Mr. Mixtape-ptlk, Track #11: "Cemetery Girls" by Barnes & Barnes (1980)

OK, time to get creepy. I mean, really, really creepy. Unless you are the type who is actually into the sort of thing they are talking about in this song, and then I guess it wouldn't be creepy in the least bit to you. But for the vast majority of people, myself included, it's a pretty creepy subject, even when it is just part of a joke.

Though I am prone to say "good and creepy," because while the act of necrophilia described in the song Cemetery Girls is certainly not "good" by any measure, the song is by the infamous duo of Barnes & Barnes. So, for me, it's going to fall into the "good" category. Oh, but still yet into the "creepy" one as well.

I was originally planning to have another Barnes & Barnes track from later in their career as a selection on this mix, a medley of Wax Your Carrot/The Boogie Man and Dan, but then realized that I had used it on an earlier compilation. But I still wanted to get some B&B on the mix, so I switched to an equally strange track, but one that had any extra layer of sickness ladled over the top of it.

Before we go any further, if you have not heard the song already, I implore the strong-willed, open-minded, and musically adventurous among you to listen to Cemetery Girls first. If you decide to get out while the getting is good, that's fine, but I will think you are a wimp. And if you do wimp out, you will miss out on some very odd sampled references that take place during the song that at one point were clues to the quite famous identity of one half of the then-mysterious, masked band. Lyrics are just below... if you dare!!! Mwahahahaha!!!



Cemetery Girls
(Art and Artie Barnes)

"I love to dance with cemetery girls
The moon comes out the earth unfurls

No time to waste the hours fade
They come awake the dead parade

(Chorus)
Fresh souls in the cornfield
Anthony put them there
And it's good, it's real good
[Anthony: You be dead!]

I love to kiss the cemetery girls
Their lips are hard, blank eyes like pearls

I call them up, they come to me
A zombie pomp pure ecstasy

(Chorus)
Fresh souls in the cornfield
Anthony put them there
And it's good, it's real good

I love to sleep with cemetery girls
Their legs are cold, sweet dusty curls

Pale, pale breasts pressed to my cheek
When we make love, stiff muscles creak

(Chorus)
Fresh souls in the cornfield
Anthony put them there
And it's good, it's real good

I love to love the cemetery girls
I love to love the cemetery girls
I love to love the cemetery girls
I wish they all could be cemetery girls... Yeah!"

See, that wasn't so hard, was it? Just a nice, normal "boy meets girl, who happens to be cold and dead, and so are all of her friends" kind of song. It's a sweeping, Ed Gein-style romance brought to life with spooky synth sounds that really do make it feel like you are taking a slow walk through a graveyard at night stalking your latest... conquest.

As with almost every single Barnes & Barnes song, the final word in the lyrics is "Yeah," which, depending on the particular song, is sometimes very obvious, sometimes not so. This time out, the "Yeah" comes as the tag after they briefly take a detour from their song's basic melody to cross over into Beach Boys territory to spoof the hook from the song California Girls.

But there is something else loose in this song besides the vivid description of laying down to make sweet love to female corpses. Floating about in each chorus is the voice of a very bossy little boy, saying things like "You're a bad man! You're a very bad man!" If you do not recognize the voice, the lyrics "Anthony put them there!" and "It's good, it's real good!" and further nods to fresh souls being out in the cornfield are direct references to an old episode of The Twilight Zone called It's A Good Life, for which show creator and host Rod Serling wrote the screenplay, based on a short story by Jerome Bixby. 

It's A Good Life is about six-year-old Anthony Fremont, who can read minds, bend wills, and pretty much create or do anything he wants with his absolutely god-like powers. When people do not think happy thoughts about Anthony, he can turn them into monstrous horrors and then wishes the result away "to the cornfield," which is shorthand for burying them away forever. And with the entire town of Peaksville utterly afraid of Anthony, thinking happy thoughts becomes a very hard thing to accomplish, but thinking how to stop Anthony is treasonous and very dangerous.

The episode is considered by many critics to be one of the best stories ever put on television, and is famous enough to have been remade when The Twilight Zone was adapted for the big screen in 1983. (The segment was directed by director Joe Dante, whose next project would be Gremlins.)

So, what is the connection of It's A Good Life to Cemetery Girls, besides someone wanting to sample a sound clip or two to add to an already creepy song? At the time of the song's release on their debut album Voobaha, Barnes & Barnes were completely (and purposely) unknown to the public. They had made their breakthrough in 1978 with the ultra-wacky song Fish Heads, which went huge after Dr. Demento started playing it and then Saturday Night Live played the video for the song two weeks back to back. Barnes & Barnes wear masks in the video, which, unbelievably, was directed by a pre-fame Bill Paxton, who also appears in the video, along with Dr. Demento. The pair are also masked on the cover of Voobaha, further obscuring their identities, but that doesn't mean they didn't playfully leave a trail of breadcrumbs.

Cemetery Girls has all of these added references to It's A Good Life for one solid reason: while Barnes & Barnes go by the names Art and Artie, even to this very day, when performing together, when they finally revealed themselves in the early 1980s, they turned out to be musician Robert Haimer and actor/musician Bill Mumy. Once upon a time, Bill Mumy was a child actor named Billy Mumy, who played the super-smart, boy inventor Will Robinson on the Lost in Space TV show. But years before that role, Mumy essayed the role of demonic little Anthony Fremont, the boy who sends people who don't think happy thoughts out to the cornfield in It's A Good Life on The Twilight Zone.

The idea of mashing up confusion about Mumy's identity with a song about necrophilia shouldn't work on paper. But, despite the crudeness and "sick" humor in the subject matter, in circling back to that "good and creepy" definition earlier, this song has such a haunting quality to it, that I cannot help but want to include in a Halloween mixtape. Besides, Barnes & Barnes were never known for their subtlety when it came to wishing to shock audiences. Some other tracks on their albums include Boogie Woogie Amputee, Kiss Me Where It Stinks, The Public Toilet, Feminine Parts, Sit On My Lap and Call Me Daddy, Pussy Whipped, Work the Meat, Party in My Pants, and Swallow My Love. Some of these songs actually do involve clever wordplay and twists, and some of them are about exactly what you think they are about. But nobody coming to a Barnes & Barnes song is expecting it to be a walk in the park. 

A walk through a cemetery at midnight, though... maybe. And if that walk maybe involves kissing a girl or two in the cemetery, so be it...

RTJ

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