Heathmont, Melbourne 1976
Welcome to my nightmare. I think you’re gonna like it. I think you’re gonna feel like you belong …
It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon in Heathmont sometime in 1976 when I disappeared down the rabbit hole of Alice Cooper’s dark and twisted nightmare. All appeared—on the surface, at least—to be well with the world. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the smell of freshly mown grass hung heavy in the air.
My best friend Mark and I were skateboarding up and down the driveway of his house—trying not to hit his corgis—when I became aware of a noise emanating from the open window of Mark’s older brother’s bedroom. It was music, yes, but not like any I’d heard before. It was full of doom, discord and menace. And instead of singing, just an ominous monologue (by a man I later recognized as the B-grade horror film star Vincent Price) creepily praising the lethal power of spiders and predicting the decline of mankind in favour of a greater and more worthy contender:
And here, my prize, the Black Widow. Isn’t she lovely?.. and so deadly. Her kiss is fifteen times as poisonous as that of the rattlesnake. You see her venom is highly neurotoxic, which is to say that it attacks the central nervous system causing intense pain, profuse sweating, difficulty in breathing, loss of consciousness, violent convulsions and, finally … er … death.
You know what I think I love the most about her is her inborn need to dominate, possess. In fact, immediately after the consummation of her marriage to the smaller and weaker male of the species she kills and eats him – *laugh* oh, she is delicious.. and I hope he was! Such power and dignity – unhampered by sentiment.
If I may put forward a slice of personal philosophy, I feel that man has ruled this world as a stumbling demented child-king long enough! And as his empire crumbles, my precious Black Widow shall rise as his most fitting successor!
At that point the music swelled to a crescendo and then a new voice—whispering and mysterious—urged us to take the warning seriously.
These words he speaks are true!
We’re all humanary stew!
If we don’t pledge allegiance to
THE BLACK WIDOW!!!
Devil’s Food – and The Black Widow – are the perfect fusion of comic book, horror film and rock and roll and if you’re the right type of impressionable fourteen-year-old – raised on a diet of urban myth, lurid science fiction and B-grade horror – there’s no coming back from a moment like that. You just can’t. You won’t. And we didn’t.
Mark and I ditched our skateboards and spent every day of the rest of those school holidays sitting in his living room with the blinds closed immersed in the dark nightmare of his brother’s extensive collection of Alice Cooper records. We listened to all the classics—Killer, Billion Dollar Babies, School’s Out and Muscle of Love. Songs about teenage nihilism, mental illness, black juju voodoo and getting it on with dead people. What was not to like? Our favourite was his 1971 album, Love it to Death. The cover featured Cooper wearing a dress posed with his thumb protruding from the front so it appeared to be his penis. Now THIS was music—and an album cover—that 14-year-old freaks like us could really get behind.
Back at school we formed a DEVIANT society in honour of our new hero and even managed to convince two other friends to join up. We pricked our thumbs with a compass in maths class and mingled the blood and swore that from now on we would devote ourselves to the dark side.
Did we commune with the spirits of the undead by means of a ouija board?
Well, no … we didn’t have one.
Did we go down to the crossroads and sell our souls to Satan in exchange for the ability to play guitar as well as Glenn Buxton, Neil Bruce and Denis Dunaway?
No, of course not. We weren’t allowed out after 9pm.
Did we conduct wild satanic orgies that culminated in a blood sacrifice on nights of full moons?
Well, no, we all went to a boy’s school and none of us even knew any girls, let alone had ever had a girlfriend, so the likelihood of us being able to organise a satanic sex orgy seemed a little ambitious, to say the least.
But every Friday the 13th we DID make a point of sitting up to watch the all-night horror movie marathons on Channel O hosted by Deadly Earnest and I DID carry a dead bird’s leg around in my lunch box for a full term before my mother discovered it and made me throw it out. I don’t know why. It’s not like it was unhygienic or anything … I mean, it was wrapped in Gladwrap.
These days I’ve mostly given up carrying dead things around in my lunchbox but I’ll always remember that sleepy Sunday afternoon when the gates of hell opened in Heathmont. Alice was right. I did like his nightmare. And I felt like I belonged.
© Andy Griffiths. Andy, author of The Treehouse series of books, is one of Australia’s most popular children’s writers.
This story is a shortened version of a story that was part of a Liner Notes show in Melbourne in October 2015.
Andy performed this story at Stereo Stories In Concert at the 2016 Williamstown Literary Festival. He will be presenting a new story at the 2017 festival on 17 June. Tickets available from 4 May.