The Record Player Skips When I Drink With the Dead by John C. Foster

John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember. A writer of thrillers and dark fiction, Foster lives in New York City with his lady, Linda, and their dog, Coraline. Dead Men is his first novel and will be available from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing on July 22, 2015. For more information, please visit www.johnfosterfiction.com.

Dead MenSo when I was asked to write up a playlist for the characters in Dead Men, maybe share a little insight into what particular adult beverage they might prefer, I thought, “The only way I can do this is to go out and meet them and see what happens.” So I headed over to Blue & Gold, a local watering hole in the East Village, NYC. The bar tends to be sticky and the pool table is rougher than alligator hide, but five bucks gets you a shot of Jim Beam and a can of PBR, and the jukebox is one of the best in the city. “Perfect,” I thought, then took up my post at the bar to wait.

The first thing you should know is that I prefer my music from a record player if it isn’t a live show. I like the scratch and crackle of the needle on vinyl the same way I like Irish whiskey to burn on the way down. I take whiskey neat, which means no ice and no goddamned ginger ale. If you ask for either of those or ask for a shot, the bartender should chuck you right out.

Places I drink whiskey, that’s how they do it. Characters I write tend to agree.

We’re here to talk about the folks in Dead Men so let’s bring on the tunes. You get to the bar early enough and 04 Alice-001show you can handle yourself, the bartender will hand you a roll of quarters, tell you to pick a playlist and say something like, “What’s your poison?” Here’s what this particular cast of characters would say back.

Spike has waited in too many bars and too many hot places with a bottle of rum by her side. She prefers light to dark rum, chilled if she can get it, and would pick out Tito and Tarantula’s “After Dark.” It gets her ready to fight or fuck and she doesn’t care which.

Hoodoo Girl has never heard the song, but if you know her and know music, you might do her a favor and pick “Devil Went Down to Georgia” as played by the Charlie Daniels Band. She’ll see herself in that song and you will too. Careful, however, about leaving your drink on the bar when you mosey over to the juke. She’s apt to grab whatever you leave and slam back the dregs. She’s only twelve and is indiscriminate in her tastes out of necessity.

03 The Ghoul-001The Priest will lie and tell you to play “Old Time Religion,” sung by Leslie Uggams. You’ll believe him too, because it fits his witch burner’s stare…maybe it was even the truth, once. But if you can see a little bit more than most, you’ll know him by the sound of Aklo’s “Beyond Madness.” He’ll close his eyes and listen has he sips a good claret.

Alice is another veteran of hot and dusty places where the ground drinks as much blood as he can spill. He developed a taste for cold beer on those tours and is happy with whatever he can get his hands on, Grolsch, Carlsberg or even a Foster’s. Just don’t offer him an American brew. He’ll listen to anything by Billy Bragg with his first drink and the Sex Pistols after he’s knocked a few more down. Although at that point it’s best to leave him be and find yourself another bar.

Don’t ask him, just order the Ghoul a Bloody Shame, aka a Virgin Bloody Mary. The jukebox has Nick Cave’s “Cannibal’s Hymn.” Put that on and tell him it’s about him and he’ll sit still long enough for you to slip out the back.

Sheriff Joe and Connie are pretty tight; neither drinks hard liquor and they both like an icy cold Mexican beer.  02 Hoodoo Girl-001Hand each of ‘em a Tecate straight from the cooler and they’ll thank you for it. Sheriff Joe will take his time picking a song, he always does, but he’ll probably land on Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues” and close his eyes while it plays. He might even tear up a bit when he thinks about that guitar picking fool’s tragic mistake. Ask him and he’ll tell you the story. Connie will shout out, “Anything from Janice Joplin or Warren Zevon,” while she racks the balls on the pool table in the back. Don’t put money on the game if you pick up a cue. Connie plays to win.

John Smith doesn’t give a shit about what’s on the jukebox and he’ll just ask for a bottle of something brown and sit in a corner booth by himself, feeding the fire in his gut with the straight stuff. You’ll have to pick something for him and you wouldn’t go wrong if you went with thundering drums and screaming guitars but if you ask me, and I know him as well as anybody does, I’d say something like “The Preacher” by Jamie N Commons suits him better. Not that he’ll care, he’s looking at something you can’t see and hearing screams you can’t hear.

That’s it now, I’ve had enough. Got my black Cadillac out back and all she drinks is high octane gasoline. Let’s head on out, maybe rip up the road and listen to a little Black Betty. Nothing like “Ram Jam” when you want to drive fast and from the look of things, it’s high time we left.

It doesn’t do to be around these folks when they start drinking. Doesn’t do at all.


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