This week, I started obsessively revisiting the 1997 album Closed on Account of Rabies, which features Edgar Allan Poe poems and stories interpreted by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Marianne Faithfull, Christopher Walken, and Debbie Harry. (David Bowie, in case you’re wondering, was not involved, although I think some Bowie-related rabbit hole led me back to it.)
I came across the album some years ago in a reduced bin in Tower Records, and for a while I enjoyed putting bits of it on mix tapes—particularly Dr. John’s take of “Berenice” and the Iggy Pop reading of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” (Patience and Prudence and this one Lou Reed bootleg also figured prominently in the rotation.) All my mix tapes had elaborate covers made from vintage postcards, of which I had a great many. Like the rest of this story, the album speaks loudly of the 1990s—from the scoring to the casting, which found several of the readers in a proto-iconic moment. (Would Ed Sanders make the cut today?) It seems only natural that Ralph Steadman contributed the cover art.
Let’s just be glad—or puzzled—that it exists, and thank the heavens above that we live in such a world, in such a time, and that no matter what happens and what genres are bent and trails forged, there are still things that will strike us as damned odd. Like a Poe character, the collective mind has its limits. (See: Sanders, Ed.)
Oh, and incidentally, it’s a pretty decent reading.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.