If music be the fuel of fear, play on: Tunes of terror, songs to scare

Want to come out to play? Image: Pixabay

Want to come out to play?
Image: Pixabay

Ah, music. There’s not a lot can convey and channel emotion like a tune. Whether you’re hearts achey-breaking and you need a good old weep, or you’re in the mood to shake you’re booty and crave a tune you can throw some shapes to, listening to music can be the catharsis you need.

But put aside your sparkly boob tubes and your glittery platform heels. And stop your sobbing, you big Jessie, cos today we don’t want to be cheered up and the only tears I want to see are tears of sheer terror.

Today I’m gonna share with you my top creepy chords, horns of horror and songs of Satan.

Now, being an old Goth, this task has proved all the easier by the fact I’ve spent years listening to bands whose intention was creep me out.

So, first up, housewive’s favourite The Cure with Lullaby.

Now, I confess it’s the video that freaks me out as much as the song. Okay, the lyrics are pretty creepy – it all seems to be about being eaten – but Rob Smith trapped in bed, with a DARK version of his pyjama-clad self crawling around the ceiling? Horrific.

Now for a proper bit of full-on, non-commercial Goth-ness. The Fields of the Nephilim’s Psychonaut.

I don’t think these guys ever troubled the charts. They never cropped up on Top of the Pops – front men who look like a cross between a Spaghetti Western anti-hero and Brad Pitt’s Louis from Interview with the Vampire wouldn’t have rubbed along well in the party-fuelled, brainless atmosphere of late eighties / early nineties TOTP.

Want to know the scariest thing about the Neff?

We knew a Watchman (not a  DC superhero – it’s what the Neff’s hardcore fans called themselves) called Nigel who followed the band around the country, going to every gig. As one of the privileged few, Nige got to know frontman Carl McCoy, one day asking him what the words of the chant in the 12 inch version of Psychonaut meant. You see, Carl wasn’t playing Weekend Goth, he was a follower of Sumerian Gods, a fan of occultist Aleister Crowley …

All of the prayers and chants on Nephilim records are real. So Carl didn’t exactly say ‘if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you’ … But it was close. Dark forces indeed.

Next up, a truly nasty song from Siouxsie and the Banshees – Rawhead and Bloody Bones.

I coud’ve chosen Peek-A-Boo or Happy House or Carouselthe first about voyeurs, the second with its jangly, off key tune, the last a kid’s nightmare about fairground rides – but Rawhead is truly unpleasant. You can probably tell from the title.

Things are hiding – in wells, cupboards, under the stairs. These things have claws – and teeth. And there’s drowning.

Someone put the lights on.

Let’s leave my youth and try a classic – Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens.

You can hear the bones rattle, the scrape of coffin lids as the dead rise. This is what I want played at my funeral. That or maybe Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult – which I’m sure will be a great comfort to my grieving relatives … Or not.

Last and possibly weirdest in a Halloween countdown – The Police, Every Breath You Take.

Yes, I know, it’s a lovely tune and it sounds romantic – oh, he can’t bear to spend a moment away from her, ain’t that grand! However. Listen to the lyrics. Really listen.

He wants to own her. He talks about her oath breaking and fake smiles – he’s watching every move she makes, listening to her breathing.

Does that sound like love – or stalking?*

Yup, Every Breath You Take is the scariest song on the list – by far.

What’s your favourite scary song? Do let me know – I love them.

*If you add Wrapped Around Your Finger, Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You, Don’t Stand So Close to Me … Sting had some real issues around women and relationships.

Wednesday word tangle


Now, I’m a pretty untidy person. My faded black tee-shirts, my falling hems and the general slept-at-the-bottom-of-a-laundry-basket look will tell you I don’t buy clothes often.

I have a revulsion for clothes shopping.

In cheap outlets, the music’s too loud, tinny, designed to have you make a decision and spend money quickly before you cut off your own ears with a knife you’ve fashioned from a broken hanger.

The places are filled with adults tossing disposable clothes around like they’re confetti, swearing at kids who are making dens in the corner of the Sleepwear Department from £3 jogging bottoms and unwary staff.

I feel guilty just walking into these huge, cheap stores because I know some of the world’s most exploited people work in unsafe conditions to make every item for less than most of us would spend on a Hazelnut Pappa-crappa-chino.

The clothes couldn’t be more morally unsound if they were fashioned by orphaned toddlers from the pelts of Sumatran Tigers using needles made from Black Rhino horn before being washed in the tears of Western Lowland Gorillas.

Maybe that’s why I’m rubbish at buying clothes. That along with the flashbacks.

You see, there was a time when clothing retailers thought it a marvellous idea to have communal changing rooms. I suspect they were the product of champagne-fuelled lunches had by hormonally-charged male executives – soft porn fantasy made flesh. They imagined lovely, pert young girls, giggling over their A cups, having pillow fights in their lacy knickers – the reality was self-conscious girls like me, wobbling, red-faced and sweaty, trying to get changed without anyone laughing at their cellulite and gawping in horror at their stretch marks.

Perhaps my lack of shopping finesse is the reason I don’t own a WARDROBE, but instead either hang my clothes from the picture rail in my bedroom or chuck them in plastic stacking boxes.

WARDROBE, then is the word of the day. Fourteenth-century Middle English by way of the Old French warder (guard) and robe (garment), it conjures something huge, wooden and smelling of mothballs, either filled with fur coats leading to snowy lands, or Robert Smith and his merry men (see the video for Close to Me to learn what I’m rattling on about).

In London, there’s the church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe, close to Wardrobe Terrace and Wardrobe Place, which mark where The King’s Wardrobe was situated, a whole royal department dedicated to the monarch’s robes, armour and treasures.

The ultimate walk in closet.

Now, I might just be tempted to brave Primark on a Saturday if I had an entire household to run my wardrobe for me.

Thanks to Kittykat-bits and bobs, the founder of the word feast

Books in the blood # 1


The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius.  ~Rebecca Pepper Sinkler

Ooh, let’s hope so, because I’ve been meaning for some while to write a regular post about books I loved as a kid, books that hooked me, inspired me, and maybe I’ll sneak in some books that peed me off too.

I’m talking independent reading here, so I won’t include anything that involves flaps, is made of fabric or stars caterpillars with eating disorders. Or anthropomorphism in any form.

Truth is, I’m curious to know if the books I read as a child and young adult informed my writing preferences and style, or if I was drawn to these books because I was already inclined to The Dark Ways. I’m not sure if I’ll be any clearer by the end of this thread, but it gives me the chance to rattle on about some books I love.

Now we have the ground rules covered, let’s begin.

First up is Charlote Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. (That’s the book, not the song by The Cure. The song is based on the book, though the video stars a VERY grown up, saucy, make-up-laden version of Charlotte!) 

Now, I was no reading genius. I was not devouring the words of Homer at my mother’s breast or quoting Plath at nursery school or discussing the merits of Dickens over Austen whilst eating my fish fingers and chips. In fact, part of the reason I won’t be including many books for very young children, is I don’t really remember many. I don’t know if that’s because I have a terrible memory or because my parents didn’t read to me – I’ll leave that for my shrink to work out.

But the first book I do clearly remember is Charlotte Sometimes. In fact, I think it was the first book I read entirely alone.

Picture the scene. It’s the late seventies, so there was a lot of brown, big floral prints and the smell of Findus Crispy Pancakes hanging in the air – I guess I’m about eight-years-old. If you want to imagine mini-me, think of a moon-faced, knock-kneed barrel on skinny legs with a huge gap between her front teeth, with long, tangly reddish hair and B.O. (All kids had B.O in the seventies in the UK, as most of us were still only having one bath a week and an occasional scrub down at the bathroom sink in-between. I’ve asked lots of other people of my age and we were all the same – delightful.)

This little barrel is being encouraged to read by her teachers. There is a school library and on the shelves, wrapped in a thick plastic cover, with its dog-eared pages, is this book. Imagine my sticky little fingers grabbing it to my chubby little chest. I open the cover and read…

The book is about a young girl called Charlotte who is sent away to boarding school. On arrival, she finds she can travel back in time, swapping lives with the girl who slept in her bed during the First World War. Charlotte has to be clever, deceitful and resilient, especially when she’s in danger of being stuck in the past forever.

I don’t know what it was I loved so much about this story.

There was the pride of reading a book alone.

There was the whole boarding school genre, popular with generations of children and authors (see Harry Potter, the Malory Towers books, The Worst Witch etc, etc etc) though, as a parent, I’m not sure what it says about home life that many of us find the idea of dormitories and shared bathrooms so alluring.

There was the fiesty heroine, of course – always a lovely thing when you’re a plump no hoper with low self-esteem and bully issues.

And there was the time travel. Now, those of you who have read my previous posts or my About page will know what a weird, obsessive personality I am when it comes to history. It snakes into my own writing – including my YA novel a lot.

It’s an open secret that on the day Stephen Hawking invents a time machine (and he will) I’ll be at the front of the queue, wearing a ruff, a doublet and a pair of hose I’ve had made especially for the occasion.

And, of course, when Charlotte goes back in time, she is effectively talking to ghosts, girls who are dead in the present.

So, there you have it. The first book to spark the flame of reading for me, full of history, time travel, the supernatural and plucky young gels in pinafore dresses.

Do you have a first book? One that sticks in your memory as triggering a love of the written word, that made you read under the covers at night?

Let me know. 

This is a happy house


When most people meet me they find I’m Friendly, Affable, Smiley, Mumsy (like a group of really tedious dwarves) but my fiction is often Dark, Scary and Violent, the kind of dwarves you don’t want to meet on the walk home from the pub.

I’m a glass-half-full person, carrying a hidden Gothic underbelly.This means I can be totally chilled and positive (Global Warming? Man, the earth will survive. Nuclear annihilation? Nothing a nice hot chocolate and group hug can’t sort) whilst simultaneously being drawn to graveyards, spiders and creaking door hinges.

I’m Mary Poppins wearing Morticia Addams’ undies beneath my frock.

So, when it comes to music, my favourites allow me to dip my toe in sorrow, go ankle deep in heartbreak, and sink up to my neck in melancholy. Sometimes, It’s good to wallow.

First up…

Last beat of my heart, by Siouxsie and the Banshees.      Forget My Way or Wind beneath my Wings, this is the only track so far I’m definitely having played at my funeral.

When I hear it, I’m twenty again, listening to this for the first time. I’m sitting on the floor of a scruffy flat, desperately in love, wrapped in the arms of that love, wishing the four minutes of this song would last for the rest of my life.

From the opening drums to the introduction of an accordion and the off-kilter lyrics, it’s not mainstream. But as a piece of music to accompany my coffin disappearing behind those crematorium curtains, I can think of none better.

Next please…

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Wiiliams.      Let me just say, I am NOT a classical music fan. Generally speaking, you put me in a room with a symphony playing and I’ll feel instantly depressed… and not in a good way.

But this music moves me. That opening sweep of strings can bring me to the verge of tears.

I don’t know if any clever boffin-types have done studies on this, but I definitely think there are notes/ key changes/ chords that have a direct connection to the emotion-triggers in our brains. They’re like magic buttons you can press to make you feel.

Vaughan Williams isn’t considered a world-class composer by many and the ‘hook’ is  from a work of 1567 by another man, Thomas Tallis, but if I want to take the hand of Melancholia and sink beneath the waves of her welcoming sea, I choose this one.

And finally…

Well, it could be Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins, the tiny, perfect pearl that is Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths, Close to Me by The Cure, Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up) by Florence and the Machine…

But I’m gonna go forHappy by Pharrell Williams. I shouldn’t, I know. I like nothing else by Pharrell and he needs a good slap for teaming up with Robin Thicke and making Blurred Lines (no, no link for that one- if you want to listen to that rapey, sexist drivel you can find your own way).

But the sun’s shining and sometimes I need to take off my black lace gloves, expose my pasty white skin to the world and soak up some Vitamin D. And it’s the catchiest song ever- damn it!

Clap along…

This was written for the Writing 101 Day Three challenge. It’s late. Soz.