Welcome to Week No. 2 of Halloween Month. As of the time of this writing the President has returned to the White House from the hospital despite still gasping for air like a blobfish in an ill-fitting suit out of water. What will happen by the time you’re reading this? Who knows! Maybe he’ll still be alive. Maybe he’ll be dead. Maybe his staff will have declared war on New Zealand on his behalf to divert attention from his failing health. Maybe a giant alien squid will fall out of the sky onto New York. It’s impossible to tell.
One thing I do know is that it’s still October, which means you should still be listening to nothing but music that ranges from vaguely disturbing to overtly evil. But what if you want to listen to something else? Well I have a compromise for you: There are plenty of cover songs done sinister! And some of them aren’t even by Marilyn Manson! So please enjoy these covers while you ride out the Triffid invasion or whatever you poor people are going through this weekend.
Marilyn Manson — “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”
Sure, I just said some of them aren’t by Manson. But most of the good ones are by Manson, so he goes first, and possibly almost last if I don’t think of any others I like as much as his.
The original Eurythmics song is already vaguely creepy in a sort of emotionless, dead-eyed, 1980s sort of way, but as is his way, Manson turned it up to 11 and made it into the last thing you hear before you die in an Eastern European hostel. And God bless him for it. He may have turned into a weird middle-aged man still singing all teen-angsty as if he wasn’t rich and famous and old, but in his prime he made ’70s Alice Cooper look like… well, like 21st century golfing grandpa Alice Cooper.
That’s not a dig. I love 21st century golfing grandpa Alice Cooper. Easily my second-favorite Alice Cooper, behind Wayne’s World Alice Cooper.
Ghost — “I’m a Marionette”
As I’ve pointed out over and over and over and over again, I love Ghost. It’s a great band with a great concept and great songs, and if you aren’t usually inclined to listen to a band whose premise is that it’s trying to overthrow Christianity, this is the time to say it’s for Halloween and listen to it guilt-free.
In fact, just a few weeks ago I included Ghost’s cover of the Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man” in my column of metal covers of non-metal songs. And that would have fit in really well here, since it would’ve been two Eurythmics covers in a row. But I don’t plan that far ahead… or ever, really… so instead let’s go with this cover of ABBA’s “I’m a Marionette.”
This is probably a better choice, anyway, just because it’s significantly eviler. It takes the saccharine pop of ABBA and turns it into, well, what the album cover in the YouTube preview suggests. And it’s awesome.
Coil — “Tainted Love”
OK, so here’s the thing: Probably don’t listen to this immediately before bed.
Yes, Manson did a creepy cover of Soft Cell’s cover of Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love.” That was Pharrell’s “Happy” compared to this. This is an audio horror movie. It’s hard to give me chills and make me feel fundamentally uneasy at all, let alone with just sound, but my God does this do it. It’s just… wrong.
I love it so much.
John Cale — “Heartbreak Hotel”[Gokhman note: I sincerely apologize, on behalf of myself and RIFF, for “editor” Daniel J. Willis not being familiar with The Velvet Underground. The rest of us know; I promise. Also, that “Tainted Love” cover? Meh].
Believe it or not, most of the stuff I write about songs in this column is from memory. I definitely do research to confirm half-remembered stories or factoids, and when doing that I’ll occasionally find new things that I include. But overall, this is all just stuff I know. It’s what I store in the parts of my brain most people use for driving directions, loved ones’ birthdays and marketable job skills.
I say this not to brag—well, not exclusively to brag—but because I have nothing to say about John Cale or this song. I know absolutely nothing about either of those things. I don’t know who he is, or why this exists, or anything of the sort. I just know that this song exists and that it taught me how creepy “Heartbreak Hotel” is if you focus on the words.
Hopefully John Cale isn’t a pedophile or serial killer or, even worse, a member of the Trump administration.
Tiny Tim — “People Are Strange”
A bit of a curveball, yes, but this Tiny Tim cover of The Doors is definitely the last thing you hear before you die.
Don’t tell me this doesn’t evoke that scene in every haunted house horror movie where things start to go wrong. You know the one. The young family is moving into a fixer-upper in the country, trying to escape the city life. They’re unpacking and the kids are bickering. There’s definitely strain on their marriage leading to palpable tension. Then one of the kids, usually the cutest one, finds an old-timey record player in the attic. He or she puts the needle on the record and the room darkens slightly as you hear Tiny Tim’s falsetto. Next thing you know, the walls are bleeding and there are multiple clowns in their mirrors.
This song is cursed and I’m not sorry.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.