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Top Zombie Songs: Foot-chomping Tunes from Beyond the Grave
It’s nearly October, and the dead are getting restless. The Z’s are coming, signaling not only the end of the alphabet, but also the end of the world. Shambling their way into our hearts and viscera, they’ll arrive in a variety of feral forms, from the October 4th release of my own undead detective, Hessius Mann: Dead Mann Walking to the long-awaited October 16th premiere of the second season of The Walking Dead, all the way to December’s World War Z, with a veritable undead legion, good, bad and definitely ugly, arriving in between.
To celebrate (or perhaps mourn?), and yeah, promote my book, over the next four weeks, I’ll present a series of zombie-themed columns, starting with this one, which is about….? Well, as the subject of book, film and video games, of course zombie songs exist, too. And no, I don’t mean the obvious, aka MJ’s Thriller. I mean others, like these, in no particular order.
DEAD MANN WALKING
Speaking of self-promotion, hard-rocker Jazan Wild became a fan of my work back when I was writing the X-Files comic from Topps. Over time, I got into writing novels and he got into writing comics. One fine day he asked me to script the first issue of his wildly successful Carnival of Souls. We struck a deal – I’d script for him, he’d write a song for me. Jazan’s first effort on my behalf, Wake Up to Reality, inspired by Timetripper, currently has over 50,000 downloads. Since then he did Creature of the Night, for Blood Prophecy, and now, his best yet, Dead Mann Walking, for that book of the same name. Have a listen – the download is free!
On a slab above the ground
No one lowered me down
A graveyard in my head
No rest for the dead
I LOVE THE DEAD
Nope, not about being a Grateful Dead fan. And technically, the topic’s necrophilia, not zombies, but considering that these days, everyone seems to love the dead, it strikes me as on point. This Alice Cooper song is from his 1973 break-out album Billion Dollar Babies, which also brought us No More Mr. Nice Guy and inspired David Byrne to write Psycho-Killer. Likewise on the hard end of the music scale it sports endearing lyrics such as…
I love the dead before they rise
No farewells, no goodbyes,
I never even knew your now rotting face…
While performing it live, Alice would simulate sex with a mannequin and then decapitate himself. Really, haven’t we all been there at some point? But consider, this is long before people thought Lady Gaga was beyond the pale. Civilization’s been falling apart for eons! Perhaps it’s falling for you?
RE: YOUR BRAINS
Making the leap from 20th century hard to 21st century folksy/alternate rock, here we have a proper zombie song, one that takes the dead’s point of view directly into consideration, a move that’s perhaps politically correct, but certainly antithetical to survival. Sing with me now:
All we wanna do is eat your brains
We’re not unreasonable,
I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes
Yeah, I was late to the party regarding Jonathan Coulton – the genial genius who brought us I’m Still Alive, the great song over Portal’s closing credits, but that only means I’ll be enjoying long after others think he’s overplayed!
Muzak! The gonk itself is an ultra-cheap, furry doll first produced during WWI when Teddy Bear supplies were lacking. To keep the children’s spirits high, mom’s made gonks by stuffing socks with rags, then sewing on button-eyes and flaps for arms and legs, making them creepy as all hell.
This jaunty, lyric-less tune, named after the dolls, earned a kind of cult status after appearing over the credits in no less than George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Savvy listeners will also recognize it as the closing theme to Robot Chicken, in which it is performed as a series of clucks.
ALL THE MEN IN MY LIFE KEEP GETTING KILLED BY CANDARIAN DEMONS
I first heard this gem during a cabaret at my daughter’s High School, noted for their cool and quirky taste in music. I knew there’d been a musical made from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, but not having heard much else, remembering the Carrie musical, I assumed it likewise sucked. As far as this funny, campy song is concerned, I was wrong.
All my college boyfriends and my one-night stands!
My male co-workers and platonic gay friends.
Every date I go on ends in demon bloodshed.
And now that I’ve met you two guys I know you’ll soon be dead!
The uninitiated, already annoyed at my use of I Love the Dead, may complain that the title says demon, not zombie. To be clear, going back to Raimi’s original flick, the corpses therein are animated by five Candarian demons (one of whom is Dagon, of Assyro-Babylonian, HP Lovecraft and Dungeons & Dragons fame.) You wanna argue that this somehow means they’re not zombies, fine, but they are walking, and they are dead.
Zombies are supposed to be bad news. They kill you, they eat you, they indicate the end of the world, yadda-yadda-yadda. How great, then, that my personal fave song about them would be one of the most life-affirming, booty-moving tunes I’ve ever heard? Also called Back to Back, this isn’t a song about loss, it’s about wild and wooly freedom. Stuck it at the front of my novel, where it’s ironic, y’know?
Back to Back, belly to belly
I don’t give a damn
’cause I’m stone dead already
Even in our Internet days, the tune has somewhat murky origins, leaving more than a few befuddled about its history. Near as I can tell, it was apparently first recorded by Lord Invader (real name Rupert Grant, responsible for classics like Rum & Coca-Cola) but writing credit is given to Conrad Eugene Mauge Jr. in 1953. Since covered by such notables as Harry Belafonte, The Kingston Trio and more, to these fifty-something white man ears, the hands-down best version comes from Rockapella. But in any form, how can you dislike a song that uses the word bacchanal?
Any favorites I missed? Post ’em in comments. That’s all for now. Tune in next week for part one of my two-part interview with Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard! I seem to actually know him from somewhere….