I love good seasonal novelty songs. No matter the season or holiday, I love them. Christmas is around the corner, with its many goofy songs about Santa, Jesus, and the whole red and green affair, but it has overwhelmingly more novelty songs than any other season. And with Christmas creeping into stores and our social consciousness earlier and earlier every year, it threatens to overshadow another season with equally amazing, but less obtrusive, novelty music: Halloween.
Though, like it’s jolly holiday compatriot, Halloween radio channels and playlists tend to be dominated by the same songs over and over again. And while those songs are great, I love diving into the more nontraditional and obscure sounds of spooky season. I spent last week’s blog discussing my approach to building a Halloween playlist for each day of the month of October, but this week’s entry highlights the capstone that ends the playlist. As is tradition, I like to do a Halloween entry about a spooky novelty song I love. And this year marks the silver anniversary of one of my favorites.
I remember where I was when I first heard Jan Terri. She’s not a familiar to, well, anyone. However, she does have her fans and I am one of them. She came to my attention during freshman year of college, a time when online streaming video was making the awkward transition from an open source to see content on demand to something that could be organized enough to be monetized. This was a period when the wild west days of YouTube were over, and rights holders and content providers were wrangling their content as the guys in suits tried to figure out how to make a buck as the landscape of content creation and distribution was changing.
I was a curious nerd and pop culture junkie who hung out with other curious nerds and pop culture junkies, with my core friend base being the students in the college radio station. We loved obscure references to things, especially music, and would share what treasures we cold uncover on the internet. I know that all sounds so obviously hipsterish, and I’m glad I’ve moved (somewhat) away from that, but those were the priorities at the time in carving out a weirdo personality.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was an early adopter at digitizing content and archiving shows on their own website. You were able to go onto their site and watch full-length episodes or clips from any point in the show’s history. You can do that now, I know, but it was incredible in 2007. This was before “Netflix and chill” and Facebook stories and everything else that allows us to take the endless barrage of streaming video for granted.
Someone had come across a recorded news package piece from The Daily Show that originally aired on May 1st, 2000. They were profiling a short, blond women with a speech impediment about her life and cult popularity. Born in Chicago in 1959, this woman was a limo driver who had a burning passion for music. She recorded two albums between 1993 and 1994, Baby Blues and High Risk respectively, giving copies of her albums, as well as VHS tapes of her music videos, to her limo clients. Towards the end of the 1990s, shock rocker Marilyn Manson was turned onto this limo driver musician and invited her out tour with him from 1998 to 1999. Now, at the turn of the millennium, the world, or at least the audience for Comedy Central, were introduced to the greatness that is Jan Terri.
Now, the piece The Daily Show produced on Jan Terri was meant to highlight the singer’s peculiar style, finding humor in her lisp and just general attitude and ways about thinking. This was a comedy show and this person had comedic appeal. Though a one-time piece for a satirical news show, the advent of YouTube would carry the torch of distributing Jan Terri’s music and videos for whole new audiences laughing incredulously at this performer giving the world all she has.
“Losing You,” perhaps her most well-known song as well as my introduction, features Jan Terri wailing about the only man that matters as she spends the video riding around in a limo and singing by what looks like a water filtration system. It is funny because it is so earnest and underground. Though, I know I was laughing for different reasons. While others around me watched and found humor in Jan Terri’s music in this ironic “so good, it’s bad” way, I was sincere. I really like Jan Terri’s music. I’m drawn to anything that makes me laugh and it makes me appreciate it more. I don’t believe in liking something ironically because it establishes a hierarchy between yourself and the work of art, as if to suggest the art is somehow beneath you. If I like something, I own up to it. As you should too.
So, over the years, I have continued my adoration and appreciation of Jan Terri. I listen to her new music and even follow her on social media, where she now lives in Los Angeles and post pictures of her dog and tweets what meals she is making. She also turned 60 this year and even congratulated me on a recent professional milestone I posted on Facebook. I’m social media friends with one of my favorite underground musicians that originated in the city I love and call home. And that is fantastic.
“Losing You,” while being her most famous video, did not make the rounds in my college radio station as much as her Halloween song “Get Down Goblin” did. We even ripped the audio and played the song on-air during Halloween rotation. Recorded in 1994, but not available on an album until it’s appearance on Jan Terri’s 2013 self-released album The Wild One, “Get Down Goblin” is a fun song about all the classic monsters coming together for a party. Though not as famous as that other monster party song, but this one has synthesizers and a video of babes dancing in a spooky mansion. What more can you ask for on Halloween?