A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Track #43 on Thommy Ford’s Playlist
As far as pop music goes Halloween is a middling holiday. There’s “Monster Mash” of course, “Purple People Eater” maybe, “Thriller” and “Werewolves of London” come to mind too—it’s more music than, say, Thanksgiving can muster, but not nearly as much as Christmas or even the 4th of July. Funny thing though, once you start to look just a little south of pop the flood gates open. Fans of The Misfits, The Cramps, or Roky Erickson have no problem coming up with fun horror themed songs. Those of us who like to dig for old rockabilly 45’s will have a nice long list too. And heavy metal? Well, everyday is Halloween in that genre.
Which brings us to “The Ripper” by Judas Priest. It’s a personal favorite that will put me in a Halloween mood even when I hear it in March. It takes a very real, very disturbing horror theme—Jack the Ripper, of course—glosses over all the gorey details, dresses it up nice and puts a wicked little smile on it. Isn’t that what Halloween is all about?
The music will immediately bring to mind a horror movie soundtrack. The bridge in particular would sound great played on a cheesey old movie organ. But the real star of the song is Rob Halford, who proves that he’s not only heavy metal’s greatest vocalist, but also by far it’s hammiest. He takes the already cartoonish lyrics and pushes them into full on musical theater territory. Who can help but picture a top-hatted figure skulking behind a raised cape in some lavish, Lloyd-Weberian stage production when Halford takes the verses in his pseudo-operatic howl:
You’ll soon shake with fear
Never knowing if I’m near
I’m sly and I’m shameless
Nocturnal and nameless
Except for “The Ripper”
Or if you like “Jack the Knife”
In a genre that normally can’t resist all the blood and guts, Judas Priest make Jack the Ripper into campy good fun. And, while I certainly don’t recommend singing along to this ode to a serial killer with the kiddies, it’s probably not a bad soundtrack to that horror novel you picked up for October reading.
Review by Matthew