When I was a kid, Autumn was always an important month for me. My birthday was in the middle of the month, which meant that on that day, along with presents, cake and ice cream, Mom would always let me pick what we had for dinner (of course being a true child of the 90s, and devout Ninja Turtle fan, we had pizza on that day more often than not) but it was also a the month of Halloween! A month? Sure! As early as October 1st, the stores would have all of the holiday decorations out. Windows had clip art of Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, Werewolves and Mummies. Cupcakes had plastic spider rings, cookies had ghostly icing. Yards were full of brown and amber leaves when they weren’t stuffed into Jack O’ Lantern bags. Pumpkins were carved or painted into grotesque faces, and TVs everywhere ran horror movie marathons. Some of my greatest memories are sitting up late with my Dad watching various Hammer movies or the Universal classics.. He was a big horror movie fan too and it just felt like a month long celebration. Even when I got ‘too old’ for trick or treating, I still loved checking out the costume sections in all of the department stores in the area. Something I still do actually! Along with costumes, movies, and decorations, there is also a collection of songs that I have to listen to at this time of the year. Halloween may not have a list secular pop songs like Christmas does, but there are plenty that have fun with the holiday. Throughout the years that list has changed and evolved, but as of writing this article, I think I’ve narrowed it down to a reasonable Top Ten.
Note: Not all of these songs are about the holiday itself, but rather the ghoulish themes and everything that is hard not to correlate with Halloween. Being that it is my personal list, I’m sure I’m leaving out a good amount of songs from stellar artists that are staples of the scene like KISS, Alice Cooper, and Rob Zombie, so I encourage you to share some of your favorites in the comment section below! Now, on with my list!
10. Horror Hotel – The Misfits
What list of horror theme music would be complete with The Misfits? When it comes to Halloween or the ghoulish nature of tongue-in-cheek macabre, it would be extremely difficult to make a top ten list of songs from this band, but this one is pretty much includes everything I love about them. Cartoony imagery of a horror themed hotel, a vampire girlfriend, and chest thumping accusations of picking a fight. It would be cheesy and hilarious if it weren’t for Danzig’s dead-serious attitude. If you don’t like Horror Hotel you don’t like The Misfits!
9. I Walked With A Zombie – Roky Erickson
Upon first listen, when I was about 12, I thought this tune sounded like what would happen if Mick Jagger got drunk at a karaoke party and tried singing Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” but that was before I truly understood the genius of Erickson. The entire song is just one sentence (I walked with a zombie last night) sang over and over with the golden standard of retro pop songs. However, every single time the line is sang, he subtly sings it differently, slowly slurring the words more and more, almost as if Erickson could be becoming a zombie himself! What does this song even mean? Where would one even walk with a zombie? Don’t zombies lumber around instead of walking? Answers we may never get answers to, but if you are a fan of Erickson, you’ll know that this song is probably an account of an actual thing that happened to him.
8. Surfin’ Dead – The Cramps
In 1985, the horror-comedy Return Of The Living Dead parodied the zombie sub-genre that had been dominating horror movies (much like this very list). It also poked fun of the punk and goth movement in the music world. Little did they know when they were compiling bands for the soundtrack, they were actually assembling a fantastic setlist for the mainstream to use as a horror-punk sampler to get them into the genre like never before! Today the film is a cult classic and the soundtrack is just as popular! My favorite track is this one from The Cramps. It’s over the top, it’s weird, it’s fun, and the only thing to say after listening to it is …. send more paramedics…..
7. Aisha – Death In Vegas
Musically, Aisha is a groovy, two chord jam, 4-beat rock drums, driving bass, and a wicked rhythm and blues organ solo. Lyrically, the legendary Iggy Pop confesses that he is a flesh eating murderer who lives in a cemetery. Is there really anything else that needs to be said here?
6. Pet Sematary – The Ramones
When you think of The Ramones, the last thing you think of would probably be scary things. But oddly enough, they wrote this song for the film adaption of the Stephen King story of the same name. By the time this song was recorded The Ramones were at the end of their mainstream relevance but it’s still a solid pop rock song drums up just enough eerie atmosphere that it manages to work quit well within the context of the movie. Word on the street that King actually asked Joey Ramone personally to write the song, and seeing as King name dropped The Ramones so much in the novel, they felt obligated to return the favor.
5. Now I’m Feeling Zombified – Alien Sex Fiend
There is little to no eerie atmosphere with this track, but thanks the cold, electronic beats, random loops and samples, coupled with manic vocal performance, it’s kind of scary in it’s own weird way. I’m not sure what ‘zombiefied’ means when this guy feels like it, but it sounds more erratic and erotic than I’d imagine being undead feeling like. Maybe this is what zombies feel like? Clocking in at nearly 8 minutes, every time I hear this song I sort of wish it was longer.
4. Thriller – Michael Jackson
Not only is it one of the greatest music videos of all time, on arguably the greatest pop record of all time, but the title track is a killer jam! Who knew singing about horror movie tropes could be so funky? Plus there is a freestyle rap from the Godfather of horror B movies himself, Vincent Price! Michael was obviously a fan of horror movies and Thriller wasn’t the only time he performed music with a gothic theme (check out Ghost, as well as Threaten) but this is the big one. I don’t believe there has been a Halloween theme party since 1983 that hasn’t featured this song at least once.
3. D.O.A. – Bloodrock
I’m going to be completely honest here. The first time I heard this song, it creeped me out so bad that I couldn’t get it out of my head. If you read the lyrics, they are about someone who was in a plane crags and during the emergency surgery, they are in full conscious. It may be laughable on paper, but Bloodrock totally sell it on the recording. Atmosphere for DAYS!
2. The Monster Mash – Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett
If Jingle Bells is the unofficial song of Christmas, The Monster Mash is the official song of Halloween. You can’t have Halloween without this song. The spot on parody of Boris Karloff, the classic Little Darlin’ chord progression, the wah-oooh backing vocals, and those killer sound effects, it’s the perfect song to capture the feeling every kid has for the holiday. Of course it’s a silly novelty, but what’s serious about dressing up as a ghoul and asking for free candy anyway? If punk rock is your thing, don’t forget to check out The Misfit’s cover from 1999. It just may be the best Misfits track not written by The Misfits!
1. Everyday Is Halloween – Ministry
My all-time favorite song about Halloween here. Most know Ministry for their mid-career turn as a hard rock industrial outfit, famous for bashing then President George Bush, but most die-hard fans know that Al Jourgensen had been in the business for over a decade, churning out dark New Wave tracks such as this one before gaining real mainstream success in the early 90s with songs like Jesus Built My Hotrod. The lyrics of this song speak more about how the general public sees individuals who express themselves by wearing strange clothes, and listening to certain types of music. It poses the question ‘Why can’t I live my life for me?” in such a way that makes perfect sense. Everyday, society put’s on a mask of sanity, catering to what people think is acceptable, but on Halloween, we get the freedom to be anything we want from a Princess or a blood sucking vampire and it’s more than accepted and encouraged, it’s a lucrative holiday that’s next to Christmas on a financial level. These fake personas we put on to gain society’s acceptance, perhaps everyday IS Halloween?