It’s hard to say just who was more ubiquitous in the 80s: Ronald Reagan, Michael Jackson, or Freddy Krueger. Amazingly, in one of the strangest examples of pop culture pollination I can remember, the Springwood Slasher was seemingly everywhere. Any kid could walk into his or her nearest Toys “R” Us and see Freddy’s well-done, pepperoni pizza with extra-cheese visage adorning everything from talking dolls to wax-pack trading cards, from squirt toys to yo-yos to cheaply made Halloween costumes.
The irony of a child traipsing around his neighborhood on October 31st dressed in a cheap rubber replica of a child killer’s horrifically burned face and trademark striped sweater and fedora is, in hindsight, both ridiculous and delicious. (Even more deliciously ironic is the fact that the box that contained the costume combo boasted of the product’s “fire-retardant” properties. Think on that for a moment!)
And it wasn’t just merch. The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs also managed to invade all forms of media in the same way he did promiscuous teens’ dreams. There he was in comic books, on television (“Freddy’s Nightmares”), and in young adult novels (Freddy Krueger’s Tales of Terror). Forget Howard Stern; Freddy Krueger truly was the king of all media.
For proof, let’s travel back to the halcyon days of 1988 when Frederick was memorialized in not one but two rap songs: The Fat Boys’ “Are You Ready for Freddy?” and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s “A Nightmare on My Street. (As an aside, whatever happened to rap groups? Seems they’ve gone the way of Nokia flip-phones and super-sized fries at McDonald’s.)
We’ll start with “A Nightmare on My Street.” Before “Bel-Air,” before Men in Black, before siring two of the most annoying kids to ever set foot on this planet, Will Smith was the Fresh Prince and had a reasonably successful musical career along with his partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff. Their major label debut He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper spawned the mega-hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” I spent my allowance on the vinyl single of said song and, after listening to the A side about a dozen times, flipped the single over to side B, dropped the needle on the record, and was introduced to “A Nightmare on My Street.” Fairly soon, I began to prefer the B side over the A. Perhaps it’s because my 12-year-old self was way too terrified to actually see a Nightmare film, so the song served handily as a sort of harmless aural equivalent.
Set to a bouncy beat eerily reminiscent of the future theme to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” the song tells the tale of a guy “burnt up like a weenie/and his name is Fred.” Seems Will saw “Elm Street and man, was it def.” He then goes on to describe his own encounter with Freddy, voiced by a bargain-basement Robert Englund impersonator. Freddy proposes a partnership of some sort, but Willie brushes Fred off by rapping, “Yo, Fred, I think you got me all wrong!/I ain’t partners with nobody with nails that long!” (Taking the double negative into account, I assume that means the partnership is a go, right?) As the song concludes, the Fresh Prince calls Jeff to warn him, but it’s too late as the DJ soon succumbs to Freddy, who concludes the tune by exclaiming, “I’m your DJ now, Princey!”
Despite briefly considering the song for inclusion in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master, New Line Cinema opted to sue the duo’s label for copyright infringement instead. As a result, a filmed video was shelved and is now lost to the ages (which means don’t go looking for it on YouTube). However, I know I saw the video at least once, but perhaps it was just a vivid fever dream. Nonetheless, even without a promotional vid, the song was a hit and reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The Fat Boys were a bit more fortunate. Part of a trend of overweight rappers (this too was a thing; for further examples, see Heavy D, Fat Joe, Big Pun, Chubb Rock, and of course, The Notorious B.I.G.), the rotund trio had a couple of hits with rap-infused covers of The Safaris’ “Wipe Out” and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” They even tasted movie stardom with an appearance in 1985’s seminal Krush Groove and their own film, the 1987 comedic caper Disorderlies.
New Line actually approached The Fat Boys to record a song for Dream Master – amazing considering their reaction to “My Street.” And so “Are You Ready for Freddy?” was born. As a song, the Fat Boys’ opus is inferior to the Fresh Prince progenitor, but it is authorized and, incredibly, features rhymes dropped by the man himself, Robert Englund, in character as Freddy.
An official video was filmed with a plot whereby The Fat Boys have to spend the night in a particular house on Elm Street in order to inherit the estate of group member Prince Markie Dee’s “Uncle Frederick.” Englund is in the vid, and as well as lip-syncing his lines, he also busts out an awkward dance move or two. Despite (or maybe because of) New Line and Englund’s involvement, “Are You Ready for Freddy?” was nowhere near as successful as “My Street,” reaching only #93 on Billboard’s R&B chart and not even making a dent in the Hot 100.
This may seem mad, but really, songs about slashers were nothing new. Way back in 1976, The Ramones’ self-titled debut featured the song “Chain Saw” about everybody’s favorite Texas-based cannibal butcher (and while were on the topic of The Ramones, let’s not forget their incredible “Pet Sematary,” the theme song to the 1989 film of the same name). And in 1986, Alice Cooper contributed the sublime “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” to the soundtrack of Friday the 13th: Part VI: Jason Lives. But again, these were songs about slashers, not slashers dropping science about themselves.
And let’s not even touch Freddy’s Greatest Hits…
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