Friday, October 17, 2008

Creepy Places, Part I

First, I have to note the passing of a previously featured composer, the amazing Neal Hefti, the award-winning creator of the Batman TV theme. He died on October 11 at 85.

I have to warn you that zshare has been down all day, so there are two links for the song. The first one goes to Sharebee, which is a bit more work than zshare.

Now, the post.

Call four-year-old caithiseach a baby, if you wish, but the next four posts are about records he owned that owned him—songs that reached into my soul and terrified me almost to the point of paralysis when I was very small. A couple of the songs still sound creepy to me, but the others have become sources of amusement. Today’s song, “(The Land of) Bobby Beeble” by Mitch Torok and the Matches (Inette 105) continues to give me a case of the shivers when I hear it.

I don’t think I was much more of a chicken than the average tot. I didn’t like to sleep with my closet door open; it was darker there than in the rest of the room. Once it was pitch black each night, I shied away from the darkest part of the back yard, near the shed. That area had not been a scary spot until the recently mentioned Bubby told me a scary guy lived there.

Oh, and when I was at Good Fellow Camp the year I turned nine, the stories about Crazy Man Wilson made me lie awake, waiting for the shutter to rise behind my head, and for Wilson’s hand to punch through the screen, grab my hair, and carry me off into the woods.

All of that fear was based on bogus stories, so it’s fair to call me impressionable. Something I can’t explain that easily is a feeling of deep dread that attacked me one night when I entered the bathroom of my residence. It was about three a.m., and I didn’t turn on the light because I could see just fine. However, I felt something malevolent all around me, and I opened the door and turned on the light. This event occurred two years ago, two apartments ago, and I can’t make myself believe that there wasn’t . . . something in that bathroom with me.

Generally, though, the dark doesn’t bother me now, and I love Halloween’s trappings, haunted houses and scary movies. I’m still not happy with today’s tune, though.

I can almost remember when the 45 arrived, in the usual stack of twenty singles Uncle Tom brought me. I sat down before the record player and slapped the records on the turntable, listened, flipped them over, and listened some more. Then I got to “(The Land of) Bobby Beeble,” which happened to be the “plug side” of the single.

I can only imagine the look on my face when the song started playing. There are a lot of songs recorded in a minor key, but whereas “Sixteen Tons” doesn’t sound scary or even dreadful, the D minor strumming on “Bobby Beeble” just sounds wrong, evil, from the very beginning. And then Mitch, who sounds so perky on “Caribbean,” “Mexican Joe” and “Are You Trying to Tell Me Somethin’,” starts intoning what amounts to an otherworldly tale that, in retrospect, reminds me of what became of Maine in Stephen King’s “The Mist” (thereafter nullified by its incarnation as an eye-roller of a lame horror flick).

This “land,” named after a boy with a truly awful name, Bobby Beeble, is home to pink dinosaurs, beaches covered with polka dots, and “what else, only heaven would know.” Yikes. Everything about this alternate world is disastrously wrong. I don’t know how this could have gained airplay.

DJ: That was the Beach Boys singing “Fun, Fun, Fun.” And now, the creepy song you’ve all been requesting, “Bobby Beeble.”

Nope. It wasn’t going to happen. Teens listening to the radio would have to turn it off quickly so the kids they were babysitting wouldn’t start screaming.

I just realized that I associate Mitchell Torok more strongly with “Bobby Beeble” than with the rest of his output. The final verse, spoken in an eerie singsong that brings to mind an accent-free Bela Lugosi, would finally drive me over the edge. After sitting through as much of the song as I could, I would finally lose my nerve, hair standing on end, and run from the room. When a couple of minutes had passed (or half an hour, if a good show was on TV), I would go back, remove the 45, and purify my record player with something cheery, like “Uncle Tom Got Caught.”

So, I performed this ritual once or twice, right? Nope. More like a hundred times. Did I think I would eventually desensitize myself? Did I love scaring myself into nightmares about the Land of Bobby Beeble? I think I loved scaring myself. After I played this song, or any of the others to follow the rest of this month, the atmosphere of my room (once I returned) seemed to have become thicker, more ominous, bordering on uninhabitable. Some upbeat tune would purge the room of its malevolence, but then, night came . . .

Laugh all you wish. I’m immune to it; I teach Spanish. But do this: Wait until night to listen to the song. Turn off the lights, except for your monitor. Close the curtains. Open the closet, if there is one. Turn up your volume a bit, so you won’t know if a being tiptoes toward you. Click on the song link, then turn off the monitor and close your eyes.

Let me know if you make it all the way through the song without at least reaching for a light switch. If you do, you’re a braver person than four-year-old caithiseach. Congratulations.

Wednesday, I’ll have a twofer for you: two songs to which I was exposed via visual media, one of which no longer seems the least bit scary to me. See you then!

Sharebee link (not as convenient), if zshare is still down:

Mitch Torok, (The Land of) Bobby Beeble

zshare link, when the site is running again:

Mitch Torok, (The Land of) Bobby Beeble


former lurker said...

Oh, GREAT. I read this at midnight, and all my lights were already off. I have no closet doors but I do have lots of dark corners. "Whatever," I scoffed, and hit Play. Just as that last verse started, the furnace kicked in with a rattle and a whistling noise, and I damn near fell out of my chair.

I'll have to wait and see about nightmares, but I freely admit to being a little creepified.

I can't help but think that sidewalks made of bubblegum and lakes of honey SHOULD sound really awesome. And yet this song makes them seem... horrific. That's kind of impressive, really.

Stephanie said...

Agreed, former lurker. I have heard this song before, but I was wise enough *this* time to listen to it with all of the lights ON, door to the den open, (ready to make a run for it) and hands on the speaker volume, to shut off the horror of the music and lyrics that make up this creepiest of songs!

former lurker said...

I am GLAD you said that, Stephanie, because I played the song for my friend and asked her if she thought it was creepy. She looked at me as if I'd grown a second head and said, "Nooooo. . ." in a voice that implies it was a ridiculous question to begin with. Hmph.

Anonymous said...

The Land of Bobby Beeble was also recorded for a childrens morning show in Houston, Tx. My father Norris Green co-wrote this sone with Mitch Torak. It was also recorded my a morning show character Cadet Don. Never thought the song was scarey even in its original version with Torak. I will have to listen to my 45 again from that perspective.