I should probably come clean about something right off the bat – I have listened to a lot of heavy metal music. I was definitely one of those kids in high school wearing the Slipknot t-shirt. I had spiked, red and blue hair, I had a ring with a scorpion on it, I only wore black clothes, and I said things like, “Just leave me alone, dad!” all the time.
Apart from giving you all another reason to laugh at me, I just want to demonstrate that I am well-acquainted with music that takes itself to be dark, creepy, or disturbing. None of this prepared, me, however, for a song that I heard at 9 in the morning on public radio about a month ago.
Let me set this up by giving you an example of a standard “oouuu look how scary I am” kind of heavy metal song. Slayer’s, “Dead Skin Mask”. Now, you can probably get the idea of what it is about from the title alone. (Hint: It has nothing to do with expensive spa treatments). Here are some sample lyrics: “Graze the skin with my finger tips /The brush of dead warm flesh pacifies the means” , “Simple smiles elude psychotic eyes / Lose all mind control rationale declines”.
Okay, so we have some weird imagery about touching “dead warm flesh”, which I guess means flesh that is warmed by death? And then we have some stuff about how if you are psychotic, you can’t see smiles or something, and you “lose all mind control”, which I think is supposed to mean “self-control”, but whatever. You get the picture: This dude is crazy, and he’s gonna totally kill you and then wear you like a crappy Value-Village Halloween mask.
Now, the song that I heard on the radio is called “The Little Blue Man” by Betty Johnson, and it was released in 1958. To give you all some context, in 1958, the group that would eventually become The Beatles recorded their first song, the Jim Henson Company (the company behind The Muppets) was formed, and “Howdy Doody” had already been on for like 11 years. A standard idea of the 1950’s is big cars, pastel colours, and wholesome family life (read: obedient wives and the occasional lynching).
That being said, 1958 is when this song was released. I urge you to listen to the whole thing, because it only gets more fucked up as it goes along.
Betty Johnson’s crazy eyes aren’t helping, either.
Okay, I’ll give you a second to gather your life back together. I should also note that this song was a NOVELTY song. Novelty as in, “Monster Mash” or “My Bologna”. This song was like the “Weird Al Yankovic” of the time. What kind of mindset do people have to be in to hear this song, and be like, “oh, well that’s a cute little diddy”.
In an attempt to log everything that is fucked up about that song, I have written down my initial thoughts as I heard the song for the first time.
00:08 Cute tune so far, very 50’s, let’s see where this goes.
00:20 Little blue man? that’s kind of odd, I wonder where this is g…
00:25 WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT
00:40 Okay, okay, maybe it’s just some weird 50’s thing. It’s probably just a metaphor for how awesome Capitalism is or something
1:00 Nope. Not about Capitalism. This is about a tiny, blue, supernatural stalker with the voice of a Demon Shirley Temple
1:08 WHY IS IT SAYING THAT IT “WUV’S HER” WHYYYYY
1:23 You were haunted for weeks after that? Well yeah no shit. Why are you singing about it like this then!
1:25 No one can see him but you? Okay, let’s figure this out – so either she is going insane, or this Blue Alien/Demon also has the power of invisibility
1:52 FUCK YES. Kill that hell-spawn. Send it back to the nether realm from which it came.
2:04 I didn’t know I could be terrified, ecstatic, and heart-broken all at the same time.
2:10 WHY ARE YOU SINGING ABOUT THIS SO HAPPILY YOU COLD-HEARTED BITCH HE JUST WANTED TO LOVE YOU
2:30 OKAY SO NOW THIS THING IS IMMORTAL GREAT GOODBYE SLEEP FOREVER
2:39 I didn’t exactly have a thought for the last few seconds of this song, but when the Little Blue Man says his last line, I did make this face:
Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Slipknot – you can sing about death and eating people alive all you want. Until you make a horror-tragedy-psycho-thriller in the form of a quaint 1950s novelty song, you are just playing for 2nd place.