MURDER IN SONG: NEBRASKA-BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1982)

Nebraska the album is filled with stories of despair, crime, murder and desperate men doing desperate things. The title track, “Highway Patrolman”, “Johnny 99” and “State Trooper” are songs soaked in blood and hurt. I bought the album on it’s first day of release in 1982 and would listen to it for hours in my room studying it song by song and word for word. For this week’s Murder in Song I plan to discuss and present to you the title track of the album, “Nebraska”. Inspired by the 1958 real-life murder spree committed by Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate and by the Terrence Malick directed Badlands (itself inspired by the crimes) and also by “Caril”, a 1974 true crime book by Ninette Beaver, Springsteen sings the tale first person from the point-of-view of Starkweather in a flat, unemotional style that is perfect in its delivery. With lyrics so stark and haunting they could make Flannery O’Connor (another inspiration for both the song and the album) jealous, Springsteen as Starkweather tells us of their blood-soaked journey from ‘the town of Lincoln, Nebraska’ to ‘the badlands of Wyoming’ that left ‘ten innocent people’ dead. With lyrics inspired by Malick’s film (‘I saw her standing on her front lawn/Just-a twirlin’ her baton’) and from Starkweather’s own words to his father (‘At least for a little while sir/me and her we had us some fun’) “Nebraska” is in my humble opinion a true masterpiece of the murder ballad genre. Listen for yourself and I hope you enjoy it.

I saw her standin’ on her front lawn just twirlin’ her baton
Me and her went for a ride sir and ten innocent people died

From the town of Lincoln Nebraska with a sawed off .410 on my lap
Through to the badlands of Wyoming I killed everything in my path

I can’t say that I’m sorry for the things that we done
At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun

The jury brought in a guilty verdict and the judge he sentenced me to death
Midnight in a prison storeroom with leather straps across my chest

Sheriff when the man pulls that switch sir and snaps my poor head back
You make sure my pretty baby is sittin’ right there on my lap

They declared me unfit to live said into that great void my soul’d be hurled
They wanted to know why I did what I did
Well sir I guess there’s just a meanness in this world

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MURDER IN SONG: THE IRISH BALLAD-TOM LEHRER (1953)

What is a murder ballad? A murder ballad is just what it says it is: it is a song in which a murder occurs. Most murder ballads, but not all, follow a general rule of recounting the details of a true crime (“Nebraska” by Bruce Springsteen being a good example as it details the killing spree of Charles Starkweather) or a mythic one (“Where the Wild Roses Grow” by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue being a good example here). A murder ballad tells us who the victim(s) are, the motive of the killer, how the victim is lured in and the act of murder itself. It may also, and usually does, include the capture and imprisonment/execution of the killer. Some are told from the point of view of the killer (“Tom Dooley“) and some from the side of the victim (“Lord Randall“). Murder ballads can be found in many different genres of music including country, folk, bluegrass, rock and even rap to name a few.

This is the first of what will, hopefully, be a new weekly post. I plan to feature a different murder ballad each week. I will try to have a video, lyrics and a brief and accurate history of the song.

The first song I want to feature is a song by Tom Lehrer entitled “The Irish Ballad“. It is the tale of a young girl who dispatches her family in various grisly ways. It is from his album Songs by Tom Lehrer and was released in 1953. I hope you enjoy hearing it and that you will come back each week to hear more.

About a maid I’ll sing a song,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
About a maid I’ll sing a song
Who didn’t have her family long.
Not only did she do them wrong,
She did ev’ryone of them in, them in,
She did ev’ryone of them in.

One morning in a fit of pique,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
One morning in a fit of pique,
She drowned her father in the creek.
The water tasted bad for a week,
And we had to make do with gin, with gin,
We had to make do with gin.

Her mother she could never stand,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
Her mother she could never stand,
And so a cyanide soup she planned.
The mother died with a spoon in her hand,
And her face in a hideous grin, a grin,
Her face in a hideous grin.

She set her sister’s hair on fire,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
She set her sister’s hair on fire,
And as the smoke and flame rose high’are,
Danced around the funeral pyre,
Playin’ a violin, -olin,
Playin’ a violin.

She weighted her brother down with stones,
Rickety-tickety-tin,
She weighted her brother down with stones,
And sent him off to davy jones.
All they ever found were some bones,
And occasional pieces of skin, of skin,
Occasional pieces of skin.

One day when she had nothing to do,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
One day when she had nothing to do,
She cut her baby brother in two,
And served him up as an irish stew,
And invited the neighbors in, -bors in,
Invited the neighbors in.

And when at last the police came by,
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
And when at last the police came by,
Her little pranks she did not deny,
To do so she would have had to lie,
And lying, she knew, was a sin, a sin,
Lying, she knew, was a sin.

My tragic tale, I won’t prolong,
Rickety-tickety-tin,
My tragic tale I won’t prolong,
And if you do not enjoy the song,
You’ve yourselves to blame if it’s too long,
You should never have let me begin, begin,
You should never have let me begin.

WRITTEN IN BLOOD SCREAM QUEEN OF THE MONTH-DECEMBER, 2014-CHELAN SIMMONS

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If you’re looking at December’s Scream Queen of the Month and thinking, “Where have I seen her before?” then perhaps it was here:

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That’s Chelan in her debut role as  Laurie Anne Winterbarger, the first onscreen victim of Pennywise the Clown in the 1990 TV adaptation of Stephen King’s IT.

Or, perhaps you remember Chelan Simmons this way:

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That’s Chelan (along with Crystal Lowe, not pictured) as Ashley Freund in the Tanning Beds of Terror in Final Destination 3 (2006).

 Chelan Simmons was born on October 29, 1982 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The youngest of three children, she has been a natural performer since the age of 2 years old. Her genre credits include Carrie (TV, 2002), Monster Island and Snakehead Terror (TV, 2004), Chupacabra Terror (Video, 2005), Caved In (TV, 2006), Wind Chill (2007), Ogre (TV, 2008), Malibu Shark Attack (TV, 2009), Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) and See No Evil 2 (2014).

Chelan’s TV series credits include Wonderfalls (2004), Smallville (2002-2004), The Collector (2004-2006), Supernatural and Stargate: Atlantis (2005), Psych (2006-2007), Kyle XY (2006-2009), How I Met Your Mother (2012) and Hannibal (2013).

Among her non-genre film credits are Bingo (1991), John Tucker Must Die (2006), Good Luck Chuck (2007) and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010).

She is blonde, beautiful and talented and she is the Written in Blood Scream Queen of the Month for December, 2014. She is Chelan Simmons.

CHELAN-TASTIC TRIVIA

On her official Twitter page she describes herself as “A pinch of sugar, a dash of comedy and a cup of blonde.”

Hobbies:- Cooking, Being with friends and family, dancing and sight-seeing on her Rollerblades in her birthplace Vancouver.

Is also a professional model.

Her favorites movies: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), Bride Wars (2009), 27 Dresses (2008), Superbad (2007), Knocked Up (2007), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Big (1988), My Girl (1991), Dirty Dancing (1987), Pretty Woman (1990), Legally Blonde (2001), Mary Poppins (1964), Mermaids (1990), Wedding Crashers (2005), Final Destination 3 (2006) and Good Luck Chuck (2007).

Is good friends with actresses Cindy Busby and Jewel Staite and is also long-time friends with Crystal Lowe.

TO CHANGE OR NOT TO CHANGE: A POLL

Short and sweet: I’ve been thinking about changing the look of my blog. It’s been the same for about 2 years now and I’m getting itchy about changing it. That is where you come in. Should I change the theme entirely? Should I keep the same theme and make a few cosmetic changes? Should I leave it just the way it is?

I’ll run this for one week. Give me your input, please. Peace out…I mean-take care…and stay scared.

I’M A MADMAN, DON”T YOU KNOW?-9 SONGS ABOUT PSYCHOS, MADMEN AND JUST PLAIN CRAZY FOLK

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Did you ever know someone who was crazy? I’m not talking ‘run up and look under a nun’s habit and giggle’ crazy (although that might qualify); I’m talking a level of crazy in which anytime you are near this person you fear for your life because you have no idea what’s going on in that head of theirs and the scary part is neither do they.

Here are 9 songs about some crazy people. Why 9? Why not 10? Why not 11? Why not rub myself in peanut butter and call myself Betty?

PSYCHO KILLER by THE TALKING HEADS (David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth)

It’s not so much the lyrics of Psycho Killer that warn us that we are inside the brain of a madman; it is David Byrne singing the song as if his shock treatment session went on a little too long. Byrne said he wrote the song (with help) by ‘imagining Alice Cooper singing a Randy Newman ballad.’

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RIDERS ON THE STORM by THE DOORS (Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore)

Is the entirety of Riders on the Storm about a psycho? Probably not; but that part about a ‘killer on the road’ whose ‘brain is squirming like a toad’ puts the storm just outside of crazy town.

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WHERE THE WILD ROSES GROW by NICK CAVE AND KYLIE MINOGUE (NIck Cave)

One of the perks of picking out songs for these little lists of mine is finding something that I’ve never heard before; for instance this gem by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue from Cave’s Murder Ballads. Boy meets girl, boy loves girls, boy kills girl to preserve her beauty. Nope, nothing crazy here.

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EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE by THE POLICE (Sting)

Every Breath You Take is the un-official theme song for Stalking Awareness Month. If you thinks it’s a sweet little love song then you’re the one who’s crazy. Even Sting said he didn’t realize how sinister it was and that people have misinterpreted it.

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USED TO LOVE HER by GUNS ‘N’ ROSES (Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin)

He loved her, he killed her, he buried her six feet underground and still hears her complain. I think the serial killer Edmund Kemper may have been a ghost writer on this tune. After murdering his mother and attempting (unsuccessfully) to stuff her larynx down the garbage disposal, Kemper said that even in death the woman wouldn’t stop bitching at him.

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DESTROYER by THE KINKS (Ray Davies)
Poor Ray Davies; he meets a girl(?) named Lola and she(?) sends him right over the edge. Ray, just stop! Hold on. Stay in control.

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EXCITABLE BOY by WARREN ZEVON

It’s my wife I have to thank for reminding me of this Zevon song about a young man who finds creative things to do with little Susie, her bones, his Sunday best suit and an infamous pot roast. The fact that I’m a major Warren Zevon fan makes me ashamed that I forgot it.

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MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER by ELTON JOHN (Elton John, Bernie Taupin)
Leave it to Elton John to make something as simple as a visit to a sanitarium into a near staple of classic rock. The song is not about Richard Nixon as many people think; but Bernie Taupin says the (mis)interpretation amuses him.
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STEVEN by ALICE COOPER (Alice Cooper, Bob Ezrin)
Before Marilyn Manson was a sty in his mommy’s eye, Alice Cooper wrote the book on Shock rock. He also wrote the book on crazy and it was called Welcome to My Nightmare. It was all about the journey through the mind of a disturbed little boy named…Steven.
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THE BARRENS

THE BARRENS-United States/Canada-2012

Steven Moyer as Richard Vineyard

Mia Kirshner as Cynthia Vineyard

Erik Knudsen as Ryan (Image not from film)

Allie Macdonald as Sadie Vineyard

Peter DaCuhna (L) as Danny Vineyard

Athena Karkanis (R) as Erica

Shawn Ashmore (R) as Dale

Written and Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

The Jersey Devil was the 13th child of Mama Leeds, 

His daddy was the devil himself.

Born normal, it changed form;

Cloven hooves, horses head,

Bat wings and a forked tail. 

Pine Barrens, New Jersey

is where it calls home.

Pine Barrens, New Jersey

is where no one belongs.

If you recall, after the debacle that was 11-11-11, I was ready to write Darren Lynn Bousman off as having spent the 15 minutes of fame that he earned after Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV. 11-11-11 was a monotonous and uneventful film directed by a man with no imagination and no fucking business behind a movie camera. But I guess everyone deserves a second chance and Bousman receives that chance with The Barrens. It’s not a great film; there are no Oscars in its future and film historians will not be talking about in the same breath as Citizen Kane; but at least it gets the bad taste of “11” out of our mouths.

Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer, Bill Compton of True Blood) is determined to take his family camping for the weekend. His reasons are two-fold; one is to bring himself, his daughter Sadie (Allie MacDonald, Alphas, House at the End of the Street) and his new wife Cynthia (Mia Kirshner, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, The L Word) closer together; the other is to scatter his father’s ashes.

Vineyard and his family set up camp in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and talk that night commences from fellow campers about the legend of the Jersey Devil, a creature said to have haunted the woods for the past 400 years. Richard overreacts to the stories and it is from there that we discover that he had his own little run-in with the beast. Pretty soon he’s acting strange; hallucinating, hearing things. He comes down with a fever and we think ‘well that explains it; he’s not in his right mind’. Then the bodies turn up with their entrails ripped out. Is Vineyard responsible; or is the Jersey Devil all too real.

Okay, so looking back I can see that the whole premise is about as dumb as a retarded box of rocks, but Bousman actually manages to keep it together and keeps us guessing until the very end. After the predictability that was 11-11-11, I have to give kudos to the old boy. I also have to give props to whoever decided to make Moyer’s character British. Moyer actually is from Brentwood, Essex, England and I believe the writers knew that if they gave Vineyard an American accent that viewers would associate it with his character from True Blood.

In the end, The Barrens boils down to good, dumb Bousman fun.

TRIVIA

Darren Lynn Bousman’s earlier cut of this movie was only 81 minutes long.

Darren Lynn Bousman originally wanted to shoot the film in the actual Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

There were more shots of the Jersey Devil in an earlier version of the movie.

A majority of the scenes were done in a single take.

As an added treat, ladies and gentlemen Mr. Bruce Springsteen and A Night With The Jersey Devil:

The Dreams of Which I’m Dying-9 Songs About Suicide

I am not going to even pretend to know why I am posting this article; except to say that when I get a subject in my head I have to have some way to release it. It’s like a song that creeps in on you and you sing it over and over and the only way you can stop it is to play the damn thing.

One thing I will say is that I know that this is a sensitive subject. I would like to assure everyone that I mean no disrespect to any of you. The last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone.

There have been songs written about death for as long as songs have been written and they can be broken down into two categories; songs about people who have died by someone else’s hand or songs about people who have taken their own lives.

What I present to you here are 9 songs about suicide. I’m sure you have heard some of them before. Some are old, some are not so old. Some are popular and some maybe not. As I said before, it’s been on my mind and I got to get it out somehow.

Oh and when I say it’s been on my mind I mean the songs and not the act itself. So, if you were worried about me, it’s okay. I’m fine.

JEREMY-Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament)

On January 8, 1991 Jeremy Delle, a 16 year-old student walked out of his classroom at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas presumably to get a note from the admittance office after missing a class. On his return he walked directly to the front of the classroom and said “Miss, I got what I really went for.” He then placed a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. In his explanation for writing “Jeremy”, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder said that he felt “the need to take that small article (from the Dallas Morning News) and make something of it—to give that action, to give it reaction, to give it more importance.”

HURT-Johnny Cash (Trent Reznor)

An argument could be made that this is not a song about a man about to take his life; but about a man searching for a reason to live (If I could start again 
A million miles away 
I would keep myself 
I would find a way.) I’ve never heard the Nine Inch Nails version of the song. I never felt that I needed to; Mister Cash says it all so poignantly.

HEY MAN NICE SHOT-Filter (Richard Patrick)

Contrary to belief, this song is not about the 1994 suicide of Kurt Cobain; but is instead about the public suicide of Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer. Dwyer had been convicted of bribery and instead of facing a long sentence chose instead to take his life at a press conference with a .357 Magnum. I guess it goes to show that some people want to do the crime but they don’t want to do the time.

MAD WORLD-Gary Jules (Roland Orzabal)

I chose this version of Mad World for two reasons. One, I’m not a fan of Tears For Fears lead singer and bassist Kurt Smiths voice; two I heard this version first and I like the minimalist approach it takes to the song. Okay, that’s three reasons; but are you really counting? If you wonder if the song is about suicide the lyrics ‘the dreams of which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had‘ don’t sound like the words of a person who wants to live. The Jules version is from Donnie Darko. If you’ve never seen it I suggest you do.

I THINK I’M GOING TO KILL MYSELFElton John (Bernie Taupin)

Leave it to Elton John to record a song about suicide that you can boogie to. Frankly, the song is more about a teenager who threatens the act to get attention when he doesn’t get his way (I can’t use the car. I gotta be in by ten o’clock; who do they think are?). He does have one condition that will keep him from committing this horrific act; Brigitte Bardot gotta come and see me every night. Who knows, maybe he’ll hold his breath until he turns blue.

VINCENT (Starry Starry Night)-Don McLean (Don McLean)

It’s hard to believe that a song so beautiful can be about something so sad. McLean wrote this as a tribute to the artist Vincent Van Gogh. I don’t know what more there is to say.

FOR YOU-Bruce Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen)

Did you really think I wasn’t going to include a Springsteen song in here somewhere? I had to go way back into the vaults for this one as it’s from his first album Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey. The song is not so much about a suicide as it is about a man who will do everything he can to save this person.

ALICE-Tom Waits (Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan)

All of a sudden it’s become a cool thing to become a fan of Tom Waits. I got news for you; Tom Waits has always been cool; the rest of us just needed time to catch up. The first time I heard this song I listened to it at least fifty more times. In my humble opinion it is one of the most beautifully written and hauntingly arranged songs I have ever heard. Is it a song about a suicide? Yes and no. The song is a part of an Opera about Alice in Wonderland scribe Lewis Carroll; but apart from that a lyric like ‘How does the ocean rock the boat? How did the razor find my throat?’ take on an entirely new meaning.

ODE TO BILLIE JOE-Bobbie Gentry (Bobbie Gentry)

Now here is an example of a song that, while we are aware of what happened, we are not fully aware of why it happened. We know that Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge; what we don’t know is why he jumped. I believe that some things are better left to the imagination. I guess the producers of the 1976 movie based on the song don’t agree with me.