Shock Music in Hi-Fi


This is how kids get their kicks these days. Squatting in filthy rags, all hopped up on goofballs and ludes, pretending at freedom. That is, until Daddy’s money runs out and the world comes knocking. Then those lousy beatniks end up looking down the neck of a bottle, or the barrel of a gun. Just like we did when we were kids. Yeah, the gutter is one sure way to close the generation gap. And if I were to place the blame for this epidemic of delinquency anywhere it would be square on the shoulders of one Little Danny, proprieter of a happening little pad called Office Naps. He’s the pusher. The one playing all the tunes and calling all the shots. Do you know what your children are listening to? Whatever Little Danny wants them to…

Shock Music in Hi-Fi

Hello Horror Blog readers! Little Danny of Office Naps here. The Honorable Mr. Wintle graciously extended the invitation for a Halloween-related post, and, in response, I’ve included a vintage bit of odd-io for your delectation.

I suppose the common complaint about some of our favorite holidays is that, in the interest of selling holiday-related merch and placating the anxieties of our more righteous, religious sectors, these same holidays tend to be expurgated of their color, piquancy, and content. That is, if you’re disappointed by the way that Halloween is routinely represented by ridiculous, warmed-over pap like “The Monster Mash,” I’m here to say that I feel your pain, horror fans. Of course, you likely know better. You likely know, when seeking your Halloween audio fix, to turn to the very musical underpinning of your obsession: the horror soundtrack. Yes, from the eerie synthesizers of the Italian horror oeuvre to classic Hitchcock-style staccato strings, the horror soundtrack has always been – and will always be – where the most unapologetically terrifying sounds dwell.

Enter Shock Music in Hi-Fi. Released in 1958, it was the first of two similarly-themed volumes (the second entitled, naturally, Panic: The Son of Shock) by noted composer, arranger, and producer Creed Taylor. These weren’t soundtracks per se. They were, rather, albums comprised of miniature 3 minute tableaux, self-contained musical storylines which took their cues from horror cinema and exercises like The Twilight Zone , and which set about terrifying us with dark, jazzy arrangements, creepy sound effects, and titles like “The Crank,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” and “Time Runs Out.” Take “The Crank,” for instance. We hear a phone number being dialed, we hear the phone ringing, we hear a friendly male voice answer. And then we hear the click of disconnection. It’s hard to convey its distinctly banal variety of psychological terror, but, repeated with increasing frequency – and set against a rising crescendo of dissonant horns and strings – this routine was typical fare for Shock Music in Hi-Fi. And it served its purpose very effectively.

Hand picked for the Horror Blog, this selection, “Heartbeat,” is also exemplary. Here we’re reminded that nothing can be as weirdly ominous as the awareness of our own breathing and heartbeat at the threshold of a darkened room. And the awareness of… ahem, someone else in that darkened room.

As you’ll hear. Here, then, is to heavy breathing! Happy Halloween!

The Creed Taylor Orchestra, Heartbeat
from Shock Music In Hi-Fi (ABC-Paramount, 1958)

23 Responses to “Shock Music in Hi-Fi”

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    I just gave it a try, and it seems to be working fine. Try again, ELijah, and let me know the results.

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  6. Halloween | Office Naps Says:

    […] be sure to check out Steven Wintle’s fabulous Horror Blog, where he recently featured my guest post on Creed Taylor. Steven’s site is an effusive, literate, and wonderfully self-effacing take on the popular […]

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