10 Spooky Musical Pieces for Halloween

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 26, 2015 03:33pm | Post a Comment
Vintage Halloween Masks

At one of the several jobs at which I work we’ve started listening to a Halloween playlist from Spotify or Pandora and like all of those pre-fab playlists it sucks. There aren’t that many explicitly Halloween songs so whomever programed it resorted to tossing in things like Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf" because what's scarier than a hungry Brummie? The Searchers’ “Love Potion No. 9” is not scary and although it's a bit mad, neither is Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You” -- both apparently chosen because, you know, potions and spells and such. That sort of thinking is also why David Seville’s deeply annoying (but not scary) “Witch Doctor” now haunts every facet of my brain. Basically this playlist is 90% the kind of stuff collected by Dr. Retarded, novelty record collector and chief head of surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

I like spooky music and horror films (although they're sadly almost never scary) so this kind of lazy mix-making gets no “squeaks” from me. There is so much more appropriate music out there. The other night some friends and I went to the Million Dollar Theatre to see Dawn of the Dead and before the show former Amoebite Jimmy Hey DJed a set which drew from film scores by Goblin, naturally, and some more unlikely picks, such as Scott Walker’s “The Electrician.” Of course this inspired me to write the following listicle for your enjoyment.

One Album Wonders: White Noise's An Electric Storm

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 22, 2014 01:43pm | Post a Comment
Here is an additional edition of my series of great, mostly obscure, one album wonders. In the album era (roughly the mid-1960s until the mid-2000s), the album was the dominant format of recorded music expression and consumption. It seems that most musicians from that era, if able to scrape together the funds for the recording of one studio album, generally returned with at least one more.  Some, like Sun Ra, somehow released more albums than I've had hot dinners. Even most excellent bands, in my opinion, would have done well to find something other to do with their time rather than keep making records after their fifth album or twelfth year (although there is the Go-Betweens Exception). The following acts mostly date fromthe Golden Age of the LP -- and yet were unable or unwilling, in all cases, to record more than one. 


(In which we bid a tearful goodbye.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 7, 2010 01:06pm | Post a Comment
Today marks the final shift of one of my most favorite Amoebites of all time, the glamorous and enigmatic “Smithy.”

veiled woman
Dearly departed Smithy (artist's depiction)

Smithy is not her real name, though it is one of her nicknames, and that’s about as close to “the facts” as most of us are likely to get. Smithy shrouds herself in mystery, and even if all her acquaintances pooled their knowledge of her past, it would scarcely be enough information to provide a decent Wikipedia entry, to say nothing of a biography. I keep the snippets of personal detail that I’ve acquired in the past four years of working with her like a jealous secret; a precious baseball card that I never remove from its protective plastic.

I don’t even know what she’s going to be doing after she leaves Amoeba Music Hollywood. For all I know she’s gotten a job lion taming, apprenticing to a witch doctor, or going deep undercover for the CIA in Beijing. All seem possible; all would hold some amount of appeal for her.

lion tamingafricaspy
See: Craigslist > job opportunties

One thing we, her co-workers, have been privy to is what she’s keen on in music and film. Even someone as secretive as Smithy has dorked out with the best of us music store geeks when the conversation’s turned to our product. This blog entry will be a brief exposé of some of Smithy’s pop culture paramours. In considering them, we may perhaps glean a little insight into this unknown soldier, but even if not, we’ll still get to hear some perfectly ginchy tunes.

Delia Derbyshire - electronic music pioneer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 6, 2009 07:33pm | Post a Comment
Delia Derbyshire

The Guardian once described Delia Derbyshire as “The unsung heroine of British electronic music,” seemingly implying that there are other heroines of British electronic music that are more widely… sung. I suppose there is Daphne Oram but the English never use less than three adjectives when one will suffice, so let’s just say that Delia Derbyshire is an unsung heroine of music. That she happens to have worked primarily in electronic music is secondary and that she was British shouldn't be held against her. She was a wizard and pioneer who, instead of guarding her magical abililties, eagerly shared her techniques and discoveries, but was stifled by the BBC’s draconian demands that their artists work and die in anonymity.

Delia was born in Coventry on May 5th, 1937. As a girl, she learned piano and violin and attended Barr's Hill School. She later attended college at Girton in Cambridge. After initially pursuing studies in math, she switched courses to music before graduation. After graduation, she began to look for work in the music field, quickly butting up against the deeply entrenched sexism of the field. In fact, in 1959, upon applying for a job at Decca, she was flatly told that their policy was to not hire women to work in the studios. The United Nations proved more diplomatic than the folks at Decca, and she worked there for a short while. Then she returned to England and found employment at the London-based music publisher, Boosey & Hawkes. She didn’t stay long.
In 1960, she was hired as a trainee studio manager at the BBC, working with the Radiophonic Workshop, then just a few years old. It was an organization charged with producing experimental incidental music and sound effects for the BBC Third Programme’s radio plays in cases where the normal orchestral score was deemed inappropriate. Her predecessors had included Harry Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram, two noted pioneers of electronic music and musique concrète.
Derbyshire came on board following Oram’s departure, as part of a group of young artists that also included Brian Hodgson and John Baker. Many of her initial pieces were collaborations with artist/playwright Barry Bermange. One such piece was 1964’s The Dreams, a sound collage of people describing their dreams with Derbyshire's electronic sounds.

Gradually, the Radiophonic Workshop began producing more music and sound effects for television than radio. One year earlier, in 1963, Derbyshire performed her mostly widely-heard work when given the score for Ron Grainer’s theme to a new science-fiction series, Doctor Who. Incorporating filters, tape loops and valve oscillators, she fashioned one of the most memorable pieces of electronic music ever, and one that's especially dear to Whovians. Grainer was so impressed he sought to give Derbyshire co-author credit but the BBC prevented it. Although officially uncredited, the popularity of the theme resulted in her employers giving her many other assignments and she ultimately produced over 200 pieces including noteworthy scores for Great Zoos of the World and Cyprian Queen. The BBC was, however, by no means entirely supportive of her work, rejecting many of her compositions, claiming they were too bizarre, “too lascivious for 11 year olds” and “too sophisticated for the BBC2 audience.”