Continuing our change of pace, temporarily stepping away from our usual spoken word and music combination, I’m going to dress-up once more for Halloween as a singer, which I fear is not a totally convincing costume. Today’s piece “Prevailing Winds” is the second cut from the song-cycle about ‘50s goth/horror innovator Vampira. Dave Moore, whose voice and words you may have heard here before, wrote the words for this piece, and I wrote the music and performed it. The first part, “Helen Heaven” was posted here Monday.
As I mentioned yesterday, the 1950s has, somewhat in retrospect, gained a reputation as a peaceful, relaxed, and satisfied time in the United States. When a political figure such as our current Presidential performer refers to “make America great again” it’s generally assumed that his clientele understands this as “like the 1950s” in hat-band shorthand.
But, as experienced, America in the 1950s was not so peaceful. The decade began with the Korean war, now commonly forgotten, but deadlier proportionately than the Vietnam war. Somewhat more so than the Vietnam war, and more like our current war on terror, the Korean War was viewed as only a small part of an open-ended global struggle against an evil multi-national enemy. And as the decade went on, there existed a widespread and increasing fear that the atomic weapons first unleashed just prior to the decade, and held in a rough but uncertain balance by the central powers of the enemies, would return again, but in multi-fold form threatening worldwide destruction, threatening human survival.
On either side of Los Angeles, where Maila Nurmi was formulating her Vampira persona, these human-survival threatening weapons were being tested in deserts and on Pacific islands, right in the open air. Radioactive isotopes were measured in milk as Nurmi fashioned the dropping white décolletage of her costume.
“I give epitaphs, not autographs” Maila Nurmi created the Vampira persona in 1953/54
As someone old enough to remember those times, I’m often puzzled at the ebb and flow of nuclear worry in American minds. There have been times when it almost disappears, and times when it is so omnipresent that the topic is nearly as unavoidable in social and party conversation as the weather or sports teams. As this is being written, Korea and nuclear worries are on an upswing, and I have no way of knowing if this level is proportionate to the threat or not—but I do believe it’s still less amplified now than it was in 1953-1954 when the Vampira persona was being created.
The human condition is mortality, this does not change. Poets have spoken of this since before the time they could write their songs down. But the human condition in that time, the 1950s, was the first to consider humanity itself as mortal.
To hear the Dave Moore/Frank Hudson song “Prevailing Winds” from the song-cycle “Vampira”, use the player below.
3 thoughts on “Prevailing Winds”
Just in case anyone is puzzled by the Gojira reference Dave’s words make in the song:
For a more elaborate essay from just past the decade of the fifties, see Susan Sontag’s famous essay on the Imagination of Disaster, from a time when science fiction movies were still generally a niche genre with painful dialog, yet still trying to deal with this change in the human condition brought on not by aliens or monsters, but by ourselves:
Everybody get under your desks! Frank goes from measuring radioactive levels in milk straight into Vampira’s cleavage! wow
There’s always more research than fits in one of these posts, branches that connect, but need to be pruned. Here’s one: the pale adult woman in Charles Adams cartoons that was later in the 60s named Morticia, was based on Adams’ wife in the 1940s, Barbara. Malia Nurmi credits that cartoon character as an influence on Vampira’s look.
Barbara and Charles Adams had a falling out, and she then married…
…John Hersey, who wrote the famous magazine article and book “Hiroshima” that first told Americans about the devastation of the first atomic bomb used on a city.