Ten Songs That Will Breathe Fresh Life Into Your Halloween Mixtape
'Monster Mash' and 'Thriller' are great, but maybe there are other songs that would work well with group choreography
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Halloween is once again up in the air, but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the season.
It’s been a few years since I’ve had the opportunity to dress up, last seen at the Los Angeles Theatre in an Ace Frehley Dressed to Kill-era getup (you know, to fit the formal theme).
Whether you’re going to a party, taking the kids trick or treating, or staying in, music is something that always pairs well with the ghoulish festivities. As classic as “Monster Mash” and “Thriller” are, there’s plenty of great Halloween tunes to add to your rotation. Below are some different songs to add to your playlist - may they give you a good fright!
Candlemass - “Bewitched”
“Bewitched” begins like many low-budget doom metal videos of the late ’80s with cigs, hairspray, and a funeral procession. Singer Messiah Marcolin appears from the smoking coffin, looking like Nacho Libre might have if it starred Ozzy Osborne.
Released almost five years before “November Rain,” we have a guitar solo in front of a church, complete with Lars Johansson’s broken picking hand, while Marcolin tries to stir some Swedish undead. “Bewitched” would already be a classic video, but stick around for when the zombies do the “Doom Dance.”
Forget Cats or Rocky Horror Picture Show. Broadway, I want two and a half hours of MESSIAH MARCOLIN’S DOOM DANCE.
Iron Maiden - “Can I Play with Madness”
Old abbey ruins, visions of the future while a young boy learns from a prophet’s crystal ball, and Graham Chapman from Monty Python in one of his last appearances. I’m feeling the spooky vibes.
While the album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was somewhat divisive upon its release with a keyboard-filled prog turn for the metal band, it is also considered the last album of Iron Maiden’s classic era. After all of these years, Iron Maiden keeps in the news, chugging along with the excellent new Senjetsu record, as well as the return of the “Satanic Panic” with parents calling for the firing of a school principal who considers herself a fan at the altar of Eddie. Sensibly, the school board ruled to let her keep her job. C’mon, Canada, you’re better than this.
Phish - “The Haunted House”
For almost twenty years, Phish has been playing Halloween shows, dedicating one of the sets to covering a full album. The tradition kicked off in 1994 with The Beatles The White Album in its 28-song entirety. Other bands covered include a wide range from Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Little Feat, or the fine prank they pulled when they created their own Scandinavian prog-rock band to cover, called Kasvot Växt.
In 2014, the band went with a leftfield choice, creating music to The Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, an old novelty record released by Disneyland Records. Over the sampled narration by Laura Olsher, Phish played an original set filled with the random sounds that fill the album meant to create your own haunted house story. One of my favorite bargain bin finds, I grabbed a copy of the 1964 original at Wax Trax in Denver a few years ago. A spin is definitely worth a few dollars.
Andrew Gold - “Spooky Scary Skeletons”
My buddy reached out earlier this week, telling me that his toddler is obsessed with Halloween music - my kinda kid! The quest for more spooky music took him down a rabbit hole that led to Andrew Gold and “Spooky Scary Skeletons,” this fun little track from 1996.
Gold was a classic behind-the-scenes guy in the ’70s Los Angeles soft rock scene, writing and producing for many huge acts, including Linda Rondstadt. Most famously, though, Gold wrote “Thank You For Being A Friend,” which, of course, is the theme song to Golden Girls. The track initially appeared on his 1978 album, All This and Heaven Too, and hit number twenty-five on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
Ozzy Osbourne - “Bark at the Moon”
One of my all-time favorite music videos, Bark at the Moon and its title track, are peak ’80s camp Ozzy. The first album recorded after the unexpected death of wunderkind guitarist Randy Rhoads, Bark at the Moon features Jake E. Lee in his spot, now buried with keyboards. It’s a different sound for Ozzy, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it.
Also, one of the original acts that drew the “Satanic Panic,” Ozzy finally addresses the issue on “Rock and Roll Rebel,” singing a chorus of “I’m just a rock and roll rebel, I’ll tell you no lies, they say I worship the devil, they must be stupid or blind, I’m just a rock and roll rebel.”
Some things never change.
Ramones - “Pet Sematary”
Stephen King handpicked the Ramones to write the end credits song for the 1989 film adaptation of the novel by the same name. The band was well past their heyday by this point, but “Pet Sematary” became one of their bigger hits, giving sales of the Brain Drain album a boost. The video is also iconic, filmed on what appears to be a freezing night at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery with cameos from Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie.
Master P & Silkk The Shocker - “Scream”
There’s been a lot of press in the last few weeks for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Scream. This dreadful effort from Master P and Silkk The Shocker would come the following year, opening the Scream 2 soundtrack. This song has aged even worse than I remember - Master P thought his signature “UUUUUHHH” was enough of a hook.
If you were a BMG or Columbia House member in the ’90s, you indeed owned this mess of a pop soundtrack (read my article about this phenomenon here). With little to no genre theming, this thing also included Kottonmouth Kings, Sugar Ray, D’Angelo, Dave Matthews Band, Collective Soul, Less Than Jake… you get the picture.
The Misfits - “Halloween” & “Halloween II”
Glenn Danzig’s former house has become a Halloween meme in itself, but this early single from the horror punk godfathers will be celebrating its 40 anniversary this weekend. Now a punk classic, the song has been covered by AFI, Alkaline Trio, Mudhoney, and probably plenty of basement shows.
Oingo Boingo - “Dead Man’s Party”
Before Danny Elfman would rule Halloween parties forever by writing the songs and score for The Nightmare Before Christmas, he was the leader of Oingo Boingo. With a Día de Los Muertos-themed album cover, this title track is all spooky season… except for the music video.
After the record’s first single, “Weird Science” charted as the theme to the movie of the same name, “Dead Man’s Party” was used for Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School, complete with the band playing the song at a righteous college party.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - “A Nightmare on My Street”
This past month, I’ve rewatched all of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, which are full of wild moments on their soundtracks. Featuring a wide range of artists like Dokken, Blondie, Kool Moe Dee, and Goo Goo Dolls, New Line Cinema found any way to cash in on Freddy’s popularity in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
My favorite out of all of these songs is one that didn’t even make the soundtrack. Initially recorded for Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, New Line Cinema rejected the song by DJ Jazzy Jeff and Willow and Jaden’s Dad. The duo released it anyway on their album He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper, and this video showed a few times on MTV before the studio sued their label.
Once thought to be lost to the ages with no one owning a copy, the internet came to the rescue a few years ago. There are references to Freddy and the movies, but the Freddy in the video is a bizarro Frankenstein with record styluses for blades. It’s a pretty great watch after being lost for thirty years.