One of the amusing things about the incessant thirst of the ravening maw of the Entertainment Machine™ for new sources of mood and nuance is how every now and then, an arbitrary spark manages to catch a dusty old chestnut freshly aflame with an unexpected surge in popularity. The usage of old pop songs to provide vibe for the now thousands of TV shows produced for broadcast/cable/streaming is a real thing that happens, even in the face of my indifference.
In 1985, Kate Bush’s single “Running Up That Hill” was a UK number three hit and even managed to reach the then-lofty perch of number 30 in the US charts. Becoming a calling card for her on these shores. Earlier this summer, the usage of that song in Netflix’ hit series “Stranger Things” managed to give Ms. Bush an even bigger hit over 35 years later as the song managed to “go viral” on the popularity of the show and shot up to the top of the UK charts and replicated her number three placing on the US Top 40. Stunning, no?
But that was an instance of what had been a hit song, two generations ago, getting reactivated. It’s rare, but it’s been known to happen. This time the lightning was striking a target which was much more bizarre. It was another Netflix series; the show was “Wednesday,” based on the Addams Family character and produced by Tim Burton and his blue filter. The song plucked from what was once obscurity and now thrust, writhing, into the possibly more alien world of TikTok/social media virality was the 1981 single by The Cramps from their second album, “Psychedelic Jungle.”
I remember my good friend chasinvictoria sending me a tape of the single on one of his epic tape letters of 1981, which is where I first heard “The Goo Goo Muck.” At the time, I felt that it was a nearly shocking retreat from the completely bent out of shape sound of their first album. The clean, trebly Duane Eddy-influenced licks were worlds away from the primitive [actually threatening] Link Wray fuzzzzzz of the earlier album. Of course, Lux still managed to get out there with a guttural vocal climax that was still a thousand miles from Squaresville. I soon normalized to the changes that The Cramps would evolve their sound through in the next few years and the cover of the obscure 1962 single by Ronnie Cook + The Gaylads [!!!] joined songs like “T.V. Set” and “Call Of The Wighat” in its rightful place in the firmament of The Cramps roster of deviant Rock ‘N Roll kicks. By the 90s, I was seeing bands cover it in concert.
When the producers of the “Wednesday” series were looking for the right song for a high-school dance scene where Wednesday Addams could strut her stuff, there was a shortlist of songs, with another Cramps classic, “Human Fly” on it. In the end “The Goo Goo Muck” was tapped and the rest has been history as the series debuted on Netflix on November 23rd, 2022 and took off like a shot to become one of its most popular must-see hits. And then as night must follow day, the legions of fans and even just watchers of the numerous viral videos of Wednesday’s dance uploaded to social media began to get curious about that weird rockabilly band who were complete strangers to the Billboard Hot 100 during their heyday.
We’ve all see the clip by now, and the shocking thing to me is not that The Cramps are getting a synch on a Hollyweird property. After all, their opus “Garbageman” had been put to very memorable use in the black comedy “The Matador” in 2005, as a drunken hit man, played by Peierce Brosnan, walked through a posh hotel in his Speedo [drink in hand] to a meeting with the pool and the end of his tether. The shocking thing was that there was no professional choreographer involved in the scene. Jenna Ortega only knew that she needed to have some primo moves down and so she consulted the greats; Siousxie Sioux and Lene Lovich, among a few others, and gave the scene the juice that caused a sensation.
And any time that a world of curious teens were exposed to the musical mutagen of The Cramps…even 41 years later, could only be a great time. The song in question has spiked in streaming playback over 8000% in the last three weeks and the song currently sits at number 25 in the iTunes download store. That song is the radioactive bologna between the white bread of José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” [#23] on one hand, and Der Bingle’s “White Christmas” [#28] on the other! I don’t recognize the other acts on the chart I captured. I’m still waiting for the assault on the Billboard charts, which, in all candor, I have no comprehension of how they are tallied any more. Radio play and sales reports probably no longer cut it in this thrill-a-minute world we live in. In the berserk 21st century we already have split singles with The Cramps and…William Shatner! Let’s keep an eye on The Cramps and their never-too-late assault on normality. It could only help!