Wednesday, October 19, 2011

By A Serial Killer's Request: Carnival

The song has nothing to do with murder and mayhem, and this isn't a "Day of Rest" entry.  So why is it here?

Serial killer Aileen Wurrnos requested this tune be played at her funeral.  


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quote of the Week

"I'd just like to say I'm sailing with the rock, and I'll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mothership and all, I'll be back."

- Aileen Wuornos, Final Statement, October 9, 2002

NCBS Murder Ballads Project. 2. Stagger Lee pt 2

If you're not a fan of "foul" language you might want to skip today's post.

Sing a Song of Murder, has talked about the lore surrounding "Stagger Lee" before, but Nick Cave's version takes it to a different place entirely.  A forced homosexual act was probably not what the original writer of "Stagger Lee" probably had in mind.  I'm sure these lyrics never popped into his head either:

I'm a bad motherfucker don't ya know
And I'll craw over fifty good pussies 
Just to get to one fat boy's asshole

Love the Take That shirt.

From what I've read Cave took lyrical inspiration from The Life: The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler.  I'm currently trying to search out a copy that won't cost me 59.99 (used).

I think that "Stagger Lee", like "Delia's Gone" might have taken some inspiration from gangster rap, which was huge at the time of Murder Ballads.  If you don't remember the glory days of Snoop Dogg, Tupac, and uh . . .others* it involved a little of this . . .

Some of this . . .


And a lot of this

A lot of violence,  a lot of "motherfucker/motherfucking/motherfuckers" and the phrase "suck my dick".

Of course Eazy-E wasn't really suggesting that Dr. Dre get down on his knees and unbutton his fly.*1 It was more of an expression of dominance; "I'm the alpha male. You're a woman compared to me."*2

Lyrically, and through Cave's spoken word performance, "Stagger Lee" seems to be poking fun at rap's hyper-masculinity.  When Cave's Stagger Lee says "suck my dick" he really means "suck my dick."  

I stated in the previous post that Stagger Lee is the quintessential American song.  So does a "foreigner" have any right to sing it?  There's something to be said for being outside looking in.  Conservatives ranted and raved about gangster rap, and yet violence is so much at the heart of America, and American music.   It seems that only Americans have yet to accept that.

* Sorry, I'm hopelessly white.
*1 I'm really white.
*2 Lilly White

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day of Rest - Boulder to Birmingham

I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham 
I would hold my life in his saving grace. 
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham 
If I thought I could see, I could see your face.

Tomorrow it will be five years.  I'd still walk from Boulder to Birmingham to see you again.  Miss you beautiful girl.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another Look: The Ballad of Jesse James

Original post here.

Sherwood Ross apparently took umbrage at the "lies" told in "The Ballad of Jesse James" and decided to write his own version.

Poor Jesse was not poor
That's a lot of horse manure
He stole half a million from the till;
He was 34 years old
And his only god was gold
And nary a single rich man did he kill.

Ouch.  Then again, this Jesse James never cheated on America's Sweetheart.

You can see the entire song here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

NCBS Murder Ballads Project. 2. Stagger Lee pt 1

Stagolee was a bully man, an' ev'y body knowed,
When dey seed Stagolee comin', to give Stagolee de road,
O dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come.

- Stagolee, 1911, Journal of American Folklore

Stagger Lee. AKA Stackolee. Stack O'Lee.  Armed and extremely dangerous.  Shot a man over a Stetson hat.  A bad, bad, man.

Stagger Lee, like many of the songs on Murder Ballads has a wealth of lore and history that predates Nick Cave's gritty, often vulgar version.  There's even an (excellent) website dedicated to it.  For a more detailed history of the song, I recommend you go there.

 Mississippi John Hurt's version, which for some is the definitive Stagger Lee.

Another version recorded by Hurt in 1964


Lloyd Price's version, which was the first version of Stagger Lee that I ever heard.  It's a really upbeat version.  Nothing like a dancing the night away to a tune about cold blooded murder.

Even Woody Guthrie gave the tune a go.


The website lists 428 versions of Stagger Lee.  428.  To hell with "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."  This is the quintessential American song.  "So, if this is an American song," you might be thinking, "who does that fucking Australian think he is?"

Guess you'll have to wait for pt 2.

Quote of the Week

Murder merely relieves tension.

- Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), Pink Flamingos

Tales to Terrify Children: "Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley

This was one of my favorite poems as a child.  Goblins and ghouls take away misbehaving little brats to parts unknown.

Little Orphant Annie

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

- James Whitcomb Riley (October 7, 1849 – July 22, 1916)

A link to Riley reading his poem.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Georgia Lee

She'd been dumped there in a patch of trees, and her death barely made the newspapers. This was around the time of the Polly Klaas case — or during some other headline-making search for an abducted girl — and Waits was disturbed at the possibility that kids like Georgia Lee don't get as much coverage because they're too poor, or too black, or too troubled, or they're not photogenic enough, or ...
                                              -  Kurt Gegenhuber, The Celestial Monocord

Sung from the perspective of a murdered girl's father, "Georgia Lee", is a stark, haunting song, that as Mr. Gegenhuber points out, evokes Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground." It's a hymn for the lost; it echos what probably goes through so many minds when we hear about a murdered child: Why, God?

Most of the songs covered on this blog are sung from the murder's perspective.  People are fascinated not only with what might go on in the mind of a murder, but with violence in general.

There another side to murders of course, the victims.  But one thing about fictional songs, is that since the people in it aren't real, we don't really have to think about the pain and the sorrow that the violent death of someone's loved one causes.

The beautiful, "Georgia Lee" reminds us of that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Cruel Mother and The Ballad of Susan Smith.

I was trying to find a way to start this post without spouting some long repeated statement about how mothers killing their children really, really, upsets people. You know what I mean: "perhaps no crime is horrifying then mothers who blah, blah, blah."

Really though. The idea of a mother killing their own, is horrifying. I think people would rather believe that all killers are unknowns that lurk in the shadows, rather than pondering the idea that a woman could kill her child. A child who loves her and trusts her; who she's supposed to protect with her life.

 "The Cruel Mother" has many versions and variants: "The Greenwood Side", "Fine Flowers in the Valley and the "Minsters Daughter of New York" are just three of them. The story however remains pretty much the same. A woman has two illegitimate children in the forest. She kills them. As she walks home she sees two children at play. She tells the children how well she would treat them if they were hers. They inform her that they are her children, and when they were hers she killed them.  The song typically ends with her being cursed to hell. (Link)

 What keeps certain songs alive is having a universal quality, something that people in every age can relate to. The Cruel Mother speaks to that horror and disgust that we feel, that same horror and disgust that people felt centuries ago when they heard a mother had murdered her child.

 That horror could have inspired Lee Ann Brown's modern retelling of "Cruel Mother", "The Ballad Susan of Smith." In 1994 a woman named Susan Smith claimed that she had been carjacked, and the man who did it had driven away with her children Michael and Alex still in the car. The story made headlines, bulletins went out all over the nation. The news broadcast interviews of a tearful Susan begging for her "babies".(Link)

 Then nine days later it happened. Susan Smith confessed to the murder of her children She had driven her 1990 Mazda Protege' to John D. Long Lake. She got out of the car, put it into drive, and let it roll in to the lake with her sleeping children inside.(Link)    The public's sorrow and anger was instant.  Sorrow for two precious children.  Anger for the woman that did it.  The possible motive: that she had done it to win back her rich boyfriend, further enraged people.  "That bitch." "That monster."  

I remember watching a clip of the funeral with my father. At one point he sucked in a breath, wiped tears from his eyes and said, "hope she rots in hell."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day of Rest: Gentleman Jim Reeves

"If I, a lowly singer, dry one tear, or soothe one humble human heart in pain, then my homely verse to God is dear, and not one stanza has been sung in vain."

- The inscription on Jim Reeves memorial in Carthage, Texas.

It's always a good day for Jim Reeves, but something about fall really puts me in the mood for him.  A warm, comforting voice to listen to as the nights get colder. 

I have about 30 hours worth of overtime coming in on my next paycheck.  Great money, but I've had little time for anything else.  My schedule for October is looking a little less hectic, work-wise, and I'm looking forward to reading, crafting, baking and writing.

So relax and enjoy Gentleman Jim Reeves, one of the nicer fellows on this blog.  Tomorrow, it's back to the grind(house).


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Off-Topic: Desperately Seeking Squeaky Fromme.

  Westchester Lariat. Classmate of Phil Hartman. Child of the 60's. Charles Manson's #1 cheerleader.  Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme.

Not involved in the 1969 Tate/LaBianca murders she was later sentenced to life in prison for attempting to assassinate then president Gerald Ford in 1975.

In 2009 Squeaky was paroled.  She settled in Marcy, New York, and with the exception of a few stories via the tabloids that's pretty much the last anyone has heard from her.

No, have no intentions of tracking her down.  I'm sure she wants to be left alone.  But sometimes I wonder what's she's doing.  Still pinning for Charlie?  Still waiting for the revolution?  I remember reading an article in 2004 that claimed she was still "devoted" to him.  A lot can change in five years though.

I think of Squeaky bagging groceries.  Buying grapes, possibly guns.  Trying to work a cell phone.  Standing in her room alone trying to send a message to man in California.

She was 18 years old, she met him on Venice Beach.