Posts Tagged ‘Crimes by Moonlight’

Still Offensive After All These Years

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Before I talk about my band Crusin’ appearing at the Riverside (Iowa) Casino last Saturday night – and offending delicate sensibilities – I need to take care of some writing business.

Crimes By Moonlight

Recently I completed “Encore for Murder,” the second Mike Hammer audio novel, and got a lovely phone call about it yesterday from Stacy Keach, who said it contained “the best voiceover ever written for Mike Hammer.” When I stopped crying, I thanked him.

I am working on NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU, the second J.C. Harrow novel right now. Work goes well, not quickly, but steadily. It’s a big book.

Two new short-story anthologies are worthy of your attention.

First, CRIMES BY MOONLIGHT, edited by the rich and famous Charlaine Harris (as Steppenwolf once nonsensically said, “Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sue!”), is a supernatural-themed collection from the Mystery Writers of America. It includes the story “Grave Matter” by me and Mickey Spillane. Mickey gets second billing, which has never happened before, but the story has an unusual history.

“Grave Matter” was originally a Mike Danger short story that was written at the request of the comic book company who were then publishing the DANGER comic book. They never did anything with it, for reasons unknown. A few years later, I used the plot for a third-person novella; but the original story went off to live in limbo. Now it has been turned into a Hammer story (which essentially meant doing a universal search-and-replace, Danger into Hammer) for this anthology. Back when it was a Danger story, Mickey’s contribution was a few notes and his approval, so for once I took top billing.

BLOOD, GUTS & WHISKEY from Kensington is a collection of short stories from Thuglit, noir stories from new writers, edited by Todd Robinson. I have provided an introduction that traces the history of the hardboiled short story from Black Mask to the internet. Check it out!

A very nice overview of MS. TREE, with a focus on the trade paperbacks of yore, has popped up on the web. Terry Beatty and I get questioned on this all the time, and we admit to being frustrated that it’s taking so long to get new reprints of the MS. TREE material out there in book form. I can only say that we are again in very serious talks with a reputable publisher.

Blood, Guts, & Whiskey

Probably a good number of the visitors to this site could care less about my rock ‘n’ roll endeavors. Nonetheless, “Psychedelic Siren” – the 1967 Dial Records (an Atlantic subsidiary) by the Daybreakers, written by yours truly – continues to attract cultish attention. Check out this blog entry from musician Bill Kopp.

At our recent Riverside gig, we were announced as having had the “hit single” “Psychedelic Siren” – though the song was only a regional hit, and appearing was the latest version of the band known as Crusin’, not the Daybreakers. So the first thing I did was tell the audience we wouldn’t be playing “Psychedelic Siren.” No riots broke out.

We had determined to do an eclectic bunch of songs, though we led with a pandering “Mony, Mony” (catnip to Midwestern baby boomers) before doing stuff like “She’s Not There” by the Zombies, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield, “No Matter What” by Badfinger, “Easy to Be Hard” by Three Dog Night, and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by Vanilla Fudge (my favorite heavy band). Not too many bands have ever played both Vanilla Fudge and Bobby Rydell (we also did a blistering “Wild One”).

We were part of a Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association “Hall of Fame” show – our one-hour set was one of four. The other bands were solid, but our song choice set us apart (the Wise Guys of Chicago did soul stuff, very well, and the other two bands did solid ‘50s rockabilly).

As with the appearance of the original Daybreakers at the 2008 Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction concert at Arnold’s Park, we differed from the other acts by doing a certain amount of original material. We have always taken pride in being a “real” band. This included a song by the late, great Bruce Peters (“I Need Somebody”), and another by Rob Gal (“I Feel Better”), who is alive and well and I assume still cheerfully deranged. The band began in 1966 and has gone through many changes and members (beginning as the Daybreakers, briefly called Rox, then Crusin’, then the Ones, then Crusin’ again); and along the way some very good songs were written and recorded. Here’s where you can buy a CD collecting a lot of that material. [Prices are post-paid for the continental US. – Nate]

[2013 EDIT: All options temporarily sold out! We’ll recheck our remaining stock and make a new post soon!]

One of the songs we did was a shirt-tail hit of ours. It’s an infamous number called “Pussy Whipped,” which is the story of a henpicked husband. We didn’t write it – it was a Barnes & Barnes tune that Bill Mumy (its co-author) contributed to the band Seduction of the Innocent, which became a crowd pleaser (and stirrer) at various comic cons in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and was featured on our CD GOLDEN AGE. (Band member Steve Leialoha’s relationship with the great artist/writer Trina Robbins somehow survived her feminist-fueled hatred of the song.) It’s sung on the original album by the incredible Miguel Ferrer, and a fine live version is available here.

[2013 EDIT: All options temporarily sold out! We’ll recheck our remaining stock and make a new post soon!]

When THE GOLDEN AGE came out (it’s out of print, unfortunately), KFMH, a very popular eastern Iowa radio station, with a notorious and controversial dj (Steve Bridges – whose antics earned him a TOMORROW SHOW appearance with Tom Snyder) began to play the Seduction of the Innocent version of “Pussy Whipped.” It became a regional hit. I played keyboards and sang harmony on the cut, and this was played up by Bridges. Crusin’ was very active in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and we began to get requests for the song, and wound up learning it, with me filling in for Miguel as best I could. We even played it live on KFMH on three or four occasions.

The current version of Crusin’ has been paying a lot of attention to our history, doing songs from the Daybreakers to the Rox era (Bruce’s originals were done then) to the Ones version (when Gal was dominant songwriter, with me absent for a year or two), on to the present. Since “Pussy Whipped” was the band’s biggest hit (in its shirttail way) since “Psychedelic Siren,” we have put it back on the list.

We don’t always play it. You don’t want to play the song at a wedding (even as a warning). Nor to you want to make it part of a Valentine’s Day dance. But at a casino – where I understand people are gambling, and children aren’t allowed, and where even smoking is sanctioned – I figured we had an adult audience.

Of course this is the Heartland, and it’s America, where you can get yourself a reality show by having a big butt or sleeping with Hugh Hefner or having way too many kids, where you can form an unintentionally obscenely-titled movement protesting the taxes that have been lowered by the president you despise. So it’s always up for grabs.

Anyway, as for “Pussy Whipped” at Riverside, well, the crowd loved it – we got cheers and applause and there were lots of smiling faces, if mostly male. I made sure my diction was good so that the entire tale got heard, as the emasculated narrator tells his sad story in an amusingly ballsy fashion. Sure enough, while we were quickly tearing down to make room for the next band, a middle-aged woman with glasses and a stony expression approached the stage.

She said, “I want to make a statement. If you have to apologize for doing a song, you shouldn’t do that song. Some people were offended!” She seemed on the verge of tears.

I said, “I wasn’t really apologizing when I introduced the song. That was a joke. It was all meant in good fun.”

She didn’t know what to say, and disappeared off into the crowd.

What can I say? I am 62 years old, still playing “Pussy Whipped,” and offending older women who are probably younger than me.

I must be doing something right.