Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Four Vincent Price Halloween Records (1967-1978)

Good morning!

Betcha thought you wouldn't see me again what with an extremely active eight month old asserting his dominance over my previously placid personal life, but no! I carved out a moment or two here to say that I'm still living and loving being the little guy's ma, and that I am still conspicuously consuming and thinking critically about my little weirdo stuff I like. I was poking around on YouTube the other day for vintage Halloween records and just had to drop you all a line about some Vincent Price records previously-unknown-to-me.

That ascot, though (have you seen this incredibly adorable episode of the Muppet Show with VP as guest star?)
You might remember from way, WAY back in 2011, when my household celebrated the Vincentennial, that Vincent Price pretty-much-anything goes over in a big way in my book...memorabilia of whatever stripe is always welcome to make a home in my home. An old board game of Hangman with his face on the cover? Lemme ha' that. A memoir written by his daughter Victoria about growing up Princess Price? I'll take two. A few years ago, my mother in law had a box of records sitting in her front room under the piano and I noticed ol' VP's long face peeking out of one milk crate. "Is that a record by Vincent Price?" said I. "Oh, sure. I think that was something we got for free from one of the record companies. You may have it if you want it,"  said she. Oh, I did. And that was the first of four albums I've found of Vincent Price reading weird, weirder, and weirdest scary stories for eager creepy-loving listeners such as yours truly. Since I never can keep a good thing to myself, and considering 'tis the season for scariness, I thought I would share the self same with you all!

If you please:

1) Witchcraft - Magic - An Adventure In Demonology (1969) LISTEN HERE


This was the record I mentioned that my MIL gave me. And it's a trip! This double album (an hour and forty five minute run time!) journey into the occult starts with the three weird sisters speech from Macbeth before VP himself welcomes us "to the world of witchcraft"! Me: Oh good, yes please. The ghoul girls return to punctuate each anecdote, narrated by Price, of magic and mayhem. The content here is more nonfiction, In Search of... style factoids than what I was expecting ( e.g. I was expecting readings of scary short stories, which solely comprises the content of the other three albums). But that's not at all a bad thing! Hitler and Churchill's respective involvements with astrology and parapsychological pursuits within the context of WWII? Why not, man. Instructions on how to cast spells with hexagrams? You have my attention. I had to skip through some of "Witch Tortures" because I am very delicate and sensitive postpartum (who would have thought a girl who used to set Matthew's lockscreen to Victorian postmortem snaps as a gag would finally grow uncallous to overly detailed gore?), and some of this is a little snoozy, but I had a nice thought thinking about some kids  listening to this album at some 1969 sleepover by candlelight and getting spooked out of their socks. Plus now I have to try all these witchcraft instructions and see if I can't get a horror movie named after me for my trouble (here's hoping!).

2) Tales Of Witches, Ghosts And Goblins (1972) LISTEN HERE


The problem with this album is that it starts out so strong and then kind of lists along and then hits it one more time before the end of the B side. I'd give it an A+ just based on two tracks, though: "The Smoker" and "A Pair of Gloves". The first is adapted from a Iroquois legend, but I'm almost spoiling it for you by telling you that-- I really liked that I saw Vincent Price's name and this fantastic psychedelic cover, clicked "play", and was plunged headlong into a strange, strange little story about a guy who essentially befriends a skeleton, with NO MENTION of the Native American background of the tale. If you think of it as just an unaffiliated-to-a-certain-culture story, it has a healthy dose of main-line magical realism, and if that isn't just right up my alley. I won't spoil it for you, but again, it's the best story on the record excepting "A Pair of Gloves". THAT story involves a woman who as a child saw a vision of a man in a pair of antique gloves appear in her bedroom at night-- the last line of it made me a) almost gasp with delight and b) start the track over again because I needed to think about the whole story again. Simply fabulous. Alan Garner and Carl Carmer, respectively, are listed as the authors of these stories, and I'm going to have to poke around a little to find out if there are other bizarre stories like this in their curriculum vitae-- there are some young adult books written by the latter from the 1960s on Open Library, but I need to do more digging to see if it's 100 proof.


3) A Hornbook for Witches (1976) LISTEN HERE



Yet another record that would be perfect for your 1970's middle school sleepover, this album combines readings of gothic literature with folklore approaches to summoning demons, etc. Much the same material as the previous album, but I very much like Vincent Price's handling of the verse in classic poems like Carroll's "The Jabberwocky" and the Leah Bodine Drake poem featured in the title track. I love the entire set up of the cover, from reminding you that these stories and poems would be best suited towards your seasonal use at Halloween, and describing the reader as "Warlock: Vincent Price". Side note: It's always been cute to me how many DIFFERENT commercial enterprises and endorsements Price took in his mid to late career, these records only being one arm of a far reaching second source of livelihood as a spokesperson. From the aforementioned board game to the Vincent Price International Cooking Course to "shrunken head apple sculpture kit" (I'm quite serious) to ads for monster vitamins, raisins, and the American Dairy Associations, he was a ubiquitous public spokesperson back in the seventies' and eighties', but never I think to his full detriment. Lots of other celebrities in ads come off as desperate, but I like how much ye olde Price just seems "game" and slightly impish in his irreverently popping up wherever they'd have him, somehow elegant and goofy at the same time. But I digress. One more record!

4) A Graveyard of Ghost Tales (1974) LISTEN HERE


Another INCREDIBLE album cover (skeletons rowing a Katharine Ross figure in a boat as she plays a harp, an image that reappears in the third track of the A-side)-- this record is mostly "true" folk tales, including the first track, "Lavender", which retells the story of a gal ghoul called "Resurrection Mary" in many of its versions. I remember the name because of the memorable Unsolved Mysteries segment of the same name-- a female hitchhiker is picked up in an evening dress on the side of the road by a bunch of carousing collegiates, attends a dance with the boys, and is dropped off at home while still in possession of one of of the sheik's overcoats. Chivalry only going so far, the boys go to retrieve the coat at the girl's house the next day and... well, if you haven't heard it, I won't spoil it, but something about the simple eerieness of the story really appeals to me.

And if you like these, be sure to check out Vincent Price's 1970'S BBC radio drama, Price of Fear, which could have its own entire blog post if time permitted... you can listen to a playlist of them here.

The many faces of VP.


So! What are your ghoulish plans for this month (other than watching my suggested VP videos, natch)? Do you have your costume planned out yet? Spill that tea!

Hope you've been having a wonderful fall so far, and I'll be back before you know it with more vintage eyecandy. Be good! See ya soon! :)

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