In the Netflix adaption of Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, the ghostly Poppy sings a gory old murder ballad to a member of the trapped family - a scene which I believe also appears in Jackson's source novel. That song has many names, but Jackson herself knew it as The Grattan Murders, and sometimes sang it to her delighted children as a lullaby. One of those children recently read my PlanetSlade piece about the real-life 1893 Indiana family massacre which inspired the song and got in touch, offering to sing it for me in her mother's trademark style. Here's the video.
Unprepared to Die's 2015 Soundcheck Books' edition dropped out of print when its publisher closed up shop. That was frustrating because Soundcheck's demise happened to coincide with the book's appearance in Dolly Parton's America, which prompted quite a bit of interest in it just as there were no longer any copies to sell. Now the rights have reverted to me and I've put out a new self-published edition using the original text (with a brand-new cover). Here's a collection of the book's reviews, plus a YouTube video explaining the project's genesis and some bonus material from Billy Bragg, Mick Harvey and the other musicians I interviewed about these fascinating songs. [more inside]
My Christmas present to myself this year was commissioning a brand-new piece of colour artwork from the Eisner-winning cartoonist Roger Langridge (Bill & Ted, The Muppets, Fred the Clown etc). You can find the brief I set him below the fold and the finished drawing he produced on this PlanetSlade page. I think it’s rather wonderful. [more inside]
I've just posted the first three of my Bushranger Ballads song essays, telling the True Crime stories behind Bold Jack Donohoe, The Wild Colonial Boy and The Death of Peter Clark. These songs belong to a genre of 19th century Australian ballads celebrating the colony's cheekiest and most successful highwaymen. The new essays are a PlanetSlade Murder Ballads Production, and join last September's background essay on bushranger songs which we've discussed previously. [more inside]
A cop called Brady drives up in his electric car, determined to kill someone. He enters a gambling joint, walks up to the barman – whose surname is Duncan – and tells him he’s under arrest. Duncan responds by shooting Brady in the chest at point-blank range, killing him instantly. The only explanation we get for any of this is that Brady’s “been on the job too long”. That’s the tale told by the classic murder ballad Duncan & Brady, and it contains a lot more truth than you might imagine. The date was October 6, 1890, and here’s what really happened. [more inside]