The concept of the “living dead” has been an obsession of mine ever since I was a child. My introduction was the movie “Night of the Living Dead.”
I watched “Night of the Living Dead” every day after school. In fact, every day was a double-feature of sameness: Night of the Living Dead and Blazing Saddles. I memorized all the dialogue of both movies. I could tell you the exact number of times mother was stabbed with a hand shovel, (16) as well as recite all of Cleavon Little’s choice lines. (“Baby please, I’m not from Havana.”)
Eventually, I insisted to my parents that I wanted to see “Return of the Living Dead.” Since I was already an auteur of some ROMERO zombie mythos, I felt confident that “Return of the Living Dead” would be just another zombie movie I could catalogue and re-watch with fascination. They acquiesced.
The first twenty minutes I laughed along with my folks. I got the dark humour, the slapstick comedy of the terminal duo exposed to the fictitious chemical 2-4-5 trioxin.
Then I saw tar man…
I was terrified for months. I could not sleep alone. Visions of “tar man” would haunt my dreams each night. Tar Man’s image over-shadowed the brilliant comedy of the film. Unblinking eyeballs, perfectly pink tongue nestled in a melting face; who wouldn’t feel a tad uncomfortable? That describes my grade school history teacher.
But Tar Man was one of the easier nightmares to manage. The two that did me in was the claustrophobic ending in the crawl space, when one of the protagonists, exposed to the trioxin gas in the beginning, fully transformed into his new brain-lusting state. The other, was the wish-fulfillment of voluptuous punk vixen Trash.
What unsettled me about the film is that it was the first movie I could recall where the villains were unstoppable. No weaknesses aside from “the pain of being dead.” They were grotesque, sentient, malevolent and funny.
“Send more paramedics.”
They were created by a chemical accident, which was a reality seen on the news so often back then. In my stupid child brain, chemical-induced resurrection seemed all too plausible.
On a visceral level, transformation was depicted as sexual and violent. I saw this movie before I reached puberty. I will speculate using a Freudian perspective that those images on the screen were processed by me as messages that I would become a violent sexual monster once my pubes grew in.
So, this song “Evening Flesh:”
Two memories of the song appear:
1) March 14th 2006 was when the lyric “waning mid spring thaw” was written. It was that little scrap that has such a vivid memory. I was in my car during my work-lunch break. March in Ontario is a miserable sport of watching the sickly yellow grass triumph over the soot sodden slush of expired snowfall.
The word “Waning” is used because the March thaw is a fallacy, and the true thaw does not happen until May. The March thaw is a brief spark of hope before the snow storms of reality spectre until the second week of April. But those storms are welcomed, because the snow makes everything look less sick. Less decayed.
I was listening to an instrumental version of this song on that March 14th. Seeing Canada’s polite attempt to produce spring served as the climate for this song.
2) As I sang the Evening Flesh lyrics into the Neumann TLM 103 microphone, I was given the following vision:
She was buried in a white dress, made of sturdy cotton devoid of trim and ornamentation. It was efficient, not feminine. Buried by poor shovels and even poorer rituals. The cold legacy of agricultural heritage.
For a moment, the ground is soft.
That night, I left the door unlocked.
On the surface, Evening Flesh is a Neruda inspired ode to a lover who returned from the dead and found her way home. For the living dead purists, the lover is not a fast zombie.
Below the surface, the song is about submitting to an all-consuming passion.
Thanks to mom for confirming the chronology of my zombie movie obsession, and providing a bed to hide from Tar Man.
Evening Flesh is on the Christopher album “Torched Laughter” which can be purchased through itunes or www.cdbaby.com/christophermusic2
No brains required.