Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Who Asked You, You Blood-Sucker?"

One of the records that I actually replaced digitally long before I got my USB turntable was the 1973 London Records reissue of The Original Monster Mash (XPAS 71063) by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt Kickers.

I’m glad now that I replaced it digitally, because as it turns out, the London reissue was kind of an abomination, although I never knew it at the time. Not only did the release re-arrange the order of the songs, but it flat-out deleted four songs entirely -- as it turns out, four of the best cuts on the album! 

Even the album packaging had issues: although a then-contemporary (circa 1973) portrait of Bobby Pickett was used, the liner notes were reprinted exactly as they appeared on the original 1962 edition (GARPAX SGP 67001)... making it sound as if Pickett was still twenty-two years old and the album had only just been been recorded!

The thing that impressed me at the time was how young Pickett still looked, even in 1973. At that time I was a sophomore in high school, and time moves at a different rate of speed for a kid that age than it does for us older people. To me, at that age, 1962 was, like, a million years ago, and I had expected Pickett to be (and look like) an Old Man! But do the math -- if he was just twenty-two when the record first came out, that means he was only in his young thirties when “The Monster Mash” became a hit single for a second time in the early seventies (on Parrot) and the album was subsequently reissued in its bowdlerized form.

Now -- Pickett is dead (from leukemia at the age of 69) and I’m twenty years older than he was when the record was re-issued! The mind croggles...

The one good thing about London’s re-issue was that the original cover art, which was kind of stupid, was replaced with a terrific new cover (pictured above) by the master of comics mysterioso, Mike Kaluta. In fact, my digital download came with the original cover image, and looking at it every day in iTunes rankled me to no end until I finally replaced it just today with the Kaluta version. 

I also rearranged the song order. It’s taken me an inordinate amount of time to learn that the song information in iTunes can be manipulated just about any which way you want, and now that I’ve learned how to do it I’m taking advantage of it in a variety of ways. The song stack on London’s reissue of The Original Monster Mash was all wrong... but it’s the song order that I’m familiar with, so that’s the song order that I want. The four additional songs I stacked up at the end, as a kind of “bonus material.” It works for me.

Here’s how much things have changed since 1973. Here in the Twenty-Tweens, when I decided that I needed to replace my Monster Mash LP I didn’t even question that it would be available -- I just knew that it would. I hopped online, plunked down my plastic, downloaded the files, and within minutes I was listening to the album. I burned it CD so that I could listen to it on my player in the library.

But in 1973, you were limited to what was available in the local record store... and if you lived in the suburbs, getting to the record store in town wasn't so easy in the first place. When I learned (through The Monster Times, a really neat but long defunct monthly newspaper devoted to all things fantastic) that the London reissue was coming, I had NO idea how I was going to get a copy of this record. I knew that there was no way the local record stores were going to stock it (and I was right). Mail order for records was unheard-of in those days. As it happened, my sister had a school field trip to New York City and I charged her with the mission of going into a big-city record store and getting it for me. It’s about the only good thing she ever did for me!

Getting your hands on media of various sorts, media that you regarded as Vitally Important for your Emotional Well-Being, was a major source of exasperation in those days. 

I still have my cravings for music and movies and books and the occasional comic book. Media is still my life blood and I still regard it as Vitally Important for my Emotional Well-Being... but these days, the problem is just exactly the opposite. There’s so freakin’  MUCH of it, and it’s so EASY to get ahold of. Once upon a time, an obscure silent movie was practically a Life Quest -- now, you hop on the internet and it’s yours for the asking, you can be watching it within minutes. The challenge for me today is to control myself and keep my wallet in my pants pocket! 

Sometimes it’s not so easy. The Original Monster Mash was a no-brainer.

-- Freder.

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