Monday, December 31, 2007

Do The Dead!

1985's Return Of The Living Dead impressed me, mostly for two reasons: it was a smartass zombie flick released when smartass horror films were rare and eerie things, and it had a great soundtrack.

During the 80s, both major and minor corporations were still reluctant to touch anything that remotely resembled 'punk rock,' even with the largest safety pin. Still, Return Of The Living Dead, a film presumably marketed to the same teenaged audience listening to stale Foreigner and Bob Seger records (keep in mind, this was before Bon Jovi hit it big with Slippery When Wet) pulsated with some mighty weird tunes. While semi-animated corpses slithered around the silver screen, The Damned, The Flesheaters, 45 Grave, T.S.O.L. and Roky Erickson (!) reverberated through the Showcase Cinema. Being about 16 or 17 years old at the time, I found the experience exhilarating. One very rarely encountered 'cool music' at the Mall in 1985. For example, I recall being stunned when Iggy Pop’s "Lust For Life" briefly arrived during Desperately Seeking Susan. Nowadays, the damned thing reclines in Royal Caribbean ads, but back then…

One of the best numbers on the Return Of The Living Dead Soundtrack, alongside Roky's "Burn The Flames" and 45 Grave's "Partytime," is The Cramps' looming "Surfin' Dead." It shambles along, the true Missing Link between the earlier voodoo vibes of Songs The Lord Taught Us, Psychedelic Jungle and Gravest Hits and the (very) slightly poppier garagifications of "Ultra Twist" and Flame Job. Switching the brains of the Rickety Rockabilly Corpse Of The Past and the Comic Book Rhythm Demon Of Later Years, "Surfin' Dead" is one of The Cramps' most perverse and hilarious creations.

Since Enigma Records released the Return Of The Living Dead Soundtrack, it makes sense that that many of the bands involved were affiliated with the label.* Roky Erickson, for example, released Don't Slander Me and Gremlins Have Pictures on Enigma's wild Pink Dust imprint. TSOL had their Revenge and then Hit & Run. The Cramps, Jet Black Berries (formerly New Math – dig They Walk Among You) SSQ and 45 Grave also exhumed material. Unfortunately, the word in the chat rooms is that Return Of The Living Dead, due to subsequent licensing problems, is no longer shown with its original soundtrack intact. A Shame, that.

Finally, I lent my copy of the Return Of The Living Dead soundtrack to a friend, a younger dude who liked Iron Maiden and Fates Warning. The LP was returned to me, a few weeks later, with an actual footprint stomped into the vinyl.

He was less impressed.

*In the interest of full-disclosure, I should mention that I worked for, a few years back, which was then a division of Enigma Digital.


Pete Bilderback said...

Great post. "Cool" music in the mall was indeed a rare thing in the 80s.

Speaking of Enigma--I remember the Enigma rep from my college radio days as being the most incompetent person I have ever encountered in my life. She always promised to put me on the guest list for shows, but never did. Each time she would swear that this time I was really, really on the list, but I never was.

This was only a real problem once when I had driven from Carlisle, PA to Washington, DC to see Sonic Youth at the 9:30 Club. The show was totally sold out. Somehow, I managed to sweet talk my way in.

Dumbek said...

I played that soundtrack constantly when I was in college. I even splurged and got the picture disc.

"There's nothing on the radio, when you're dead..."