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'American Horror Story' music to murder by - Murder House

Tate (Evan Peters) and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) in Murder House, the first season of 'American Horror Story.'
Tate (Evan Peters) and Violet (Taissa Farmiga) in Murder House, the first season of 'American Horror Story.'

[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS about Murder House, the first season of "American Horror Story," which aired from October to December of 2011.]

1968. Chords from the opening of hippie anthem "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine in" from the musical "Hair" play as three nursing students leave the California mansion where they room to go to a Doors concert. Maria (Rosa Salazar) and Gladys (Celia Finkelstein) choose not to join them, a decision that ultimately costs them their lives, in Home Invasion, episode 2 from Murder House, the first season of "American Horror Story."

"Aquarius" exemplifies how "AHS," in all three sesaons, utilizes music to evoke a bygone era. Those who lived in the late 1960s (like creator Ryan Murphy, born in 1965) recall how the hippie counterculture dominated -- music, stage, television, film. Just a couple of lines, "When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars," sends the mind reeling back through the decades to an era of groovy bright-colored miniskirts and bell bottoms, go-go boots, long hair.

Another instance from Murder House of soundtrack transporting viewer back in time: episode 9, Spooky Little Girl. Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia (Mena Suvari), appears amidst the wailing strains of big bandleader/clarinetist Artie Shaw's brooding composition "Nightmare." Each "AHS" season introduces its version of a historical figure, in this case Short, victim of a gruesome, much-sensationalized, unsolved 1947 California murder. 22-year-old Short was found drained of blood, her mouth cut into the Glasgow smile, her torso severed at the waist.

"AHS" spins the story so that Short's murder occurs in the Murder House, at the hands of the 1947 occupant, a dentist. She later appears in present day as Ben's (Dylan McDermott) patient, tempting him, unaware she's dead until Hayden (Kate Mara) tells her so. So the title Spooky Little Girl refers to Short, right? But two different versions of the song "Spooky" play in scenes featuring Hayden, Atlanta Rhythm Section's during the flashback of Ben and Hayden having drinks out, and Martha Reeves' when Hayden lures Travis (Michael Graziadei) into sex and then kills him. "Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you." 22-year-old Hayden (same age as Short), much younger than Ben when she seduces him, continues to stalk him after he breaks it off, even after her death, which definitely qualifies her as a spooky little girl.

Filled with evil, treachery, and plenty of colorful characters (including Jessica Lange's incomparable Constance), Murder House focuses primarily on Ben's struggle to reconcile with wife Vivien (Connie Britton), but there's no denying Tate (Evan Peters) and Violet's (Taissa Farmiga) star-crossed romance as the fan favorite. These angst-filled teens allow the show to introduce cutting edge new music from bands so unknown they don't even have Wikipedia pages.

Outwardly tough/rebellious - smoking, ditching, fighting - underneath, as her name implies, Violet is beautiful and fragile. Her music choices female-centered, like "Big Mother," by Feeding People, as she reads in her room in episode 4, Halloween (1). Lyrics "Ain't no other like big mother" likely reference Constance's hold over Tate -- as much as he hates her and wants out from under her influence, she overshadows all he is and all he does. In the end, his actions destroy his relationship with Violet, the only love he's ever known.

In episode 6, Piggy Piggy, when Violet sees that Tate has written "I Love You" on the chalkboard in her room, her iPod plays "Stars (I, the Sun)" by Lights On:

He was the sun
And she the earth
Yeah, they were light years, two worlds apart again...

I, the Sun, reflect the earth exploding
Where stars and I believe in love
"Forever together"
We bleed for love

Violet, seen attempting suicide in the Pilot, tends toward the melancholic. The woeful "Lavender Moon" by Haroula Rose plays when Violet turns Adelaide (Jamie Brewer) into a "pretty girl" (in episode 4).

White walls always weep
When I try to fall asleep
In this city by the sea
Walk the memories
Just me and the lavender moon
She knows my heart belongs to you
Filled with secrets like these
Haunted by long gone dreams
She bends down low
Walks me home
Just me and the lavender moon
She knows my heart belongs to you

In Episode 10, Smoldering Children, Tate can no longer keep from Violet the fact that she died (at the time of her suicide attempt in Episode 6). While they play cards and talk about what happens now, Gossling's "Hazard" plays:

Have you ever felt like love's just like concrete
Poured out and left to harden, to be walked all over

The lyrics of "Stars (I, the Sun)," "Lavender Moon" and "Hazard" foretell a tragic ending to Violet and Tate's romance. And after Tate's vile behavior causes Violet to eject him from her life, the season finale shows Tate and Hayden watching from a distance as Ben, Vivien and Violet's ghosts happily decorate a Christmas tree, to the familiar strains of "The Little Drummer Boy." Once again, the Harmons a blissful family, celebrating the holiday, filled with love for one another.

In the end, when apparitions of the now dead Harmons scare the new Ramos family out of Murder House, the show comes musically full circle as Patience & Prudence's "Tonight, You Belong to Me" plays, the same song featured in the Pilot episode. (Click here to read more about music from the Pilot.) And the story also circles around, from the Harmons beginnings as outsiders, disconcerted by the house's phantasms, to the Harmons numbering among the house's many everlasting ghostly entities.

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