation as a rock Lothario who had (literally) bedded thousands of women. I saw first hand how that worked.

Going through my bank’s lobby and even inside the elevator we encountered several attractive women. Kim asked each and every one: “Do you have a husband or a boyfriend?”

If the answer was “Yes”, he returned his attention to me. If the answer was “No”, he immediately sexually propositioned them. Kim was playing the odds. If, in the course of a day, he asked 200 women to sleep with him, and just 10% said “Yes” (it was pre-Aids 1960s and 70s, a very easy time to get laid), that was another twenty woman under his belt, so to speak. Kim had no problem with rejection (he never pushed himself on anyone, as far as I could see), as there was always another pretty girl (and potential bedmate) just around the corner.

Ignore Kim at your peril...

I grew up, built an art career, made movies, got married, moved to Pasadena and had kids. I’d see Kim rarely. When I did, it was usually at music-related events. The last time I saw him was about a year ago, at an art show opening at the Nucleus Gallery. As I recall, it was a group show on zombies in art (of course I had works in the show). We caught up with each other. He was still a serious hustler. I watched as he skillfully wheedled promises from a number of people who approached him. Like David Bowie, Kim was adept at changing his physical persona. On that night, his once gigantic thicket of massive curly hair now cut short and slicked back, he looked like a hip version of Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, as if the monster had wised up and had become a driving force in the music biz.

Kim eventually succumbed to bladder cancer, an ignoble end to a storied career, but which apparently didn’t affect his lusty sense of humor, as evidenced by these sick bed photos:

Just what the doctor ordered!

The finest care possible, Kim style.

So, of all the labels that graced upon or were heaped upon Kim Fowley, which was the most accurate?

I can only think of one that I think all who knew him just might agree upon:

Unforgettable.

RIP, my strange amigo.

I Stand in Solidarity with My French Cartoonist Brothers

January 7th, 2015

I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn that four renowned French cartoonists (Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, Georges Wolinski, Bernard ‘Tignous’ Verlhac and Jean Cabut), plus several of their colleagues at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and police officers were gunned down in a brutal attack by cowardly Islamic extremists.

My heart goes out to their families, to the French cartoonist and comic artist community, to the people of France and to lovers and promoters of freedom everywhere.

Here is a link to the news story of this unthinkable tragedy:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2900519/Cartoonists-mocked-Islam-refused-threatened-Quranic-law-killed-Charlie-Hebdo-massacre-terrorists-asked-name.html

This is a very sad day.

Legends of the British Blues – Volume 1

January 6th, 2015

I recently compiled a two-hour CD of my favorite British blues tracks. Then, I drew a cover for this collection (see above) and burned a CD for my own listening pleasure.

Here’s the track list (plus commentary; think of these as liner notes):
1-2) Water and Junior’s Wailing are the opening tracks to Reflections, the first LP by Steamhammer. Martin Pugh, their lead guitarist, is featured on Rod Stewart’s first solo LP. He later joined the Yardbirds’ lead singer, Keith Relf, in the blues-rock/progressive band Armageddon.

3) Lost Woman is the Yardbirds’ blistering interpretation of Snooky Pryor’s blues number Someone to Love Me. Note the incredible interplay and weaving of sound between Jeff Beck’s guitar and Keith Relf’s harmonica.

4) Watch ‘n’ Chain by the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation is a delightfully percussive variation on the old blues song Can I Do It for You by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. Dunbar has maintained a spectacular career, drumming for Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Jefferson Starship, Journey and many, many more. That’s Victor Brox on those gruff, low vocals.

5) Ex-Yardbirds lead guitar player Jeff Beck has always had at least one foot in the blues. This is just one of his versions of Rollin’ and Tumblin’, first recorded by Hambone Willie Newbern. The hot vocals on this version are by Imogen Heap.

6) Eric Burdon and The Animals have always loved the blues. Except for their pop hits (and even a few those, too), nearly everything the original band recorded were blues numbers, including this Ray Charles classic, I Believe to My Soul.

7) After their first LP, Mick Abrahams split from Jethro Tull to form the blues-rock band Blodwyn Pig. Long Bomb Blues features a solo Mick on guitar and vocals.

8) Unassuming blues guitarist and vocalist Rory Gallagher is lionized around the world — but especially in his native Ireland. His first band, Taste, recorded Railway and Gun on their second album.

9) The first two LPs by the Rolling Stones were practically all blues covers. The band has maintained a love for the blues all throughout their career. Ventilator Blues is from their classic two-LP set Exile on Main Street.

10) Originally called the Climax Chicago Blues Band, the Climax Blues Band rock out here with the sizzling, Bo Diddley-ish Shake Your Love.

11) Before Eric Clapton recorded Robert Johnson’s Crossroads with Cream, he and The Powerhouse (Steve Winwood and Pete York from the Spencer Davis Group on vocals and drums, respectively; Paul Jones and Jack Bruce from Manfred Mann on harmonica and bass, respectively; Ben Palmer from Clapton’s first band, The Roosters, on piano) cut that song and two other blues numbers for the Elektra sampler What’s Shakin’.

12) 54146 is a fine acoustic blues by Tony (TS) McPhee of The Groundhogs. It was The Groundhogs who backed American bluesman John Lee Hooker on his first UK tour.

13) The Supernatural, a haunting instrumental by John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, features the evocative playing and elegantly sustained feedback of the UK’s finest blues guitarist, Peter Green, later the founder of Fleetwood Mac.

14) Hear Me Calling by Ten Years After is sung and played by its composer, guitarist Alvin Lee. A powerful cover of this song is on the glam band Slade’s first live LP.

15) The Muddy Waters/Willie Dixon Chess Records classic I Just Want to Make Love to You receives an exciting revamp from Foghat, a group born from three members who left the Savoy Brown Blues Band.

16) Now for something naughty: Penicillin Blues by the Scottish band Stone The Crows, a reworking of I Think You Need a Shot by Walter Davis. Those deliciously raspy vocals are by the one and only Maggie Bell.

17) Baby Please Don’t Go was the first hit by Irish blues-rockers Them, a group headed by singer/sax player Van Morrison. This version of the Big Joe Williams song features Jimmy Page on lead guitar.

18) Perhaps the most unusual blues on this collection, We’re Going Wrong by Cream features ethereal falsetto vocals by their bassist (and the composer of the song) Jack Bruce.

19) Procol Harum is known for its classical music influences (as displayed in their first hit, A Whiter Shade of Pale) — but Robin Trower, their lead guitarist and composer of the lively Whisky Train, has never shied from his blues roots.

20) When it comes to bare simplicity, few bands outdo the blues-rock band Free. Songs of Yesterday is from their second LP. Their vocalist, Paul Rodgers, eventually went on to sing lead for Bad Company, The Firm (with Jimmy Page), Queen and many others.

21) Scottish rockers Nazareth kick butt here with their breakthrough blues hit Bad Bad Boy. That’s Dan McCafferty on those raw, raspy vocals — a big influence on Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Axl Rose.

22) Streetwalkers were born from the split-up of the band Family. Their unique lead singer Roger Chapman usually included a blues or two on each Streetwalkers LP and continues to do so with his solo career. That’s the Jeff Beck Group’s Bobby Tench on back-up vocals here on Otis Blackwell’s Daddy Rolling Stone, a song also recorded by The Who.

23) My favorite British blues recording is Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning as interpreted by Manfred Mann. The mood is thick and the playing and dynamics are great.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2015

Happy New Year! Oops! Wrong year up above on the zombie baby’s banner!

It was great to see our friends Mick and Cynthia (Zamperini) Garris on TV this morning representing Cynthia’s dad, the incredible Louis Zamperini, in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Mick and Cynthia Garris

Louis was the parade’s Grand Marshal.

Just before my three-mile run I heard a mighty roar. I looked up and saw a B2 Stealth Bomber flying right overhead. The B2 usually begins the Rose Parade with a low zoom up the length of Pasadena’s main street, Colorado Boulevard.

I stopped and watched in awe, then began my run and immediately ran into (not literally) long time Disney artist (and official Disney Legend) Floyd Norman, my neighbor, friend and fellow CAPS (Comic Art Professional Society) member.

Floyd and I chatted for awhile, and a huge red-tailed hawk flew over us.

Then I took off on my run (in an attempt to stay in shape I run three miles of hills every other day). After my run while I was doing my cool-down walk I saw two of the bright green Pasadena parrots fly past me.

I suddenly heard an unfamiliar bird call. I knew it wasn’t a mockingbird because it kept repeating. I finally spotted the source of this odd song: it was a red-whiskered bulbul, a beautiful bird native to Hong Kong and tropical Southeast Asia that is now beginning to thrive in the Los Angeles area. I saw a mating pair of them perched in the holly bush by my dining room window about two months ago.

All in all, it’s been a pretty interesting morning and great beginning to the new year here in Pasadena.

May the joys and wonders of life continue!

Louis Zamperini 1917–2014

December 31st, 2014

Louis Zamperini is the subject of the bestselling non-fiction book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit). The fine film version (a film project that had been bouncing around since 1957!) of Unbroken was directed by Angelina Jolie and was released, appropriately, on Christmas Day.

I met Louie decades ago. He’s the father-in-law and father of two of my family’s closest friends, Mick and Cynthia Garris. Louis was selected as the Grand Marshal for the Tournament of Roses Parade (locally known as The Rose Parade) here in Pasadena tomorrow morning. Because he passed away a few months ago, Cynthia and her brother Luke will be representing their amazing dad in the parade whose theme this year is “Inspiring Stories”. And when it comes to inspiring stories, few, if any, can beat Louie’s.

Louie was an amazing guy who never lost his mischievous spirit or enthusiasm for life. He gave up skateboarding at age 80! I’ll always treasure the time I spent with him. You’ve probably already read the book (it was at the top of the NY Times‘ bestseller list for about four years running), but if you’re one of the very few who hasn’t, pick it up. You’re in for an inspiring, astonishing, emotionally shattering thrill ride. I won’t get into the details of Louie’s extraordinary life (I don’t want to spoil either the book or the movie for you), but I’d like to tell a little Louie-related personal tale.

When my oldest son Andy was in elementary school he got the assignment to interview an adult (it couldn’t be his parents) and then write and give an oral report on the interview. I suggested that Andy call Louie. He did, and Louie generously spent hours on the phone with Andy, telling him his incredible life story.

Andy wrote up his report and then delivered it to his class. After he finished telling the Louis Zamperini story his teacher confronted him.

“Andy,” she said, “the assignment was to interview an adult —- not to make up stories.”

“Yeah, Andy,” the kids in class chimed in, “that never could have happened. You made it all up.”

Try as he could, Andy couldn’t convince his teacher or the class that Louie’s extraordinary tale was true. I had to contact the teacher and verify that Andy had indeed interviewed an adult and that, although seemingly unbelievable, Louis Zamperini’s amazing saga was absolutely true!

Some people have complained that the film version of Unbroken should have also told the emotionally searing tale of his fall and redemption — but that could easily have added another two hours to the film. In actuality, the full Louis Zamperini story would take a nine hour mini-series — at least. Let’s all be thankful that Ms. Jolie poured her heart and soul into this project and came up with a film as fine and stirring as it is.

Farewell, 2014…Happy New Year!

And God bless, you, Louie. You not only changed your life but saved, changed and inspired thousands of others.

Holiday Shopping! Fast Shipping!

December 2nd, 2014

Shopping for the holidays? Yes? Then may I suggest a couple of gift ideas?

Feel free to peruse my online catalog (the William Stout Bazaar; you can find it above under Store) for a variety of items. There are two books of which I am especially proud.

The first is pictured above. William Stout – Prehistoric Life Murals is the first in a series of autobiographical art books. This tome explores the process of creating my first seventeen murals, paintings commissioned by Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the San Diego Natural History Museum. It’s loaded with color pictures of the murals and their studies; it includes spectacular foldouts; and it’s peppered throughout with close-up details. It’s a bargain at its original $40 — but we’ve actually dropped the price to just $30!

Legends of the Blues was a total labor of love on my part. The book contains 100 full color portraits of my favorite blues musicians born in 1930 or earlier. I also wrote the biographies that face each portrait, as well as producing the blues CD that comes with the book. You can either look at it as paying $20 for a CD that comes with a free book, or $20 for a book that comes with a free CD.

This is the perfect gift for any Baby Boomer you might know (your dad, perhaps?).

WAIT —- THERE’S MORE!!!

During the month of December I’ll be shipping every order I get by Priority Mail within 24 hours of payment clearance, to make you get your books in time for the holidays. I’ll be happy to personalize them, too. Did I mention the mural book comes with a sketch? No? I should have.

Happy Shopping!

Yusuf – Tell ‘Em I’m Gone

November 3rd, 2014

The new Yusuf (formerly Cat Stevens) CD is out and available. The cover is pictured above.

Wanna see the original cover I drew for this CD? Here it is:

Sony/Legacy preferred to use a photo of Yusuf instead of art. Yusuf convinced them, however, to use my cover for a limited 12″ vinyl edition of the album.

I originally planned for the cover to be a wraparound and designed it that way. Here’s that full cover:

This image is the centerspread to the CD booklet (although it’s printed in black & white in the booklet, not color as it is here). The image shown here is the un-cropped version, by the way.

I share full design credit with Yusuf and his talented son Yoriyos (who connected me with his dad). They were very hands-on, making the creation of this cover a very collaborative experience. They were great — very kind and respectful, as well as being very clear in communicating their vision. Thank you guys, for being so much fun to work with!

I also drew an illustration for each song. I may show those on this site at a later date.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

October 31st, 2014

Tarman Jack O'Lantern courtesy of Lee "Goatboy" Hartnup

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! My favorite holiday!

My Beast Wishes go out to all of my friends, fans and followers on this special day! Actually, let’s celebrate Halloween AND the Days of the Dead (All Saints Day and All Souls Day) this three-day weekend.

If you need some ideas for horror movies to watch tonight, here’s a blog Blast From the Past:

Presented as a service to horror fans everywhere, here are a dozen (actually, a baker’s dozen) little horror gems you might have missed:

1) The Uninvited (1944)
This spooky Ray Milland movie was one of the inspirations for Poltergeist (1982). The scent of mimosa is detected just before each ghostly appearance (which is referenced in Poltergeist). The ravishing melody of Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight” is the incredibly enchanting theme played throughout the film. This is one great, creepy ghost story.

2) Dead of Night (1945)
The finest horror anthology ever made, the English film Dead of Night hosts a wonderful déjà vu framework in its elliptical structure. It contains the most chilling ventriloquist dummy story ever filmed, with Michael Redgrave as the ventriloquist. My blood still runs cold during the film’s final appearance of his dummy.

3) Grave of the Vampire (1972)
This low budget grindhouse mini-classic has one of the best openings of any horror film. William Smith (I helped land him the role as Conan‘s father in Conan the Barbarian) is terrific as the unholy spawn of his mother’s rape, hunting down the vampire who committed this violation. The script is by David Chase, much better known as the creator of The Sopranos.

4) Raw Meat (aka Death Line) (1973)
Talking ‘bout grindhouses, I saw this disturbing horror romance (really!) at my favorite local Hollywood grindhouse, The World Theater (no longer in existence) — three movies for 99¢. The ushers all had concealed and fully loaded shoulder pistols. I first saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre there. Sitting behind me were Zsa Zsa Gabor and six gentlemen in tuxedos! Surreal!

OK; back to Raw Meat: This English tale is set in the last remnants of a forgotten tube (subway) tunnel colony living underground for over fifty years. It stars the great Donald (Halloween) Pleasence. Surprisingly touching. Mind the door!

5) They Came From Within (aka Shivers) (1975)
David Cronenberg’s first film is a low budget classic. The concept is pure Cronenberg: a confined colony of apartment residents rapidly fall victim to a parasite that is a combination venereal disease and aphrodisiac!

6) Dead & Buried (1981)
Another film with an absolutely brilliant opening, Dead & Buried plays like one of the best Twilight Zone episodes you have never seen. It was written by my old pals Dan (Alien, Return of the Living Dead, Blue Thunder, Dark Star) O’Bannon and Ronald (Alien, Total Recall) Shusett.

7) The Company of Wolves (1984)
The second film directed by the great Neil (The Crying Game) Jordan, this horror anthology mixes classic fairy tales with werewolf lore. The amazing production design is by Anton Furst, who later went on to design Tim Burton’s Batman and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket before leaping to his death off the top of a building at age 47, permanently ending a budding brilliant career. The movie stars Angela Lansbury, David Warner and Stephen Rea. Visually stunning!

8) The Gate (1987)
The Gate is told from the point of view of three children who accidentally release a gaggle of demons from a hole in their backyard. There’s stop motion animation, too! For years, my young sons used The Gate as the measuring stick for scariness in other horror films (“Is it as scary as… The Gate?”).

9) Body Melt (1993)
This wild roller coaster of an Australian horror film never lets up. The movie’s ad tagline was “The first phase is hallucinogenic… the second phase is glandular… and the third phase is… BODY MELT”. Woo hoo! You had me at “hallucinogenic”!


10) Dagon (2001)
My pal Stuart (Re-Animator) Gordon directed this moody horror piece that combines H. P. Lovecraft’s “Dagon” and “The Shadow Over Insmouth”. It boasts what must be the longest (about half the film!) chase in cinema history. I detect good ol’ Bernie (Swamp Thing) Wrightson’s (uncredited) influence in the design of the fish people.

11) Frailty (2001)
Before anyone else suspected how good Matthew McConaughey could be, Bill Paxton did when he cast McConaughey in Paxton’s first feature length directorial effort, Frailty. I predicted exactly where this chilling film was going — and I was completely wrong. Powers (Deadwood) Booth and Jeremy (Peter Pan) Sumter also star.

12) The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Of all the films on this list, this is the one you most likely saw. Co-written by Joss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Whedon, it came out at the same time as Joss’ blockbuster The Avengers, so it may have gotten lost in the cinematic shuffle. I think it’s better than The Avengers; it’s certainly more original. It fools you into thinking you’re watching another garden variety teens-in-a-cabin slasher film (albeit with better dialogue) and then WHAM! — something unexpected happens and the movie is off and running. Big time thrills and fun, it stars Chris (Thor) Hemsworth, actor’s actor Richard Jenkins and Bradley (West Wing) Whitford.

Since you may have seen The Cabin in the Woods, I’ll add one more to the list for a Baker’s Dozen:

13) Viy (1967)
This epic Russian horror fantasy has one of the greatest horror sequences ever filmed. It comes near the end of the film when the film’s young priest “hero” must spend three nights alone with the corpse of a witch. Wait until you see the demons oozing from the church’s walls! Co-written by the great Aleksandr Ptushko, who directed the spectacular fantasy epic (a cast of 106,000 plus 11,000 horses!) Ilya Muromets, the first widescreen Soviet film.

That’s my Baker’s Dozen. Agree? Disagree? Got obscure horror flicks you’d love to share? Today’s the day! I’m always up for discovering something good I may have missed.

Note: When this was originally posted, I received other suggestions. Two of the best were the great Japanese ghost anthology Kwaidan and Frequency (starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel).

Join the party and have a great Halloween!

Halloween…is Coming!

October 30th, 2014

Oh boy! My favorite holiday is just around the cobwebbed corner!