RETURN OF THE ED WOOD ZONE!
One rainy Sunday afternoon in the late spring of 2000 I was poking around on the old MP3.Com site looking for songs from Milford. MP3.Com allowed unsigned artists to upload their music to the Internet, and you could search by song, by artist, and even by town. If I found anything from Milford or Frenchtown, I was going to do a column about it. Eventually some local folks did post music there, and I did write about it, but that Sunday MP3.Com suffered from a dearth of music from the Delaware Valley.
So I typed the name "Tor Johnson" into the search engine. I dont know why. Tor was the enormous Swedish wrestler who appears in several movies by Ed Wood, lurching around with his eyeballs rolled up and tripping over the cardboard tombstones. I like to think Im not the kind of guy who types "Tor Johnson" into a search engine apropos of nothing, but maybe I am.
To my surprise, there was a song on MP3.Com called "Tor Johnson!" At this point I think most people would have said, "Imagine that!" and called it a day, but I am not most people. I typed the names of other actors from Ed Wood movies, and the names of the movies themselves, and I got hit after hit. There must have been 5 different bands named "Plan Nine" or "Plan 9"; there were not one but two different songs called "Orgy of the Dead," tons of songs about Bela Lugosi (virtually all of which, I discovered upon listening, were largely concerned with his Ed Wood period), songs about Vampira, about Criswell (including a great song called "Criswells Corpses" from a band called Kill Machine out of Phillipsburg). In 40 minutes Id assembled maybe a dozen Ed Wood songs. This became the first version of my Internet radio station, The Ed Wood Zone. (The Mp3.com "Internet Radio Stations" were really playlists with options to "play all" or download selected tracks).
Of course everybody knows about Ed Wood now, 15 years after Johnny Depp played him in a big budget Hollywood movie and his movies have been released in an angora-lined box set, but Id been fascinated by him ever since I was a film student at NYU 30 years ago. Ed Wood was the ultimate There-but-for-the-grace-of-God example for all aspiring moviemakers. It wasnt so much that the movies were badlots of people make bad movies, and his were a lot more entertaining than most of them. No, there was a story about Ed that haunted all of us: supposedly hed shot a sequel to "Plan Nine" but it had been sitting in the lab for over 20 years because he didnt have enough money to pay the lab fees. At age 19 I could not imagine anything worse than making a movie that remained unreleased for 20 years because I was broke. Could the story possibly be true?
Not quite. It was really a sequel to "Bride of the Monster." Its called "Night of the Ghouls" and decades after Woods death some enterprising fan paid the lab fees and put it out on VHS.
Its incredibly bad. Well, its from the mind that conceived "Plan Nine from Outer Space," after all.
Do you remember what the plan nine in "Plan Nine from Outer Space" was? Why, it was the plan to reanimate a couple of dead bodies and make them stumble around a Hollywood cemetery so the earth people would be too scaredor somethingto develop a solaronite bomb (dont ask). Im guessing plan eight was setting a bag of manure on fire on somebodys doorstep and then ringing the doorbell and hiding in the bushes.
Yet as bad as all the Ed Wood movies areand without exception, they are very, very badtheres something there. The same demented enthusiasm that makes them ridiculous saves them from being contemptible.
Or maybe not.
But enough musicians found something to respond to that I never ran out of Ed Wood songs on MP3.Com. I was constantly finding new ones. The denizons of MP3.Com were so cool they not only wrote about Eds famous science fiction debacles, and of course his proto-gender-bender "Glen or Glenda," but about his later forays into cheesy exploitation movies ("The Violent Years," "Orgy of the Dead") and even his berserk novels ("Killer in Drag," "Hell Chicks"). When I ran out of Ed Wood movie titles, I typed Ed Wood related phrases into the search engine Id recall, for instance, the cardboard tombstones flapping in the breeze in "Plan 9," or Martin Landau battling with a totally inert mechanical octopus in Tim Burtons Ed Wood movie because nobody remembered to bring the motor. Id type in "Cardboard Tombstone" or "Octopus Motor"and Id find "Cardboard Tombstone" by The EndS or "Octopus Motor" by SpEnt FiXer. Both groups had odd ideas about where capital letters are supposed to go but they wrote great songs. In fact, a lot of the songs in The Ed Wood Zone were really goodnot "so bad its good," but genuinely good. Yeah, some of the folks in the Ed Wood Zone were teenage metalheads with 3 chords and the inability to come up with a rhyme for "Wood," but others were wonderful musicians. And I... well, maybe "loved" is too strong, but I was really happy to have them all in the Ed Wood Zone, from the kid who called himself "Trashface" and posted a song called "Jailbait" (it was 45 seconds of wordless grunting and screaming) something like 40 minutes after I complained in my weekly update that nobody on MP3.com had recorded a song called "Jailbait," to the Trenton-based classical composer Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, whose contribution "Brand Nine from Outer Space" was a 5 minute chamber piece scored for piano and string quartet.
And some people actually wrote songs specifically for the Ed Wood Zonenot just the aforementioned Trashface, but the group Prewar Yardsale, and a fellow called Godmonster (he came up with three numbers!), and the 16-year old wunderkind Naomi Hall, whose totally off-the-wall "Bride of the Monster" is my favorite Ed Wood Zone song, bar none.
Eventually I had so many great Ed Wood songs that I felt I must share them with the world. So I selected an hour's worth of my favorites, added some Ed Wood-related songs from elsewhere, and sent a proposal and a CD-R to Rhino Records. I felt Rhino was an ideal choice because theyd recently released the aforementioned angora-lined box set of Ed Wood videos.
Rhino sent my CD-R and my proposal back with a polite note. When I opened the letter I must have had that look on my face you see on American Idol contestants when they find out for the first time that theyre totally tone deaf. How can this be??
Not long after that MP3.Com was sold and the Ed Wood Zone came to an end.
This Saturday [March 17th 2007], as part of WFMUs 365 Day Project 2007, The Ed Wood Zone is back! If you go to
you will find not only my liner notes but SIX GREAT ED WOOD SONGS FROM THE ED WOOD ZONE! (youll also find all the other stuff from the 365 Day Project, and boy will you be sorry). Yes, you can download them and make your very own Ed Wood Zone CD, and theres even a spiffy cover illustration by the cartoonist Libby Reid, and you can download that too. And you dont have to rush. It goes up Saturday March 17th (Day 76) but its going to be there forever.
Or at least as long as "Night of the Ghouls" was locked up in the lab.
To read my original blurbs for some of the songs from The Ed Wood Zone, click here.