Halloween is with us again, sure it is an American import, although it had its origins in Europe, specifically ancient Celtic/Gaelic harvest festivals and was originally known as Hallows’ Evening, October 31st signals the commencement of services in remembrance of the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.But we associate it more with kids trick-or-treating around our neighbourhoods dressed like ghouls, zombies, ghosts, with fake knives sticking out of their heads, maybe carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, apple-bobbing, playing pranks, telling scary stories, watching horror films, and having Halloween parties.While Christmas generates more seasonal songs than any other, in the US Halloween runs a close second, the legendary schlock-horror TV shows compered by Elivira, the buxon, double-entendre-tossing Mistress of Darkness, and Dr. Demento, the equally weird impresario of musical oddities, have produced such best-selling compilations as Elvira Presents Haunted Hits and Dr. Demento Presents: Spooky Tunes and Scary Melodies, so for your all thriller-no filler, ghoulish guide to what’s creepy and cool, 4TR humbly offers the following songs to help you channel your inner devil, werewolf and goblin.The Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris’ Pickett and the Crypt-Kicker Five, stormed the charts in 1962 and went straight to #1 right around the world, it was written by Bobby Pickett (lyrics) and Leonard Capizzi (music), who were both members of the lounge act The Cordials. The recording by Garpax was first rate, it may have been a novelty song, but a stellar group of session musos were assembled including Leon Russell, and Ventures drummer Mel Taylor, the backup singers were The Blossoms, Phil Spector’s go-to backing group on many of his hits, which included the incomparable Darlene Love. Pickett’s impersonation of Boris Karloff was spot – on and the record was timeless, re-released again eleven years later, it climbed into the top ten yet again in the US in 1973.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins recorded I Put A Spell on You in 1956, the wild man’s carnal howl was considered “too cannibalistic” and was banned on US radio, there is however a video of a live performance by him of this song on the Merv Griffen show in the 1960’s for hard-line blues fans, Nina Simone’s version was superior, but Alan Price, former keyboard player with the Animals, gave us the definitive version in 1966.
In 1978 two strong contenders for Halloweeen night glory were released, Warren Zevon recorded his seminal hit Werewolves of London, assisted in the recording studio by Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) wherein he namechecked the London Chinese restaurant Lee Ho Fook, where the werewolf ordered beef chow mein. Werewolves… and Lynryd Skynryd’s Sweet Home Alabama ultimately became Kid Rock’s ’08 hit All Summer Long. The other ’78 release was Meatloaf’s album Bat out of Hell, and the title track was certainly demonic and hellish, but 4TR went for the “hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent”.
Classics IV were a soft rock group from Florida who had a top 5 hit in 1968 with their smooth, catchy and kind of eerie song called Spooky, which featured a great sax solo, members of the band later re-formed as the Atalanta Rhythm Section and took the song back into the charts once again in 1979.
In 1984 we couldn’t get enough of Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis busting ghosts around NYC, the movie became a cultural phenomenon as the three eccentric parapsychologists evicted ghosts from the Empire State building, the Chrysler building and remarkably Sigourney Weaver. The hit theme song Ghosbusters written and recorded by Ray Parker Jnr. was a smash hit selling over 3.5 million copies, Huey Lewis sued Parker for plagiarism and got an out-of-court settlement, Parker still made plenty, “who you gonna call…”.
Michael Jackson instantly claimed legend status for his song and video of Thriller, a horror-driven, big budget production that looked like a movie, sounded like a movie, and even used a former star of the horror genre, Vincent Price, as the voice-over guy, by now video clips had become an art form, as Jackson and his cast of ghouls and zombies grooved and paraded through the streets and into our homes. People still pay homage to the film clip in home movies and by performing the “claw” dance at weddings, and Jackson included a disclaimer in the clip that he didn’t believe in the occult, it seems he had other interests on his mind.
We saved the weirdest for last, there is a little ditty which crept out of an album called Halloween Howls several years ago to become a surprising viral hit, Spooky, Scary Skeletons is a jaunty little ditty with the near-generic title that has spawned remixes, covers and tributes, and on YouTube alone has racked up over 300 million views – and counting. The animation is a monochrome Disney cartoon from 1929, its a simple, humorous, and clever take on undead skeletons cavorting around a cemetery like living tombstones, and will remind you how daring and un-PC Walt Disney used to be.
Honorable mentions for those songs that missed the cut include:
The Devil Went Down to Georgia- Charlie Daniels Band
Sympathy for the Devil- Rolling Stones
Devil in Disguise – Elvis Presley
Devil Woman – Cliff Richard
Black – The Throb
Running with the Devil – Van Halen
Scary Monsters – (And Super Creeps) -David Bowie
Season of the Witch – Donovan
Black Widow – Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora
Horror Movie – Skyhooks
Zombie – The Cranberries
Black Magic Woman – Santana
Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
Addams Family Theme.
Halloween Movie Theme
Special 4TR profiles of Halloween-approved local hits this week includes Witch Queen from the Chantoozies, Devil Inside by INXS, The Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture show soundtrack featuring “Little Nell” Campbell in the role of Columbia, and Little River Band’s Witchery from 1977.