Friday, October 13, 2017

Deep Cuts and Spooky Songs: A 2017 Halloween Mix!

Oh, it's that glorious time of year again! Halloween season!

Granted, for most of us horror enthusiasts, we celebrate creepy things all year long, but for the normal folk, it's usually just October. (And for the slightly more hard-core, some begin mid-September!)

I've already participated in some of my favorite October activities, such as Knott's Scary Farm, Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, and a self-imposed challenge to watch 31 horror anthologies, one per day, for the entire month. But as most of you already know, it's the music that keeps me going and I need to channel some of that passion into yet another mix!

I've made it an annual tradition to mass produce a mix CD with some sort of theme for my birthday in August and hand that out to whomever I see around that time. I deviated only once from this formula back in 2015 when I crafted my HALLOWEEN HITS CD mix (track listing here), and passed it out to friends at Beyondfest. At the beginning of this year, the wheels started turning, and the prospect of two mixes were percolating in my brain. The first was my "90's Hits," (read about that one here) because I had already decided 8 months in advance that my birthday party would be somehow 90's themed. (And it was!) And also, I thought I'd double dip this year and squeeze another playlist out for Halloween 2017!

Now, here's where it gets fun. Most of my previous CD mixes were able to be duplicated either on You Tube, or Spotify, or iTunes. But I really wanted to go a bit more obscure this year. I dug into my record collection for things that aren't all that commercially available. I made my own "edits" on some of these tracks, and pulled some weird stuff out (like a snippet of a character's band in one case)! I crafted this one a bit differently so that it was unique to the actual physical CD I handed out. But rest assured, I'll still share the track listing below, explain those quirky tweaks, and try my best to replicate a You Tube playlist for those I don't get to see often enough in real life.

Without further ado, here is the track listing to -


1. Escape From L.A. theme by John Carpenter & Shirley Walker (from ESCAPE FROM L.A.)
2. Fright Night by J. Geils Band (from FRIGHT NIGHT)
3. It Can't Rain All The Time by Hangman's Joke (Brandon Lee/Eric Draven's band in THE CROW)
4. Amityville Frenzy by Lalo Schirfin (from THE AMITYVILLE HORROR)
5. Theme from Friday The 13th 3D by Harry Manfredini (from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III)
6. Angela's Theme by Frankie Vinci (from SLEEPAWAY CAMP)
7. The Twilight Zone opening by Marius Constant (from THE TWILIGHT ZONE)
8. The Ballad Of Harry Warden by Paul Zaza (from MY BLOODY VALENTINE)
9. His Eyes by Pseudo Echo (from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING)
10. Magic (Part 2 Edit) by Mick Smiley (from GHOSTBUSTERS)
11. B.B. Chant "Where Are You Tonight?" by Charles Bernstein (from DEADLY FRIEND)
12. Shocker by The Dudes Of Wrath (from SHOCKER)
13. Partytime (Zombie Version) by 45 Grave (from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD)
14. The Addams Family by Vic Mizzy (from THE ADDAMS FAMILY)
15. Pet Sematary by Sean Keller (cover of The Ramones song from PET SEMATARY)
16. Rock Until You Drop by Bruce Boughton (from THE MONSTER SQUAD)
17. Confusion (Simulakrum Lab Remix) by Claudio Simonetti (from Dario Argento's OPERA)(
18. Ono-Sendai by Makeup and Vanity Set (from DEATH NOTE)
19. Maniac Cop Rap by Jay Chattaway (from MANIAC COP 2)
20. Are You Ready For Freddy? by The Fat Boys (from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER)
21. The Troxin Theme by Francis Haines (from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD)
22. Chariots of Pumpkins by John Carpenter & Alan Howarth (from HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH)
23. Thriller (Instrumental) by Michael Jackson (from THRILLER)

OK, let's take a look at the selections!

John Carpenter is a rock God nowadays. And so what better way to kick off a mix than with one of his tunes? For when he plays live, he usually opens with the "Escape From New York" main theme (my favorite of Carpenter's themes), but the version he plays with his live band is somewhat a hybrid of the tradition synth theme from the original, and the rockin' version from the sequel. I forgot just how much the L.A. theme rocks, and so here's a reminder. His collaboration with the late, great Shirley Walker.

From there, hard to resist the catchy pop theme for FRIGHT NIGHT from the J. Geils Band as track 2. But here's where it gets fun. When I purchased the vinyl version of Graeme Revell's score for THE CROW, in between 2 cues is a 45 second clip of the Hangman's Joke song "It Can't Rain All The Time." That's right, Eric Draven's band within the movie! (And Brandon Lee's voice.) You can hear it for a very brief scene when Sarah remembers the lyric from Eric's trademark song and is spinning the record. When I heard this bit, I knew it'd inevitably have to be on a future mix. And here it is!

So, what was with the disco themes for horror movies in the late 70's/early 80's? Here's a twofer for you, the disco theme from AMITYVILLE HORROR "Amityville Frenzy" and the Harry Manfredini disco track for FRIDAY THE 13TH 3D!

While we're at Camp Crystal Lake, why not check in on Camp Arawak with Frankie Vinci's SLEEPAWAY CAMP theme "Angela's Theme." I know it's Halloween season so it's difficult to transition right to Valentine's Day, hence why I put THE TWILIGHT ZONE theme here! It gives me an excuse to teleport to the glorious "Ballad of Harry Warden!" From there, it's back to Camp Crystal Lake and one of my main inspirations behind this mix, which initially I completely forgot to include until my final test! And that's Pseudo Echo's "His Eyes," which is the groovy rock track that Violet is doing the robot to before her untimely demise in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING.

And immediately, we go into the second half of "Magic" by Mick Smiley from GHOSTBUSTERS. The second half? Yes, I made this edit, because as I described it on an episode of "Damn Fine Cuts From The Crypt," this track is both the best and worst song simultaneously. It starts as a cheesy pop ballad, and then for no rhyme or reason becomes this amazing, catchy tune mid-way through. I decided to snip the first half and only offer the mesmerizing bit for this mix.

Let's keep it weird, shall we? And there's nothing weirder, and yet as awesome, as the closing credits song from DEADLY FRIEND dedicated to that lovable yellow robot B.B.! And in honor of Wes Craven, why not follow that up with the metal theme from SHOCKER! While we're in the rock mood, I can't help but think of the "Partytime" punk anthem by 45 Grave from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD!

And for fun, THE ADDAMS FAMILY opening is up next. This leads us to one of the more special tracks on the compilation, my buddy Sean Keller's incredible country-esque version of The Ramones PET SEMATARY! When I think Halloween, I also think THE MONSTER SQUAD, so we can't forget about "Rock Until You Drop!"

Let's get modern for a few minutes here with some pulse-pounding synthwave starting with Simulakrum Lab's incredible reworking of Claudio Simonetti's theme to Dario Argento's OPERA. And from there, the next logical track is from Adam Wingard's recent Netflix original movie DEATH NOTE, "Ono-Sendai" by Makeup and Vanity Set.

Probably one of the most questionable selections on this mix comes from MANIAC COP 2 and that would be the end credits "Maniac Cop Rap." But hey, one bad tune has to be balanced out by a great one, so from there, The Fat Boys and Freddy Krueger team up to ask if we're "ready for Freddy?"

My last Halloween mix didn't really feature any score material, and so I wanted to sprinkle it through out this new mix, as I already did at the top of it. So, the end had to feature some equally cool tracks, and I went with the opening credit theme from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, followed by John Carpenter & Alan Howarth's main "Chariots of Pumpkins" piece from HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. To me, while the HALLOWEEN theme may be the more recognizable of Carpenter's discography, HALLOWEEN III is just top notch and my preferred composition.

Ever since that epic STRANGER THINGS 2 trailer dropped during Comic-Con this summer, I've been head over heels in love with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" again. It did, after all, act as a full fledged gateway for me into the horror world at a time when I was my most impressionable. The Making-Of special was my first time seeing a master like Rick Baker at work, and so it'll always hold a special place in my heart! I remembered as a kid having a 12" single of it which featured the album version on Side A, along with a fully instrumental version on Side B. I tracked down a copy of it in the last few weeks and realized that since I closed my 2015 Halloween mix with the single version of "Thriller," I'd have to close this one off with the instrumental one so that you can appreciate the musicianship to the song itself!

I tried my best to recreate this mix below with a You Tube Playlist, so for the curious, you can give it a listen below! For those I cross paths with this month, I shall hand you a CD copy!


*Header Photo: Alamy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

90's Hits! A 2017 Rob G Birthday Mix!

Ah, another year. Another birthday.

Getting older.... it's just something we all have to do! But alas, there are two things I like to do every year for my birthday (which is technically on 8/15) and they both revolve around my closest friends.

First, I like to make a themed CD mix and hand them out to everyone I see that week. Second, I like to gather up a small group and celebrate with some sort of social event, usually a movie.

A few years back, we did a screening of a 16mm print of BACK TO THE FUTURE (thanks to Mike Williamson) at the Jumpcut Cafe (R.I.P.) and I crafted the "80's Movie Music Mix." (Read about that one here.) Last year, I turned 40 (!) and decided the best movie to represent getting older yet maintaining your youthful spirit would be by showing BACK TO SCHOOL starring Rodney Dangerfield! So, we screened that in my buddy Scott Reynold's backyard, and the CD mix of choice was my "Oldies But Goodies" mix, a collection of feel good tunes that everyone could fall in love with. (Read about that one here.) I usually think about this for months in advance, buy a spindle of blank CD's and envelopes, and get 'em ready for when the time is right!

This year, it was all about the 90's.

I can't explain why. I've just had a lot of that music on the brain lately. It was such a pivotal aspect of my formative teenage years, and now listening back holds a special place in my heart for that entire era of music. And so, I knew my mix CD this year would consist of all the quintessential songs from that decade. But what about the movie? Well, I guess I could screen SINGLES? But then I had a crazy thought.

One of my favorite musicians/ DJ's/ radio hosts/ human beings is Christian James Hand. He hosts a show called The Session where he takes the original masters to classic songs and breaks them down in a fun, informative and educational way, instrument by instrument. I wrote about him a few months back. He does a live version of his show once a month in the Los Angeles area. And he pops up every Monday morning for a condensed version of his bit for KLOS 95.5 on the Frosty, Heidi and Frank show. After I first caught his performance last year, I've been screaming to anyone and everyone that would listen to check out what he does, because it's truly unique and special.

So, I did the totally douchey thing and basically asked him, "do you play birthday parties too?" 

Thankfully, because we're already friends through my roommate, and he also participated in my upcoming music documentary, he didn't think I was a total douche and instead was receptive to my idea, as long as I found a proper venue that provided the speakers and sound set up, along with a bottle or two of Coca-Cola, his preferred drink of choice.

Finding a place to do this proved challenging, but after all options were explored, we decided to do it, yet again, in the Reynold's backyard, and bless them because they're complete saints for opening up their home to do this crazy thing on my behalf.

As I anticipated, a lot of my friends had no idea what to expect, but they were all completely blown away. The songs Christian and I picked were breakdowns of SOUNDGARDEN's "Spoonman," (not a personal favorite of mine, but one that I now will never hear the same!) and NIRVANA's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." (Classic!) He warned me that the evening would probably get "dark" considering the awful ways that both Chris Cornell and Kurt Cobain chose to leave this planet, but I still felt it was important to celebrate what they left behind. I wanted an experience with friends that would be emotional, poignant and special. And that's exactly what we got, with a lot of levity thrown in for good measure, because that's what Christian does best.

We didn't shoot any proper video of the evening, because his show is really better experienced in person, (and this was a private event) but in my slightly drunken haze (hey, it was my birthday celebration), I posted a few 15 second snippets to Instagram, and one of the attendees there managed to get slightly lengthier clips to give a better feel for the evening's proceedings. Here we go...

First up, a bit about Matt Cameron's epic drum tracks on "Spoonman," along with a bit of Artis the real life "spoonman" who the song is about, and who happens to have his own track in there! The second clip down is a bit of all of it together, minus the vocals. Third clip is the longest of the bunch and worth watching in its entirety.

During the discussion, it became clear that with Cornell's passing, PEARL JAM's Eddie Vedder is the last great vocalist left from that group of bands that came out of the grunge explosion. Christian ended the first half by playing TEMPLE OF THE DOG's "Hunger Strike" in its entirety and with the photos of all those singers, now gone, up on the big screen. Chills.

After a brief intermission, and a visit from the local police for being a bit too loud on a Tuesday night, we returned to break down NIRVANA's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Here's a bit that focuses on Dave Grohl's drum parts, and also a tangent about how he's the luckiest guy on the planet, which... he freakin' is!

It's hard not to be taken aback by Kurt Cobain's isolated vocal tracks for any of the NIRVANA songs, but in particular "Smells Like Teen Spirit." So, here are a few snippets of just his voice.

The thing that really made the night special for me personally is that not only were all my friends there to experience this, but we had kids there too; mostly teens. And it warmed my heart that all of them were as equally blown away as the adults. Days later, they're still talking about it with me.

Christian closed the set out in an unorthodox way. He read, in its entirety, Kurt's suicide note. I'm paraphrasing what he said after, but basically, it was that we need to remember, honor, celebrate and appreciate this music that these guys left behind for us. "Because they died for it."

Despite ending on what might seem like a somewhat dour note, it was actually very uplifting and inspiring. And everyone was touched by it. And I can think of no better birthday gift to give to my friend than that experience.

And by the way, if you want to have that experience yourself, be sure to "like" Christian's page for The Session On Air on Facebook. And you can listen to some breakdowns via his Soundcloud page right here. Here's his abbreviated version of "Spoonman" embedded below for your convenience.

Naturally, if I saw you that day, (or during the week that followed) you were treated to a brand new mix CD, courtesy of me, along with a fun added bonus. Official membership cards to "Rob G Video," a joke gift made for me by my friend BJ Colangelo.

Without further ado, here is the track listing!

90's Hits! A 2017 Rob G Mix!

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
2. Jeremy by Pearl Jam
3. Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
4. Today by Smashing Pumpkins
5. Basket Case by Green Day
6. Pretend We're Dead by L7
7. Somebody To Shove by Soul Asylum
8. Cannonball by The Breeders
9. Loser by Beck
10. No Rain by Blind Melon
11. Plush by Stone Temple Pilots
12. Creep by Radiohead
13. Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
14. Would? by Alice In Chains
15. Sabotage by The Beastie Boys
16. Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees
17. Shine by Collective Soul
18. Wonderwall by Oasis
19. Hunger Strike by Temple Of The Dog

That's it. I'm another year older. And I feel good about that. I shall leave you with two things. A handful of pictures from the evening below, as well as a You Tube playlist of the 90's Hits Mix for those of you I haven't run into in person to give a CD to above. Hope you enjoy it!

*Special thanks to Jennifer Tung for the photos, and Jennifer Many for the video clips!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Say Hello To Heaven: A Tribute To Chris Cornell

It was late on the evening of May 18th, 2017, and for whatever reason, I just could not fall asleep. I reached for my phone and figured playing some mindless games would help knock me out, but first, I might as well check my Facebook feed; see if any night owls are up posting any worthwhile articles to read. And that's when I saw the news that Chris Cornell had died.

It's hard to express how I felt reading it. And it's taken me over 2 months to articulate it here in a blog post. I mean, I didn't know him personally. But I'd always been a fan of the various bands he'd been in through out the years, including his solo material. He wasn't my favorite musician, but he was up there. The sudden realization that he was gone hit me far harder than I thought it would. I suddenly started flashing to different periods and points in my life where I'd seen him live, and the people I was with for those shows, and the first time I heard certain songs through out his vibrant career and where I was in my life when I heard those songs. It hit me with a wave of emotions. And within 15 seconds, someone else on my Facebook feed posted something completely inappropriate along the lines of "well, I really didn't like his music anyways." This was 15 seconds after the news broke. Ah, the perils of modern social media. You get the best and the worst of people all at once.

True, I didn't know Chris Cornell personally, and it's always a funny thing when any celebrity is gone. But the more I thought about it, the more I started remembering how prominent his music was to so many different points in my life. That's why we mourn celebrities. Life is freakin' hard. They made a piece of art that touches us, usually at a time when we need it most. Music truly is soul medicine, and the reason we mourn these people is because we truly feel like we've lost a friend, someone that was there for us when we felt no one else was. I was able to express some of those feelings and share a few stories on the pop culture podcast I co-host with Tony Giles, TWO DUDES TALKING. But the beauty of having this blog is that I can not only expand on some of those thoughts, but I can include the music itself. I can embed, share and provide the soundtrack to these stories. I take small solace in the fact that the music will always remain. The episode is embedded below if you'd like to listen, but after that, there are a few tracks I specifically wanted to play for you.

"Before We Disappear"

The most recent track I picked up by Cornell was the title song he did for "The Promise," released earlier this year. When I searched that on iTunes, I was pleasantly surprised to discover "Higher Truth," his most recent solo album from late 2015. I listened to it once or twice, and enjoyed it, but as I do with most new albums, I like to let them sit and then come back to them later to truly appreciate them. A day or two after his passing, I was taking a walk around my neighborhood and had my iTunes on random play. This track came up, and it broke my heart. Considering his untimely passing, the lyrics to this one hit me like a ton of bricks.

"Time ain’t nothing if it ain’t fast. Taking everything that you ever had. And giving nothing in return, But a cold bed in a quiet earth.  But there's a door in every cell, A pearl inside of every shell.  How hard can it be, To share your love with me? How hard can it be, To rise with me each morning. How long when it feels like. We'll live forever I fear, That time will hide the years.  Life ain’t nothing if it ain’t hard. It’ll show you who you truly are. Knock you down when you get too tall. Till you spun around in a free fall.  But somewhere out there past the storm. Lies the shelter of your heart.  So how hard can it be, To share your love with me? How hard can it be, To rise with me each morning. How long when it feels like. We live for ever I fear, Like we were never here. So hold on tightly my dear. I'm not one to waste my time, Searching for something lightning, Somewhere out there lies the stone Lies the shelter, Of your heart..."

"Outshined" (Live)

SOUNDGARDEN was a band that I always liked, but didn't fully appreciate until their reunion several years back. My vague memory was that I saw them in New York City for the "Superunknown" tour with the bands TAD and ELEVEN opening up. I recall TAD's set being the last time I attempted to partake in a mosh pit. At that time, I was really, really small and skinny. I sprouted a good foot or two after high school, so I was a fairly easy target back then. All I remember is every time I tried to mosh to TAD, I got my ass knocked down hard. So, after 3 rough drops to the ground, I decided this whole moshing thing wasn't for me. ELEVEN's set blew me away, and they'd play a part on Cornell's first solo album. (More on that in a bit.) Then SOUNDGARDEN came on, and... they were terrible! I think this was the band at it's highest point of friction. They seemed exhausted, as if the toils of super stardom had finally worn on them a bit, and you could sense a great deal of hostility between them on stage, especially with bassist Matt Shepard. So, that first live SOUNDGARDEN experience wasn't a great one.

It wasn't until I moved to LA back in 2009 and shortly after that, that they got back together and went on tour. My friend Marc Pilvinsky bought tickets and invited me to the show. I figured, why the hell not? THE MARS VOLTA opened the show. They came out to a wall of feedback and the singer announced, "for the next 45 minutes, you are either with the Mars Volta, or you are part of the problem!" That next 45 minutes was agonizing, but as they exited the stage, Marc turned to me and said, "I guess I'm a part of the problem." 

Their set became irrelevant as soon as SOUNDGARDEN took the stage. This version of the band was vibrant, revitalized, and jawdroppingly amazing. The complexities of the song structures, the way Cornell's voice sounded filling up that stadium.... just exceptional. It was during their hit single "Outshined" that it dawned on me. It was just so heavy and monstrous. Cornell's voice cutting through the crowd like a hot knife through butter, and Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters several feet in front of us in general admission on the ground floor headbanging, that I understood their true power. It must've been like what it was like to see BLACK SABBATH in their prime. And after this show, I went back and listened to all their albums again with a new found appreciation.

"Preaching The End Of The World"

While I fell in love with SOUNDGARDEN during that incredible show at the Forum in 2011, it was really Chris Cornell's first solo album "Euphoria Mourning" where I fell in love with him as a musician. The album came out in 1999 and he was backed by the band ELEVEN, both on the actual recording and as his live band for the tour that followed. ELEVEN had just released their 4th album "Avantgardedog," which to this day is still one of my personal all-time faves. And then, "Euphoria Mourning" feels like a sequel to that record, both in spirit and tone. I strongly recommend you get both and listen to them back to back.

Cornell played The Beacon Theater in New York City on November 14th, 1999 and I went with my friend Christine. This performance was so solid, so special and incredibly intimate that it completely made up for that previous SOUNDGARDEN show I'd seen several years earlier. He played all my favorite tracks: "Can't Change Me," "Flutter Girl," "MoonChild," "Pillow Of Your Bones." He also did an acoustic version of "Fell On Black Days," which he dedicated to a fan up front in a SOUNDGARDEN shirt, citing that "this guy's got great taste." In fact, he brought him up on stage to show off his SOUNDGARDEN shirt before launching into the song.

He did the same again when he noticed someone in the audience wearing an ELEVEN t-shirt. He pulled the kid up and asked his name. "Felix!" he replied. And then Felix asked if he could show his respects to Cornell's backing band by giving them all hugs, which he did. And right after, he jumped back into the crowd. Cornell, stood there for a minute just looking into the crowd where Felix had landed and finally said into the mic, "Hey Felix.... where's my hug?" He jumped back on stage and the two embraced in front of the enthusiastic cheering crowd. Still to this day, this solo Cornell show is among my top 10, possible top 5 shows of all time. Here's my fave track off that first solo record, and one of the most beautiful songs of his discography, "Preaching The End Of The World."

Audioslave "Exploder"

We need to take a moment to acknowledge one of the weirdest rock n' roll pairings ever - the band RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE with Cornell on lead vocals under the moniker of AUDIOSLAVE. I wasn't as big a fan of this band as I was the other stuff, but when I first heard that these guys were going to make music together, my brain couldn't possibly comprehend what it would sound like. Ironically enough, it's exactly as you'd imagine. Chris Cornell's voice over killer RAGE riffs. The first two songs I heard via that glorious mysterious place known as Napster were "Cochise" and "We Got The Whip." But the track that rocked my socks off when the debut album finally came out was "Exploder." Can't explain it. I just think it rocks.

Audioslave "Killing In The Name Of" (Live Cover)

By the way, did you know Cornell had something like a 7 octave vocal range? Proving that he could literally do anything, I stumbled upon this AUDIOSLAVE performance where he sang on a "cover" of "Killing In The Name Of."

"Black Hole Sun" (Acoustic)

Sometimes, my favorite stuff from Cornell is when it's stripped down to just him. He often did acoustic tours. He'd play songs from all his bands and solo albums. He'd also break out covers like Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" or Prince's "Nothing Compares To You." For a great collection, check out his album "Songbook," which is one of his solo acoustic sets. When it comes to SOUNDGARDEN, while I love so many songs, I think "Black Hole Sun" is arguably their masterpiece, and the song they'll mostly be known for. Here's one of my favorite live versions of it with just Cornell, solo and on an acoustic guitar.

"Black Hole Sun" (Vocals Only Track)

And while we're talking about "Black Hole Sun," you really should listen to this version I found with just the isolated vocal track. It's chilling to hear just how beautiful, raw and emotional his voice was. Truly unique, and completely unlike any of the other singers or bands that came out of Seattle or the grunge scene, proving that he truly was a one of a kind. His vocals kick in on the :19 second mark.

Soundgarden "Hands All Over"

If you're looking to get into some SOUNDGARDEN, the best starting point is "Superunknown." From start to finish, I think that's their masterpiece, but then you can dig into the rest of their discography. One of my favorite grooves from this era of music has to be "Hands All Over" from the album "Louder Than Love." Crank it and bang your head. This is also the only video that features Jason Everman on bass, the former guitarist for NIRVANA during their Bleach tour, who later on became a war hero. Yet another amazing side story from someone embedded in the Seattle music scene.

Soundgarden "Live To Rise" (Theme Song to THE AVENGERS)

Even after reunited for their first tour back in 2010, it took a while for SOUNDGARDEN to put together "King Animal," their sixth studio album which came out in November of 2012. Before that, the first new track to appear was the theme song for THE AVENGERS "Live To Rise." It sounds more in line with Cornell's solo material than a proper SOUNDGARDEN song, but it doesn't matter. Lyrically, tonely, it's really a beautiful song that has new meaning in light of his untimely passing. And I'll always let THE AVENGERS end credits roll so I can hear it again.

Chris Cornell "I Will Always Love You" (Cover)

I mentioned how Cornell would do acoustic covers live earlier? Now it's time to share some incredible ones. The day after Whitney Houston passed away, Cornell broke out this cover of "I Will Always Love You," originally a Dolly Parton tune, but made famous by Houston in the movie THE BODYGUARD. Seriously, Cornell could sing anything and make it his own. A fitting tribute.

Chris Cornell and his daughter Toni sing "Redemption Song"

Cornell's daughter Toni also seems to have inherited that incredible voice from her father. If you're not already emotional watching and listening to these videos at this point, this may be the pair of clips that breaks you. Here's Cornell and his daughter performing a duet of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." Just beautiful.

"Hunger Strike" Live

And while watching the above video, I stumbled upon this one, with Chris's kids (much, much younger here) bum-rushing the stage during a performance of "Hunger Strike." He ends up singing it directly to his daughter Toni.

"Hunger Strike" Studio Jam

And while we're on the song "Hunger Strike," we should talk about it's significance. It was recorded as a TEMPLE OF THE DOG track, a band consisting of members of PEARL JAM and SOUNDGARDEN that was formed as a way to honor and mourn singer Andrew Wood, Cornell's roommate and the singer of MOTHER LOVE BONE, which featured Stone Gossard and Jeff Amend in their pre-PEARL JAM days. Eddie Vedder had just moved to Seattle to audition for PEARL JAM and Cornell took an immediate liking to him. In later years, Vedder often referred to Chris as the big brother he never had. His first in studio performance is on "Hunger Strike." The video is a classic.

But just to show how great Cornell was under any conditions, there's something beautiful, raw and intimate about this in studio "jam" as it's labeled of Cornell performing the song with a handful of musicians. Seriously, that voice.... unmatched.

It's hard to believe he's gone. It's been said in countless articles and posts already, but Eddie Vedder is the last remaining great singer of that sub-genre of music that exploded in the early 90's starting with NIRVANA.

Cornell was the last one I expected to take his own life at 52 years old. The details of his death are still a bit murky. He had no legitimate reason for doing what he did. He struggled with depression and drug addiction his entire life, and it was rumored that he recently relapsed. He took two Ativan pills on the night he took his own life, a side-effect being "suicidal thoughts." Much like with Cobain, I'd like to think they weren't fully aware of what they were doing, because intentionally leaving children behind is something I could never imagine a parent willingly doing. We all have our demons, and sometimes while under the influence, they defeat us.

Whatever the case, I've been listening to and celebrating Cornell's music and life, and will continue to do so. The music, that voice... it'll live on forever.

R.I.P. Chris Cornell.

And thank you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cover Me With Hits! An All-Covers Compilation Mix

Ah, the art of performing a cover song. It's a lot like the remake of a classic film.

You're reinterpreting someone else's art, so you want to remain true to the source material, and yet give it your own stamp. You don't want to veer too far from what made the original great, but you also can't copy it exactly... unless you're just really, really that good. It's a fine and difficult thing to balance and successfully pull off. But when done right, the results can be spectacular!

I was thinking of this recently, because I wanted to make a special mix CD for my friend Jenn's birthday. If you're new to this music blog, mixes are a big part of my life. It's my go-to vocabulary. The perfect thoughtful gift, that can also double as something artistic for me to share and enjoy in my own right. If you're serious about your mix making, then you, no doubt, listen to it yourself countless times before giving it over to someone. So, in that respect, you'd better love it before you hand it over!

And since I've gotten in the habit of making mixes for all my friends on my birthdays or over the Halloween season (read about Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3), I wanted this one to stand out, and be unique for her birthday. So, I went with covers!

There's something comforting about hearing songs you already know. And yet, when performed under a completely different context, they can feel and sound like brand new songs. Case in point: the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" cover done by the mysterious artist Think Up Anger, featuring the singer Malia J.

This particular cover was used in the trailer for THE GALLOWS, because apparently that's a "thing" now. Taking old grunge or rock hits of the 90's, slowing them down, and using them as somber female fronted ballads as a promotional tool for an upcoming movie. But if anything, it makes me appreciate how darned good the original song is to begin with.

There's something so powerful about Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I recently caught the great Christian James Hand performing one of his live The Session break-downs of the song, and getting to hear each track individually only solidified my initial thoughts. But then I stumbled upon the full version of Malia J.'s haunting cover, and fell in love with this song all over again. I knew it'd have to kick off this mix.

Keeping with that theme, track 2 is Nouela's cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," which appeared in the trailer for the Liam Neeson movie A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES. Considering the recent passing of Chris Cornell, this mournful version takes on a whole new meaning. I followed it up with Life Of Agony's cover of "(Don't You) Forget About Me" from their second album "Ugly." It's always been one of my favorite songs, and covers. And it came at a time just as metal bands were starting to revamp 80's pop classics. This one stands out because the LOA guys actually mean it! Their version is sincere.

Throwing things for a loop, I used Saul Williams powerful version of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" next. Trent Reznor discovered Williams and produced this album, so it's got that NIN flavor to it. It leads pretty well into a handful of pop/punk style covers: Girl In A Coma's "Come On, Let's Go," their rockin' reinterpretation of the Ritchie Valens classic; The Suicide Machines amazing redux of R.E.M.'s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"; closed out by Goldfinger's "99 Red Balloons" from the soundtrack to NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE. Massive respect for this faithful cover that switches to the German version in the third verse! Genius.

I could've went with "Shout" from Disturbed's first album, but instead opted for their killer version of "Land Of Confusion" by Genesis. Fairly relevant to what the hell's going on in the world at the moment! And in keeping with that theme, next up is Placebo's cover of The Pixies "Where Is My Mind?" which remains pretty close to the original, minus the acoustic guitar.

Here's where things get a bit deep. A few years back, I watched the movie THE JUDGE starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. It's pretty good, but what really struck me was the song that played over the end credits. It was a cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist" by freakin' Willie Nelson! When I think of Willie, I also think of The Man in Black, Johnny Cash. For the Rick Rubin produced records towards the end of his life, Cash did so many incredible covers. I debated using Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" or Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down." But I had to go with Nine Inch Nails "Hurt," which in my humble opinion, could be even better than the original recording. And Trent Reznor thinks so too!

From Johnny Cash, let's do a Smiths two-fer. Love Spit Love's "How Soon Is Now?" as made popular first by the movie THE CRAFT, and then by becoming the theme song to CHARMED, followed by the Dum Dum Girls' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," a version I prefer to the original! Chormatics did a full EP of different remixed on Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," but the ambient one I included is my favorite of the bunch. And while we're on an 80's kick, might as well round it out with "Mad World" by Gary Jules (from DONNIE DARKO) and Frente's "Bizarre Love Triangle."

While I'm sure there are plenty of reinterpretations of Depeche Mode's signature track "Enjoy The Silence," I wanted to make things heavy again, so I picked the Lacuna Coil industrial cover. And in terms of topping off a mix, can't end much better than with George Michael and Queen.

Here's the full track listing...

Cover Me With Hits:

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Think Up Anger ft. Malia J.
2. Black Hole Sun by Nouela
3. (Don't You) Forget About Me by Life Of Agony
4. Sunday Bloody Sunday by Saul Williams
5. Come On, Let's Go by Girl In A Coma
6. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by Suicide Machines
7. 99 Red Balloons by Goldfinger
8. Land Of Confusion by Disturbed
9. Where Is My Mind? by Placebo
10. The Scientist by Willie Nelson
11. Hurt by Johnny Cash
12. How Soon Is Now? by Love Spit Love
13. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by Dum Dum Girls
14. Girls Just Wanna Have Some Fun by Chromatics
15. Mad World by Gary Jules
16. Bizarre Love Triangle by Frente
17. Enjoy The Silence by Lacuna Coil
18. Somebody To Love by George Michael

And fret not, my friends. If you don't have access to all these tracks on iTunes, or someone hasn't already created a Spotify playlist, I have created my own Playlist of the above 18 tracks using You Tube! You can find that below!

I'm fairly happy with these selections and the overall flow of the thing. I'm sad to say that the CD mix I gave Jenn was missing "Come On, Let's Go" by Girl In A Coma, and "99 Red Balloons," but that's only because my laptop with a CD burner crapped out on me.

What are some of YOUR favorite cover songs?

Who knows? There's always room for "Cover Me With Hits: Volume 2!"

Friday, May 26, 2017

Quintessential Vinyl: The Howard Shore Scores for David Croneberg

One of the advantages of being a writer and getting the opportunity to work from home, primarily, is that I have access to my entire record collection. For me, there’s nothing more comforting or soothing than writing while the scores to some of my favorite films spin in the background. And with the vinyl craze on the rise, a lot of well known soundtracks for horror classics have been re-issued and become readily available again.

Sometimes, I pick themed playlists. A certain composer or director. Perhaps a certain time period of film soundtracks. Or it could just be random! But earlier this week, I opted to pull out all my Howard Shore scores for David Cronenberg films.

Shore first worked with Cronenberg on his 1979 feature THE BROOD, and maintained a steady working relationship with the director throughout his career with only a few examples where another composer stepped in, no doubt due to scheduling conflicts. It’s one of the great cinematic marriages between director and composer. And when I stopped to think about it, I realized that 5 quintessential collaborations between the two had all been recently reissued on vinyl. So, if you’re a record collector, and/or a fan of Cronenberg & Shore, here’s a handful of titles you should add to your collection.


This Mondo release showcases the two earliest collaborations between Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore. The double side LP features both the soundtrack score to SCANNERS with THE BROOD on the B-side. The main reason for this is that there’s actually not much music in THE BROOD! SCANNERS continues with one cue on the back, and then THE BROOD music is presented as one long track; this is a traditional, scary Shore score that sets the stage for that awkward feeling of delving into the unknown that Cronenberg’s earliest works always evoked.

SCANNERS, to me, always felt like a horror version of the X-MEN, where there were a whole bunch of people out there with the same powers as Professor X. THE BROOD made me more terrified of children than I already am! The release featured 2 original covers by artist Sam Wolfe Connelly, and came in two colorway options. This one is currently out of print and not available directly through Mondo anymore, but if you hunt around online, you’ll be able to track one down either via Discogs or Amazon for a little over $30-40 bucks.


Another stellar release from Mondo, and one that came out just as Scream Factory put out Blu-Ray collector editions of both DEAD RINGERS and RABID, is Shore’s complete original score for DEAD RINGERS, featuring a simple yet striking original cover art by Randy Ortiz. Much like the film, itself, Cronenberg’s style became more intricate and complex at this stage in his career. He’d already seen commercial success with THE DEAD ZONE and THE FLY, so this was the first in a trilogy of weirder, more experimental and surreal features in his filmography, and Shore’s style morphed to match what Cronenberg was doing. I mean, this is a film about gynecologist twin brothers, but it’s still a traditional, beautiful, lush Shore score, so keep dueling Jeremy Irons in mind when you listen. This also paves the way for the next two on this list, which go really bold, sonically. DEAD RINGERS is still available on red vinyl for about $30 bucks directly from Mondo right here.

CRASH (Mondo)

This is a film I didn’t get to see in theaters, because of the controversial NC-17 rating at the time. It was something I instead saw on home video for the first time, and I don’t think I fully understood or appreciated it back then. But listening to this glorious re-issue score makes me want to go back and watch it again with fresh eyes and an adult perspective. The movie depicts those that fetishize & get off on car accidents. And with that as his inspiration, Shore gets to really experiment by incorporating 6 electric guitars, 3 orchestral harps, 3 woodwinds and 2 percussionists to draft the score. It’s available through Mondo on a double LP (the 4th side is etched), featuring this gorgeous cover art by Rich Kelly for $35. Get yours right here!


Now we come to the most avant-garde and ambitious of all the scores: Howard Shore’s collaboration with jazz legend Ornette Coleman and the London Philharmonic Orchestra to deliver the sonic landscape of David Cronenberg’s bonkers William S. Burroughs adaptation of NAKED LUNCH! The semi-autobiographical story of Burroughs is funneled through a character named William Lee played by the great Peter Weller, and considering the drug-induced nature of the whole thing, and the elaborate looking creatures, this score very much captures the film’s lunacy. It’s challenging, not an easy pill to swallow, but neither is the film itself. This wouldn’t be my first recommendation, but if you’re a more seasoned Cronenberg/Shore fan, it’s definitely worth the listen. It’s got another killer art design by Rich Kelly, and is also still available direct through Mondo right here.

THE FLY (Varese Sarabande)

This is arguably the most well-known work for both David Cronenberg and Howard Shore, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise, because it’s a freakin’ masterpiece. I revisited the film not that long ago and from the first 5 minutes, you can just feel the synergy that brought this thing together. The score is easily the most straight forward, bold and catchiest of Shore’s work for Cronenberg, which fits the film, considering it’s also, by far, the most commercial feature Cronenberg has ever made.

In the off-chance you’ve never seen it, Jeff Goldblum plays brilliant scientist and inventor, Seth Brundle. He’s created a pair of telepods and courts a beautiful reporter named Veronica (Gena Davis, Goldblum’s real-life girlfriend at the time) to document his monumental scientific breakthrough. But, when he transports himself from telepod to telepod, a fly gets in the chamber and slowly, but surely, their DNA starts to fuse, turning Seth into a giant fly! It’s easily one of the best remakes ever done with brilliant performances, unbelievable gore FX, assured direction and a great, sweeping and emotional score by Howard Shore. It initially took me a while to track down a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl, and I was disappointed by the used one I managed to get. Lots of pops and hiss. But thankfully, earlier this year, Varese Sarabande re-issued this sucker on vinyl with a lenticular 3D cover! As well as a glow-in-the-dark variant! As far as I’m concerned, this one is essential. Grab yours right here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

In Honor Of SERIAL MOM, Here Are The Best Band Cameos In Cult Flicks!

Out this week from Scream Factory, just in time for Mother’s Day, is John Waters’ cult classic horror comedy SERIAL MOM, starring the great Kathleen Turner as a homicidal maniac mom who really, really thinks you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day.

It’s personally my favorite of Waters’ films, not only because it features an homage to the late, great Herschell Gordon Lewis, or because both Traci Lords and Ricki Lake are hilarious in it, or the fact that it has my favorite Don Knotts gag of all time, but because one of my favorite bands was featured in it!

The great L7 can be seen performing the track “Gas Chamber” under the band moniker “Camel Lips,” which refers to their… umm… tight pants? (See pic above!)

In honor of both SERIAL MOM and L7, I thought it’d be fun to remind you of some other great band appearances in cult flicks. Let’s have a look and listen, shall we?


Well, might as well start with this one! L7 had already found success with their major label debut “Bricks Are Heavy” and had just released the follow up “Hungry For Stink” in 1994 when Waters asked them to appear as “Camel Lips” in the film. They wrote a brand new song, specifically for the movie called “Gas Chamber.” The only place to find the studio version is on the SERIAL MOM soundtrack CD, which consisted of the L7 track, Barry Manilow’s “Daybreak” and the full score by Basil Poledouris. I couldn’t find the scene on its own, but you’ll find the full track above, edited to scenes from the movie!

Offspring in IDLE HANDS

Back in 1999, Offspring were still a pretty huge band. And I kind of hated them. I’ve since come to appreciate them in retrospect! But because of my feelings torward them, it made it a bit more satisfying to watch singer Dexter Holland suffer a horrible fate at the hands of IDLE HANDS evil… well, hand! The band can be seen performing a cover of The Ramones “I Want To Be Sedated” and their own track “Beheaded” right as singer Dexter Holland gets… well, beheaded. Clever! PS: Director Rodman Flender rules!


I bet you totally forgot about this one, huh? I think the soundtrack to the first CROW was one of those defining albums of the early 90’s. Everyone had it, everyone loved it, and everyone knew it by heart. So, you figure by the time they got around to the sequel, they had to try to accumulate a playlist of similar bands! Much like the movie however, they were unable to capture lightning in a bottle twice. Sure, there are a few cool songs on there like the Hole track, or NY Loose, but none of the break out hits like the first film had. However, one cool tid-bit, in the actual movie, you can spot the mighty Deftones performing the track “Teething.”

Medicine in THE CROW

Speaking of THE CROW, I mean… what a soundtrack, right? The Cure’s “Burn” is probably my favorite track by them. Nine Inch Nails cover Joy Division with “Dead Souls.” And a relatively unknown band called Stone Temple Pilots has a track called “Big Emtpy” on the soundtrack. Alas, the band in the actual movie with that catchy jangly guitar riff on delay is Medicine playing the track “Time Baby III.” Also of note, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult can be seen performing live during the later part of the movie.

The Dickies in 18 AGAIN

I’m cheating a little bit with this one as it’s, obviously, not a genre movie. But I’ll argue that 18 AGAIN is a cult film! I’m personally a big fan of the “switch” comedy, which became popular in the late 80’s. (BIG, LIKE FATHER LIKE SON, VICE VERSA) In 1988, around the same time The Dickies had provided KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE with their theme song, they also blew me away as the punk band that plays a track called “You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)” in the night club scene from 18 AGAIN. This was my first introduction to them, and I’ve loved them ever since!

Oingo Boingo in BACK TO SCHOOL

I am, yet again, going with a “cult” comedy, if anything so I could incorporate a little Oingo Boingo into this article. And why not? It’s for a track called “Dead Man’s Party!” A Halloween and karaoke favorite among my friends. First time I saw Danny Elfman and company was in this movie performing this track, all while a young Robert Downey Jr makes a case for being the poster boy for birth control. (That’s a Rodney joke, bless him.)


Faith No More’s Jim Martin appears as himself in BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY, but the band that gets to kick off the epic music competition at the end is none other than the great Primus, performing the track “Tommy The Cat,” with Pam Grier MC-ing!

Cannibal Corpse in ACE VENTURA

I have to admit, my first introduction to death metal titans Cannibal Corpse was in the above scene from ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE. Rumor has it, because Jim Carrey was a big fan. Let’s not forget, Carrey also lip-synced some Guns N’ Roses in the Dirty Harry sequel THE DEAD POOL. But anyways, one of the funniest bits from Carrey’s star-making vehicle was his little dance to the Cannibal Corpse track “Hammer Smashed Face.” As a bonus, here’s a fun deleted scene in which Ace Ventura makes an escape while crowd surfing:


My earliest memories of MTV involved those wacky videos from Twisted Sister, such as “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” featuring that crazed teacher who also appeared in ONE CRAZY SUMMER. (What the hell ever happened to that guy?!) Anyways, even cooler was seeing them shooting the music video for “Burn In Hell” while Pee Wee Herman is avoiding studio security on the backlot in PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE! Easily, one of the many highlights and fun surprises of that movie!

Alice Cooper in WAYNE’S WORLD

I mean, can this guy party or what?! Everyone loves WAYNE’S WORLD. So, how cool was it to see Alice Cooper performing the track “Feed My Frankenstein” at the concert?! While that bit is fun, none of us can ever forget the history lesson he gives to Wayne and Garth about the history of Milwaukee when they pop backstage after the show.

Alice In Chains in SINGLES

Ah, how I miss the 90’s. What a glorious time. And at the height of the grunge revolution came Cameron Crowe’s SINGLES, which isn’t exactly about the Seattle music scene, but really more of an examination of the dating scene. (Back when an answering machine could ruin an entire relationship!) Sure, the members of Pearl Jam pop up as Matt Dillon’s band Citizen Dick, but the highlight has to be seeing Alice In Chains playing the tracks “It Ain’t Like That” and “Would?”

SERIAL MOM is now available on Blu-Ray through Scream Factory in a special collector’s edition! Get your copy right here!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why TEEN WOLF Is My Favorite Movie Ever

There always comes a point early in a newfound friendship when you’ll ask the other person what their favorite movie is. Since we’re horror fans, we tend to gravitate towards the genre first. My conditioned response to “what’s your favorite scary movie?” is usually always EVIL DEAD 2, followed very, very closely by Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. But if we expand beyond the horror genre, what else do I love? Well, I grew up a child of the video generation, and of the early days of HBO. So, I love ’80s movies, teen comedies, slashers, things with fantastical elements, etc. But really, when I stop to think about it, I’m pretty sure TEEN WOLF is my favorite movie of all time.

Yes, I’m well aware there are better movies, but this is my comfort film. I can put it on at any time or place, and start it from any moment, and I know every scene, frame, music cue, joke, piece of dialogue, character quirk and so on. It’s just one of those movies that hit me at just the right time.

I was 9 years old in 1985 when it came out. I was already a huge fan of the Universal Monster movies and tended to gravitate the most towards the sympathetic Wolf Man. Simultaneously, my brother had taken me to see BACK TO THE FUTURE, which was a life-changing and imagination fueling piece of cinema for an impressionable young boy. BACK TO THE FUTURE is a film I still consider one of five perfect movies. (The others being JAWS, DIE HARD, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and PULP FICTION) So, when TEEN WOLF came out, and it starred the kid from FAMILY TIES and BACK TO THE FUTURE as a teenage werewolf, it was everything I loved all in one flick.

Also, look – as middle school approached, I wasn’t exactly the most popular kid in class. The two things I found comfort in were horror movies and comic books. I enjoyed the thrill of vicariously surviving a horror film, but I learned my morality from reading Marvel comic books, in particular Spider-Man where I learned that “with great power comes great responsibility.” So, TEEN WOLF, written by Matthew Weisman and Jeph Loeb (who would go on to have a significant role in comic books, and currently helps guide the Netflix Marvel TV universe) was the culmination of both of the worlds I was so embedded in.

Scott Howard is a good hearted kid that is tired of being so “average.” Sure, he plays basketball with his high school team, the Beavers, but they kind of stink, and the hot, popular gal that he pines for, Pamela Wells, dates the over-age Mick, who is on their rival team. Scott does have his dad, his best friend, Stiles, and the girl next door, Boof. But he’s also going through… changes.

As it turns out, Scott comes from a long line of werewolves, something his father had hoped would pass him by, but as it turns out, being “the wolf” comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. In fact, the script lifts the same adage that good ol’ Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker about “great power” and “great responsibility.”

It turns out maybe that popular girl isn’t such a nice person to want to be with? Maybe your true friends are the ones that already liked you before you were able to show off your newfound abilities? And maybe that girl next door that not-so-secretly pined for you is the person you should be with? It’s a very traditional morality tale that distinguishes right from wrong in a way that was completely indelible to me as a 9-year-old.

In one of my favorite scenes, while debating whether or not he truly needs his wolf alter-ego, Stiles begs Scott to “do the right thing.” And Scott replies, “that’s all I want to do, Stiles. That’s all I want to do.” For all of us that don’t feel like we 100 percent fit in, we at least desire to do the right thing, especially by the people we care about. And I think what makes a movie like this with a goofy premise work as well as it does is, despite all the jokes and outlandish scenarios, is that its heart shines through and through.

A few years ago at a Q & A for the film, the writers said that they knew Rod Daniel was the perfect director for this material because he was the only filmmaker that came in, and when asked what he thought the movie was about replied, “it’s about a father and son, just trying to figure it out.” There’s your heart and soul, folks.

What’s interesting about TEEN WOLF is that it was shot before BACK TO THE FUTURE, but released after. And naturally, BACK TO THE FUTURE was a cultural phenomenon and catapulted Michael J. Fox into household-name status. Capitalizing on the success of BACK TO THE FUTURE, TEEN WOLF came out a mere month later, and was also a huge hit, coming in number 2 at the box office, right behind BACK TO THE FUTURE.

Would TEEN WOLF have been as big a success had it come out before? We can hypothesize all we want, but this is the way it happened, and because of it, plenty more TEEN WOLF-esque properties came into being. It became a franchise! In 1986, a cartoon series was produced based on the movie (with a few minor alterations). In the series, Scott also had a grandfather, his “Teen Wolf” persona was secret except to Stiles and Boof, and Mick was no longer a 21-year-old that got left back, but another high school jock bully that constantly taunts Scott. It lasted 2 seasons and 21 episodes were produced.

In 1987, a sequel was released, but instead, it focused on Scott Howard’s cousin Todd Howard, played by Jason Bateman, whose sister, ironically enough, was played Michael J. Fox’s sister on the sitcom FAMILY TIES. At the time, I was already TEEN WOLF crazy (between both the original movie and the cartoon series) to the point that I don’t think I could’ve been more excited for a sequel than I was for TEEN WOLF TOO. In fact, I remember convincing my older cousin, Daniel, to take me because I had volunteered to write a review of it for the Middle School newspaper. This would be the first ever piece of film criticism I’d ever give, and who would’ve thought it would lead me to where I am today? It began with TEEN WOLF TOO! I don’t have that review anymore, although my vague memory was that I gave it a considerably good review, mainly because I so desperately wanted to love it that I forced myself to.

In retrospect, it was a disappointment, but it was also the first time I started to realize specific things about movies, franchises, and how studio mentality worked against them. For starters, the story picks up in college, so was this originally intended to be a direct sequel that followed the characters we knew and loved into the next chapter of their lives? And at that point, because Michael J. Fox was so huge, did they opt instead to change the lead character to his cousin? Sure, James Hampton (Scott’s dad) and Mark Holton (Chubby) returned, but Couch Finstock and Stiles were recast. It basically follows along as a loose, less successful remake of the first one (instead of basketball, it’s boxing!) but this version doesn’t quite connect, despite the best efforts of Bateman, who got to redeem this performance on Jimmy Fallon a few years back!

Also, character actors Kim Darby and John Astin help add some positivity to the proceedings. This one didn’t do as well as the original and hence, the proposed third TEEN WOLF movie, which was slated to do a gender-switch and star Alyssa Milano, was canceled! (Although, rumor has it that the 1989 feature TEEN WITCH with Robin Lively started out as a potential TEEN WOLF sequel/spin-off as well.)

Now, when younger people hear TEEN WOLF, they think of the hit MTV series, rather than the goofy coming-of-age comedy from 1985. I guess that’s ok. I tried to watch the TV show and made it maybe 4-5 episodes, but it just wasn’t for me, and it was so far removed from the movie it’s based on that I gave it up. I assume it’s similar to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER; sure, the movie exists (and I rather like that a lot!), but the show was intended for a different audience. And it was huge for that audience, much like TEEN WOLF, the series, was huge for a new generation.

But that doesn’t mean that the original TEEN WOLF isn’t still out there as part of the pop-culture zeitgeist. For some inexplicable reason, the lead singer of the band M83 performed the track “Do It, Try It” from the album “Junk” on the Jimmy Kimmel show, complete in TEEN WOLF make-up. I still have no idea why! It wasn’t Halloween, it was in April. But kudos, regardless!

And like I said, I revisit the movie often, as it’s something I can put on at any time and feel like I’m with an old friend. The things that stand out to me now are the craft behind the picture. What was great about this era of movies was that everyone from every department took their job very, very seriously, and it was all about the craft of their work. I often have had this conversation with filmmakers Ti West and AJ Bowen. Sure, the premise of TEEN WOLF may be ridiculous, but no one on that set showed up and said, “this is silly, let’s half ass it.” One of the best scenes is a long, one-take tracking shot with Scott and Boof walking down the street talking about how they almost ran away together when they were kids. It’s a beautifully acted, shot and executed scene that, out of context, would fit in perfectly with any drama of that era. This is made all the more awesome by the fact that it’s actually from a movie about a kid that turns into a werewolf.

I’ll leave you with some advice from the great Coach Bobby Finstock in TEEN WOLF. It’s 3 rules that I, myself, have lived by ever since I first heard them in this movie, and I think they’re valid.

“Never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese.”