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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Monster Island Musings: Author David E. Goldweber


By David E. Goldweber

It's been said that young boys can be divided into two types: LEGO Boys and Dinosaur Boys. I was a dinosaur Boy. When Dinosaur Boys are a little daydreamy, they might also be Dragon Boys. I was also a Dragon Boy. Put dinosaur and dragon together, and what do you get? Godzilla? Yes, eventually. But first I got Ghidorah. 

Like a lot of boys growing up near New York City in the 1970s, I regularly watched kaiju films on channel 9 or channel 11. They played on weekend afternoons and sometimes on weekdays, after school. These films were broadcast repeatedly for years.

I didn't know it at the time, but I was able to view almost every classic Toho and Daiei kaiju, not to mention oddball independent kaiju films like Gappa or The X from Outer Space. I watched them in their dubbed American versions, sure, but it's wonderful to think how all these things were available free, in these pre-cable TV days, for the kids who loved them.

My earliest kaiju memory is watching the conclusion of Gappa, at the oil fields. It was a weekday evening before dinner. My memory is black and white, which means this must have been 1974 or 1975 before we got our first color set. It's a fun memory. But then comes a whole series of memories of Ghidorah.

I knew King Ghidorah first from "Monster Zero" (Invasion of Astro-Monster), and I probably don't need to bother explaining his appeal: his immense size, his triple dragon heads, his bizarre forked tail, his pterosaur wings, and of course his lightining bolt attacks.

I liked Godzilla, but with Ghidorah it was basically love at first sight. I got a small Ghidorah figurine and a snap-together Aurora model of Ghidorah. The model was the best since the heads and tails could turn, and even the jaws moved up and down.

I played with that model for years, and when I grew too old to play with it, I kept it on my bookshelf with my books. I think I kept it until I went to college and my parents reclaimed my room. But I also kept the model's box to store my baseball cards -- and I still have that box -- and it still contains my baseball cards -- 35 years later.

So while I liked all the famous kaiju, except maybe Mothra who doesn't do much for kids, I heavily favored Ghidorah for years, until I was about 10 in 1978 and 79. Then, something happened that finally tipped the scales toward Godzilla.

I mentioned above that I grew up in New York City. What I didn't mention is that I grew up on Long Island. As with New Jerseyans, Long Islanders grow up with a bit of an inferiority complex since we're always in the shadow of Manhattan. So when something or someone from Long Island makes it big, we really notice.

We knew which singers and bands were from Long Island, like Billy Joel and Pat Benatar. And one more: BOC, the Blue Oyster Cult. The songs meant something extra to Long Islanders. BOC's biggest hit -- "Don't Fear the Reaper" (cowbell and all) -- was actually already behind it. But now in 1978, another song started creeping into popularity. The song was "Godzilla".

I remember my friends Mike and Ben discussing the song one day after school. "You gotta hear it!" they told me. Ben imitated the main gruff guitar riff, and Mike sang "go go Godzilla!"

Finally I heard the song at someone's house. "With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound, he pulls the spitting high-tension wires down..."

It was great! "Helpless people on subway trains, scream bug-eyed as he looks in on them...."

The steady, marching beat. "He picks up a bus and he throws it back down, as he waded through the buildings toward the center of town..."

The funny yet tough-sounding lyrics. "Oh no -- they say he's got to go -- go go Godzilla!" 

The sound effects, including those weird Japanese radio warning and crazy echoes. "Oh no -- there goes Tokyo -- go go Godzilla!"

I told my younger brother about the song and hummed the main riff about 10 times. I borrowed my buddy's album and taped the song. Later I got the album myself. 

Most importantly, I started to realize how amazing the REAL Godzilla was. How had I not realized this before?

Sure, Ghidorah was great, but look at Godzilla -- just LOOK at him. He's tough, like Ghidorah, but somehow he looks handsome too. Ghidorah has lightning bolts, but Godzilla's atomic heat breath is just as powerful, and more like a dragon fire. Ghidorah has two tails, but Godzilla's single tail could smash down a building by itself. Ghidorah is golden, but Godzilla is dark and brooding. Ghidorah can fly, but, well, uh, Godzilla can sort of fly... at least according to Godzilla vs. Hedorah (which I knew as "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster" back in the 70s).

Yes, the truth was now clear, and there was no turning back. I even got a Godzilla model kit -- and even better than my Ghidorah kit because the Godzilla head, claws, and fins glowed in the dark! (This is the famous Aurora kit originally from the 60s. I know it looks silly today, but I swear it looked great back in 1979). I probably played the song while I built the model.

And so it remains today, decades later. I still like Ghidorah. But GO GO GODZILLA!


David Elroy Goldweber is the author of CLAWS & SAUCERS: SCIENCE FICTION, HORROR AND FANTASY FILM 1902-1982.

To view and read content at the Claws & Saucers site, click HERE. To purchase the book, click HERE.

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