Terror Tracks: Our World is Now Finally "Ready for Freddy"
TERROR TRACKS is a column that will have you cranking your volume to 11 and pulling the covers over your head as we lead you through the aisles of pressed wax and spooky tracks, uncovering the gems of horror-themed music!
How The Fat Boys began there career made me audibly say “Shut Up!” to my screen with a smile spread across my face. The foundational hip hop group—made up of the astoundingly named Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock-Ski, and Buff Love a.k.a. The Human Beat Box—were the aliases of Brooklynites Mark Morales, Damon Wimbley, and Darren Robinson. Their start? Winning a talent contest in 1983 at Radio City Music Hall and receiving a record deal. How. Crazy. Is. THAT! From there, with the help of manager Charlie Stettler and producer Kurtis Blow, they were able to blaze a trail through hip hop and make a new sound accessible to a 1980s mainstream audience. Through platinum-selling albums, starring roles in films like Michael Schultz’s Disorderlies (Author’s Note: later they were set to star in a never-made horror-comedy, Fat Tuesday, that would have been set during Mardi Gras, which I’m now KINDA obsessed with), to teaming up with The Beach Boys and appearances on MTV, The Fat Boys etched their place in hip hop history. They even partnered with famous sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer on a song called “Protect Yourself” promoting safe sex. Damon Wembley said, “With teenage pregnancy, STDs and AIDS being so huge on the scene at that time – Prince's ‘Sign o' the Times’ came out that same year – we really wanted to be a part of all that. Most people didn't expect something like 'Protect Yourself' to come from us."
And something else practically no one was ready for? Freddy. They were definitely not Ready for Freddy.
But now in 2017, as we close out another year of horror, in more ways than one: we definitely are Ready for Freddy.
And now, a year later, we’re all still pretty mortified by the fire around us. Everything is layered into everything else, and while we’re opening so much necessary dialogue and discussion, especially ignited through film, steam has to be released. Batteries have to be recharged. The wave upon wave of the news cycle becomes exhausting. And that’s when you know you are Ready for Freddy. Because you see, the oft-scorned track “Are You Ready for Freddy?” is the fun, bopping beat that we need as a salve for our souls at the end of a tumultuous year. This isn’t Schubert, it didn’t win any Grammys or top the charts, but if you like Freddy Krueger the song is a perfect time capsule for a strange era when a child-killing dream stalker ruled the world.
"Freddy Krueger's the name
And you know my game
Elm Street's the place, if you've got the time
Listen to this, you'll bust a rhyme."
The song is ride or die from verse one. With not much of a choice, echoes of “Freddy” ushering us into the mansion of The Fat Boy’s late Uncle Frederick, Robert Englund starts rapping. Well, rapping may be giving him too much credit. Sprechgesang, a technique developed in the opera of the late 19th and early 20th century, more commonly known as “Speak singing”, is most recognizably heard in Robert Preston’s performance as Harold Hill in The Music Man and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. Which means, at the very least, there is a music theory argument that Freddy actually has never been rapping all along! (But yeah, it’s pretty much rapping)
"Fred Krueger the myth, or Fred Krueger the man
It doesn't matter 'cause I'm still rappin' bout him, understand?"
PREACH Prince Markie! It’s also of note the continual usage of the lesser used abbreviation Fred. Referring to Freddy as Fred has always harkened back, for me, to Krueger from the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I don’t know. I like it.
"It's time for Freddy
See, I'm a popular guy
If you don't know yet...
You're gonna find out why."
Freddy’s back! Arguably rapping, which you will begin to see is a pattern to his appearances on the track, but c’mon! This is gold here, and we’re still in the set up to the ACTUAL song! You also get a little pop “Freddy!” right at the top, like the trapped souls he possesses in The Dream Master, or simply to prepare you for some DOPE chorus vocals later.
"With a hat like a vagabond,
Standing like a flasher, it's Mr. Big Time
Fred Krueger, dream crasher!"
The Fat Boys were always descriptive and imaginative in their lyrics, and “Freddy” is no different. Here we have Freddy described as a dream crasher, which I find to be rather charming. By 1988, Freddy was a cultural icon, already free from his deeply disturbing roots and everyone’s favorite monster. Freddy knew where the party was at, clearly, and if he crashes yours you know it’s gonna be LIT. Also, what say you, standing like a flasher...is that a wide stance? Narrow? Leaning? Is he just shady? What does it mean?
"All the people sleeping, snoozing, and dreaming
While Krueger's on the the corner of Elm Street, scheming."
How do you not smile at that? Dreaming, scheming...Freddy just hanging on the corner. It’s just fun!
"It's one a.m. and Freddy's here
The supreme dream maker, the master of fear
When you see night comin' stay away from the dark
Watch out, or Freddy will bust your heart."
This is one of three choruses that will alternate only the lyrics about time at the beginning of each verse. Lyrically, this is the strongest the song will be, and the hook is one hell of an earworm. But musically it’s extremely fun and—trust me here—echoes Bernard Herrmann. The piercing High C’s like strings on a violin, pitch-perfect tight harmonies descending in half steps, each word clipped, finishing with staccato punctuations on Freddy, Bust, and Heart. You gotta respect what you gotta respect!
"Even in part three, the Dream Warriors fail
And Mr. Big Time, Freddy Krueger, prevails
It was like prime time,
I know you'll never forget,
What he did to the girl, with the TV set
But you can't stop Freddy 'cause he's cool as ice
Comin' right back at ya to slash and slice
Like a ginsu blade or a blender he'll blitz ya
Fred Krueger's puttin' on the ritz!"
Honestly, I initially didn’t want to go through so much of the lyrics of the song, but as I continued to each following verse, it’s...it’s just really all too good. I mean look at this: first we break the fourth wall by referencing “in part three” and pay respects to a series’ favorite kill, but also we get the second reference to FK as “Mr. Big Time,” where we learn he’s cool as ice, he can slash and slice (author’s note: we already knew that), is compared to a blender (author’s note: we didn’t already know that). Then: puttin’ on the ritz, which, sure, no matter who you think of, will inspire images of Freddy Krueger in tails and a top hat.
From here it’s a mix of the repeated chorus and some solo Freddy arguably rapping, which is what it is. But by now: who cares! The song is almost over. Then this happens:
"You see my name is Freddy, and I'm here to say..."
So... Clearly I like this song a lot. But if I had to choose, this is the one bit that does make me laugh-cringe because it’s...just so hilariously white. It’s almost a punchline to the whole song. We’ve all seen it in countless movies and TV shows before: the painfully white, typically, male person of authority (usually boss, teacher, principal) trying to connect with a group of young people of color by showing how cooooool they are. Imagine this:
“Yo ya see my name is Teach Matthews and I’m here to say, science is cool because I say OK!”
Search your mind. You know it to be true. Somewhere in this large interconnected world, maybe in a theatre, probably in a basement, someone in an improv show just had the impulse to start rapping. And how did this person start? “YO! You see my name is-” Every. Dang. Time.
Despite what you may expect, The Fat Boys were not nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award that year, but that didn’t mean Freddy struck out from the Razzies in ‘88. The song “Therapist” from the band Vigil was nominated for their contribution to The Dream Master original soundtrack. I’d say I wish that this song would receive the ire that “Are You Ready For Freddy?” gets but, besides being utterly forgotten, the song really isn’t that bad for late 80s synth pop!
The extremely affable music video ends with The Fat Boys escaping their waking nightmare, but not before running into a man on the sidewalk, scattering his groceries in the air. Buff Love reaches down to cradle the man’s head, only to grab the box of powdered donuts to help himself too. And maybe that’s really all this song is: a donut. We don’t need donuts, nor are they particularly good for us. But, besides being tasty, they are ultimately comforting. And in a time of turmoil, sometimes your stomach, your mind, and your ears deserve a little comfort food.