It’s October and Halloween season has officially started. Stuck amidst a global pandemic and traditional trick-or-treating looking pretty unlikely, families will be looking for other ways to celebrate the holiday. Maybe you’re having a Halloween party. Or perhaps you just want to shake the COVID-19 blues and get into the Halloween spirit. Christmas music will be playing in stores come November 1st – maybe sooner. Entire Sirius XM satellite radio stations will be dedicated to Christmas music. So where’s the love for Halloween? Why no talk about Halloween Playlists? In this edition of The Chopping Block, I’m going to offer some recommendations for building a fun Halloween Playlist. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list. I’ve also tried to recommend a balanced list of songs that will play well to a mixed audience from young to old.
Witch Doctor – David Seville
Ross Bagdasarian Sr., performing as David Seville, scored a Number One Billboard hit in 1958 with Witch Doctor. It’s a short, fun song that’s easy to sing along courtesy of its catchy “Ooh Eeh Ooh Ah A-Ah, Ting, Tang, Walla Walla Bing Bang” chorus. For trivia fans, Bagdasarian would go on to use the same vocal effect to create Alvin and the Chipmunks. Kids and ‘Boomers alike will enjoy this selection. Everyone else may wish it was a little shorter.
Season of the Witch – Donovan
The British ‘Sunshine Superman‘ scored a ’60’s psychedelic hit with Season of the Witch. In addition to its appropriate Halloween Playlist title, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page provided the original guitar work for the song. No, Donovan probably didn’t intend for his song to be a Halloween staple, but Page’s guitar work gets under your skin. Season of the Witch is catchy but creepy at the same time.
Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Time Warp, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is a timeless classic. Undoubtedly, this is the definition of a midnight movie or cult film. If you’re planning a Halloween party and want your guests to have a good time, this fun sing-along is a must for your ‘Monster Mash’ playlist. Just make sure to bring some toast to throw.
Teenage Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
Before Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper was the OG hard-rocking occultist. If you want a ‘Monster Mash’ Halloween playlist that has some legitimacy, you need an Alice Cooper track. Fortunately, Alice Cooper’s musical library offers literally dozens of options. Teenage Frankenstein happens to be a personal favourite that was also prominently featured in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.
Ray Parker, Jr.’s Ghostbusters video was a big deal. It obviously never reached the heights of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But as a kid in the ’80’s, I sat through a lot of videos I didn’t care about on the City TV CHUM 30 Countdown to see Ghostbusters. It’s an easy song to sing along to with a catchphrase that’s fun to shout out at a party. Who are you gonna call? Ghostbusters! This ‘Monster Mash’ hit is fun for all ages.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels
Not a country music fan, you say? You don’t need to love country music to enjoy this story about a country boy challenged to a fiddle duel by the devil himself. In addition to its subject matter, the Charlie Daniels Band deliver a rousing bluegrass song that’s sure to get people out of their seats.
A Nightmare on My Street – D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Will Smith is a pretty good actor, which worked out well for him. In all fairness, he wasn’t a terribly good rapper. But there’s no denying the infectious fun of several songs he recorded as ‘The Fresh Prince’ along with D.J. Jazzy Jeff. His ‘Weird Al’ take on A Nightmare on Elm Street proved to be a fun hit in the late ’80’s. As a parent, I personally guarantee that kids still love this song. And if you grew up in the 80’s, the nostalgia factor makes this a ‘Monster Mash’ playlist essential.
Cry Little Sister – Marilyn Manson
To be honest, you could include just about any Marilyn Manson song on a ‘Monster Mash’ Halloween playlist. Yet a couple of summers ago, Manson gifted horror fans with his cover version of The Lost Boys’ classic theme, Cry Little Sister. Backed by a chorus of creepy singing children, Manson’s take on the original is perfectly haunting for your Halloween playlist.
Living Dead Girl – Rob Zombie
No Halloween playlist would be complete without Rob Zombie. Like Marilyn Manson, you could take your pick of just about any Zombie song to include. His music is littered with references to classic and drive-in B-films. But Living Dead Girl is one of his best tracks from what remains his best solo album.
Spooky – Classics IV
Okay, the Classics IV’s jazz-fusion hit from 1967 really has nothing to do with Halloween. It’s just a fun, groovy track with a thematically-appropriate title you can throw onto your Halloween Playlist to mix it up a little. Plus if you have any Baby Boomers at your party, they’ll appreciate the throwback.
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
If a song featured in An American Werewolf in London isn’t good enough for your Halloween Playlist, then I don’t know what is. This is classic rock at its best. Horror fans will instantly get the connection. By virtue of the song title, non-horror fans can equally appreciate its inclusion.
Shout at the Devil – Motley Crüe
It’s hard to believe now, but in the 1980’s, listening to Motley Crüe was the best way to piss off your teachers and parents. A lot of musical acts made a quick buck by intentionally drawing links to their music and Satan. Few bands did it as well Motley Crüe. Of course, there isn’t anything remotely Satanic about the Crüe. But Shout at the Devil is a devilishly fun heavy metal tune that even non-rockers can enjoy on Halloween.
The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash did some of his best work later in his career. His American Music albums are nothing short of haunting. Simply put, you don’t need to be a country music fan to appreciate The Man in Black. And The Man Comes Around is chillingly perfect for horror films and Halloween. This song about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse works so well for horror that Zack Snyder used it for the opening credits to his Dawn of the Dead remake.
Pet Sematary – Ramones
No party playlist is complete without a Ramones tune. If you’re a Stephen King fan, you’ve probably seen King include excerpts from Ramones’ lyrics in his books. Furthermore, The Ramones wrote this tune specifically for the film adaptation of Pet Sematary. Not quite on par with other Ramones’ tracks, Pet Sematary is still a good Ramones song, which makes it a necessity for a Halloween Playlist.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
The opening with rain falling in the backgroun. Occult-infused lyrics. Ozzy Osbourne’s haunting vocals. Geezer Butler’s sludgy bass lines. Black Sabbath is the quintessential song to set the mood for any Halloween party. You don’t need to download Halloween sound effects from Apple music. Just download this song.
Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
Rockwell had one hit single in the ’80’s. Michael Jackson providing vocals on the chorus probably helped sell 45’s of the single. But for a Halloween Playlist, Rockwell’s catchy ode to paranoia is a perfect addition. His reference to Psycho is just an added bonus.
They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! – Napoleon XIV
Yes, another novelty song, this time from the 1960’s. Napoleon XIV’s ode to going insane is short and catchy. With that backing drumbeat and repetitive lyrics, you have an ideally simple song for a Halloween party. Add this to your Halloween playlist and you’ll have your guests humming along and stomping their feet.
Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus
It wouldn’t really be a Halloween playlist without some genuine goth. And no, Marilyn Manson does not count. Goth pioneers Bauhaus are arguably best known to mainstream listeners for their song, Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Of course, it’s not a rousing party anthem. Yet aside from its title and namesake, Bela Lugosi’s Dead is also an atmospheric piece that plays well in the background at your Halloween party.
Thriller – Michael Jackson
You’re not having a Halloween playlist without Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I grew up in the ’80’s and the song was a ‘monster’ hit. As kids, we would rush home to watch the epic music video. At the peak of his career, Jackson crafted a song that is both fun to dance to (just watch the video) and a perfect homage to B-film horror film fun. In the event that your Halloween party is tanking, put on Thriller and see if you can get guests up on their feet to do the big dance number.
Mummy Dust – Ghost
Did you know that the Swedes love their metal. Not death metal and, in fact, more a mix of rock and ABBA with maybe some Queen mixed in, Swedish band Ghost were made for Halloween. Like Slipknot and KISS, Ghost rely almost as much on stage theatrics and costume as the music itself. Frontman Tobias Forge even crafted the elaborate Papa Emeritus persona for the band. Any of their songs is fitting for a ‘Monster Mash’ playlist. But with the distinct lack of Halloween songs about mummies, Mummy Dust seems appropriate, regardless of what its lyrics actually mean.
The Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett
The Monster Mash is the closest thing Halloween has to a perennial anthem. Bobby “Boris” Pickett and his Crypt-Kickers scored their one Billboard hit with Monster Mash in 1962. Narrated by a “mad scientist” complete with a false Transylvanian accent, Monster Mash is the perfect ‘love letter’ to the ‘Golden Era’ of the Universal Monsters. If you’re looking for a different take on the classic, you can also check out The Misfits’ cover version.