Salutations from the Geek-o Nation!
Thanks for taking time out from sharing grammatically incorrect memes to read my fifth column for RPM. Last month, after turning a dodgy Black Crowes comic-book into an unsolved murder case, I promised that October’s column would be something of a spooktakular in the run-up to All Hallow’s Eve. A man of my word, I now throw my horns in the direction of a mid-Eighties issue of the World’s most famous horror magazine where both metal and punk were honoured via the Gospel according to the Church of the Cathode Ray.
I wrote previously of the long-lost music magazine, Rock Video (later Hard Rock Video), which was created to cash in on the popularity explosion detonated by MTV. Well, just like how the Star Wars cash cow saw George Lucas characters force their way onto almost every magazine cover in the 1970s (from The House of Hammer to Titbits – I have proof!), the 1980s found the stars of Music Television moonwalk all over magazine front covers, unhindered by the title’s original USP. Fangoria, arguably the greatest horror movie magazine of all time (my favourite, certainly), was one such example that succumbed to the evil powers of punk ‘n’ roll.
Let’s backtrack a little: Fangoria debuted in 1979 with a Godzilla cover and, over its first six issues, also featured Star Trek, Arabian Adventure, and Star Wars (told you!) as cover stars. Yes, it was certainly more of a fantasy-based magazine until issue 7 when they slapped The Shining on the cover, and then followed it up with a now-iconic Zombie Flesh Eaters cover. Subsequently, throughout the Eighties Fango was the go-to tome for all that was happening in horror. A bit like how Kerrang! was essential Wednesday reading for every rock and metal fan… before it went shit. Fangoria never really went shit – it flirted with disaster in the confused Nineties when it put Jurassic Park and other such commercial fodder on the cover – but it did go out of production earlier this decade. Happily, it has been relaunched as a print magazine and balance in the horror movie world has been restored.
Fangoria, this century, has had its share of rock stars grace the cover. Alice Cooper has been on there, Gene Simmons too, and Rob Zombie’s movies (some of them good) have featured several times. Back in the mag’s Eighties halcyon days, however, it was a little more difficult to get a hard rocker to windmill a monster or ghoul off the front cover. Alice Cooper did, via his limited music video skirmish with Jason Voorhees, poison the front page of a volume of The Bloody Best Of Fangoria compendium, but it took a head-biting madman’s visit to Holloway Sanitorium to guarantee a cover proper.
“Rock Video’s Gruesome FX!” screamed the headline on the cover of Fangoria #35 from early 1984. Beneath the words, ‘Bark at the Moon’ era Ozzy Osbourne in full werewolf mode! Beside him, on the magazine’s iconic ‘film strip’ side panel, a shot from the Ramones’ ‘Psycho Therapy’ music video – yes, Fango had been bitten by the MTV bug and, thankfully, the editor had decided that metal- and punk-related music video was the avenue down which it would stagger.
Via a skewed version of the Ozzy story (dead pigeon pulled out of bag at record company meeting; biting the head off what looked like a rubber bird, etc) the cultured Fangoria reader spent little time waiting for darkness as the five-page article – entitled ‘Makeup’s Greatest Hits’ – detailed the cover art of Ozzy’s ‘Bark at the Moon’ album from the previous year, and the accompanying music video for the title track by way of an interview with make-up FX artist, Greg Cannom, who was recommended for the werewolf-centric duties due to his work as a key crew member on Joe Dante’s 1981 love letter to lycanthropes, The Howling. He had also appeared (wearing his own make-up) in Michael Jackson’s Thriller; in fact, the last face that you see in that epic music video’s fade-out is Cannom’s.
Cannom was faced with two major problems: one, Ozzy’s werewolf make-up was needed in just one week and, two, Sharon Osbourne (who now has a pretend face that deserves to be on a Fangoria cover) was sure that nobody could keep her old man to sit still in a chair for five hours to have make-up appliances stuck all over his face and body. Cannom, of course, overcame both issues, backed by a team that included a young Kevin Yagher. Yagher provided make-up FX for some of the Eighties’ most celebrated movies (three Elm Street flicks, a Friday the 13th sequel, Child’s Play, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to name but several) and, heavy metal horror movie fans, played the guitarist offed by Sammi Curr at the high school Halloween party in Trick or Treat, after having designed the Skeezix monster for the film’s scene with the naked girl and melting ears – you know what I’m writing about! Yagher was part of Cannom’s U.S. team (he made Ozzy’s teeth and finger extensions) working on both the ‘Bark at the Moon’ album cover and music video featuring, you may be surprised to learn, two different Ozzy werewolf designs.
Says it all about the power of MTV in the early Eighties, but Cannom viewed the album cover shoot as a test for the upcoming video shoot, where his U.K. team (based at Shepperton Studios for the album cover shoot, and on location at the aforementioned Holloway Sanitorium for the music video) had much more time to work on the FX. Still, though, as iconic as the Ozzy werewolf look has become, Cannom was disappointed that the make-up was not shown more in the video’s final cut. That disappointment was surely tempered by his recruitment to the ‘Shooting Shark’ music video by Blue Öyster Cult, alongside Rick Lazzarini…
Lazzarini features in the article due to his work with The Tubes. The band found him as a promising fifteen-year-old wannabe make-up artist and, aged seventeen, he went on to tour with KISS as a pyrotechnician. He actually helped invent a formula for the stage blood to be spat out by Gene Simmons. “He wanted something that would be healthy if you swallowed it,” Lazzarini informed Fangoria via a sentence that obviously went right over my youthful head. “We wound up using a mixture of egg whites, some flour to thicken it, and red food coloring, ” he continued. “It had to be warmed a bit too because [Gene] didn’t want to take it cold.” Some Demon, eh?!
Simmons didn’t make the cover then, though, did he? No, but the Ramones did. Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, From Beyond) and Anthony Showe (Elm Street 2, Chopping Mall) designed and executed the effects in the music video for ‘Psycho Therapy’, the track pulled from 1983’s ‘Subterranean Jungle’ album for potential MTV acclaim. Not actually being able to meet the legendary band on the video’s three-day shoot – the band were used for the first two days, with the third used for pick-ups and effects – Shostrom and Showe created a monstrous character called the Teenage Dope Fiend – the TDF – that, when about to have a lobotomy in the psycho ward, would have its head split open and its ‘alter ego’ emerge.
This effect, straight out of a typical Eighties horror flick, didn’t go down well with people at both the record label, Warner Brothers (owners of Sire Records), and MTV. The effect was subsequently accomplished “dry” without “unpleasant gore, slime, or other viscous substances.” Even though the video was shot bloodless, people still walked out of the screening room when the video was first shown to the MTV hierarchy.
Shostrom expected special make-up FX to become an increasing part of the rock video phenomenon because, “just by the nature of the music” the possibilities for visuals and make-up of all kinds were great. YouTube Jani Lane’s smile in the ‘Cherry Pie’ video and tell me that this guy wasn’t some kind of Eighties Nostradamus!
With a full-page ad for a poster of Greg Hildebrandt’s ‘Dance of Death’ artwork, and the back cover devoted to Rock Video magazine – “Be Part of the Rock Video Explosion!” – Fangoria #35 blurred the lines between rock and horror and this twelve-year-old kid couldn’t have been happier. Well, until Trick or Treat, Hard Rock Zombies, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, Blood Tracks, and Black Roses hit the video shops at least…
As ever, thanks for reading. I shall return in November with an article dedicated to a sequel to one of the best worst movies ever that you probably don’t even know exists! Death to False Metal!
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