Posts Tagged ‘Robert Cobert Orchestra’

‘Shadows Of The Night . . .’

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The public fascination with vampires over the past few years has baffled me. From Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and the films that have resulted from them through the HBO series True Blood to the recent film Dark Shadows, the vampire fetish that’s taken hold in American pop culture mystifies me. And I’ve purposely missed most of it. I watched the first episode a few years ago of True Blood and found it less than compelling, and that’s all the vampiring I’ve done.

I suppose there’s an explanation somewhere for the fascination, probably something about how pop culture reflects the times, frightening and uncertain as they are, and about the need to escape. And it’s certainly less stressful to watch horrible, scary (and occasionally romantic) films and movies (or to read the corresponding books) than it is to reflect on the very real tales of homelessness, hunger, murder, drought and flames (and all the rest) that wait for us when the entertainment is over. When we watch and read, we know it’s all fictional and temporary, unlike the worries outside our doors, and we know that we can get up and leave or turn off the TV or close the book, and thus get rid of our fears.

The same thoughts probably hold true for the recent parallel fascination with zombies. And those thoughts have held true for many years in American pop culture (as well as other pop cultures, too, as evidenced by Godzilla rising from the ashes of nuclear holocaust in Japan in the 1950s). When we worry and are frightened, our worries and fears find their ways into our books, onto the big and small screens and – to an extent – into our music.

This year’s movie isn’t, of course, the first time that the vampires of Dark Shadows have been offered to the public. The original Dark Shadows was a TV soap opera on ABC from 1966 into 1971. A year after the show went on the air, it was ripe for cancellation. Then the writers introduced the character of Barnabas Collins (played by the recently deceased Jonathan Frid), whom Wikipedia describes as a “200-year-old vampire in search of fresh blood and his lost love, Josette.”

Viewers went nuts, and the show prospered. Wikipedia says: “Dark Shadows was distinguished by its vividly melodramatic performances, atmospheric interiors, memorable storylines, numerous dramatic plot twists, unusually adventurous music score, and broad and epic cosmos of characters and heroic adventures. Now regarded as something of a classic, it continues to enjoy an intense cult following.”

And, as pop culture phenomena often do, Dark Shadows crossed over media lines. In mid-June 1969, a single titled “Quentin’s Theme” – credited to the Charles Randolph Grean Sounde – entered the Billboard Hot 100. “Quentin’s Theme” was named for Barnabas Collins’ brother (played by David Selby), and the music had been used in numerous episodes of the series, according to a Dark Shadows wiki. In August, the record peaked at No. 13 (No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart).

Back in June, however, shortly after the “Quentin’s Theme” single entered the chart, an episode of Dark Shadows had once again featured the same tune, this time accompanied by Selby’s recitation of the lyrics. Shortly thereafter, a single including Selby’s recitation was released. Titled “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme)” and credited to the Robert Cobert Orchestra, it entered the Billboard Hot 100’s Bubbling Under section at No. 135 on August 16, 1969, forty-three years ago today.

A week later, the record moved up to No. 125 and then it fell out of the chart, so despite the popularity of Dark Shadows, not a lot of folks were impressed. But the record did impress someone who worked at KRCB radio in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In the station’s Big 15+6 survey from August 16, 1969, the record “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme)” was one of the six singles listed (without ranking) under the Big 15.

For that, KRCB stands alone: Of the more than one hundred surveys from August 1969 available at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, that one edition of KRCB’s Big 15+6 is the only survey to list “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme).”

Despite the single’s lack of success, however, things weren’t entirely dire on the Dark Shadows musical front: On August 23, 1969, an LP of Cobert’s music from the series entered the Billboard album chart and peaked at No. 18 in an eight-week run. And as the year neared its end, Cobert was nominated for a Grammy for his work on “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme).”