Spooky Songs – II

The AWESOME! page has random music stuff that I think is cool. You never know what you will find here!

It’s Halloween time, so here are three more songs that have some spookiness to them (see my first “Spooky Songs” post from November 1, 2017 – those songs were Monster Mash, Tubular Bells and Thriller).

I Put A Spell On You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Hawkins wrote and recorded the song in 1955, and a re-recorded version was released in the fall of 1956. He originally planned for the song to be a love ballad, but he and the band were drunk when they recorded it, with Hawkins screaming and grunting throughout the vocals. Hawkins passed out after the recording and had to relearn the song from the recording. It was banned from the radio in some parts of the country. When DJ Alan Freed (the first Rock & Roll radio DJ) offered him $300 to emerge from a coffin on stage while performing the song, he developed an on-stage theatrical persona with voodoo stage props, which brought him much notoriety. The song has been covered by numerous artists, most notably Nina Simone, Creedence Clearwater Revival (who performed it at Woodstock) and Jeff Beck. Hawkins’ version was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll, and Rolling Stone ranked it at #313 on the Greatest Songs of All Time list.

Sympathy For the Devil by The Rolling Stones – the song is the opening track on the 1968 Beggars Banquet album. Credited to both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was largely written by Jagger, with Jagger performing the role of the devil boasting about his role in various atrocities over the history of mankind. He was inspired by the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire and a 1967 novel by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov titled The Master and Margarita, which is about a visit by the devil to the atheistic Soviet Union. It first was written as a folk song, but as the group developed it, it evolved into a samba. The famous “woo woo” backing vocals came by accident – during the early takes, producer Jimmy Miller kept talking to himself, urging Jagger to “give it his all, who are you singing about, who? who?” Others thought that the “who who” sounded like a great backing vocal chant, and it was suggested to the band to add it. After one take, it stayed in the song, evolving from “who who” to “woo woo.” The song is my favorite Rolling Stones song, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at #106 on the GOAT songs list.

Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon – the song is included on Zevon’s 1978 album Excitable Boy. The single was the only top 40 hit in Zevon’s career, reaching #21 on the Hot 100 chart. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie from Fleetwood Mac contributed as session musicians – Fleetwood on drums and McVie on bass guitar – and co-writer Waddy Wachtel was the guitarist on the track. The genesis of the song came from Phil Everly (of the Everly Brothers), who watched the 1935 film Werewolf of London and suggested to Zevon that the title would make a great song. Zevon and his co-writers kicked around some ideas and wrote it in fifteen minutes, putting it on the shelf without any serious intent to record it. Zevon’s friend Jackson Browne discovered it and began to perform it in concerts, as did T Bone Burnett. Now realizing its potential, Zevon put it on his third solo album. The record label selected it as the first single from the album, despite Zevon’s objections. The song is another example of how a brilliant songwriter sometimes has his biggest success with the silliest of songs.

Here are videos for all three songs. Check out how weird I Put A Spell On You really is! Then, a live 2006 version of the Stones classic. And finally, Zevon’s rollickingly brilliant “hairy handed gent, who ran amok in Kent.”

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