How Screamin’ Jay Hawkins Spearheaded the Goth Music Movement
recording studios of OKeh, a man, simply named Jay, walked in with a team of
musicians, with the intention to record a heart-wrenching love ballad, filled
with mourning. What resulted however, would shake up the music industry
forever. Just after Halloween, the chill of one drunken, November evening in
1956 brought us one of the most iconic, perplexing, and somewhat horrifying
pieces of music ever recorded. This was how “I Put A Spell On You” was born.
Prior to the
inception of the 50s classic, Hollywood was already being re-infected by the
Horror bug. The invention of Vampira, the popularity of American actor Vincent
Price, and the rise of B-movie Horror flicks cemented a public love for the
macabre, as established in the 30s, with Universal Studios’ Dracula, and
Frankenstein. Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff were monster legends on the silver
screen. Vampira, the queen of the television screen. But no one was making
waves in the music scene to inject this beloved aesthetic into sound. How Jay
Hawkins’ “Spell” was born was a complete accident, but those around him knew
they had something special on their hands, from the moment they heard Hawkins’
original recording of “I Put a Spell on You” (now available on YouTube), was a
simple, sad blues tune, that may or may not have entered the public’s
consciousness had it been released as is. This version was recorded for Grand
Records, in late 1955. Nearly a year passes, and Jay chooses to re-record it
for OKeh Records, this time with producer Arnold Maxin on board. The story
goes, Maxin brought in food and drink (plenty of drink) for Jay and his
musicians, turning the session into an evening of inebriated music making.
“[The producer] brought in ribs and chicken and got
everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version … I don’t even remember
making the record. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay
Hawkins. It all sort of just fell in place. I found out I could do more
destroying a song and screaming it to death.” -Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
the “Spell” was complete, and in November of 1956, OKeh Records released “I Put
a Spell on You”, under his new artist name, “Screamin’” Jay Hawkins. No records
prior bear the moniker “Screamin’” in front of his name (see: Discogs).
Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey,
approached Hawkins about playing up his image, to draw the most out of this newfound
success, including the wild idea of rising up out of a coffin for one of his
performances. The rest, as they say, was history. Combining the aesthetic of
Vincent Price (and coincidently his mustache), and an aura of Haitian
voodooism, his act was born. He became the subject of mass media attention in
the 50s, side by side with the best of the Horror scene. He was one of them;
taking the derogatory “spook”, and turning it on its head—reclaimed, and turned
What Screamin’ Jay Hawkins created
is what we now associate today with Shock Rock. The main features being his
vocal delivery, his wardrobe, and props used on the stage to give macabre
effects. With the 1960s came the first wave of Shock Rockers, directly
influenced by the path Hawkins had carved out for them. Screaming Lord Sutch,
of out London, used British Horror imagery, such as the legend of Jack the
Ripper, to form his artist identity. Arthur Brown, who has covered Hawkins’
hit, wore corpse paint, and wore a flaming helmet upon his head in live
performances. The Spiders, Alice Cooper’s original band name (1964-1967),
performed with a huge, black spider’s web as their first ever stage prop. In
the 70s, The Cramps, notable Gothabilly band, also claimed influence by
Hawkins. And with these acts introduce a long line of Goth Rock history, that may
not sound alike at times, but all descend from the same tree.
Hey there, take a seat, think a thought. Being toxic towards someone isn’t going to make things better. Making someone upset about their creation isn’t going to make the day brighter. This is no holy war, nothing to win here.
There’s always a way to protect yourself from the content you don’t want to see. There’s always a choice to walk away and let the person be. There’s always a way to protect yourself from the hate that’s coming onto you.
Keep that in mind, sunshine, we all are awesome. And there’s a list long enough, full of things we can be upset about. Don’t add hateful attitude and being toxic into it.
If the words are slurred and the lyrics you can make out often don’t make sense, it’s Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam).
If the words are slightly less slurred and it sounds like he’s trying to sing through a hangover and a mouth full of jagged marbles, it’s Kurt Cobain (Nirvana).
If it’s somehow monotone and soulful at the same time and the backup vocals sound like six of the same guy singing at once, it’s Layne Staley (Alice in Chains).
If it sounds kinda like a dark and spooky Disney villain but also kinda like the guy at the biker bar who might kill you, it’s Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society).
If it goes from melodic singing to throat-murdering screaming in the span of one word and sounds like he’s gonna kick the world’s ass, it’s Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters).
If it goes from melodic singing to throat-murdering screaming in the span of one word and sounds like the world has kicked his ass, it’s Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave).
If it has the deep grittiness of Zakk Wylde, the slurring of Eddie Vedder, and lyrics that make you wonder if it’s about sex or murder or both, it’s Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots).
BONUS: If it sounds like an alien trying to mimic the patterns of human singing while sacrificing all semblance of lyrical meaning in favor of nonsensical rhyming, it’s Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and he doesn’t really belong on this list because no one mixes him up with anything.
1. My Favorite Murder - Two hilarious women talk about murder, among (a lot of) other things. (Non-Fiction, weekly ongoing)
2. The Strange Case Of The Starship Isis - What if Firefly, but everyone was queer? (Fiction, ongoing?)
3. Can I Pet Your Dog - A Dog Haver and A Dog Wanter talk about dogs, often to really cool people. (Non-Fiction, Weekly ongoing)
4. The Bright Sessions - Therapy for people with superpowers; what could go wrong? (Fiction, currently in the second season)
5. The Dollop - A dude who did research tells a dude who didn’t about history. (Non-Fiction, weekly)
6. Limetown - The best/creepiest/most amazing podcast about an entire town that disappeared. (Fiction, only 1 season, likely dead, but so well done it is worth a listen)
7. My Brother, My Brother, And Me - Good, good, goof boys give bad, bad, hilarious advice (Non-Fiction, weekly ongoing)(be warned the early stuff can be problematic, but honestly who wasn’t shittier 7 years ago?)
8. Welcome To Night Vale/Alice Isn’t Dead - Beautiful Gay Protagonist talks about the creepy shit that happens to them. (Fiction, WTNV weekly ongoing, AID in its second season)
9. How Did This Get Made - The best Bad Movie Podcast with amazing guests and Jason Mantzoukas who I’m not sure if I love or hate. (Non-Fiction, bi-weekly with minis in between) (It’s love)
10. The Adventure Zone - The most talented DM I have ever heard wrangles three family members while creating some of my fave gay characters. (Fiction-ish, bi-weekly)