Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

In 1957, American popular music was still different and eclectic in that recording artists drew on multiple influences to make their own unique blends of blues, country, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, ragtime, barbershop, rockabilly and rock and roll. The influences came not only from not only other musicians and trends, but from tall tales and folktales and the oral traditions of the South.

These lyrics are to Little Demon by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who is nowadays primarily known for the still odd I Put a Spell on You. Note the rural setting, supernatural characters, exaggerated details, lively fun, and colloquial language that we expect in folktales.

Rather obscure is the line “He had death on his mind 'cause my demon let him go” but the demon and spirit world is not on our earthly plane so its supernatural agenda is bound to be inscrutable to us human beings. Think of the haunted hotel in The Shining; who can say what those wraiths were up to, with bloody elevators and I don’t know what all?

Just like the repeated <>, human language struggles to understand non-human vocalizations. Says something for the control Hawkins had over his voice that he could say <>  in the same way every time. Try saying a string of nonsense syllables the same way multiple times – it’s not easy.

The line “He gonna run through the world 'til we understand his pain” connects with the demon’s amazing tinkering with time itself. The demon is hurting and he is going to hassle the mundane world till all mortals know it. And till somebody steps forward to relieve his uncanny hurt

Little Demon
Down in the valley on a foggy hill rock
Stood a pretty little demon blowing his top
Fire in his eyes and smoke from his head
You gotta be real cool to hear the words he said

He said <>
That cat was mad!

He had steam in his soul for the one he loved so
He had death on his mind 'cause my demon let him go
He gonna run through the world 'til we understand his pain
Somebody help him get this demon home again

He said <>
That cat- that cat was mad!

He made the sky turn green, he made the grass turn red,
He even put pretty hair on Grandma's bald head
He made the moon back up, he even pushed back time
>He took the frutti out of tutti, he had the devil drinkin' wine

He said <>
That cat was mad!

This demon felt good cuz he finally got across,
To the crazy little demon that a woman’s still the boss
Down in the valley on the foggy hill rock
You can still hear the demon blowing his top

He said <>
That cat- that cat was mad!

He pushed back, brought in afternoon,
He even made Leap Year jump over the moon,
He took the Fourth of July and put it in May
He took this morning for a drive yesterday

He said <>
That cat- that cat was mad!

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