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Frankenstein Walk

Bill Sunkel
Bill & Rob Sunkel




“Frankenstein Walk” is not about zombies in the popular, “Walking Dead” sense, though it plays on that mythology.  Rather, it’s about the citizens who sleepwalk through the urban jungle every day, trudging The Green Mile to work, school, the unemployment office, the DMV or wherever, not interacting with each other on any truly human level, but subsisting in a virtual world of anti-social networks, faceless sniping, mindless gaming and other anaesthetizing distractions.

Following a nod to the Godfather of Soul by guitarist Tony Spatarella and establishment of the cool jazz/funk bass line by Rob Sunkel, the opening lines of the lyric – “It’s starting again/Sound the alarm/She staggers from bed/Backlit by the glow from the gathering dawn” – came one dark early morning when I was still half asleep and only vaguely aware of a shadow moving stiffly past my window, through which the first shards of pre-dawn light were just beginning to appear.  And the title came instantly:  It was a “Frankenstein Walk.”  The rest of the lyric evolved from that phrase, the first verse setting the stage as our zombie girl arises from bed, the second describing her daily subway commute, and the bridge acknowledging that it is her kind who are in charge now:  “The walking dead are rising again/And running the game.” 

Twelve bars of instrumental later – the first half an “absurdly cool,” scalpel-precise mute trumpet solo by BP Express front man Brian Pareschi, the second a guitar-as-meat-cleaver blow to the head by the aforementioned Mr. Spatarella – we finally get to the point:  “It’s a cruel, cruel world/And I’m just one girl.”  No, I wasn’t having a crisis of gender identity.  Rather, this song was originally intended to be sung by several leads, one female.  When the vocal became all mine, I kept the line because (with apologies to feminists) I felt the “just one girl” image connoted a sense of helplessness.  And it worked well with the next lines:  “How can it be that you’re looking to me/For your cocaine and pearls?”  That is, what makes you think I can comfort you or give you wisdom?  “I’m trapped in a dream/Where I can’t even scream” is an image I’ve used before, e.g., “Invisible Guy” on the Two Can Play CD (“And sometimes it seems/Like I can’t even scream/Hard as I try to cry out/It’s like in a dream/When you can’t make a sound/And there’s no one ’round to hear your call”).  I like these lines, as I think they describe an experience that is not only universal, but also terribly frustrating.  Finally, the true horror is revealed (as it always is in these movies), that the listener himself may be one of the undead:  “But I could swear it was you that I saw/Doing the Frankenstein Walk.”

Musically, “Frankenstein Walk” reflects a blend of influences, with its cool Steely Dan-like groove, bass and electric piano figures, Ventures-style surf guitar chords, and jazzy film noir horn chart (also courtesy of Mr. Pareschi).  In fact, although I have long strived to create a “low-rent” version of The Dan (with similarly sophisticated sensibilities, but less polish and perfection, and maybe a touch more heart), it wasn’t until this record that I felt that goal had been achieved.  The tracks were recorded by seven real players on real instruments in three different locations, each session engineered and produced by Carl Casella with an iron hand and a deft touch, the open airiness of the final mix belying the depth of the orchestration.

P.S.  This song’s coming out party was held at Desperate Measures’ July 2013 show at the (now very dead) Sullivan Hall in New York City, and shortly thereafter our good friend and unofficial videographer Bill Smith put together a video of that performance, intercut with old horror movie and television clips that perfectly reflect the silliness of the lyric.  Enjoy it at


It's starting again
Sound the alarm
She staggers from bed
Backlit by the glow from the gathering dawn
The room is dim
The radio's on
And by the light of the dial, it's alive!
And doin' the Frankenstein Walk
It's cold and damp
The F train is cramped
It lurches from stop to stop
In a stiff-legged iron man dance
Swayin’ side to side
All the zombies ride
'Til they crawl up out of the dark
And do the Frankenstein Walk
These wheels of steel
Are screaming in pain – in vain
They know the dead
Are rising again
And running the game
The walking dead
Are rising again
And running the game
It's a cruel cruel world
And I'm just one girl
So how can it be that you're looking to me
For your cocaine and pearls?
I'm trapped in this dream
Where I can't even scream
But I could swear it was you that I saw
Doin' the Frankenstein Walk