When I was five years old, I used to talk to the moon. I remember pacing around my yard in Augusta wearing my OshKosh B’Gosh overalls and just talking in my twangy Southern accent about spiders, vampires, werewolves and other things that went bump in the night. While other kids were catching fireflies or playing flashlight tag, I was outside chatting with my friend — the Moon. And it seemed perfectly normal to me. It still does.
After all, the Moon has long been associated with our calendar, space exploration, magic, and of course werewolves — so why not make friends with it? In honor of this month’s Pink Moon, I thought I’d share some of my top five favorite songs inspired by the moon, werewolves, and all the things that go bump in the night.
Nick Drake "Pink Moon"
One night each year in April, the moon turns pink. It’s named after the pink phlox, one of the first spring flowers to bloom. You might expect a song named after spring to be festive, and dare I say, happy? But, no…”Pink Moon” is something else. Released a few years before Drake's death in November 1974, “Pink Moon” (and the album of the same name) is often attributed to the musician’s frequent battles with depression and insomnia. “Pink Moon” feels like a lucid dream — its liminal power traps you in a state of disorientation.
Paul Simon "The Werewolf"
Fans of my series The Only Living Boy already know that Paul Simon’s music has had a profound influence on my work. To simulate the bone-chilling echo in "The Werewolf", Simon used a gopichand, a single-stringed instrument from Southeast Asia. The twangy howl adds this sense of menace to a song that captures the dog-eat-dog ferocity of how a civilized society devours its own.
Siouxsie & the Banshees "Nightshift"
Inspired by the notorious Yorkshire Ripper — Peter Sutcliffe — this alluring siren song is both intoxicating and predatory. When I first heard it in high school, I thought with lines like “My Night Shift Sisters / With your nightly visitor / A new vocation in life” that this was clearly a song about werewolves, but the true inspiration gives Siouxsie’s song a deeper, more frightening resonance.
Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs "Lil' Red Riding Hood"
“Even bad wolves can be good,” Sam The Sham croons in this highly suggestive 1966 tune about innocence and sexual maturity. “The Big Bad Wolf” narrating the song could easily symbolize the primordial urges that transform her male lover into an animal, but ultimately shows the power of restraint over unrelenting lust.
Cat Power "Werewolf"
There’s a thin line between visionary and madness; this song is a testament to that. The spellbinding collaboration of Cat Power’s haunting voice and Warren Ellis’ dulcet violin is unlike anything I’ve heard. Abject and unearthly, it is a song that compels you, like a curse, to listen over and over and over again.
I’m no longer five years old, but the Moon and I, we still catch up from time to time. I’ll pour a few shots of Bulleit Bourbon, we’ll listen to an Ennio Morricone or Tom Waits album, and chatter on. The Moon shares its celestial mysteries with me, it inspires me to write wicked westerns like High Moon, and it’s my only companion on nights when the midnight oil has long since burned out. We keep each other company and keep each other’s secrets — because that’s what friends are for.
High Moon: Volume 1 - Bullet Holes and Bite Marks is set for release on October 17th, 2017 from Papercutz. Volume 2 will follow in May 2018.
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.