Ghouls Just Want To Have Fun: Doug Gordon on The Zombeatles (Part One)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you will have noticed that zombies are taking over the entertainment industry.

Case in point, the Zombeatles. You can get a taste of their music in this highly popular YouTube video, “A Hard Day’s Night of the Living Dead.” Some readers may find the band hard on their eyes and ears, but others will quickly fall under their spell.

The Zombeatles first caused a stir in Madison, Wisconsin, where I did my graduate work, so I’ve been hearing alerts about their appearances for some time, and figured it was time to do a shout out to them here. At first, I was horrified by the prospect of Zombies performing on State Street, but then I realized that this perspective was small-minded of me. Cultural Studies scholars have long been committed to lending their voices to those who are voiceless in our society and to helping our readers to understand phenomenon which may disturb or disrupt the operations of the dominant system. Clearly, learning to appreciate Zombie music (and tracing its roots back to the cultural experiences of Zombie-Americans) requires us to think outside the box. It has required much less flexibility on the part of the media industries who have proven all too eager to cater to the tastes of any significant consumer niche and who are constantly trying to dig up new talent to circulate through the global media marketplace.

A new documentary, All We Need is Brains, recounts the story of the rise of the Zombeatles in all of its gory details, sharing not only some hit songs, such as “I Want to Eat Your Hand,” “Hey, Food,” and “P.S. I Love Eating You.” I had a chance to watch the film over the weekend and while it churned my stomack and made my blood curdle, it also opened my head to some new experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. This may make me sound like a spinless intellectual but this film helped me to wrap my brain around the Zombeatles. Here’s a preview of the documentary which is circulating on the web.

You can order your very own copy here. And if this music makes your heart skip a beat or two, you can also order their new album, Meat the Zombeatles. Neither is going to cost you an arm and a leg and it’s safe to say that you won’t ever hear anything like their music again.

Doug Gordon, a Wisconsin Public Radio producer, has emerged as the mouth of the Zombeatles and he agreed to share with us what’s on his mind. He certainly provided me with a lot of information to sink my teeth into. So let’s give him a hand for helping out here.

Can you give us a little background on the Zombeatles and how they impacted contemporary popular music?

Jaw Nlennon and Pall IcKartney met as art students in Pool of Liver, England back in 1957. They were bitten by some skiffle zombies. The skiffle zombies transmitted the “solanum” virus that creates zombies (as discussed in Max Brooks’ book, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead“) to Nlennon and IcKartney. These skiffle zombies were also suffering from “rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu” (or, as it’s more colloquially known, “a bad case of loving you”); this infectious disease was also passed on to Nlennon and IcKartney when the skiffle zombies bit them.

The combination of these two diseases transformed Nlennon and IcKartney into music-loving zombies. They soon developed a voracious appetite for human brains and for writing and performing original songs about their voracious appetite for human brains. The old adage, “Write what you know,” was clearly not lost on these unlively lads. They formed a zombie skiffle group called The Gory Men. Guitarist Gorge Harryson joined the combo a short time later. The band realized that they would probably be able to rock out a bit more if they had a drummer so they tried to recruit Eat Breast to pound the skins for them. Breast was reluctant to join The Gory Men because of their name, as he felt it was a little too “on the nose.” So the band changed their name to The Zombeatles and Breast took his place behind the drum kit.

However, The Fab Gore’s producer, Gorge Mortem, had reservations about Breast. Mortem thought that Breast couldn’t keep up with the other Zombeatles; he couldn’t eat enough brains. So Breast was dismissed and replaced by Dingo Scarr, the recently-deceased drummer for the popular zombie rock combo, Rory Sturm und Drang and the Curried Brains.

Angus MacAbre (“Scotland’s Funniest Zombie Comedian”) and legendary undead rock critic Fester Fangs (of Rolling Tombstone Magazine) first encountered the Zombeatles at The Cadavern Club in Pool of Liver. Fangs was instrumental in bringing The Fab Gore to public attention and MacAbre was instrumental in bringing the public’s brains to The Fab Gore.

The Zombeatles’ impact on popular music was immense and immeasurable. As Fester Fangs wrote: “The Fab Gore brought a certain frenetic frisson to rock and roll. Their songs about eating brains really dug deep into the heart of the public’s collective brain (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors). With such classic songs as “I Wanna Eat Your Hand” and “Ate Brains A Week,” The Zombeatles performed a kind of figurative electroconvulsive therapy on both popular music and popular culture, which left the rest of the music industry looking brain-dead (pun pretty much unavoidable).” (from “Eat ‘Em Raw: The Cannibalization of The Zombeatles,” as reprinted in Psychopathic Reactions and Cerebral Cortex Guano: The Work of A Legendary Undead Rock Critic, edited by Greil Carcass).

Zombie music has long been an underground phenomenon. Why do you think it is surfacing now?

I think it’s surfacing now because the “underground” can only stay under ground so long before the mass media and popular culture “dig it up” (so to speak) and it becomes part of the mainstream. I’m not saying that zombie music is part of the mainstream yet but I think it’s well on its way. Take, for example, Angus MacAbre’s blatant attempt to cash in on the success of the popular American indie rock band Vampire Weekend by forming his own band called Zombie Workweek. This is the kind of derivative cannibalization that the music industry is famous for.

Zombie music is just riding the zombie zeitgeist. As June Pulliam so eloquently put it in her essay, “The Zombie,” which appears in Greenwood Press’ Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: An Encyclopedia of Our Worst Nightmares: “The zombie itself is a malleable symbol – representing everything from the horrors of slavery, white xenophobia, Cold War angst, the fear of death, and even apprehensions about consumer culture – and has become an icon of horror perhaps because it is quite literally a memento mori, reminding us that our belief that we can completely control our destiny, and perhaps through the right medical technology, even cheat death, is mere hubris.”

Are the Zombeatles simply a revival band or do they bring their own fresh material?

The Zombeatles are a revival band only in the most literal sense of the word “revival” – that is to say that The Fab Gore breathed new life into popular music as only the living dead are capable of doing. The Zombeatles gave pop music a metaphorical Heimlich Maneuver; they transmogrified rock and roll from the bloated, maggot-ridden corpse it had become, replacing the figurative rigor mortis that had set in with a revolutionary, new, riboflavin-enhanced approach to rockin’ and rollin’.

The Zombeatles influenced countless acts. Can you imagine The Zommonkees’ recording their 1966 debut single, “Last Brain in Clarksville,” without The Fab Gore paving the way with such classics as “Ate Brains A Week”? Not bloody likely. And who can deny the Fab Gore’s influence on The Zomzombies’ big hits “Thyme Is The Seasoning,” “Smell Her Slow” and “She’s Not Rare”? The Zombeatles even inspired a fictional parody band called The Zomrutles.

Your press materials suggest that the Zombeatles “went viral” after they were showcased by Rob Zombie as part of a Halloween promotion on YouTube. What happened next? How many people were infected? Could this viral spread have been prevented through sanitary measures?

It’s like that old TV commercial for shampoo… “And they’ll tell two friends. And they’ll tell two friends. And so on. And so on.” Friends kept telling friends about the Rob Zombie-endorsed Zombeatles’ music video, “A Hard Day’s Night of the Living Dead.” These friends told other friends. As of right now, 1,121,999 people (give or take a few) have been infected. This number is based on the fact that there have been 1,121, 999 viewings of the video on YouTube. Of course, some of these viewings could have actually been re-viewings by the same person(s). And there’s no telling how many people that would apply to. I’m confident, though, that YouTube founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim are working on the cutting-edge technology that will allow us to determine this in the very near future. When I hear back from them, I’ll definitely get back to you, Henry.

As for the question of whether or not this viral spread could have been prevented through sanitary measures, I really can’t say for sure. All I know is that it’s important to wash your hands immediately before and immediately after using YouTube.

Doug Gordon is a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio’s/Public Radio International’s Peabody Award-winning program, “To The Best Of Our Knowledge.” Originally from Canada, Gordon has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (Major: Creative Writing) and a Creative Communications diploma (Major: Journalism). When not trying to make public radio more entertaining, he can be found working on various creative, artsy multimedia projects.