“The Devil Lives In My Husband’s Body” by Pulsallama
In the early 1980s, girl groups rocked New York’s East Village, giving a beat-happy new wave kick that was both artsy and gritty. The bands had names like Shazork, Das Fürlines, Frieda and French Twist – they were glam, they were sassy and, judging by their spectacular costumes, big hair (or wigs) and make-up, they probably inspired many future drag queens. One of these memorable though not well known all-girl bands was called Pulsallama, and they took a clever swing into paranormal satire in 1982 with a little college radio treasure called “The Devil Lives In My Husband’s Body.”
It documents a suburban housewife’s worst nightmare when her husband starts making barking noises. In a post-1950s throwback to seventeeth century New England Puritanism, there can only be one explanation for this behaviour – Beelzebub himself must possess the poor man! What’s a girl to do but call on the witch next door to cure him?
I’m not sure if any members of Pulsallama took courses about the witch hunts in early modern Europe, but their song has several historical truths in it. For one, especially before and during the Reformation, common folk still used cunning men and women who used magic to cure ills and resolve problems, even if the churches preached against such actions. In the song, the suburban housewife does just that, asking the witch next door to lend a helping hand. No doubt there are people who still use magic today in cases that seem to be reminiscent of possession.
The twist at the end of the song in which a medical doctor diagnoses that the husband has Tourette Syndrome also has historical basis. When people were afflicted by mental illness before such things could be diagnosed medically, problems ranging from epilepsy to dementia could be construed as demonic possession. At times, an unpopular neighbour might be accused of cursing the ill person, and a witch trial would be conducted. What could not be explained was determined to be of supernatural origin, and illnesses indicated some form of malicious conjuring was being used to harm the ailing individual.
Pulsallama were Jean Caffeine, Kimberly “Princess” Davis, Stace “Timbalina” Elkin, Dany Johnson, Diana Lillig, Ann Eleanor Magnuson, Lori “Bubbles” Montana, Miss April Palmieri, Charlotte Slivka, Min “Bonefinder” Thometz, Ande Whyland and Wendy Wild. “The Devil Lives In My Husband’s Body” was released as a 7” single released on Y Records in 1982.
Donald? Donald honey, what are you doing down there in the basement? That’s what I said to my husband Donald when he came home from work last night he said, “Honey, I gotta fix something downstairs.” Well as I was pulling out the casserole, I heard this weird barking noise coming from the basement and you know, we don't have a dog.
The devil lives in my husband’s body.
No one can help up but the witch next door.
The devil lives in my husband’s body.
Our friends can’t come over anymore.
So this went on for two weeks every night he’d go down to the basement and I’d hear this barking. So finally I called up Hilda, the next door neighbour. Well, everybody in town thinks she's a witch. But just because she has 17 cats doesn't make her a witch... does it?
So Hilda agreed to come over for the barbeque we have on Saturday afternoons and we were having a drink, the kids were on the swing set and Donald was making hot dogs and hamburgers. All of a sudden I looked over at him and his face began to twitch and then he started barking and then swearing, like uncontrollably.
So I was totally freaking out, Donald was hysterical. Hilda said he was possessed by the devil and needed an exorcism right away. I sent him to the psychiatric hospital. Two weeks later the doctor called me up and said I’m sorry but your husband has Tourette Syndrome, an incurable psychiatric disorder. He’s going to be barking like that for the rest of his life.
Oh!...our insurance doesn't cover it.
Girls of the 80s: East Village Sound Gallery
More songs by Pulsallama.
Pulsallama member Jean Caffeine’s website.