The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 7

In this episode I discuss the Child’s Play/Chucky film series following a marathon viewing over the weekend. I take a look at comic book characters I personally discovered through playing a video game featuring that character while taking a look at the comic book games released for the Sega Genesis, Super NES and NES consoles. I talk about Big Brother in the framework of Game Theory and how it reminds me of the online forum game mafia/werewolf in some ways. All of this and more on the latest episode of The Spiders Lair podcast.

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 6

In this episode I talk about Star Wars Rogue One, the prequels and special editions, Nirvana and the 90’s grunge rock scene, the underappreciated film Ghost World, and some other stuff.

 

Dressed to Kill: A hard rock retrospective part 4

The 1990’s were, obviously, a very confusing time. With Ellen making her big announcement near the start of the decade, to the revelations of the Bill and Monica scandal, the decade was over run with sexually confusing expressions dominating the news cycle. None of them were more shocking than seeing Marilyn Manson walk out on stage at the MTV music awards in his leather speedo singing about “The Beautiful People” to the bewildered youth sitting at home wondering what to make of this new “shock rocker” taking the world by storm.

Manson was not the first shock rock band, and they certainly weren’t the last. Unlike previous bands discussed, shock rockers aren’t identified by their sound, some are glam rock, others thrasher metal, while others a mix of industrial electro rock fused with 80’s dance pop. What united them was their ability to rely on stage antics, publicity stunts, and a growing anti-establishment movement that wanted to tear down the walls of Capitalism once and for all. Let’s start at the beginning.

You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog

Believe it or not, the first “shock rocker” was the King of Rock N Roll himself, Elvis Presley. Although his music and movies were very tame even by standards of the day, his stage antics lead to all sorts of controversies. All he had to do was shake his hips and stir young girls crazy. Of course the uptight mothers of those sexually aroused teen girls swooning for Mr. Presley didn’t take it laying down. They tried to have him banned from even appearing on television with the compromise being the camera had to stay above the waste.

I can’t get no satisfaction

To some the Rolling Stones are the turning point where rock n roll sheds it’s pop sound and returns to it’s urban blues roots. To others it’s just the continuation of the degradation of American culture. No matter where you stand the Stones rose to such prominence in the world of Rock music that to this day, the premiere authority on rock music is a magazine named after the band. Not quite as tame as Elvis, they certainly could fall into the camp of more shocking rock bands of the day.

School’s Out

There is no denying that shock rock as we know it today started the moment Alice Cooper stepped onto the scene. His theatrics, outrageous costumes, decidedly darker music themes, and eye shadow did more to create room for the counter-culture than any band before, or since. While their famous record, and the world-renown title track, were created by an entirely different band than who would later take on the name, the lead singer was really the star of the show anyways.

Ozzy

The Prince of darkness himself is easily one of the most recognizable early heavy metal rockers and clearly one of the pioneers of the shock rock genre. Of course he wasn’t the first to come onto the scene, he took it to dark places nobody else was willing to go. He was also well known for his theatrics, and is often mistaken for Alice Cooper, who both have similar styles in some ways. Black Sabbath and all bands inspired by are living proof that just being shock rock on the surface doesn’t mean the music itself can’t be taken seriously.

I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night

If you weren’t a member of the KISS Army you probably weren’t a hard rock fanatic in the 1970’s. It’s okay, I wasn’t even alive. What I do know about the and comes from second hand stories my mom told me, and what I learned from the classic comedy Detroit Rock City about a group of misfits on a road trip determined to see the band live in concert.

KISS is a prime example of a band whose style and image personifies the shock rock look and attitude, yet their music is so much softer and tamer than their image would have you imagine. Even in comparison to other hard rock bands of the time their music was very tame for the image they projected. Not that it was bad, they are still one of my favorite hard rock bands, but if you played a KISS song for someone and never showed them a poster or image of the band, you wouldn’t think they were shock rock at all.

They band was good at one thing even more than making music, business. They were not so much a band as they were a brand. They sold comic books, dolls, even video games, all trying to exemplify the shock rock image of children of the night. Yet somehow they managed to get away with recording a disco album and nobody even bothered to notice the irony. Hey it was a damn good song and still one of my favorites so can’t fault them for knowing how to make money.

Twisted Sister

By the time to get into the 1980’s there isn’t much left that shocks the metal world. You have already had Ozzy allegedly biting the head off a bat, or was it Alice Cooper? Yeah google how often those two get mixed up. There was the whole KISS backlash, you had Judas Priest on the scene and even a host of bands giving people reasons to label rock music as satanic or demonic. So when you see the cross-dressing Twister Sister come on the scene you think, okay, now I’ve seen it all. Now unlike KISS whose image didn’t fit their music, Twister Sister at least had a solid 80’s metal sound that blended in with the other hard rock bands of the time. The 80’s didn’t really see that many other cross dressing bands, aside from the one Boy George headlined, it still helped ease Americans into at least accepting there were people with different lifestyles, even if they didn’t accept those lifestyles quite yet.

Nine Inch Nails

To be more specific, Trent Reznor. This time he went in the opposite direction. The sound he created was infinitely harder and more shocking in many ways than the look he portrayed. On the surface he was just another heavy metal looking dude, nothing special. But his music, especially Head Like the Hole, really brought industrial music to the main stage. Maybe there are those who wouldn’t put NiN on a list of shock rockers, but he clearly paved the way for the mother of them all so he deserves a spot in this timeline.

Antichrist Superstar

Before I get too deep, Marilyn Manson is one of my favorite bands of all time. From the cover songs Sweat Dreams or Tainted Love, among many others; to their rock anthems The Beautiful People, Rock is Dead; to their darker tracks like Deformography, Worm Boy; or their WTF tracks like Kiddy Grinder, or Sh*tty Chicken Gang Bang, the band does shock rock better than any band before. Their music, style, videos, persona, and themes are a perfect storm of counter culture done right. Nothing about the band says conformity. During a time when rock bands sounded like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, or The Goo Goo Dolls, Manson was finding ways to churn the stomachs of their loyal followers, harshest critics, and even their peers, all while constantly putting out records that told stories that had to be experienced not just heard. The phrase nobody does it better always comes to mind when I think of Marilyn Manson and shock rock.

Other bands like Garbage, Godsmack, Orgy, etc., would come onto the scene and push the envelope of what was decent and acceptable with many more to follow. By the end of the 1990’s heavy metal, hard rock and rock n roll had each splintered into more than a dozen sub-genres, scenes and movements each equally important to their respective followers.

 

Up Jump the Boogie: A hard rock retrospective part 3

“rollin’ in my ‘4 with 16 switches
And got sounds for the bitches, clockin’ all the riches
Got the hollow points for the snitches
So would you just walk on by, ’cause I’m too hard to lift
and no this ain’t Aerosmith”

Who doesn’t remember that line from Dr. Dre’s gangsta rap classic The Chronic. The line, well the whole record really, took shots at the entire hip-hop scene up to that point. Between the split with N.W.A., beef with Eazy E and Ice Cube, to him launching his new record company, Death Row Records, Andre Young was on a warpath.

“The Day the W****z took over”

Dr. Dre was referencing a 1984 track where Run DMC recorded a new version of the hit Aerosmith song, Walk This Way. One year later the Beastie Boys burst onto the scene with their Hip-Hop masterpiece, Licensed to Ill. The thing with the Beastie Boys is, they started out as a punk rock band from Brooklyn. Before long they were trading in their instruments for turntables and microphones. The rap group gained significant airplay with their rap hits like Hold it Now, Hit It, Slow and Low, Brass Monkey, and Girls. However, the record had a noticeably heavy metal sound underneath the raging frat boy exterior. Their biggest hit from the record, and one of their most famous songs from the period was not a rap song entirely, it was the metal anthem “Fight for your Right to Party.” Between this and the clear mix of genres Run DMC did previously it was clear that hard rock and hip-hop could blend together in a world that would take both to new heights in the 1990s.

The Beasties would strike back in the early 90’s with another rock/rap anthem, this time it was able to not only get significantly more radio play, it was featured on late night talk shows. Sabotage quickly propelled the Boys back into the spotlight, proving they were not a one-trick pony. The band was able to effortlessly navigate both worlds of punk rock and hip-hop while gaining more than enough respect in each community to legitimize their unique sound.

To the Extreme

At a time when the Beastie Boys and Run DMC were helping blend hard rock and heavy metal together Vanilla Ice was emerging out of the shadows to bring black urban hip-hop music to the white suburban masses. Hits like Play That Funky Music, Ice Ice Baby and Ninja Rap all helped spring the wannabe rapper to the forefront of the middle America radio waves. It didn’t take long before rap music was quickly accepted by those masses and with that came the push to separate the colors, a watered down flavor of hip-hop that was palatable for the white middle class, but with enough heavy metal edge to keep the industrial working class interested.

Vanilla Ice was a flash in the pan, but he deserves credit for his contribution bringing rap music to the parts of the country that weren’t entirely welcoming up to this point.

Rage Against the Machine

They weren’t really the first, true, rap/metal band, but they were by far the most popular. What made them unique is unlike Beastie Boys who could slip in and out between their rock and rap personas seamlessly, Rage was 100 percent punk rock/heavy metal, while remaining 100 percent hip-hop/funk at the same time.

My first entry into the rap/metal genre was the Godzilla soundtrack. Between No Shelter from Rage to Puff Daddy’s rock remix of It’s all About the Benjamin’s, I became curious of a growing sub-genre of both scenes.

With record after record, the one band that could truly be classified as rap/metal and not be ashamed of it was Rage. They even managed to lift from hip-hops cousin, reggae. Fortunately that never became too mainstream…

N together now

While Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine were both finding ways to blend rap and rock in ways that made creative, and artistic sense, a new band emerged that threw all of that out the window.

With their break out hit Faith, a cover of a George Micheal song, Limp Bizkit didn’t exactly instill much confidence in the music world. They picked off the DJ from the hip-hop duo former known as House of Pain, blended their record scratches and fast rock lyrics to freestyle sounding raps over the top of heavy metal guitars and hard rock drums, the sound was a mess from start to finish. Somehow they managed to get big with Break Stuff, Nookie, and their crossover hit with Method Man, yet for all the diplomacy they might have been seen partaking in, what they really did for the music industry is perpetuate stereotypes on both sides with wannabe gangsters pushing the envelop to increase their street cred while musically cluttering the airwaves with a sound that didn’t really appeal to fans of either genre. By the time they released Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water, people had grown tired of their antics, and lack of musical talent. Even Vanilla Ice was able to mount a mini comeback thanks to them, albeit as a cheap knock off.

Bawitdaba

By the time Kid Rock hits the rap/metal scene it’s clear the genre is not uniting anyone. Up till now you had some southern California NuMetal rockers with Fred Durst and his Klan of misfits, you had the post-metal Rage Against the Machine and an almost industrial sound, and you had the Beastie Boys firmly planted in the roots f hip-hop sheding any remnants of their former rocker pasts. Kid Rock decided to throw one more sub-genre into the emerging kitchen sink of a mess that was becoming the rap/metal “genre.” He added country music to the mix. And he wasn’t alone, he unleashed the insufferable Uncle Cracker on the world, paving the way for Bubba Sparxxx before eventually turning into a full blown country rocker turned political activist. His “rap” songs were offensive to fans of the genre, his rock songs were hardly anything to get excited about, and his country songs are, well country.

By the end of the 90’s the rap/metal scene was far from united. Unlike the decade before where experimenting with sounds was still acceptable, the 90’s hip-hop scene was firmly established with solid funk riffs, smooth jazzy tones, and hard core gangsta stories woven into¬† a tapestry that celebrated urban youth culture, the white rockers who attempted to cop-opt the sound in the 90’s did it out of some form of protest, although most of them didn’t know what they were supposed to be protesting, and left the world scarred with the aftermath of turning lose Slim Shady to rectify the mistake.

Megalomania, Pyrotechnics and Freedom of Speech: A hard rock retrospective part 2

When I was in the 7th grade I entered the world of band for the first time. My band instructor was a little pushy, his name was Mr. Hall, for some reason or another he really tried to get me to play the saxophone. I tried it out for the back to school parade and I hated it, I couldn’t get any sounds to come out of that thing that any reasonable human would consider pleasant. So I switched to percussion. He was against this because, in his views, percussion was easy and only lazy kids wanted to play drums. It was true the majority of the drum line in our school were lazy, pot-smoking good for nothings, myself and one friend being the exceptions. Still I quickly fell in love with banging the trap set and begged him to put me on the pep squad so I could play fight songs at the sporting events. We started out with a classic easy rock n roll tune called Rock N Roll Part 2, aka “the Hey song!”

Over the years I fell away from drumming despite my very strong desire to keep going. I would bang my drumsticks on anything I could, cardboard boxes, pots and pans, trash cans, whatever it took. I was able to cobble together a make shift drum set when I was 14 using money I earned throwing newspapers at people’s houses. Once I firmly got into my teen years I was clamoring to form my own heavy metal hair band with my friends.

Glam Metal, Hair Metal, pop metal, call it what you want, the 80’s took the fully established hard rock genre and took it mainstream. What memories I do have of the 80’s largely consist of hair bands rocking out to their various anthems.

Def Leppard- Pyromania

As a drummer, it would be my duty to pay homage to the band world-famous for having the “one armed” drummer. Okay so they have some good music too, especially Foolin, by far my favorite heavy metal ballad, if you can call it that, and Rock of Ages, among many other rock hard tunes. It might be their best work, it might not, but by the time Pyromania lights the metal world on fire, the hair bands have firmly become the norm.

Ratt

As someone whose initials spelled RAT, and whose nickname was “THE RAT” all through school, this was a band I had to check out. I instantly fell in love with Lay it Down and Round & Round, their two biggest hits to the best of my knowledge. I was able to get one of their greatest hits CD’s and discovered the draw of power rock. They might be tame by some standards but their music was just hard enough to keep throw coals on the hair metal fire throughout the 80’s. Too bad it all died suddenly when Nirvana crawled out of bed and said with a shrug, eh, entertain us.

MTV

Nothing was more instrumental in bringing heavy metal to the forefront of American pop culture than the budding MTV and it’s constant rock videos bombarding the youth with images of hot babes, fast cars, and loud guitars. This was the era where Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees were gutting teenagers with hair metal blasting in the background to set the mood.

If you really want to trace the rise of metal music, look no further than the introduction of the rock music video and the video stars that would soon follow. By the end of the decade every metal video was just trying to be more outrageous than the last, eventually leading us into the 90’s where music videos took on a more artistic approach with the rise of shock rockers Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails.

I have written extensive articles both here and in college on the importance MTV had on American youth culture so I will just say dust off the VCR and pop in the VHS copy of Hot for Teacher if you want a reminder of what the decade was all about.

Van Halen vs. Bon Jovi

Musically the two aren’t that similar. But if you were alive in the 80’s you know the impact they had on your sisters sexuality. These two bands were the symbol of heavy metal rock stars as sex symbols, pushing the mantra of sex, drugs, and rock n roll deep into the minds of American teenagers. Van Halen was edgier with their music, while Jovi was more of a showman in their concerts. Both bands came out of the other end of the 80’s relegated to relic status, while Jovi made an attempt to make a come back in the 90’s alternative infested airwaves, Van Halen were all but forgotten by the mainstream.

One thing the two bands did was really help push the divide between the hard rockers and the glam rockers. Bon Jovi appealed more to the masses while Van Halen stood as a symbol for the troops to rally behind. The core metal audience was splintering into sub-factions by this time and these two bands were among the dividing forces.

Megadeth vs. Metallica

Here comes another fork in the road. The rise of “thrasher” metal is largely credited to the formation of these two bands, whose DNA is very inbred in some respects. The bands both kept taking metal music to even darker places with Metallica being able to cross over into mainstream success while Megadeth remained a reminder of the hardest rockers of just how heavy, heavy metal could get. There were other dark bands of the time, Dio, White Zombie, a few others, but these two stood up and carved out their own little corner of the market, then started a metal war whose repercussions were felt throughout the entire rock industry.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Hard Rock gets a vagina. Okay that might be a little crass, but hell metal music is all about tits and ass so suck it up, whiners. Joan Jett was one of the early punk rockers with her band the Runaways, and she emerged among a world of male metal bands to be the lone wolf woman warrior for the female power rock of the decade. Sure you had rock n roll bands comprised of woman leads before, and after, namely the Go-Go’s, Heart, Hole (yeah an all female band named themselves hole and I get flack for making a vagina joke) and Garbage. The list goes on. Still, Joan Jett was able to prove women could be hard rockers too.

Everyone remembers her anthem “I Love Rock N Roll” it’s a rock classic. I enjoyed her music with the Runaways more, which yes I discovered thanks to a certain movie. Still, she had the balls to stand up to the men who dominated metal music and I gotta respect her for that, to some degree. Not to mention her music wasn’t half bad.

Live shows and stadium rock

In the early days of hard rock, metal was a fringe movement. It was born out of the punk rock scene where the bands were making a statement. That statement was make noise and have as much fun as you can while disrupting the establishment every chance you could. By the 80’s metal bands had risen to become the dominant rockers selling out arenas all across the globe. Sure new wave bands like Devo, Duran Duran, and the like, would emerge in the 80’s to slow some of that fire trying to keep rock music in the center of the pop world, but it was still the decade where arena rock finally became a real thing. There were bands selling out arenas in the 70’s, sure, but they weren’t the bands playing this new, harder sound, not as as much anyways.

Once the live shows became a mainstay bands had to resort to theatrics to keep concert goers happy. This was the period where pyrotechnics were quickly becoming staples of the rock concert. Costumed bands like KISS lead the way, groups like Twisted Sister, Black Sabbath, Motley Crue and Guns N Roses would take on the mantle before passing the torch to Manson and his spooky kids in the 90’s.

By the time you get to the end of the 80’s heavy metal is starting to wane. Mainstream America has started to discover a new, edgy sound in the form of gangsta rap, which would soon supplant heavy metal as the go-to sound for the counter culture of the teenagers looking to piss off their adult role models. Sure heavy metal was loud, it was flamboyant, and it glamorized a darker lifestyle, but hip-hip had guns, pimps, and thugs rapping about killing cops, raping hoes, and cooking crack. Times were changing, and the two were bound to merge sooner or later. Enter Rage Against the Machine and the rise of Rap Metal…

For those about to rock: A retrospective on the evolution of hard rock- Part 1

My first exposure to headbanging was while watching the film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It was a comedy film about a dimwitted animal lover solving crimes. It was a Jim Carey movie, it was the 90’s, it was a comedy movie. I thought the scene where he goes into a rock club and the guy was “headbanging” to the rock music was obviously a joke, nobody actually did that, right? Little did I know it wasn’t a joke, it was a very popular thing.

Soon afterwards I would continue my exposure into the metal scene. I watched the pair of time traveling metal-heads Bill N Ted on their various quests. This was around the time I started to really question why on earth anyone would listen to this hard rock music. I wasn’t even sure what constituted hard rock to begin with. Not to mention I wasn’t even completely accurate on what people were calling rock music. My dad was an old time rock n roll fan and he would always correct me saying this band or that bands was not rock n roll, they were hard rock or heavy metal or something else. My dad wasn’t exactly an authority on rock music either, he just was sort of glued to his childhood favorites and dismissed the music of the youth. I wasn’t quite so dismissive, however I was more into dance music, electronic music, hip-Hop, disco, funk, and pop music. I was having a hard time determining not only what was hard rock, but what was the appeal.

Doing my research it appears rock n roll has it’s roots in soul music, bar music and blues. None of these were genres I was a particular fan of in my early days so I had to dig a little deeper. The earliest example I could find of a mainstream song that was the beginning of the hard rock sound was Helter Skelter by the world-renown Beatles. Having listen to this song a number of times during my research I can almost hear the start of what would become, what I considered, heavy metal, yet it still sounded really primitive to me. I didn’t spend a lot of time chasing down all of the obscure references, I stuck to the mainstream stuff like Born to Be Wild, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Dude Looks Like A Lady, and Smoke on the Water. None of these were too hard but they were often cited as the early examples of the scene.

As someone who has thoroughly studied the roots of techno, house and rap music, I can attest that different fans while share different tales of what lead from one sound to the next. The branching path of genres and sub-genres in rock music is just as complicated as the branching genres of the dance scene. To this day I can’t get people to tell the difference between Techno and House, whereas to me they are as different as night and day.

My earliest attempt’s at this included me creating a playlist of songs that one could follow from the old time rock n roll to modern day hard rock. Depending on what the end goal is determines which sub-genres or paths you cut off from the main path. For example, punk rock also has it’s origins in a lot of the same bands that metal does, yet punk eventually lead to alternative, grunge rock and ska, sub-genres I have more experience with than true metal. That didn’t stop me on my journey to find the path of least resistance.

I started with The Beatles.

Helter Skelter is such a different sound from anything I had heard by them up to that point. I don’t mean to sound as if I was around for it, I mean in the timeline. I do listen to Beatles but I was more into their early pop stuff not so much their later stuff.

When I originally did my digging I downloaded the various songs from iTunes and created a playlist when I did that I tried to see if the dots connected in a manner that made sense. I noticed there were a few missing links.

Admittedly I am missing a few sounds from some of the bands I know are often cited, yet I have no samples of their music to go off. Call me whatever name you wish, I have, to this day, never sat down and listened to a Led Zeppelin song, not one. If I have heard one of their songs, in passing I imagine or perhaps in a movie or TV commercial, I wouldn’t recognize it unless it was pointed out to me. So why am I writing this if I can’t call up the sounds of one of the bands often regarded as the fathers of metal? Sometimes you have to make do with what is available to you, also this is my journey so I wanted to discover this my own way. That being said, I have listened to bands that were described as inspired by or similar to Zeppelin so I can say that I am at least vague familiar with the sound they are attributed to.

Judas Priest

In my search I didn’t want to start entirely at the roots, I wanted to see how Beatles, Elvis Presley, Chuck Barry, Buddy Holly and others could morph into AC DC, Metallica, Iron Maiden, etc. I did pick up Alice Cooper’s School’s Out which I also cited as one of the bridge sounds, but Judas Priest was the first record I picked up that had a very prot-metal sound. In later years their music evolved more into the sound I always attributed as hard rock or heavy metal, depending on who you ask. I often used the term interchangeably with the understanding metal was the harder stuff. Now that I have done some more digging I discovered it’s even more complex than that. I placed Judas Priest at the earliest point of Heavy Metal on the timeline.

KISS

Specifically Destroyer and Alive but I dug through their entire catalog, first through their various compilations, beginning with Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits, and working my way back. KISS doesn’t have the hardest of sounds, they are more hard rock or even edgy rock n roll than metal, but they have the attitude and the look of what would become the signature metal theme, the dark medieval fantasy tones, some would describe as satanic but let’s not split hairs. Anyways they had the theatrics for sure but their sound was admittedly soft in comparison to what would follow. Still they are at the early point as well. They are also cited as a starting point for punk rock, but I won’t follow that path here.

Deep Purple

This is another one I place under the category of proto-metal. They have a very hard sound in some songs, but a very 70’s blue rock vibe. I did listen to more than one song, but the one that really matters is Smoke on the Water. This is another point where you can really start to hear a new sound emerging from the underbelly of American counter-culture.

Black Sabbath

Once you get into “the other Alice Cooper,” Ozzy Osborne and his ilk, things really start to get serious. By all rights you could make a case Sabbath and Ozzy are about as close to what would become Metal as it gets. If you follow them through the 70’s and into the 80’s, even after all the shake ups and restructuring, their sound is very much in line with what I would classify as heavy metal and hard rock at the very least.

Iron Maiden

This is the point where Metal begins to emerge as it’s own thing. By the time this band hits the scene it’s fully developed. It would be really hard to argue Iron Maiden isn’t heavy metal, and from what I have heard this is the goods through and through.

Now I could have spent more time on proto-metal bands like The Who, The Kinks, Zeppelin, or any number of others. As I did my digging though, I realized that while there are individual songs or even portions of entire albums that are recognized as having elements of what would become metal, they were still entirely different sounds in their own right. You could make a case that without the sounds of the Jackson 5, Hip-Hop wouldn’t be what it is today, but you could be hard pressed to make a case for Michael and the Gang being rap.

AC-DC

This is one of those transition bands you could argue is really just “hard rock” and that would be fine by me. Without getting into sub-genres I classify rock into the following top-level categories: rock n roll, rock, hard rock, metal, grunge, punk, ska, and alternative rock. For the most part there is a TON of overlap, I still try to avoid splitting hairs over what sound equals what genre. AC-DC is one of those bands I could firmly place under rock n roll, rock, or hard rock, but I would be hard pressed to call them full on metal and they certainly aren’t punk or ska. At least not as I understand them to be.

You will notice as I go through this series I don’t often stray from the general consensus, at least not up front. However as I discover more to this story I fully intend to give credit where due. As I looked into this it took on a life of it’s own. Consider this entry number one in a series where I take a deeper look at the origins of this music genre that I have found an affinity for, yet continues to boggle my mind and elude my sense of true understanding. Until next time keep on head banging friends.

 

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 3- Talk about SNES Classic, possible N64 Classic and more…

In this week’s podcast I give my thoughts on the soon to be out of stock SNES Classic, what an N64 Classic Edition would be like as well as what console or system I think would make more sense for Nintendo to follow up with. I tell one a story from my DJ days and tell one of my breakdancing stories I been hinting at for a while. I also mention, briefly, what I thought of the new Wonder Woman movie.

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 2: A B-Boy retrospective

Episode 2 I sit and talk about my break dancing days, how I got into dance music, a brief discussion on the different genres of EDM music, and a look to the future.

 

UPDATE: I realize there are audio issues with this episode. I recorded it without my headphones so I couldn’t listen to my mic while I was recording. I am going to upload a remixed version with higher volume levels tonight. I am leaving this one up until then, please check back later if you want to hear this episode.

UPDATE 2: Remixed the audio, also mixed it in stereo this time, larger file size but whatever, should be louder.

Best of Will Smith part 1, the Fresh Prince years

I was going through my Will Smith CD collection a few weeks ago when I realized I was missing one of his cd’s I completely forgot about. I finally decided to buy the disc off Amazon. I gave it a brief listen to before I decided to figure out what my favorite Will Smith tracks are. I spoke a little about this on my recent podcast, yet I still wanted to write a full article describing the individual tracks.

So here is my list, broken into to parts. Part one will cover the songs released under the DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince brand. Part two will cover all of the songs released just under the Will Smith branding.

These are not ranked in any particular order just a list of my favorite DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince songs.

Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble- Rock the House

This is one of the best songs from his debut album. The duo quickly made a name for themselves in this track that samples the theme song from the famous TV sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie. The song is a humorous tale of Smith’s experiences with various females. Each tale ends with him telling his buddies how girls are nothing but trouble. There is a reprise later on the album from the girls perspective, but it’s not as iconic as this one.

Summertime- Homebase

This is probably one of the most iconic songs in the Fresh Prince catalog. The premise is simple, take a smooth funk song, remix it into a smooth hip-hop track and lace it with mellow rhymes devoted to reminiscing of all the good times from summers gone past. It’s the perfect slow jam for a warm summer day. Just put the track on the radio, crank the volume up as loud as you can handle and sit back sipping your favorite summer beverage while the tune washes over you.

The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff- He’s the DJ, I’m The Rapper

This is one of those old-school songs that blends Smiths fast, on topic rhymes with Jeff’s quick cuts and funky bass lines. As a former turntablist I can fully appreciate a good Jazzy Jeff mix track. The song show cases Jeffrey’s turntable wizardry at it’s finest, even showcasing his famous transformer scratch with a narrative of Smith referring to Jeff as an actual Autobot. Good time.

Then She Bit Me- And In This Corner

This is the first track off the amazing record “And In This Corner” which features another song I will discuss shortly. The song reminds me a lot of a Jim Carey film called Once Bitten. In the song, just like the film, a young man meets a strange woman at a bar, goes back to her mansion where she bites him and he discovers she was a vampire. Okay the song doesn’t explicitly make those connections, however the music is very vampire-film inspired organ music laced with some very rock solid bass lines and a deep, pounding beat. The song is short, no hook, no chorus, but it tells a goofy story just like Smith’s best songs and is a good song to dance to if you happen to be in the mood, or just to chill out to as is most often the case with his music.

I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson- And In This Corner

Not exactly the “title” track from the ablum, but you could call it the “Main Event” if you wanted to do so. The track is a very fun tale of Will Smith famously challenging Iron Mike Tyson to a boxing match. In my podcast I highlight how much of a Nintendo fan Smith comes off and this song is likely a good reference for a Nintendo fan if you ever played Mike Tyson’s Punch Out for the NES, which was popular when the song came out. Anyways gaming connections aside, the song is one of the funniest songs Smith performed from his early days. The music has a very upbeat boxing ring vibe to it and the imagery is very 1980’s. The track was also featured on his Greatest Hits Collection, so you know it’s one of his best.

Boom! Shake the Room- Code Red

This was basically the very first song I ever heard by the duo and remains one of my favorites. It doesn’t have the humor of his earlier tracks but it sure packs a good punch. The hard-hitting beat, the almost g-funk sounding bass lines, and fast, angry raps make it a show of force for the rapper who was in the midst of a transition at this time. Code Red would be the last album he did as a duo and before he would go on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest names. It was a solid house party style dance track that to this day could get any hip-hop fan on the dance floor.

Nightmare on My Street- He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper

It’s no secret that A Nightmare on Elm Street is not only one of my favorite film franchises of all time, it’s actually my favorite movie of all time. The song tells a story how Smith and some of his friends go to see the original Elm Street film and later that night he gets a visit from Krueger in his dreams just like in the film. The song borrows dialog from the second film, while it also captures more of the MTV-inspired funny Krueger than the scary original. The song is perfectly 80’s and makes a good song to set the mood for a good Elm Street marathon.

I Wanna Rock- Code Red

This is one of those songs that hearkens back to the old school. Smith clearly was trying to recapture the glory days with this track while the rest of the album was showcasing his ability to adapt to the changing landscape of hip-hop. The song is short, and not very well produced. It’s a simple record scratch looping the same vocal sample over, and over. The line, “I wanna rock right now” from the Rob Base and EZ Rock track, It Takes Two, is the center-piece of the track with some old school beat boxing and a live band in the back ground backing up Smith’s raps, once again bragging about the skills of his partner-in-crime.

He’s the DJ, I’m The Rapper- He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper

Yes, the title track from one of his earliest cd’s is still the best track on that record. Smith kicks some old school fast freestyle sounding raps to Jeff’s patented record mixing and fast scratches to a very familiar retro electro track. The song is just oozing with Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince charm that made the duo so famous. It’s old school, it’s funky and it’s b-boy dancable all at the same time. Bust out the cardboard box, slip into some sweat pants and pull out your best break dance moves to this groovy track.

The Human Video Game- He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper

I picked this song because it’s pretty simple, it’s just a beat box track with Ready Rob doing his thing. The beat boxing imitates the sounds from an actual Donkey Kong arcade machine. It’s just a fun song with Smith bragging about his friend’s obsession with the arcade classic and how he is capable of using his beat boxing skills to make it sound like he is actually playing the game. It’s another one of those famous light-hearted tracks the group was famous for.

Theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Oh come on, you knew I was going to pick this song. Summertime might be his most iconic track from his music career, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a sitcom we all know and love. The theme song gets stuck in your head and you know you like it. There isn’t much else to say, it’s just a fun song that sets the premise of the show perfectly.

I left off a few tracks he is more famous for, but to be honest, I didn’t think they were his best songs. Sure everyone knows Parent’s Just Don’t Understand, but seriously it’s a fine song but not worth a lot of the hype. I had a few other songs I could have mentioned, like Ring my Bell, or Brand New Funk, but I didn’t want to to look like I was only picking songs from the team’s Greatest Hits collection. Although it would be easy to just pick up that one album and call it a day, there are so many other great tracks I just wanted to highlight a few from each record. It was hard because honestly, I love them all. I might not like every single song on every CD, but I enjoy every CD and there is easily more than one song per CD I like, too many for a brief post such as this.

Look for part two where I go through his entire solo career and try to pick out the best of the best, of the best, with honors.

“You are all my children now.”

In the 1980’s there was a trifecta of different styles all blending together in a perfect storm of outrageous thematic elements that would soon dominate the entire fringe culture, and even cross into mainstream. Going a decade back the roots of this movement were beginning with the rise of the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG game. The theme was medieval fantasy. It had firmly taken hold of video game culture by the middle of the decade with games such as Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Ghosts N Goblins, Gauntlet, and even Castlevania taking the horror/fantasy genre to mainstream status. On the music side bands like Alice Cooper, Dio, KISS, and many others, were using D&D, horror, fantasy, and medieval art mixed with Gothic imagery. While Hollywood itself was slow to jump on the bandwagon, indie filmmakers like George Lucas, Stephan Spielberg, Jim Henson, and John Carpenter were all making variations of this theme. And best of all they blended together perfectly. Horror movies would reference D&D usually with a gamer depicted or borrow heavily from medieval mythologies, while having a strong heavy-metal soundtrack, which in turn contained lyrics that referenced D&D either directly or indirectly often as the horror movies would. So if you were a fan of medieval fantasy, Gothic imagery and music that told stories set in these thematic worlds, then the mid-to-late 80’s was your decade.

During this time nothing blended these three elements together better than Wes Craven’s Gothic horror masterpiece “A Nightmare o Elm Street.” While the first film itself doesn’t really contain too much in the way of medieval fantasy, it does have a very strong fantasy component, the music is very fitting for the mood, plus it also contains some of that D&D-esque metal rock sprinkled in to ensure it hit all of the notes. In some ways the movie is a murder mystery, you know almost¬† detective noir-style with Nancy trying to solve the mystery of the masked villain killing her friends one-by-one. It also has a little bit of Gothic horror with Freddy acting as a zombie, a vampire, and a serial killer all while tormenting his victims not with his own dastardly schemes, but using their own fears against them. In some ways it is also a psychological thriller.

The film opens with an abstract scene in the basement of some factory or plant with an unseen man crafting a glove containing sharp razors as extensions of the fingers. Immediately the tone of the film is set, the killer is unseen, hiding in the shadows, nobody knows who, or what, he is or why he is killing these seemingly random teenagers. During the course of the film there are references to Shakespeare, including a quote from Julius Cesar about nightmares, fitting as in the play he dreamed of his demise before it happened, much like the victims in the film.

I won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it. I am not under the impression that just because it is old everyone knows what takes place, I will say anyone that has any interest in mythology, fantasy, horror, vampires, zombies, the undead, D&D, or heavy metal music should check out the entire franchise. Each film has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.

The sequel, often criticized but still worth watching, goes in a different direction. Instead of a murder mystery where the kids are trying to survive by figuring out who the killer is and how to defeat him, part two, subtitled as “Freddy’s Revenge,” takes on a more haunted house, possession story line. Again it has some moments fans cringe at but it also has a few of the iconic moments that the franchise is well known for. There is even scene that takes place inside of a Gothic night club, further tying the franchise into this whole theme.

Of course if you really want proof the Nightmare films are really D&D-inspired look no further than the third entry. Regarded by many, myself included, as the best in the franchise second only to the original to some, it’s a masterpiece in many ways and proof that a sequel can outdo the original. But there are so many more D&D elements and fantasy themes in this movie. For starters the subtitle is now “The Dream Warriors.” It centers on the survivors of the previous two films, the “Last of the Elm Street teenagers.” something you just have to watch the movies to understand. It also features a kid who prominently plays D&D in the movie, even going so far as having an actual scene depicting, fairly accurately unlike most movies, a portion of game play. In the dream world however things get weirder, this character becomes a wizard with super powers and another character takes on a Gothic/Punk look even meeting Freddy face to face in an alley. There is an Alice in Wonderland feel to the third installment, a D&D type maze/dungeon at the end where they come together as a team, a cleric type, a sage type, a fighter type, and even the silent stealthy bard/thief type, who all have to face the final boss, Freddy, at the end to win the treasure, their right to live, and go back to living normal lives at the end of their mythic quest. It truly is the one film in the series the most similar to an actual game of Dungeons and Dragons, from the very opening scene to the very end credits. It even brings in a fleshed out back story and mythology to the character and his origins are explored in a very medieval Catholic mythology sort of way.

Part four sort of keeps the notion of dream powers, introduces new concepts like the Dream Master, the films subtitle, and ends in a final battle with a new powered up girl in a church where at the end she ends up well I won’t spoil it but it’s very much in line with the theme I been repeating.

Part 5 and 6 are where the franchise takes a turn for the worse. Number 5, the Dream Child, is more of a comic book movie, Freddy is even depicted as a comic book villain and his nemesis is his own mother, resurrected to take him back to hell or something I guess. The movie has a more action movie, comic book vibe and style to it. In some ways that is refreshing, in other ways it can be off putting. Part six is, to put it bluntly, a parody of the franchise. It’s basically a Warner Bros. cartoon making fun of the whole concept, and yes it even features Bugs Bunny and Wizard of Oz references and heavily relies on the 3-D gimmick. It does flesh out the mythology quite well, and features a really great cameo by the dark master himself, Alice Cooper, again really mixing the themes in a way that ensures fans will find something to enjoy. It’s the worst of the films by most accounts but still worth watching for a few things, those cameos and back story plus a surprise I won’t spoil.

Part 7, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, gets back to the Gothic horror theme by basically putting Freddy into the Hansel and Gretel story. There isn’t much else to say it’s almost a remake/reboot of the original film with a twist but it’s one of the scarier films in the series, still worth checking out. I won’t go into either Freddy Vs. Jason or the 2010 Remake as they both stray so far from the original their best left in their own world. I enjoyed them each, in their own way, but neither of them live up to the source material. Freddy vs. Jason is made for the Playstation crowd and the remake was too dark and had no ties to the fantasy mythology that the original had. Worse of all, it wasn’t even about a child murderer freed on a technicality, it was a sick perverted child molester that had no motive for murdering his victims in their dream world, which also had no fantasy elements at all, instead it was trying too hard to be dark an edgy where it really just ended up being creepy and uncomfortable.

What can I say, I enjoy Gothic music and themes, I play Dungeons and Dragons extensively and I thoroughly enjoy the fantasy-themed horror series of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Netflix recently added the original film to its streaming service, Part 2 and New Nightmare had been there before but they are not the actual best movies, the first and 3rd films are really the two to watch. Part 4 is pretty good, 5 and 6 are laughable but somewhat entertaining and the rest are different degrees of bad or too dark for my taste.

I also really enjoyed the documentary on Netflix “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” that really delved deep into the behind the scenes of the movies.

My personal ranking, with scores, best to worst:

  1. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5/5
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors 5/5
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master 4.5/5
  4. Freddy vs. Jason 4/5
  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child 3.5/5
  6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge 3.5/5
  7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy’s Dead, The Final Nightmare 3.5/5
  8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) remake 3.5/5
  9. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare 3/5

Since I consider both New Nightmare and 2010 to be remakes, I prefer the full on reboot over the half-baked soft reboot. I know others will disagree but I just never cared for the breaking the fourth wall and taking Freddy into the “real” world making everything that came before just a movie, inside of a movie, too meta for my tastes.

There you have it, my general thoughts on the Freddy Krueger character and the films he appears in.