Mr. Mixtape-ptlk, Track #7: The Screamin' Meemies from Planet "X" (1961) by Merv Griffin

Merv Griffin, Media Mogul
All this recent talk about The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror shutting down in the near future at Disney California Adventure may have a lot of longtime fans of the Tower down in the dumps, but it has had a marvelous effect on me. While I don't want to see it closed or changed as much as the next fan of the attraction, I recognize that things are always in flux in Disney's parks, and I also understand the reasons behind the closure and updating of the attraction. And on the plus side, riding the Tower so much recently has definitely put The Twilight Zone TV show back in mind for me.

Billboard Music Week, Oct. 9. 1961 -
Apparently all new singles (and their
"B" sides) were given 3 stars at the time.
 
Luckily enough, I have numerous outlets through which I may pursue my love of this property in the comfort of my own home and collection: paperbacks of original stories, a "making of" trade paperback, issues from the Gold Key comic book series, and a couple of sets of DVDs to go through when it puts me in The Twilight Zone, er, "zone," as it were.

Strangely though, this has also triggered something else "Twilight Zone"-related in my mind: endless, repeated singing and humming of a rather obscure song from 1961 called The Screamin' Meemies from Planet "X".

For songs referencing The Twilight Zone, you certainly have other options. Sure, you could go with the big Golden Earring hit from 1984, if you like to hear stiffly sung English and indecipherable lyrics. (Don't get me wrong, I do like both of  those things when the mood strikes me; I am also very fond of the Golden Earring song, but only the full album version with the whole spooky instrumental break buildup). You could go with Rush's The Twilight Zone from their 1976 album, 2112, that directly references two memorable episodes of the show within drummer Neil Peart's lyrics. The members of Rush were such fans of the show, that they even dedicated not one, but two – TWO! – entire albums to the memory of Zone creator and host Rod Serling after he passed away in 1975.

Jazzbos have options too. Raymond "Powerhouse" Scott did a tasty instrumental with the title in 1960 that does not incorporate any elements from the theme music of the show, but does make vivid use of a theremin to give the song an unearthly intro and outro over a conga beat. The Manhattan Transfer, in one of their least jazzy moments though, went full disco with Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone and had a surprising Top 30 hit with it. (To my ears, though, it's pretty goddamned unlistenable, though I do have it in my collection.)

Possibly most famous was a huge surf hit from 1963 that surprisingly enough is not titled after the show, but was actually named for a rival show, The Outer Limits. The Marketts created a song called The Outer Limits, but the song's main riff is seemingly inspired by the famous four-note signature from The Twilight Zone theme, or a damn close approximation of it. Michael Gordon of The Marketts took the song to the producers of The Outer Limits, but it was too close to the Zone theme to use. Later, the band was forced to change the name of the song, and thus, it became known as Out of Limits. But it still sounds completely like they are doing The Twilight Zone theme for much of the song. But the Marketts won out in the end, because the track went to #3 on the charts to become their biggest hit. To make matters even more confusing, fellow surf guitar legends, the Ventures, put out an album called The Ventures in Space in 1964, that not only opened with their version of Out of Limits, but closes with a track titled The Twilight Zone.

But I came here to talk about a song called The Screamin' Meemies from Planet "X", and to do that, we need to bring up a fellow called Merv Griffin. If you are younger, it is likely you have no knowledge of Mr. Griffin, but anyone about a generation back can probably tell you at least one of the many things in which he was involved. Griffin started out as a singer and actor, became a talk show host, and made some of the smartest moves a man can make in the entertainment industry (they weren't all golden, though) to become a genuine powerhouse media mogul in his day. Pretty easy-going and genial on the air on his own long-running talk show, Griffin created both Jeopardy! (though he always said his wife came up with the concept) and Wheel of Fortune. He even wrote their theme songs. As a young singer, Merv had a #1 hit in 1950 with I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, but it was to be his biggest success in that venue.

"I can't even lurk anymore!"
More important to the subject at hand, Griffin actually had some surprising horror and sci-fi credentials under his belt. He was a radio announcer in 1953's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which you might recall is chiefly important for its Ray Bradbury source material and profoundly cool monster effects created by one Ray Harryhausen. Griffin also appeared as an actor in a 1954 remake of Edgar Allan Poe's Murders of the Rue Morgue titled Phantom of the Rue Morgue. In 1962, he released a truly odd single called House of Horrors, which clearly is inspired by the success of Monster Mash that same year, that I might feature on a future mixtape just because describing the song would be a task indeed. And, of course, fans of Steve Martin know full well that Mr. Griffin made cameo appearances in a couple of Martin comedy classics in the early '80s, most effectively playing himself exposed as the Elevator Killer in The Man with Two Brains, Martin's wacky spoof of mad scientist films.

And then there were The Screamin’ Meemies from Planet “X”...



I was walkin' a-lone Saturday night
Me and my baby, we had a fight
when a creature SWOOPED down in the gloom
and rode away with me on her broom!

"Oh Earth man, I've come to take you...


[chorus]

...Way out in the Twilight Zone,
the wild wild women live all alone!
We’ve got no men and we’re nervous wrecks!
We’re the Screamin' Meemies of Planet X!"

We flew where not even spacemen fly

as soon as we got there I knew why
the shakes and-a shivers ran down my spine
it was the land of the female Frankensteins!

"Oh, Earth man, you're gonna like it...


[chorus]

...Way out in the Twilight Zone,
the wild wild women live all alone!
We’ve got no men and we’re nervous wrecks!
We’re the Screamin' Meemies of Planet X!"

Their one green eye was a real nightmare

and the blackbirds nested in their hair!
I tried to run but what could I do
they had four legs where I had two!

They hugged me for breakfast 

and squeezed me for lunch
and just like bananas 
they kissed me a bunch!

There were no stoppin' 'em 

NO-SIR-EEEE!!!
And that was the start 
of the finish of me!

They had me...


[chorus]

...Way out in the Twilight Zone,
the wild wild women live all alone!
We’ve got no men and we’re nervous wrecks!
We’re the Screamin' Meemies of Planet X!"

T'was a real sad tragedy

like Macbeth
Cause they hugged and squeezed
and kissed me to death!

So take care brother

whatever you do,
and don't let the Screamin' Meemies 
get you!!!

Or you'll be...


[chorus]

...Way out in the Twilight Zone,
the wild wild women live all alone!
We’ve got no men and we’re nervous wrecks!
We’re the Screamin' Meemies of Planet X!"

Music and lyrics by Ruth Roberts | Copyright 1961 Pambill Music, Inc.

Merv's voice in this song is clearly supposed to be that of a recognizable hillbilly sort; you know, the type who might report an alien sighting tale such as this that just can't be believed. The lyrics are filled with mentions of how the cruel alien menaces "hugged and squeezed and kissed me to death" and "how "that was the start of the finish of me!" And yet, he lives to tell us his tale of woe. I find the unidentified voices of the Screamin' Meemies themselves to be hypnotic in nature, and it is their chorus of the song that actually gets stuck in my brain for weeks on end.

The song is chockfull of marvelous sci-fi movie detail, with vivid descriptions of the girls (with one big green eye and twice the normal complement of legs), but what the narrator does not tell us is how he got back to relate this story to us. So, has he just had a fever dream? Is he just making up a story for attention? Or did he really take a trip on a broom and flown "where not even spacemen fly" to "the land of the female Frankensteins"?

I guess only Merv knows for sure, and he took that knowledge with him when he left this void in 2007. The epitaph on his tombstone at Westwood Village reads ""I will not be right back after this message," which shows both his dedication to the medium that brought him fame and his ultimate reluctance to answer my belated questions about this very silly song.

No matter. Silly it may be, but I sure am glad that Merv recorded it.

RTJ

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