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The Musical Relevance of Ash Vs. Evil Dead

“Dead by Dawn” Playlist

Bruce Campbell reprises his roles as the legendary chainsaw-wielding, demon-hunting badass Ashley J. Williams in the Starz original series, Ash Vs. Evil Dead, which follows our handless hero as evil is reawakened almost 30 years after he first found the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. The book, which is bound by human flesh and inked in blood, is said to serve as a gateway between our reality and the netherworld. With evil on the loose once again, it’s up to Ash and his fellow “ghost-beaters” Kelly (played by Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (played by Ray Santiago) to stop evil from taking over the world.

The series was first developed in 2015 by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, and Tom Spezialy, and includes some of the many facets of what made the movies a cult classic. But what really sells the show isn’t all the violence and gore, although they do come up with some interesting new ways to kill deadites… it’s the new technology and improved production value, that helps them summon some terrifying new demons.

To really give viewers the feel of seeing the world through the eyes of Ash Williams, the show features a retro soundtrack with a lot of classics from the past 30 years or so sprinkled in with an original score composed by Joseph LoDuca, who also provided the soundtracks for the Evil Dead films.

In an interview with SyFy.com, Raimi explained out the soundtrack plays an integral part in the series. “When my brother Ivan and I were writing the character [Ash], and asking where he’d been for the last 30-35 years, we realized he had not grown,” Raimi said. “He stopped his development. My brother said the music should reflect the last time he was engaged in society and living. My brother and editor chose those different pieces to reflect his lack of growth.”

Throughout the series, this becomes more and more apparent, as we continue to spot several musical cues along the way, for instance when the soulful crooning of Grover Washington Jr. comes in with his classic, “Just the Two of Us,” as Ash battles with his evil doppelganger. The musical cues are spread out throughout the second and third seasons of Ash Vs. Evil Dead too… like when the 1982 post-punk classic, “Never Say Never” by Romeo Void suddenly pops on the stereo in Cheryl’s room, or in the new season when we see Brandy rifling through Ash’s stuff and pulls out tape cassettes of The Velvet Underground.

Currently midway through its third season, the show brings an element of nostalgia that is paired perfectly by its soundtrack, which is why Salute takes a deeper look at the soundtrack with some of our favorite moments from the show and the music that inspired it. 

SEASON ONE

Episode #1 – El Jefe

Welcome to Michigan… the home of our hero, Ash Williams, who 30 years after the cabin rediscovers the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis and mistakenly sets evil loose once again. Now, he is the last hope of stopping evil once and for all.

“End of the Line” – Frijid Pink

The ’70s-era psychedelic rock group Frijid Pink begins to play during Ash’s flashback. The Detroit-based rock group sets the mood as he begins to drunkenly fumble through the pages for the translated passage.

“Journey to the Center of the Mind” – Amboy Dukes

Realizing he cannot escape from the evil that he’s unleashed, Ash accepts his destiny in a triumphant fight sequence that ends with him cutting off the head of his sweet old neighbor. Once again we hear music from the local Michigan rock scene with their classic psychedelic rock track, “Journey to the Center of the Mind” written by Ted Nugent and Steve Farmer.

Episode #2 – Bait

“Highway Star” – Deep Purple

This is the second time we hear Ash rocking out to some Deep Purple… The song comes on when he and Pablo are suddenly attacked by the former manager of Value Stop, before driving to rescue Kelly from her mother. This is also the first time we really get a taste for the kind of blood and gore “slasher” film type of violence that really makes up the premise of the whole franchise.

Episode #3 – Books from Beyond

“Loose” – The Stooges

Iggy Pop at the height of his heroin-fueled craze was definitely known to get “loose,” which certainly stuck with the whole late ’70s – early ’80s motif. 

Episode #4 – Brujo

“Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” by Funkadelic

As legend has it, George Clinton wrote this song with the late-Eddie Hazel and Ray Davis during an acid trip in 1970. The 10-minute jam begins to play when Ash learns to take control of his ayahuasca-induced drug trip to find the answer within himself.

Episode #5 – The Host

“Is It My Body” – Alice Cooper

Originally a Michigan native himself, we hear a couple of Alice Cooper songs in season one. The song comes on when a recently possessed Kelly tries to seduce Pablo into smoking weed through a shotgun. You know something bad is about to happen if you’re going to try pulling something like that. 

Episode #6 – The Killer of Killers

“Freakin Out” by Death

History completely overlooked the Detroit protopunk band. Three brothers David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney recorded a number of demos for their short-lived group, Death, but ultimately called it quits by 1977. Their music didn’t actually catch on until 2008 when three of their children formed Rough Francis, a Death cover-band. The following year, independent label Drag City Records remastered and released all seven tracks from their 1975 United Sound recording sessions. The band was also the focus of the 2012 documentary A Band Called Death, directed by Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett 

Episode #7 – Fire in the Hole

“Time Has Come Today” – Bootsy Collins

Bootsy Collins, formerly of Parliament-Funkadelic, covers the 1967 hit by California soul group The Chamber Brothers, “Time Has Come Today,” which begins to play as Ash’s evil hand returns to the cabin. 

Episode #8 – Ashes to Ashes

“The Two of Us Together” – Don Gibson & Sue Thompson

The country song plays at the end of cliffhanger episode. Ash is trapped inside the storage shed, where he must face some ghosts from the past, while Officer Fisher encounters Ash’s evil hand, which has now manifested into his evil doppelganger.

Episode #9 – Bound in Flesh

“Just the Two of Us” – Grover Washington Jr.

Ash’s evil double kills Officer Fisher before Pablo and Kelly can arrive. Ash engages his clone in classic Evil Dead in a comical fight sequence as the classic soul track begins to play.

Episode #10 – The Dark One

“Back in Black” – AC/DC

Ash brokers a deal with Ruby in the hopes that it will prevent evil from returning once more. The song plays as the gang hits the road for Jacksonville, Fla.

SEASON TWO

Episode #1 – Home

“I Don’t Care” – Icona Pop

Ash finally feels at peace in Jacksonville, but come on… you had to know it wasn’t going to last. This hyped up party anthem plays at the bar before Ash, Pablo, and Kelly learn that the forces of evil are back and that it’s up to them to stop it.

Episode #2 – Morgue

“Scorpio” – Dennis Coffey 

The instrumental funk track, “Scorpio,” from Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band is a classic. Charting at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971, the song has been sampled numerous times over the years by artists and producers such as Young MC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Mark Ronson.

Episode #3 – Last Call

“You Make Me Feel Brand New” – The Stylistics

Ash reminisces about the Delta and swears to get it back from the punk kids who stole it.

“Vehicle” – Ides of March

The one-hit wonder written and performed by Jim Peterik fit the motif of the episode perfectly as Ash starts to interrogate kids at the party to see if any of them took the Delta.

Episode #4 – DUI

“Take Off” – Bob and Doug McKenzie

Ash teams up with his best buddy Chet, as the two “take off” to find the Delta at the smash ’em up derby. The song was originally recorded by Geddy Lee, lead singer/bassist of the Canadian progressive rock group Rush for the SCTV comedy sketch “The Great White North,” starring fictional Canadians Bob and Doug McKenzie, famously played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas.

Episode #5 – Confinement

“Poetry Man” – Phoebe Snow

The bluesy contralto sound of Phoebe Snow comes in during the credits as the gang holds down the police station from incoming evil.

Episode #6 – Trapped Inside

“They’re Coming To Take Me Away” – Napoleon XIV

After his encounter with Baal, we hear Napoleon XIV sing about being sent to the “funny farm” as Ash wakes up and finds himself institutionalized.

Episode #7 – Delusion

“I’m Your Puppet” – James and Bobby Purify

Waking up in a mental institution, Ash is given a puppet to help him communicate with therapists and doctors examining him. “Ashy Slashy” continues to pop up, pulling Ash deeper into a state of delusion.

Episode #8 – Ashy Slashy

“Tarana” (Thievery Corporation Remix) – Ustad Sultan Kahn

Kelly, Pablo, and Ruby finally make it to the asylum to rescue Ash, but they may not be in time as he begins slipping deeper into the fictional reality Baal has created.

Episode #9 – Home Again

“Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey

In order to save Pablo from being killed by Baal, the gang travels back to 1982 to try and destroy the book. Ruby is defeated by her immortal-self in 1982.

Episode #10 – Second Coming

Ash and Baal go head-to-head for the book and the eternal souls of Kelly and Pablo. Meanwhile, immortal Ruby tries to read from the book in an attempt to cheat the deal, but is defeated and cast back to hell.

SEASON 3

Episode #1 – Family

“I Want Candy” – Bow Wow Wow

Having just learned of his estranged spouse and daughter, Ash recalls his time in Branson and his former wife Candace “Candy” Barr.

“Daddy Cool” – Boney M.

Ash, having just been introduced to his daughter Brandy, decides to light one up after killing her best friend and the high school mascot.

Episode #2 – Booth Three

“Take on Me” – A-Ha

Let’s just say this is perhaps one of the more interesting takes on the classic ’80s new wave music video. A magazine comes to life as Ash visits the spank bank.

Episode #3 – Apparently Dead

“Crimson and Clover” – Joan Jett

The punk rock cover of Tommy James and the Shondells classic “Crimson and Clover” plays as the deadite version of Ash’s father, played by Lee Majors, returns to visit Ash.

Episode #4 – Unfinished Business

“All out of Love” – Air Supply

Pablo becomes a deadite and starts to attack Kelly and Brandy in the trailer when the song comes on. The song pokes fun at the irony that three seasons later, and neither Kelly or Pablo have said a word about how they feel about each other.

Episode #5 – Baby Proof

“The Passenger” – Iggy Pop

After trying to expose Ruby and her demon offspring, Ash is left embarrassed when Brandy pulls up and tells him to get in. Despite her struggles with adapting to the Evil Dead universe, it seems hunting demons is something she was born to do.

Be sure to keep watching Ash Vs. Evil Dead for more in Season 3 and check out our playlist on Spotify.

LISTEN: THE MUSICAL RELEVANCE OF ASH VS. EVIL DEAD

1 Comment

  1. Lisa

    August 11, 2018 at 3:30 am

    I am trying to find a place where I can buy Bootsy Collins singing Time Has Come Today. It was recorded for the 2015 season. I will buy it in any format… H E L P

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