Monday, September 29, 2008

Dwight Fry

(Dwight Frye, from retrocrush)

Ok, I have to admit that I'm a net junkie. Give me an excuse to look up something and I'll be accessing Google, wikipedia and youtube just like that. What got me started this time was this nagging need to listen to Weird Al Yankovic's "Virus Alert" just one more time. Then I got to thinking, "What other songs have I never seen the videos for?" Which led me to tracking down songs from PDQ Bach (Art of the Ground Round), They Might be Giants (Particle Man) and Tom Lehrer (The Elements Song, and Poisoning Pigeons in the Park). But, the person/band that I spent the most time on was Alice Cooper.

Alice hit it big in the 70's, when I was still in high school. I became an instant fan. I picked up the "Love it to Death" album, and just played it over and over in my room (until I took it to my part-time job at a public TV station and someone stole it). There were two songs that appealed to me the most, "Sun Arise" and what I called the "scary song". The "scary song" was about someone stuck in a mental asylum and he breaks out. It was scary to me because I always had the fear in the back of my mind that my strange sense of humor could get me committed, and I'd never be able to convince anyone to get me released. So, I could relate to the idea of someone being in an asylum and wanting to get out. And "Sun Arise" was just a silly song that broke the tension after the "scary song".

Anyway, as I was searching youtube, I found a video for "Sun Arise", and I finally got the interest to get the title for the "scary song". It is "The Ballad of Dwight Fry". Now of course, I had to find out who Dwight Fry is. The answer is, Dwight Frye was a film actor in the 1930's and early 40's who specialized in playing crazies. He's best known as Renfield in the 1931 "Dracula" film with Bela Lugosi. He died in 1943, at age 44, of a heart attack while riding a bus in Hollywood. Alice wrote the song as a tribute, and as speculation of what Dwight would have done in an asylum in a straitjacket. The youtube footage of Alice in concert gives a much rougher version of the song - the album version was cleaner and easier to listen to. But, I now like both versions.

Man, I wish I had access to wikipedia when I was a kid.

"Mommy, where's daddy? He's been gone for so long. Do you think he'll ever come home?"

The anniversary of Dwight's death is coming up on November 7. We should throw him some kind of tribute. Maybe something involving flies...

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