If you were a monster kid of the 1980’s like me, you probably spent a lot of your time and energy following the antics of Freddy Krueger. I can't tell you how many times I watched and re-watched those Nightmare on Elm Street movies, either on the big screen at the movie theater, on the VCR at home, long after the rest of my family was sleeping safely in their beds.
Or so they thought...
If I wasn't watching the movies, I was talking about them. My friends and I would dissect all of the elaborate kill scenes and and laugh again at all of Freddy's awesomely bad jokes. It was a lot of fun.
To a pudgy, twelve year old nerd like me, Freddy Krueger was a rock star.
He transcended the horror genre to become a true pop culture phenomenon, and by the late 80’s he had ingrained himself into completely into the American consciousness.
Between 1984 and 1991 he appeared in six movies, hosted his own television show, had numerous merchandising deals, and even tried his hand at the music business. You could say he was the precursor to the multi-tasking pop stars of today.
Everyone knows about Freddy Krueger's groundbreaking effect on horror cinema, but I’d like to take some time to look back on his often overlooked impact on the world of popular music.
If you think about it, Freddy has been intrinsically linked to music from the very beginning.
Like many great horror villains of the 80’s his arrival on the scene was accompanied by theme music that was simultaneously chilling and memorable.
In this case it was the Main Title theme to the 1984 Wes Craven classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The piece was composed by Charles Bernstein who also scored the music for such 80s genre fare as The Entity and April’s Fools Day. Craven would also tap him again two years later to score his underrated sci-fi/horror flick, Deadly Friend.
Combine that theme music with a couple of creepy little girls repeating that eerily hypnotic jump rope rhyme, “One, Two, Freddy’s coming for you…” and you truly do have the stuff of nightmares.
Jason from the Friday the 13th franchise may have made more money at the box office, but he was no match for Freddy when it came to personality. Although he was an efficient killing machine, as a silent hulk his personality was lacking. And quite frankly, he really didn’t seem to take much joy in what he was doing. It was all business with him. As a result, he also racked up more total kills over the years than Freddy; but let’s face it, he was kind of a bore.
Freddy on the other hand was the life of the party.
A real cut-up…
He was just as likely to have you in stitches with one of his awful puns as he was with his razor blade fingers. His kills had a surrealistic flair and his methods were always inventive and imaginative. Most importantly, he always seemed to be having so much damn fun.
If you were a teen destined for slaughter, you could do worse than he dying by Freddy’s hand. At least you’d know you were going in style…
Freddy’s first foray in the popular music landscape came occurred in 1985 when he was subject of the song “Freddy Krueger” by Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D), a crossover thrash metal side project featuring members of the band Anthrax. The song appeared on their album, Speak English or Die, commonly considered a classic of the genre.
In 1987, he was featured prominently in Dokken’s video for the song "Dream Warriors", a metal song which appeared on the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
Surprisingly, he turned his back on the metal scene where he got his start by putting out a straight up pop record, Freddy’s Greatest Hits featuring The Elm Street Group which was released on RIC records in 1987.
The album is long out of print but you can find it on You Tube.
Sales were not great, as the attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator resulted in little more than a novelty record.
And it was there that he would find his greatest success.
The first notable reference to Freddy in the world of Hip Hop came in 1987 via the track"Nightmare on ADE Street" by Miami Bass pioneer MC ADE.
The following year he was featured prominently on not one, but two, mainstream Hip Hop tracks.
“Are You Ready for Freddy?” by the Fat Boys and “Nightmare on My Street” By DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, which were both in consideration for inclusion on the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
New Line Cinema later sued Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s record label for copyright infringement, forcing them to destroy the official music video for the song and clearly label all vinyl pressings of the record with the following disclaimer:
"NIGHTMARE ON MY STREET” IS NOT PART OF AND HAS NOT BEEN EMBODIED IN THE SOUNDTRACK OF ANY “NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET” MOTION PICTURE. THIS RECORD IS NOT AUTHORIZED, LICENSED OR AFFILIATED WITH THE “NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET” FILMS, NEW LINE CINEMA CORP., THE ELM STREET VENTURE OF THE FOURTH NEW LINE/HERON VENTURE."
In the years following, Freddy’s appeared in music videos by Romeo’s Daughter and The Goo Goo Dolls, both of whom contributed music to the soundtracks for Nightmare on Elm Streets Parts 5 and 6, respectively. But neither song got much traction, and eventually Freddy’s music career dwindled alongside of his box office returns
And although it’s been close to 30 years since he’s been involved in a new project, it seems Freddy isn’t quite ready to give up on his musical dreams (nightmares?) just yet.
In the last few months he quietly posted two videos on You Tube featuring a hardcore Gangster Rap persona with music produced by a mysterious duo known as The Merkins.
Freddy will always be remembered first and foremost as horror villain royalty, but it is clear that he also left behind a musical legacy that is as eclectic and surprising as his methods of murder.
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