Thursday, March 24, 2005

Secret Saucer Symphonies: Unidentified Flying Discs



(The girlfriend of Donald Woods departs earth)

The myriad conspiracy theories of suppressed information regarding an alleged 1947 flying saucer crash in Roswell, New Mexico are common knowledge. But how many intrepid ufologists are aware of the alien abduction rumors surrounding an obscure, dirge-like rock 'n roll record in mid-1950s Los Angeles?

Music producer Max Feirtag had only earthlings on his mind when he founded California-based Flip Records in 1955. Releasing an impressive 10-year string of 45 RPM discs, Feirtag's roster included the oddly anachronistic Death Of An Angel. Performed by R&B artists Donald Woods & The Vel-Aires, Death Of An Angel dealt with the demise of a teenage girl. Recorded as a droning, funereal lamentation (with melodramatic weeping and the lead vocalist's expressed desire to join his consort: "I want to be beside her, but I'm afraid to die"), the song was considered controversial because of its end-of-life/would-be-suicide theme. Deemed unsuitable for commerical airplay in the hackneyed halcyon of Father Knows Best mid-'50s sentiments, the record was pulled from radio station playlists.

DEATH OF AN ANGEL

My baby's gone
And left me left me all alone
My baby's gone
And she left me all alone
So alone, I want my baby home

I still remember
The day she went away
That was the day
My angel me left me to stay
Oh, no, no, I want my baby home

I know that she is gone
Ooh-ooh-ooh?
[weeping]

That was a death
Of an angel, don't know
Why, oh, why
I want to be beside her
But I'm afraid to die
Oh, oh, oh I want my baby back home
I want my baby home
I know that she is gone
But still I want her home

Don't leave me

[weeping to FADE]

As if the banishment of Death Of An Angel from the airwaves was not enough of a blow to the record's commerical prospects, the song became an all-pervasive pariah when the Flip disc was flipped over. The B-side was a tune with the seemingly existential title of The Man From Utopia. In actuality the song was a tongue-in-cheek nod to a service employee at Utopia Cleaners on 97th Street in the Watts District of Los Angeles. A rumor evolved that The Man From Utopia was about a space alien who had kidnapped and murdered the girlfriend from Death Of An Angel. Listeners backed their claim with the "evidence" that the name of the girlfriend had been revealed in the lyrics "Mary Lou, big fool" in The Man From Utopia. Further it was asserted that the alien assault theory derived from Death Of An Angel was based on a true event.

Despite the late 1955 re-release of Death Of An Angel on the Tiger Era label (Tiger Era #5065), complete with disclaimers regarding an alien abducition theme, the song had been dealt a mortal blow. A plethora of science fiction films, such as Invaders From Mars, It Came From Outer Space, Target Earth, and The Man From Planet X, which had melded synonymously with the political paranoia of McCarthyist madness, reinforced listeners' pulp fiction rumor mill. Death Of An Angel vanished into the dusty, back-shelf realm of junk shops. Subsequent releases by Donald Woods & The Vel-Aires, with titles such as Stay With Me (Flip #309), and Heaven In My Arms (Flip #312), served only to further the belief that Death Of An Angel was a tale of murder and marauding Martians.

Londis Carpenter, an amateur entomologist from Cass County, Michigan, posted an internet article on June 6, 2004, in which he states that he is certain that he remembers hearing two very different reasons why Death Of An Angel was pulled from the airwaves back in the 1950s. "The story I remember hearing is that this song was about a girl who was killed in an airplane crash. The airplane had allegedly collided with a UFO, causing both air vehicles to crash. It was rumored that the Catholic Church had succeeded in having the song banned because the church insisted that angels couldn’t die, making the song blasphemous."


(An apostolic catholic Martian with a fetish for Gidget look-alikes)

Had Death Of An Angel beem released in 1970, with more lavish instrumentation (and perhaps an even more over-the-top display of despair), it might have been a top 40 hit, as was DOA (Dead On Arrival), a blatantly morose song by Fort Worth, Texas-based metal rockers Bloodrock. A grand guignol gore-fest in which the lead vocalist portrays the youthful, dying victim of a plane crash, the song proved successful enough to spur the band on to two LP releases and a bit of cult status.

In the course of the storyline of DOA, the listener is told "We were flying along and hit something in the air." Rumors abounded that the airborne mystery object was a ufo. What had worked against Death Of An Angel in 1955 proved the sales point for 1970's DOA. Despite the fact that the DOA
plot line could be linked directly to the real-life mid-air collision of two college sports team planes, a determined public preferred the spacecraft theory.




DOA

Laying here looking at the ceiling
Someone lays a sheet across my chest
Something warm is flowing down my fingers
Pain is flowing all through my back

I try to move my arms and there's no feeling
And when I look I see there's nothing there
The face beside me stopped it totally bleeding
The girl I knew has such a distant stare

I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air
I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air

Then I looked straight at the attendant
His face is pale as it can be
He bends and whispers something softly
He says there's no chance for me

I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air
I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air

Life is flowing out my body
Pain is flowing out with my blood
The sheets are red and moist where I'm lying
God in Heaven, teach me how to die

I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air
I remember
We were flying along and hit something in the air

(wailing ambulance siren surrealistically slows to a stop as the vocalist dies)



Despite the legends that have been grafted onto songs such as Death Of An Angel and DOA, there have been scores of legitimate flying saucer rock songs, albeit most of them in the vein of fluffy humor. Two of the most notable ditties, Mopity Mope, a 1961 Philadelphia Doo Wop knock-off, by the Bosstones, about a space visitor who lands on earth to dance at a record hop, and The Martian Hop, a 1963 novelty tune by New Jersey duo the Ran-Dells, scored popularly on top 40 music charts but failed to incite rumors of impending alien invasion. Perhaps if the dance-crazed denizens from darkened space had disintegrated a few bobby-soxers doing the Mashed Potato we could establish a connection to Donald Woods' long-lost Mary Lou, but for now any spaced-out speculations surrounding Death Of An Angel and DOA will remain just stories from the stars.

UFO/ALIEN SONGS OVER THE DECADES:

ANCIENT BROTHERHOOD -- UFOs in the Rain Forest
ARTHUR & FRIENDS -- UFO Song: The Buster
ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS -- U.F.O. Attack
BELZER, RICHARD -- UFOs
BERRYHILL, CINDY LEE -- UFO Suite
BORIS THE SPRINKLER -- UFO
BOSSTONES -- Mopity Mope
BOX TOPS -- Flying Saucers Rock & Roll
BRAGG, BILLY, & WILCO -- My Flying Saucer
BRAVE COMBO -- Flying Saucers
BUCHANAN & GOODMAN -- Flying Saucer Rock 'N Roll
CAUSEY WAY -- U.F.O.
CHARGED PARTICLES -- Spaceships
CHOCOLATE WEASEL -- Flying Saucers
CROSSTOPS -- U.F.O. & the Trucker
DOGBOWL -- Flying Saucer Over Mongolia
DR. JOHN -- Spaceship Relationship
DUDLEY & THE DOO-RYTES -- U.F.O.
11th HOUR BAND -- UFO Alert
ELIN -- UFO Beobachtungen
ERIC’S TRIP -- Spaceship Opening
FAIR, JAD, & YO LA TENGO -- Texas Man Abducted by Aliens for Outer Space Joy Ride
FLECK, BELA, & THE FLECKTONES -- UFO Tofu/Flying Saucer Dudes
FLYING SAUCER ATTACK -- Flying Saucer Attack
FOOF -- UFO
GOODMAN, DICKIE -- Flying Saucer Goes West
GROOVY GHOULIES -- 50,000 Spaceships
GUIDED BY VOICES -- Hardcore UFOs
GURU GURU -- UFO
HAGEN, NINA -- UFO
HALF JAPANESE -- UFO Expert
HAWKWIND -- UFO Line
HICKS, BILL -- Flying Saucer Tour
HOUSEY DOINGZ -- Flying Saucer
HUSKER DU -- Books About UFOs
INTRUMENTAL WISH -- Flying Saucer Attack
J CHURCH -- UFOs Will Crash
JFA -- Turkey in the UFO
KYUSS -- Spaceship Landing
LaBEEF, SLEEPY -- Flying Saucers Rock & Roll
LAWRENCE, SID -- The Answer to the Flying Saucers
LENNON, SEAN -- Spaceship
LITTLE WALTER -- Flying Saucer
MADIGAN, KATHLEEN -- UFOs
MARKETTS -- Out of Limits
MELLOTONES -- Flying Saucers
MISSILES -- The Space Ship
MORONICS -- Flying Saucers
NIXON, MOJO -- UFOs, Big Rigs and Barbecues
PARKER, GRAHAM, & THE RUMOURS -- Waiting for the UFOs
PHOTEK -- UFO
PINK FLOYD -- Saucerful of Secrets, A
PUMPKIN UGLIES -- Flying Saucers of Rock & Roll
PUNK LADY -- UFO
RADIATORS -- UFOs Exactly
RAN-DELLS -- Martian Hop
REZILLOS -- Flying Saucer Attack
RILEY, BILLY -- Flying Saucer Rock and Roll
ROBERTS, JR., AL -- UFO Rock and Roll
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT -- UFO>UFO>UFO
SABALON GLITZ -- Ufonic
SOLID SENDERS -- Flying Saucer
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION -- Spaceship
SPOOZYS -- Cone Shape U.F.O./ Invasion of the Flying Saucer/ Russian UFO
SPOT 1019 -- UFOs Are Real
STRAYCATS -- Flying Saucers Rock & Roll
SUBURBAN LAWNS -- Flying Saucer Safari
SUGARSMACK -- Bring on the UFOs
TECHNOMAJIKAL -- UFO Attack (Ambient Version)
TELESCOPES -- Spaceships
TORIES -- Spaceships in the Sky
TRANSISTORHYTHM -- UFO
TURNER, JESSIE LEE -- Little Space Girl, The
UNDISPUTED TRUTH -- UFOs
UFO OR DIE -- UFO or Die
VENTURES -- War of the Satellites
WEDDING PRESENT -- UFO/Flying Saucer
WILLIAMS BROTHERS -- Flying Saucer Blues
WOODS, DONALD & THE VEL-AIRES -- Death Of An Angel
WOOLEY, SHEB -- Purple People Eater
ZMRZLINA -- Lovely UFO

Moon Songs:

ACEN -- TRIP II THE MOON (Kaleidoscopiklimax)
ALIEN SEX FIEND -- Trip to the Moon
BARNES & BATNES -- Don't You Wanna Go to the Moon?
BIG DIPPER -- Lunar Module
CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN -- The Day that Lassie Went to the Moon
DUMP -- Living on the Moon
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA -- Ticket to the Moon
GERBER, TONY -- The Lunar Crossing
GREATER JAMAICA -- Moon Invaders
HUNTINGTON CADS -- Lunar Luau
HYPNOTIC BASS -- Trip to the Moon
KALEIDOSCOPES -- Moon Inhabitants
KING, JONATHAN -- Everyone's Gone to the Moon
LOVE & ROCKETS -- Holiday on the Moon
MARTIN, TRADE -- We'll Be Dancing On The Moon
McAULIFFE, MARIA -- Lunar Patio
McGEAR, MIKE -- The Man Who Found God on the Moon
MUIR, JOHN -- The Moon Men
NORTH, ALEX -- Trip to the Moon
ORANGE GOBLIN -- Lunarville 7, Airlock 3/ You’ll Never Get to the Moon in That
PAMELA, LUCIA -- Walking on the Moon
PHANTOM ROCKERS -- Trip to the Moon
POLICE -- Walking on the Moon
ROXETTE -- The First Girl on the Moon
SAINTE-MARIE, BUFFY -- Moonshot
SANDERS, FELICIA -- Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)
SAVAGE GARDEN -- To Moon and Back
T-BONES -- Everyone's Gone to the Moon
VAUGHAN, SARAH -- Destination Moon
XTC -- Bike Ride to the Moon

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Blogger Josh said...

Hey man,

This story was pretty cool. Even more impressive was the list of u.f.o. and moon songs you provided. I host a sci-fi radio show and was surprised to see a lot of my favorites listed, and some I've never even heard of. Pretty cool man. Anyway, keep up the good work on the blog (assuming this blog is still active...I direct linked to this older entry when I was searching for stuff for my show)

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Blogger Jusdafide said...

Great blog! I was searching everywhere for the story behind Donald Woods and wondering why I could find nothing on him or The Velaires as their music is really great. You pretty much summed up all of my questions and gave me a story to pass on to others. Thanks! :)

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