Scary Stories Audiobooks: A Wrong in Need of Righting

I wrote this many years ago for my Myspace blog. I am reprinting it here since it is not particularly easy to access Myspace blogs these days, and my Scary Stories Power Rankings post has gotten me so much traffic that I feel this is something people may be interested in. 

Today I am going to voice a complaint I have held within for several years. That's not entirely true; I have complained about it to others, but it is an obscure and perhaps inconsequential complaint that I doubt anyone remembers. Specifically, I would like to complain about the drop in quality between the audio book version of the first volume of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and the latter two volumes, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. Yep, when I said “specifically,” I meant it. It doesn't get any more specific than this, folks.
The quality of the books themselves is outstanding; I dare say I wouldn't be the person I am today without incessantly poring over Alvin Schwartz's brief but compelling dark fables and Stephen Gammell's ninth-circle-of-Hell illustrations. I might be a more well-adjusted person, less prone to night terrors, but what fun would that be? In any case, the books were so good that in order to do them justice, any audio recording would have to be on par with Moses's original presentation of the Ten Commandments. Better even; Moses didn't have access to a voice coach.
So imagine my delight sometime in the early 90's when my mother picked up a copy of the audio version of the first volume and it blew me away. This was back before I had experience with the worldly pleasures of sex and intoxication, so this tape was more or less orgasmic for me. The narrator, one George S. Irving, has an amazing voice that adapts well to the material, and he doesn't take himself too seriously. He's like an awesome drunken uncle, but without the uncomfortable incest undertones (or are they overtones?). The music was the icing on the cake; almost every story was accompanied by truly rad synth music composed by a duo by the name of Blane & DeRosa. Incidentally, these two should have gotten into hip-hop production; the music behind the story "Cold as Clay" sounds eerily like the beat from "I Got Five on It" by the Luniz. Overall, it's the total package, and I've listened to it more times than I can count. One time a Mexican kid scared the shit out of me when I was listening to it. Then again, I could say that about a number of scenarios.
The one tape was it, though, at least as far as I knew. I never saw or heard of any adaptations of the second or third books, and I even made an attempt to record them myself with some friends back when I was 12 or so (the garden hose we used to simulate rain was a nice touch, though my prepubescent voice was not exactly a feast for the ears). Despite my enthusiasm, I never thought there was going to be a legitimate follow-up to the original recording. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out several years later that the latter two books in the series had in fact also been adapted as audio books! Despite my advancing age and ostensible maturity, I scrambled to acquire copies of both.
Man, what a disappointment. There were good points, to be sure: unlike the first book, the second and third were unabridged, so all the stories were present and accounted for (I was immensely disappointed at the lack of "The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers" on the first audio book). Also, George S. Irving was back, and at the top of his game. On paper, in fact, these should have eclipsed the originals. There remains, however, a very glaring problem: the music. Gone were the eerie tones of Blane & DeRosa's magic keyboard; in place of this were generic snippets of ambient horror music. This is akin to a restaurant swapping out filet mignon for regurgitated Hamburger Helper and expecting their patrons not to complain. Not only that, the music was far more rare; instead of providing the aural backdrop for each story, the music merely floated in every once in a while, briefly and unobtrusively. The music becomes as phantasmal as the spooks Schwartz writes of, though far less terrifying. At least the second book has some music during the stories...on Scary Stories 3, the music is not only sparse, but only plays as an occasional intro or outro. This is a huge, woeful game-changer. The stories lose a lot of potency without consistent musical accompaniment or sound effects, despite Irving's best efforts (and those efforts are damn good). I suppose I was spoiled by the first one, but jeez, someone had to realize that somewhere along the line, the magic had been lost.
So I say to Harper Children's Audio: it's not too late to remedy your error. You know how to right this grievous wrong. Get Blane & DeRosa out of the studio with Keak da Sneak or whoever, pay them the tens of dollars they no doubt demand, and re-dub these stories with proper musical accompaniment. Give them the synth-soaked, Miami Vice-esque treatment they deserve, and make your fanbase (me) happy. If Angelina Jolie singlehandedly can get Disney to make a black princess movie, I should be able to get this.
Wow, a massive rant about something no one but me cares about. I guess I must be a blogger.

If you or anyone you know can help get the Scary Stories audiobooks the proper production they deserve, please do what you can to make this happen. If you cannot, then you can always just buy my novel here. I'll feel better either way, honestly.


James said…
Okay, so this was posted four years ago, and was reposted from MySpace (which must date it even further), but I feel compelled to dredge up this antique blog post of yours, just to let you know that your love of the Scary Stories music is not something you're alone in - I, too, am a massive fan of the Scary Stories series, and firmly believe that the whole series - story, artwork and audio - must be considered American high art and preserved in the Smithsonian, or some other museum of American culture. Exaggerations only slight. Your moniker of the Internet's "self-proclaimed greatest authority on Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is frankly well-deserved as I have yet to come across a blog that has talked as extensively (and hilariously) about the books as yours.

As a token of my appreciation for what you do, I'd like to share with you a project I embarked upon this time last year: A recreation of the Scary Stories audiobooks music, originally composed by Blane and DeRosa. I've tried to do some research into the audiobooks and, alas, turned up very little; the most interesting information I could find is that Blane is a somewhat renowned progressive rabbi, founder of the Sim Shalom online synagogue... but he's still rockin' away on synth and guitar. A rabbi that can marry you and then provide the entertainment for the reception! Sadly, nothing else of note could be discovered - I mean, I don't really know what I was hoping to find; perhaps more reviews of the audiobooks akin to yours? I can't even find an interview with George S. Irving where he mentions them. Unfortunate, as he really seems to be enjoying reading them whenever I give them a re-listen.

So, inspired partially by my own love of fiddling around with crappy vintage synth sounds and the fact that your blog was the only one I could find at the time that mentioned the actual music of the audiobooks, I decided to fool around and make a few cover versions. I hope that they are to your rigorous high standards as the Internet's greatest Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark critic.

Greatest Hits

The "Official" Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Power Rankings

In a Dark, Dark Room, or Scary Stories for Babies

The "Official" More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Power Rankings