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So, who’s heard "Monster Mash" way too many times, show of hands? I thought so. I mean, I love a Halloween novelty song, but that one’s just overplayed. But you know what’s not overplayed? A bunch of other badass monster/horror/Halloween themed songs.
There are the obvious things like “This Is Halloween” from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" soundtrack, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ toe-curlingly good “I Put A Spell On You,” The Ramones “Pet Sematary” or the vast majority of The Cramps' and Groovie Ghoulies' respective discographies, and by no means do I discourage you from putting these on your Halloween playlists (or your year-round playlists) because they're just fucking good, but I want to share some of my favorite relative obscurities in the key of creepy.
1. Kip Tyler -- She’s My Witch
With its dirty-sounding guitar work and howling sax, "She’s My Witch" is probably the best song on this list to have weird Halloween night costume sex to. It’s all filthy 1950s sleaze and creepy atmosphere. Just give it a listen and tell me you don’t want to writhe in a sultry manner.
Equal parts campy, creepy and eerily beautiful, "The Mummy’s Bracelet" somehow manages to be danceable while sending a genuine chill down your spine.
The Sonics put out this party-perfect proto punk number in 1965, and frankly it holds up great if you're into garage-y fuzzed out rock 'n’ roll and poison.
This song about a guy searching for his girlfriend’s unmarked desert grave is genuinely creepy. There’s a mournful quality to the whole arrangement and if you don’t find your hair standing on end listening to it, you're made of stronger stuff than I am.
The Farfisa organ and theme of youthful rebellion really makes this little psychedelic treasure.
This country number honestly verges on outsider art and that’s part of what makes it great. (The other part is the weird sound effects.)
While I love The Cramps, I prefer the original Ronnie Cook version of this song. Ronnie’s voice is just so perfect and so completely goofily charming. That said, The Cramps version is not bad by any means.
8. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins -- Little Demon
Not quite as well known as “I Put A Spell On You,” "Little Demon" is certainly more lighthearted than its more famous counterpart. You should definitely play this gem of early rock 'n’ roll at your Halloween festivities.
This charming little ditty about a girl who just can’t get in the mood without a creature feature playing in the background is weirdly adorable and sort-of thematically reminiscent of The Bollock Brothers’ classic “Horror Movies” which you should also listen to. (I may have a soft spot for love songs about couples who like horror flicks.)
It’s pretty, it’s eerie, and I have fond memories of singing along to it with my dad going to get pumpkins for carving from Ed The Pumpkin Guy. (He’s a pumpkin farmer near my parents who invented a bunch of new varieties of pumpkin. Ed is awesome.)
This rockin’ upbeat number is one of the best for kids parties, like a Halloween-y version of “Jingle Bell Rock.”
12. Satan’s Pilgrims -- The Haunted House Of Rock
This is an instrumental number, but with the heavy ominous bass and fuzzed out guitars (they have three guitarists) it's just as creepy as any song with eerie lyrics.
So what if you get dumped around Halloween? Do I have the song for you! With lyrics like “If I still had eyes, I would surely cry,” this pop horror punk anthem will have you smiling in no time
The ’50s and early ’60s were really prime Halloween music time. Also now I want “Don’t dig me, daddy, cause I’m real gone” on my gravestone when I die. (Replacing my previous idea which was “Your name here.")
It’s a rockabilly song about doin’ it with monsters (not particularly explicitly). Possibly also an option for weird costume sex?
45 Grave has a lot of Halloween songs, "You’re Evil" being a notable example, but this cover of an old Don Hinson novelty number is just SO much fun, without the "grating after 30 seconds" novelty song quality of the original
With fuzzed out guitars and dirge-like rhythm it’s the perfect song for closing a Halloween party.
18. Round Robin - - I’m The Wolfman
The growling should push this firmly into the novelty song category, but it doesn't -- somehow it's better than that.
This song starts off slow and atmospheric, and turns into a sax and piano rockabilly romp. (Yes, this list is heavy on the ’50s/’60s rock 'n' roll, but they had the highest density of Halloween songs, so it's just statistically probable that most of the best stuff would be from that era.)
Atmospheric as hell, Mister Johnson’s voice is haunting and amazing and SO good. I'm having trouble expressing how much I like Lonnie Johnson in a way that doesn't look like this "YOU MUST LISTEN TO THIS IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE ANY TIME YOU AREN'T LISTENING TO LONNIE JOHNSON YOU ARE WASTING TIME THAT COULD BE SPENT LISTENING TO LONNIE JOHNSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Sopor herself is a superbly eccentric German lady. This hauntingly beautiful little song sounds like a lullaby from a nightmare.
It’s inspired by Ray Bradbury’s "The Halloween Tree," and it’s ominous and exquisite and did I mention Ray Bradbury, whose horror stories are unforgettably beautiful and intelligently written.
23. Specimen -- Sharp Teeth, Pretty Teeth
British Batcave act Specimen is always witty and delicious and freaking incredible. I’m having trouble describing how much I love Specimen without little hearts and capslock. I really love Specimen.
It’s basically a hymn about pumpkins instead of God, but like, in a good way.
Gothic Americana with some klezmer thrown in for good measure. It makes me think of the smells of mulled cider and fall leaves, but also clove cigarettes and the dark corners of out-of-the-way music venues in New York, also of being 16 but that's a different deal.
And that’s probably about as many as I can cram in here for now, but anyway, listen, enjoy, throw a Halloween party with a truly bitchin’ playlist. What are your favorite Halloween songs?