Yvonne Gage is a Chicago-based singer who is best known for the '80s funk and R&B favorites "Garden of Eve" and "Lover of My Dreams." She's also known for being both a prolific session musician, singing for everyone from Celine Dion to R. Kelly. But this time of year, to a very loyal cult following she's known as the voice behind the Halloween playlist essential, "Doin' It In a Haunted House."
Released in 1984, the response record to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and third single from her album Virginity has had quite a tumultuous legacy. We spoke to Gage about the song's history, looking back on it after three decades of demonic decadence.
Your first single "Garden of Eve" came out on Atlantic in 1981, but the Virginity album and its singles came out on C.I.M., a Chicago-based imprint of CBS Records. How different was it working between the two labels? It wasn't a lot different because the producers and the team were pretty much the same. It wasn't vastly different. Same producer, same management.
At what point during Virginity's creation was "Doin' It In a Haunted House" pitched? That song came about because Michael Jackson was on fire at the time and [Lydia Murdock] released "I'm Billie Jean and I'm Mad as Hell." I believe that's where Donald Burnside got that idea from.
Do you recall much about the reception at the time? The reception was great! It was great all the way up until there was a plagiarism suit filed by ["Thriller" co-writer] Rob Temperton's camp because it was too much like "Thriller." Once that happened, everything was put on hold. I had bookings to come to London to do some television shows, but after [the lawsuit] happened, everything was killed after that.
That's interesting, because both "Doin' It In a Haunted House" and "Thriller" were released on Epic / CBS Records. It sort of left a bittersweet taste with me because it was something I enjoyed so much doing, and I didn't expect for that to happen. I so believed in my team, and I did question it because I thought "Wow, this is a lot alike." They assured me that it was OK and didn't expect it to happen. I was all starry-eyed and ready to go, and that part wasn't cool at all. Rob Temperton wasn't interested in collecting any money, he just wanted to kill my record. We were slapped on the wrist for that, and that was that. In the aftermath, it seems to have gained a cult following, especially around this time of the year. This is a case of some publicity is better than none at all. Some people love it, some people might have adverse feelings about it, but it was what it was. But it was fun.
Outside the Temperton lawsuit, did you ever hear any response from Michael himself? No, but that would have been nice.
In the 30 years after the song and the lawsuit, as you've said, it's developed a cult following. Have you performed the song since or heard much from people discovering it for the first time? I don't. I'm in France quite a bit, because I have a nice following there. I have a following in London as well. But, I don't perform that song. That's not the request. "Garden of Eve" and "Lover of My Dreams," and some of the other songs, but never that. Never "Doin' It In a Haunted House."
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Wow, so in three decades, you never even get the off-request around the Halloween season? Never. I hate to have to be honest about this, but never.
You're working now as a vocal teacher at Roosevelt University, correct? Yes, I'm still working a lot in all kinds of venues and different genres of music, but that was something that I've always did. I've always been mixed up in jazz, R&B, pop, all of it. I was with the rock group Ministry for a while. I put out my own Jazz EP. I also did a collaboration with Cool Million for a collaboration CD he had.