He’s long gone now, but when I was a kid it seemed like Vincent Price was everywhere.
The legendary American actor made a career for himself as the face — but especially voice — of the macabre. He earned a reputation as someone who rarely turned down a job. In addition to being in more than 100 films, he did television shows, countless commercials and a bevy of memorable cameos on a number of records in my collection.
He was many things — a knowledgeable art collector, a gourmet cook, an author and an LGBTQ advocate. He was one of the first Hollywood actors to film an anti-disinformation PSA about HIV/AIDS.
My introduction to Price happened on television. I was a huge fan of the now-cult classic Hilarious House Of Frightenstein, a kids’ show done in 1971 on Hamilton’s CHCH. It ran for ages in syndicated reruns, which is where I found it, probably around age 5. The show was set in Castle Frightenstein, occupied by The Count and a group of oddball creeps and weirdos — Griselda the Witch, Bwana Clyde Batty the safari guide, The Oracle, The Librarian, The Wolfman, Dr. Pet Vet, Igor and physics lecturer Prof. Julius Sumner Miller for some reason. You see, The Count had been exiled from Transylvania until he could get his Frankenstein-like monster “Brucie” to work again. Until such time, he and his pals hunkered down and viewers were treated to visits with each of them as individual segments. These segments were introduced by Price, who recited little poems from outside the castle walls, like a kindly but creepy old narrator or host.
I dressed up as him for Halloween one year, courtesy of my father’s Brylcreem. Nobody knew who I was. So Price was already famous to me when I saw him in a Halloween episode of The Muppet Show and a regular commercial for Tilex.
And then I noticed the musical cameos. Fittingly, it was also courtesy of The Muppet Show that I found Alice Cooper. For my 10th birthday I received a copy of Welcome To My Nightmare.The unmistakable voice of Price does the introduction to The Black Widow on the 1975 album, which marked Cooper’s first venture as a solo artist. The Black Widow introduction was written by Cooper and producer Bob Ezrin. It has Price acting as a tour guide at a nature museum, arriving at the spider collection. He quickly descends into raving about the black widow and his hopes that it takes over the world from man. Technically, Price’s bit comes at the end of the track Devil’s Food.
Eight years later, Price did another voice cameo which reached a much bigger audience. The title track from Michael Jackson’s 1983 smash Thriller boasts an end monologue and extended, iconic laugh by Price which also features prominently in the incredibly popular long-form music video.
Like I mentioned, around this time it seemed as though Price was everywhere. This was the era of the ’80s when 3D movies were popular again — Amityville 3D, Jaws 3D and all those Dr. Tongue skits on SCTV. I remember the local Pembroke TV station aired three 3D movies one evening. In order to watch them, you had to go get a pair of 3D glasses from a local Mac’s convenience store. I did, and was able to watch Price in House Of Wax.
Searching Price’s name on the Discogs database returns nearly 70 results — albums and compilations he’s been part of. They range from cheesy advertising records to horror anthologies and a healthy number of poetry readings. His other mainstream rock album appearance happened in 1975 for former Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover’s live performances based on his 1974 concept album The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast. Price performed Dawn, Magician Moth, and The Feast in the company of Ian Gillan, David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio.
Speaking of Deep Purple, they actually did a tribute song to Price called Vincent Price on 2013’s Now What?! album. The track, written by the band and producer Ezrin, was also released as a single. And Purple weren’t the only band to immortalize Price in song — ZZ Top put out Vincent Price Blues on 1996’s Rhythmeen. U.K. act Zombina and the Skeletones also did a song called Vincent Price in 2008.
If you want to find Price doing a proper song of his own, such a thing does exist. In 1977 he put out a single, covering the 1962 novelty hit The Monster Mash. The flipside is something called The Bard’s Own Recipe. This 7″ is pretty scarce, but I’m closing in one one.
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.