[Halloween!] -- Though not quite as rare as a full moon falling on Halloween, this year the spooky holiday also occurs very close to Friday. That means it's time for a very special Halloween edition of the Friday 80s Flashback. Now, I'm sure you've all been good little ghouls and ghosts. So, to ensure you get the most 80s goodness possible, and that you receive it in a timely manner, I'm revisiting the mega-Flashback I originally posted for Halloween 2011. I thoroughly checked it and updated any video or text links that were broken over the last several years. And, just like in 2011, you can check out all the tunes featured in this week's flashback as a single video playlist! And it's six tracks, twice the content of my usual weekly offerings! Of course, you can still check out the songs one at a time, the option which includes my comments and recollections. But either way, you're getting great 80s music for the Halloween weekend! So, if you are opting for your flashbacks one-at-a-time, you can read and hear more after the break.
Flashback #1: "I don't want to live my life again."
In 1989, we were presented with yet another film adaptation of a Stephen King novel. This time around, it was the bestselling Pet Semetary (Side note #1: it is redundant to include "bestselling" when introducing a Stephen King novel? I mean, aren't they all bestsellers? I'll Google that later). (Side note #2: Pet Semetary received another film adaptation in 2019). Pet Semetary won the 1984 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. The movie adaptation, however, fared less well as it has about a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and the reboot's rating currently hovers around 58%). Dale Midkiff, who plays the head of the tragic Creed family in the film, later went on to do many forgettable TV movies. But I'll always remember him for Elvis and Me (1988) and Time Trax (1993-1994). Anyway, back to Pet Semetary, there were two truly great treasures to come out of that movie. (1) Herman Munster -- er, Fred Gwynne -- as the homespun neighbor who knows way too much about the local burial grounds, and (2) The Ramones performing the movie's theme song.
Flashback #2: "Freaks come in all shapes, sizes and colors."
I never heard of our second flashback artist until my college roommate played their 1984 album, Escape, in our dorm room. I guess he was familiar with hip-hop and rap because he grew up outside of Philadelphia, whereas I grew up ... well, I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Pittsburgh was the closest city to my hometown, and it was still several hours away. And it was not exactly a hot bed for hip hop (as far as I can recall). Anyway, our second flashback isn't technically a Halloween song, but with its chorus of "The freaks come out at night," it certainly fits with the general theme. And 30+ years ago, Whodini's Escape was considered a groundbreaking hip-hop album, with each song telling a specific story from a decidedly urban perspective. It was certified platinum, and it sold over one million copies on its release. So, get dressed up in your best leather jacket, chains and spikes, and get ready to party after midnight with Whodini and "The Freaks Come Out at Night."
Flashback #3: "I'm your DJ now, Princey!"
In 1996, Kevin Williamson turned the horror genre on its ear with the slasher film, Scream. About eight years before that, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince turned their rap skills on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, delighting the ears and funny bones of the music-buying public. Showcasing the charm and savvy that would later serve him well on his own TV series, the Fresh Prince (whom we now all know as mega-movie star Will Smith) tells the story of "A Nightmare on My Street" in which he has a terrifying encounter with Fred. Fred is obviously Freddy Kruger from the Nightmare films, but the song is not an official part of the series' soundtracks. It was considered for inclusion in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, but was (ahem) slashed from the playlist. Subsequently, some original pressings of of He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (1988) included a disclaimer sticker stating that the song had zero affiliation with the films. But, even without the licensing or approval of Freddy and the gang, "A Nightmare on My Street" reached #15 on Billboard Charts and He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper was eventually certified triple platinum.
Flashback #4: "I'm gonna get you, get you after midnight."
The 80s are riddled with horror films with brilliant soundtracks. But not all of them can be considered rock horror films. Trick or Treat (1986) is a classic example of a rock horror movie ... at least a hard rock/heavy metal horror movie. With a dead rock star as the villain, cameos by Gene Simmons (as local radio DJ "Nuke") and Ozzy Osbourne (as a televangelist!), and Skippy from Family Ties as the main protagonist, Trick or Treat had all the ingredients ... for cult movie fandom! That's a shame, really, but if you look back on it as a product of the times, you can appreciate its stand against the assertion that rock music had backwards Satanic messages hidden in them. But this flashback is about music, and the Trick or Treat soundtrack, completely written and performed by glam metal band Fastway, was probably more successful than the movie. And if you're a fan of 80s metal, the soundtrack has aged much better than the movie, too. Check out "After Midnight" from the soundtrack. And remember, 80s rocker is always an acceptable Halloween costume.
Flashback #5: "Lock your doors and windows tight | Soon you'll all believe I'm right."
One of my favorite horror flicks from the 80s was Fright Night (1985). You might recognize the name because it recently got the full remake treatment (Colin Farrell! Toni Collette! David Tennant! Vampires in 3D!). While we have yet to see if the remake will reach the same merchandising heights as the original (comics, video games, etc.), but it did receive three stars from Roger Ebert. Still, at the time the 2011 reboot was coming out, we already know its soundtrack suffered from a severe lack of of 80s panache. For example, the title track for the original film is performed by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees, the J. Geils Band. Now, you might not recognize them from this song because it was recorded after long time lead vocalist Peter Wolf left the band. But it is a solid tune and its lyrics actually provide a synopsis of the movie's plot from the protagonist's point of view! It was also the band's swan song as they broke up shortly after contributing to the Fright Night soundtrack. The music video combines movie scenes and band performances in that montage format that was popular in that decade. (Our more sensitive 80s-philes might have a difficult time watching this music video).
Flashback #6: "It's close to midnight and something's evil lurking in the dark."
In 2010, I thought this song was too obvious a choice for the Halloween flashback. Plus, it was only a year after King Michael's death. And after another year passed, the Jackson estate was embroiled in a trial over the cause of his death. So, in 2011 and now, I think Halloween is indeed time to break out "Michael Jackson's Thriller." This 14-minute music video for "Thriller," the title track of Michael Jackson's masterpiece 1982 album, has won a host of awards and it was the first music video to be selected for the National Film Registry. It is considered a watershed moment for the music industry due to its groundbreaking use of filmmaking techniques and music. It continues to be highly influential (just do a search on "Michael Jackson Thriller Flashmob" to see what I mean). But the true secret to the enduring legacy of "Thriller" has nothing to do with MJ or the video: I'm convinced all the success is due to Vincent Price reciting the closing lyrics, punctuating the song with his trademark laugh.
Remember, you can enjoy this week's flashback as a single video playlist.
That's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.
I'll see you in seven!