Like a whole lot of rock music, horror literature often taunts and haunts and commands and teases us into asking what’s actually perverse, and who says so, and who asked them? Even the kind of horror I write– which, when it isn’t Motherless Child and sometimes, even when it is, tends toward the melancholy and moody as opposed to the gory and giddy– hovers over houses we supposedly don’t want to visit, inhabited by people we’re not meant to know, down streets we’re warned never to walk.
And maybe we shouldn’t walk there. Or linger there. Certainly not stay there.
Except that they have so much cooler cats…
Take the ones that keep crossing Tommy Collins’ path on this 1960 track. A snipped couplet from it heads the first chapter in Motherless narrated by the monster — the Whistler himself. In the song, felines keep dodging in front of our walking man, herding him out his way, across a street, and finally out of town toward an old oak tree where he finds…
The lonely girl of his dreams?
The genius in the song is its sweetness, the way it takes a symbol of superstitious fear– perversion, even– and flips it on its paddy-pawed back. In this joyride’s most deliciously rhythmic moment, our hero “smiled at the kitty/and petted it,” on his way to lifelong bliss with the lonely girl to whom the cats have led him. “A black cat never hurt me…we’re going to have two or three…”
Right there, of course, is where the horror writer in me pricks up its ears. Just what does that last line mean? Two or three… kids? Cats? Sentient kid-cat familiars born to lure unsuspecting others out of town, toward the lone oak tree?
Would it be so terrible, in the end, if you were one of them? (The lured, I mean. Although now that I think about it…)
So in my book of songs, or song-book, it’s the Whistler who smiles at the kitty, pets it. He’s the source of the superstition, after all, and the superstition itself. The path you shouldn’t cross, and the reason you want to.
If you search online, you’ll come across a series of compilations of early garage and rockabilly tracks ostensibly put together by Lux and Ivy from the Cramps. The compilations are a blast, gleeful and playful and sleazy and innocent. They purr and they hiss, good-natured and bad-tempered. Transgressive and transcendent.
Relationships worth having.
Days worth living.