Monday, October 24, 2011

Track of the Week: I Walked with a Zombie by Roky Erickson & the Aliens

Sorry I have not written in quite some time. I have moved, first to El Paso, Texas and then to Tigard, OR. It is beautiful out here. As we approach Halloween, I have decided this week's track will feature "I Walked with a Zombie."

Zombies are all the rage these days thanks to The Walking Dead and the general awesomeness of zombies. Yesterday I read an article that explained why zombies are so fascinating/scary. I can not remember the name of it though... I will just paraphrase what the author wrote. Zombies, unlike other scary creatures, represent a complete loss of humanity. Vampires can be sexy, ghosts can be sympathetic, but zombies are insatiable killing and eating machines with no remorse or consideration. There are no mind games with them; they want to eat you, they attack until the succeed or are stopped. And while zombies possess little reasoning ability or athleticism, their sheer numbers and single-mindedness creates a situation in which humanity is overwhelmed by something it has never seen, like the Genghis Khan-led Mongols of the 13th century, but with no need for supplies, government or infrastructure of the lands they conquer. For zombies it is all destruction all the time with no breaks. Scary.

Roky Erickson is a strange dude. Once a member of the psychedelic garage rock band, The 13th Floor Elevators, drug and mental problems have led him to various terrible low points. But through it all he has continued to make good music. In 1981, Erickson released the album The Evil One, containing "I Walked with a Zombie."

The original version begins with the same percussive intro The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" has. While simple, it is instantly recognizable. The rest of the song itself is very simple. Basic rock 'n' roll, with simple lyrics. Mr. Erickson essentially repeats the title over and over. He sounds very much like Mick Jagger throughout.

R.E.M. covered the song a few years later. It follows the same format, though it is a bit less garage rock-ish.

Elf Power also covered it in 2002. Their updated version is the "prettiest" and most mellow of all. It still retains the tempo though and does not become boring.

I Walked with a Zombie by Roky Erickson & the Aliens
I Walked with a Zombie by R.E.M.
I Walked with a Zombie by Elf Power

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