Monday, April 07, 2008

They Walk Among Us

Well, here's an astonishing piece of rock archaeology, and still more proof that YouTube is the greatest thing since blah blah blah.

From 1967 (on Halloween) it's the Box Tops (with a teenaged Alex Chilton) from a presumed lost episode of Zacherley's Disc-o-Teen.

You youngsters may not remember Zach, AKA The Cool Ghoul, but in the late 50s and early 60s he was without question the funniest and hippest of the various TV horror movie hosts (Vampira? feh!!!) then the rage on local TV around the country. Later, as you can see here, he reinvented himself as a sort of Dick Clark for the Chiller Theater set (Disc-0-Teen ran for two years on a Jersey UHF station that went Spanish a short while after this eppy) and in the 70s he had yet another career as perhaps the smartest progressive FM disc jockey in New York radio history. Film/sleaze buffs will also recall Zach's hilarious turn as the (uncredited) voice of the monster in Frank Henenlotter's 1988 cult classic Brain Damage, which is highly recommended.

To say that Disc-o-Teen loomed large in my formative years would be a major understatement; I watched it religiously (especially in the summer of '66, when kids from my high school performed on Zach's Battle of the Bands) and it really was amazingly cutting edge for its time; where else on local television could you watch Jersey babes dancing to a song so underground -- the Who's "Substitute" -- that it wasn't yet airing on NYC radio?

In any case, seeing this clip -- which I actually remember from back in the day -- for the first time in decades has been a beyond Proustian experience. For more information on Zach and the show (which just had a 40th anniversary reunion, including a performance by PowerPop god and Zach fan Richard X. Heyman) check out all the cool stuff here.

Have I mentioned that YouTube is the greatest thing since blah blah blah?

Update: Commenter reddyrooster is holding out for Cleveland's Ghoulardi as the definitive horror host. To which we say -- fat chance.

Exhibit A: Zach's classic hit "Dinner With Drac."

Good night, whatever you are...!!!!


reddyrooster said...

Those of us from Northeast Ohio would put "Ghoulardi" up against this dude although, to be fair, he was a little before Cleveland Bob's and my time. (We had to settle for his disciple "The Ghoul" a few years later.)

Played by Ernie Anderson (who got famous as the voiceover king of ABC in the 70s-80s-- his was the mellifluous voice of The Loooove Boat-- and is the father of Paul Thomas Anderson) he was a huge influence on the twisted kids growing up there at the time like David Thomas, the Motherbaughs and Casales and Lux Interior.

Stay Sick!

Anonymous said...

First time I heard "Happy Jack" and "I Can See For Miles" was in Discoteen.

Discoteen was the most disorganized television show in history and that was half of it's charm!!! The other half was the ability to hear songs not heard anywhere else in NYC.

What's with the constant hand kissing? Sure is weird.


steve simels said...

If you're from Pittsburgh, your guy was Chilly Billy Cardille (who can be seen playing a TV reporter at the end of the original "Night of the Living Dead."

But Zach is the unquestioned king of them all. Certainly the only one with a national hit record, the great "Dinner with Drac," which I vastly prefer to "Monster Mash."

Anonymous said...

What a shambolic delight -- and oy, those Jersey girls could shing-a-ling like nobody's business. I paricularly liked the blonde hitter chick from Patterson who won Ghoul Queen. Loved the way Zach kept calling Akex Chilton "Mr. Top."

Sadly, Connecticut was too lame to have a ghoul dance show so Simels cannot further dazzle with his erudition on the Eastern seaboard monster music scene. And I stand by the Monster Mash.

TMink said...

Alex Chilton is a true power pop genius. One of my favorites, and the Mats song of the same name rocks as well.

I ended up shooting hoops with Alex at the Carolina apartments in the late 70s in Chapel Hill. He was there first, and I recognized him from the Big Star stuff the older guys in the dorm turned me on to.

Amazing times, I got to see the dB's in concert as well.

Rock on Alex.


MJConroy said...

I was just listening to the Best of the Box Tops cd this afternoon before seeing this post! ("Soul Deep" is a nearly forgotten classic- although the Gin Blossoms did cover it).

As a former Clevelander, I must also put in a vote for Ghoulardi! He was the best thing on tv when I was a kid. I remember seeing him do an appearance in the parking lot of a local grocery store.

I'm assuming Zach was better at his Ghoul stuff than on the music show - elsewise Ghoulardi was waay better!

How come we don;t have great local fare like that anymore. I know, $$$.

steve simels said...

MJConroy said...

I'm assuming Zach was better at his Ghoul stuff than on the music show - elsewise Ghoulardi was waay better!

Kiddo -- Zach was doing the equivalent of MST3K. Back in 1960.

He would pose in front of the movie and make fun of it. Or he would do the other ends of phone conversations in the flicks. Stuff like that...

half glass full said...

Better than Chilly Billy? C'mon.


Kid Charlemagne said...

Hey Steve,

I was gonna mention Chilly Billy! Living in Youngstown,OH I was able to pick up both Billy from Pittsburgh and Ghoulardi from Clevo, so I was super lucky.

Gummo said...

steve --

Wow, you are becoming a YouTube musical archaeologist of the first rank. What I want to know is, who's posting these great clips and where the hell do they get them?

My memories of Zacherle are from the third incarnation you mentioned, as THE coolest freeform FM deejay in New York. There was a time in the early 70s when WNEW-FM had Zacherle, Alison Steele, Scott Muni, Jonathan Shwartz and just about every other cool deejay in a 50 mile radius. Many was the summer night I lay awake in the wee hours hearing musical oddities like Lothar and the Hand People, the infamous live Like A Rolling Stone from the Dylan Royal Albert Hall bootleg (playing bootlegs on the radio!? you couldn't get more underground than that back then); I remember struggling to stay awake to hear the premiere of Blows Against the Empire one night on NEW too, not to mention all their fantastic live broadcasts.

I don't know if you're aware of this, but on a live Grateful Dead CD from the Fillmore East in 1970 (part of the Dick's Picks colledtion), Zacherle introduces the band. His entire introduction?: "The Grateful Goddamn Dead!"

Cleveland Bob said...

Hey Group!

While Zacherly is completely boss as the host of Disc-O-Teen, I'll have to give the nod to Ghoulardi as being a bigger influence.

The Cramps, Chrissie Hynde, Devo, Pere Ubu, Pagans, Dead Boys, The Choir, even Eric Carmen, have all sited Ghoulardi as being an enormous influence on their aesthetic.

Ghoulardi was the natural evolution of another Cleveland homeboy, Mad Daddy Pete Meyers, except on the teevee.

Regardless, here's a link to several popular horror schlock hosts of the era...Stay sick you purple knifs!

june said...

Wow Zacherly and discoteen what a great time special thanks to joe lorey who always did a great job w/his camera I am in this video omg how funny

Anonymous said...