Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monsters: Scary Monsters

David Bowie: Scary Monsters

I currently live in Tarrytown, New York, which is right next to Sleepy Hollow, and our two villages share many things—a school district, a library, sports programs and a love of Halloween. Over the past few weeks, the streets have been filled with tourists, the villages are decorated with all manner of Jack O’Lanterns, scarecrows and other ghouls. We have parades, hayrides, haunted houses, bonfires and the like. I’m glad that our local merchants are able to cash in on the craze, and people seem to enjoy it, but I think that Halloween, like so many holidays, has gotten out of control. Little kids dressed up like superheroes or princesses are cute. Drunk adults dressed up like vampires or slutty nurses, not so much. I guess it is part of our culture now to try to hang on to our youth longer and longer, and while I’m in no way advocating a return to men wearing suits and hats all the time, or women having to wear dresses and stockings, I do think that there comes a time when putting on a costume in public is just silly. Except, of course, at my college reunion. And get off my lawn, you damn kids!

Speaking of college, when I worked at WPRB, David Bowie released Scary Monsters, which turned out to be another career resuscitator for him. It had a bunch of good and interesting songs, top notch musicians, including Robert Fripp, Roy Bittan and Carlos Alomar, and it hit a sweet spot between commercial and experimental, with rock, disco and electronic influences. It was both a commercial and artistic success, and is commonly considered to be Bowie’s last great album.

Princeton is only a few miles from Grover’s Mill, the site of the alien invasion from Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio show, which was a Halloween trick and treat of its own back in 1938. Common wisdom was that the broadcast caused wild panic, but more recent studies indicate that the craziness was overstated. I got the idea of getting a bunch of extra copies of the album from the record company and sending some WPRB staffers out to Grover’s Mill on Halloween to hand out the albums to people. What I don’t remember is what we required before we would give out the precious vinyl, who went, and how, in the pre-cell phone era, we reported this on the air. I know that we had some sort of a remote board, but maybe one of my reader/friends will have a better memory.

I do remember thinking it was a pretty funny idea. And it wouldn’t surprise me if my copy of the album, sitting in a box in my basement, was from that same package of freebies.

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