Terror Tracks: If You Only Listen to One Promotional Horror Song...
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!
My first introduction to the writer Stephen King was through Pet Sematary.
No. Wait. That’s a lie....
My first introduction to Stephen King was actually through The Long Walk, the tight fast-paced thriller of dystopian horror that his alter ego, Richard Bachman, released in 1979 (Pet Sematary would arrive four years later in 1983). After graduating from Bachman’s bleak future, that hits a little too close to home today, I picked up what I thought was a “Real Stephen King Book”, one that I had stared at in libraries and bookstores as a dark forbidden fruit: Pet Sematary.
And I absolutely devoured it.
Then of course I had to watch the film which, while extremely fun and directed by the dynamite Mary Lambert, strangely didn’t effect me in the way that, in retrospect, it had with others who saw it around my age. That in part could be that the visceral terror of the book gets lost in translation from page to screen. It may have also had to do with the timing of when I watched it. One: it’s never a good idea to watch a film immediately after reading the book. Two: it could also be that when I saw Pet Sematary it coincided with an episode of South Park in 2001 that lampooned Fred Gwynne’s character Jud from the film. Either way, despite some pretty heavy subject matter, the film always played light and fun to me (honestly I think my young brain just blocked out Zelda because it wasn’t until repeat viewing that her scenes stuck out to me). And you know what else is light and fun? Lyrics like this:
"Molars and fangs, the clicking of bones,
Spirits moaning among the tombstones."
Say whaaaaaaaaat? What is this collection of words that, according to Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As A Ramone, Marky Ramone’s autobiography, Dee Dee Ramone penned in Stephen King’s basement in 40 minutes? Joey Ramone croons on:
"Under the arc of a weather stain boards,
Ancient goblins, and warlords,
Come out of the ground, not making a sound,
The smell of death is all around"
Edgar Allen Poe, eat your tell tale heart out (Author’s Note: I cringe that I thought that play on words up but...it’s kinda too good not to use, right readers?). The lyrics and musicality is all much more playful and mainstream than what you may be used to for The Ramones, full of repeating arpeggios and colorfully macabre lyrics, many of which do all you ever ask for from a promotional horror film single: it retells a bit of the story. Take for instance these two verses:
"Follow Victor to the sacred place,
This ain't a dream, I can't escape,
Victor is grinning, flesh rotting away,
Skeletons dance, I curse this day,"
That makes it clearly obvious that Dee Dee made it through at least the first 100 or so pages of the novel in Mr. King’s basement for the character Victor Pascow to pop up in his lyrics (Pascow appears early in the novel/film, but, like, why no creepy killer cat or living dead toddlers Dee Dee? Did you finish the book?) Though, I have to point out that there is conflicting narratives about how The Ramones involvement with the project came to be. Not to get out my cork board and string, but while Marky has documented that the song was written in 40 minutes (I’m guessing he had a stop watch) by Dee Dee on request of Stephen King, in a panel at Texas Frightmare in 2013 Mary Lambert said, “Dee Dee Ramone was one of my best friends. I’ve known The Ramones for a long time, that was actually...I brought them in.” Mary Lambert, a music video director working with Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Annie Lennox before transitioning into feature directing, toured with The Ramones extensively across Europe.
So, who knows, and ultimately it doesn’t really matter. What I do know is that the song “Pet Sematary” was sadly beat out that year at The Razzies to an impressive competitive lineup for Best Worst Original Song Award that included “Let’s Go” by Kool Moe Dee from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Bringing home the cup that year, though, would be Bruce Dickinson’s impeccable “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter”....which also happens to be from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
Damn 1989. That’s a dope AF year for horror movie promotional songs!