Tom Lohr is a fan of surf music. He has seen the Beach Boys 12 times in concert. He has also caught three Jan and Dean concerts.
Don't Let Your Halloween Party Be Dead
Other than New Year's Eve, Halloween is the annual event that spawns the most parties. Who doesn't love planning what you will be for the next Halloween party? While not an official holiday, it is an event that fosters revelry of all types. Children go door to door and collect a bounty of tooth-rotting candy, adults attend alcohol infused get togethers, and both get to wear costumes. So how popular is Halloween? In 2019, Americans spent 8.8 BILLION dollars on event related costumes, décor and candy. If nothing else, Halloween is great for the economy.
All Hallow's Eve is, other than Christmas, the holiday that has inspired the most music. Hundreds of artists from Michael Jackson to The Beach Boys have recorded songs of fright. There is something about Halloween music that sets the mood for a celebration of all things scary. Celebrations are better with accompanying music, and wading through the selection to set the mood at your party or get together can be daunting. To set the mood for any Halloween event, you can play one or all of the top ten spooktacular Halloween songs of all time to keep your guests moovin' and groovin'.
1. Monster Mash (1962) Bobby (Boris) Pickett
Monster Mash is undoubtedly the most recognized Halloween song of all time. Starting with the gurgling sound of an active laboratory, followed by a enticing drum introduction, it's a tale of a mad scientist who discovers the monster he created can dance. The song was so popular it hit number one on the Billboard Chart in October of 1962 and charted twice in the 1970s.
2. Zombie Jamboree (numerous releases) Harry Belafonte
It's always good to have a selection of music at a party, and who doesn't like a little calypso? Zombie Jamboree by Harry Belafonte, the King of Calypso, will have revelers doing the Mambo in no time. Harry belts out a catchy tune about a zombie party in a New York cemetery. It's part of any essential Belafonte collection and a tune he recorded several times over the years.
3. Rockin' in the Graveyard (1959) Jackie Morningstar
One of the best things about Halloween music is the variety of genres it in which it is recorded. Starting out with some evil laughing, Jackie sings about graveyard antics accompanied by a twangy guitar. It is the perfect mesh of fright and rockabilly.
4. Til the Following Night (1961) Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages
This group out of the UK was mainly Dave Sutch with a rotating backing group called The Savages. Throughout several decades, several notable rockers were Savages, including Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Starting with some of the best eerie screams and moans in music, a driving sax and pounding piano make this a must that will move your monsters.
6. Dinner With Drac (part 1) (1958) John Zacherle
Zacherle was a TV host for a program called Shock Theatre that played horror films. His hit finds him having dinner with Count Dracula, only to find out he is the main course. Don't let the hot guitar licks at the beginning fool you, along with a sax, the music turns the spoken ghoulish lyrics into something danceable and unforgettable. Do not play during mealtime.
5. The Voodoo Walk (1962) Sonny Richards Panics with Cindy and Misty
Don't let the the spoken words at the intro fool you. The blood curdling scream just after/ is followed by some catchy lyrics and slick drum work. Cindy and Misty's voices blend well for a musical description of the “dance of the dead.”
7. Coolest Little Monster (1960) John Zacherle
All of the work in ghastly film made John Zacherle somewhat of an expert in frightening tunes. He owns two of the top ten songs. This recording is John in a voice that is a mix of spoken word and singing that, while drab for anything else, works well for this genre. An opposite his gory “Dinner With Drac,” this song is love letter to his monster sweetheart.
8. Walkin' Through a Cemetery (1962) Claudine Clark
A true upbeat tune, it will have you dancing by the end of the first verse. As the title indicates, it is about walking through a spooky cemetery. Claudine sings in a raspy blues voice and is backed by a familiar sounding 60s girl group. The driving music alone is worth giving it a listen.
9. Drac's Back (1962) Billy DeMarco
Sung in the spirit of Bobby Pickett's style, Billy sings about Count Dracula's return to the castle (he was off making a record). Backed by a sassy girl duo, it's the drums and sax that makes “Drac's Back” an essential track on your Halloween playlist.
10. Gila Monster (1959) Joe Johnson
The gravely voiced Joe Johnson hammers out the lyrics about the fabled Gila Monster. It's a toe tapping tune that starts off with eerie sounds and then plunges head first into a hard driving backing track. It has a bit of a cartoonish quality about it, but Halloween isn't to be taken too seriously.
Get Your Ghoul On
If you notice, all of these songs were recorded in the late 50s and early 60s. Horror films were all the rage during that time, and they made perfect dates for teens. What better to get your girl to cling to you at the theatre or drive-in by scaring the bejesus out of her? Adults were way too serious during the day to entertain to novelty songs, so most were rock 'n roll tunes to appeal to teens. There have been Halloween songs recorded after the 60s, but none can really match the novelty songs of the mid century, no matter how pop they tried to make it sound (I'm lookin at you Michael Jackson). There was even a disco cover of “Drac's Back;” it sucks.
All of these tunes are available for a listen on YouTube if you want to give them a try. If they meet your approval, you should download them to your music playing device. If you are planning a party, your guests will dig the vintage Halloween homage.