I like odd music. I would say parody, but that calls to mind Weird Al Yankovic, who I love, but is not really what I am referring to. I like hard-to-define music and found a use for it beyond my own enjoyment.
Every year, my church goes to Sierra Bible Camp near Lake Almanor. It is usually my job to rouse people from their slumber and I use the camp PA system that blares everywhere, including inside the cabins. I play nice music at first and gently tell everyone it is time to rise and shine.
But I have a special playlist just for the stragglers. When I go to camp next week, I plan to use some of the following:
Christopher Lee: How come nobody told me that Sir Christopher Lee, the English actor who was the quintessential Dracula and played Saruman in the “Lord of the Rings” movies, is a heavy metal recording artist? At age 92!
A couple of years ago, he recorded a metal concept album about Charlemagne with a guitarist from Judas Priest. Just this past May, he came out with an extended-play disc called “Metal Knight.”
The latter platter (OK, it is a digital file, but where’s the pizzazz in saying that?) includes Lee’s metal versions of “My Way” and “The Impossible Dream.” I sure hope he practices safe head banging at that age.
Mrs. Miller: In the 1960s, Elva Ruby Connes Miller recorded popular songs such as Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and The Mamas and Papas’ “Monday, Monday” in a ghastly, shrill, off-key and often off-tempo voice.
The best (worst) part of her “singing” is her exaggerated vibrato. She added it with the same gusto that record producer Bruce Dickinson adds cowbell.
William Shatner: Obviously best known as the actor who played “Star Trek” Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, Shatner started his recording career in the 1960s.
One of my favorites is his cover of the Bob Dylan-penned song “Mr. Tambourine Man” and the Lennon-McCartney “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” which he performs as heavy-handed dramatic readings. It is precisely the kind of thing you don’t want to hear piped into your cabin before your caffeine levels have stabilized.
Various Artists: To mix it up, before I break out the really big guns, I will sometimes throw together “normal” songs – with an odd twist. “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Ethel Merman’s inexplicable 1978 disco album is one. KISS’s Gene Simmons’ 1978 recording of “When You Wish Upon a Star” is always good. You can’t go wrong with Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate singing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” from the film “Coming to America.”
William Hung: He won fans when he tried out for “American Idol” in 2004, singing Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs,” but he really sparkled like coal on his debut disc “Inspiration.”
Hung’s off-key warbling on R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” is amazing . . . ly horrid. Also, while the lyrics to Elton John’s “Rocket Man” have flummoxed people for decades (“Burning all the shoes of Avalon?” “Hurling down his shoes on everyone?” “Burning up his suit of herringbone?”), at least Sir Elton used traditional musical keys and didn’t try to invent some as Hung does.
The Shaggs: This is the nuclear option. The Shaggs’ music is so otherworldly awful that it just may be beautiful. The short story is that in the 1960s, a man named Austin Wiggins wanted his three daughters to be a successful rock band. He made them practice and they recorded an album called “Philosophy of the World.”
A business partner absconded with 900 of the 1,000 albums pressed and much later the disc came to the attention of people, well kinda like me, who love that kind of horrible thing.
Words fail me in trying to describe the discordant, atonal, unmusic they created. You have to hear it. Google “The Shaggs,” but not on a full stomach.
So there you have it, surefire ways to wake someone up in an obnoxious way.
The absolute last resort is blaring Yoko Ono songs. Just be sure to check your local statutes, as that is understandably illegal in many municipalities.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].