The Ghastly Ones
A-Haunting We’ll Go-Go, Zombie A Go-Go Records 1998
Glows In The Dark All-Plastic Assembly Kit, Ghastly Plastics 2005
Target: Draculon, Ghastly Plastics 2006
Unearthed , Ghastly Plastics 2007
If I’m to kick off a thirty-one day write-up of all the spooky music I like, it’s only fitting I start with The Ghastly Ones, the first band to really get me into both surf and spooky music at the same time. Starting off as a three piece with Dr. Lehos, Sir Go Go Ghostly and Baron Shivers, the group recently added Capt. Clegg on the organ for their last two releases. This year marks a
decade since their premier release. It’s amazing to think that ten years ago, three avid surf and spook fans got together and what came out of it was a love letter written in poison, sealed with a blood-red kiss and tucked under the glove compartment of a hot rod heading towards the coast.
Discovering ‘A Haunting We’ll Go-Go’ in the library of my Pennsylvanian college’s radio library came from a need for spooky music and a lengthy search of what was available. My show ran on Fridays, at the last broadcasting slot. It didn’t fall on Halloween, but it would have been the last broadcast before the Ho
liday so I felt a responsibility to send it off with a blast.
Along with some other standards I had downloaded, I played three songs from the Ghastly Ones, ‘Hangman Hangten’ being my immediate favorite. I dedicated a Helloween song to Pat “Nazi Rat Bastard’ Buchanan before the station manager (and head of the Comms. Department) came in and told me to wrap the show up early. I guess calling someone a ‘Nazi’ was a case of slander in Central Pennsylvania during the tail end of
the Nineties. I decided not to return ‘A Haunting…’ as revenge, a petty, inexcusable act I don’t regret to this day. Along with it, I swiped the ‘Halloween Hootenanny’ comp, which I’ll get to later in the month.
What makes ‘A Haunting We Will Go-Go’ one of my favorite albums is that there’s a definite sense of fun throughout the entire disc. The music is f
ast and light, the excitement felt during an early Halloween before the real dangers weighed down the shadows. It’s a thriving spark of all things ‘spooky.’
Dotting throughout the album are skits featuring the boys and their nemesis, Dr. Diablo, along with mentions of deadly robots (‘Attack of Robot Atomico’) and legendary luchadores (‘Los Campeones del Justicio.’) It still stands up as a great surf record, with fast pounding cuts like the aforementioned ‘Hangman Hangten,’ ‘Thunderhead’ and ‘Hollywood Nocturne’ really proving that these guys knew how to play. It remains out of print due to Geffen swallowing up the Zombie A Go Go imprint when its owner, Rob Zombie, shifted his focus. You can find physical copies of it on Amazon for twenty bucks (or more) but as of Oct. 2008, you can get an MP3 version of the album for less than ten bucks.
It took about eight years (and for the music landscape to change drastically) for ‘Glows In The Dark/ All Plastic Assembly Kit’ EP to get released. Ever since 2005, all Ghastly Ones releases have been under the Ghastly Plastics banner and done directly through their site at www.GhastlyOnes.com. ‘Glows..’ was a good EP that showed the Ghastly Ones in a rougher sound, as if these three undertakers were playing in Dr. F
rankenstein’s garage at his summer home. Different versions of ‘Banshee Beach’ and an updated ‘Haulin’ Hearse,’ ‘Glows..’ is pretty great; it also has become more significant lately. It was the last release before the official addition of an organist, which would change the Ghastly Ones sound. ‘Glows’ unsanded-down sound can be seen as a passing mark of what the three sounded like before ‘A Haunting…’, and how they wouldn’t sound again.
‘Glows’ has gone for good (you won’t find it on the site.) It did well in getting the three boys back in ghoulish form for the 2006 ‘Traget:Draculon’ release. With Capt. Clegg officially in the band, ‘Target: Draculon’ show the Ghastly Ones growing as a band. While the first full-length album only had one song with vocals, ‘Target:Draculon’ features Baron Shivers singing on at twice (two! Count ‘em, TWO!) tracks. It’s amazing to s
ee him sing live. When the Ghastly Ones came to New Jersey’s Asbury Lanes on their first (and so far only) East Coast tour back in 2007, Shivers was jumping out from behind the drum kit and nearly out into the audience. The man was a blast of pure energy.
That energy is felt in ‘Target:Draculon,’ in songs like ‘Grave Dig Her,’ ‘Full Throttle, Empty Bottle’ and ‘Dimension 66.’ Seeing a new release shortly after the EP was exciting, and rightlfully so. The addition of the organ totally enriches the Ghastly Ones sound, making it a fantastic element in a revitalized band. The organ involves the record in a 1950’s horror drive in feeling. The song ‘Llorona’ is a fav of mine on the record for the organ track alone. I confess that the first addition of an organ made me skeptical, but as the Ghastlys have grown on this record, it grew on me. I was afraid that the band was going to lead with the organ as many surf bands do, but that’s what makes the Ghastly Ones stand out: it’s all a condusive sound, an combination that becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Every instrument is working hard during every song on this album, which really makes ‘Target:Draculon’ shine. Plus, it has the boys going a’creeping again in some funny bits. It’s a band with personality. Gotta love it.
Getting to like he new sound was good, because the 2007 release of ‘Unearthed’ solidifies the band’s change in a part-tribute, part revisionists history move that has the new band go over some of the tracks of ‘A Haunting…’ with the new organ sound. Like with ‘Target:Draculon,’ it took me a while to warm up to this. But even corpses cook when left out in the sun, and I see ‘Unearthed’ not so much as a way to write over history but to give a slice of the present – if you were to go to a Ghastly Ones show today, you would be hearing their songs as the way they are on ‘Unearthed,’ not on ‘A Haunting…’
Because of that reason, it’s the least collusive album of the four releases. With ‘A Haunting…’ and ‘Target:Draculon,’ there was an sense that these were not so much albums but an organic collection of music. ‘Unearthed’ is no less a great release by an
awesome surf band, but it’s a little more disjointed if you’ve come to hear the songs in a different form. It’s hard to nit-pick. It’s a great album if you want to try this band out and it’s readily available at their website.
It’s really amazing to be a fan of this band. After an eight year hiatus, this is now a band with a perpetual promise of ‘more,’ be it more merchandise or promise of another album peeking around the corner. As an Wrong Coast Washout here out on the east, digging these guys is a grand adventure. Hearing about shows happening out in California makes a ghoul green with envy, but it keeps a digger going from day to day knowing there’s a land out there where the Ghastly Ones are constantly playing Tiki Bars and Drive-In Festivals.
This is a little more than I thought I’d write, but the Ghastly Ones are important to me. They started me down a long path of love for surf music. Theirs were the first notes of a sound I would trace back to the yesterday bands of the Ventures, the Fireballs, and the Shadows to current bands of today. I was lucky to see them play live once and hope to see them again, someday. I think they capture everything that’s apt and ideal about Halloween. There’s a predominant sense of fun to their music and that fun goes hand in hand with the spooky elements of the holiday. If you’re more into the deeper, darker end of the spooky pool, there’s more bands suited for your (and sometimes, my) tastes; we’ll get into them later in the month. But if you want the best men for Halloween, you can’t go wrong with the Ghastly Ones.