This is the spot and time of year on Complete PR’s little slice of cosmic Internet bandwidth that we write about our team’s favorite scary movies just in time for Halloween. But this year we are doing something different as we count down the days to October 31. We are giving you our perfect Halloween songs. You can listen to all of them here on our new Spotify playlist, but until then, keep reading to learn why we enjoy these songs so much.
Anna Spangler’s Spooky Songs:
Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus: Not speaking from personal experience or anything, but this is the perfect song to listen to if you’re wearing a floor-length velvet black cape and custom-fit retractable vampire fangs.
I Put a Spell on You by Marilyn Manson: While the original is a haunted mood of its own, I find the Marilyn Manson cover scarier. I remember the first time I googled Marilyn Manson and realized why.
Zombies by Childish Gambino: Not intended to be a Halloween song, however, it is a vibe.
There Will Be Blood by Kim Petras: I’d like to submit the entirety of Kim Petras’ Halloween album as evidence, but I will stick with just one. This song is for the pop girlies who just want a tiny bit of spook in their music history.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf by The Cramps: The title speaks for himself; this song will have you howling at the moon before it’s over. Just don’t howl too loudly, it bothers the neighbors.
Grace Hartley’s Hairaisers:
Spooky Scary Skeletons by Andrew Fold: Spooky Scary Skeletons is a classic, and the original version reminds me of being a kid. You can easily find a handful of spookier and even scarier covers of the classic song on Spotify. I also love skeletons—for my entire senior year of high school (not just October) I drove around with a skeleton in my passenger seat. His name was Gary. I still have him, and he hangs out in my living room. Here is the proof.
This is Halloween: The Nightmare Before Christmas is another Halloween classic (and it is a Halloween movie, not a Christmas movie. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Not The Nightmare Before Christmas I will die on this hill). Nothing gets me feeling more pumped for Halloween than this song.
This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson: Maybe this answer is cheating because it’s technically the same song…but the Marilyn Manson cover of This is Halloween is so creepy and crawly and Marilyn himself is the creepiest, so it seems fitting for Halloween.
I Put a Spell on You by Bette Midler: Hocus Pocus is my all-time favorite Halloween movie, so it’s no shock that this one ended up on my list. I’ve always wanted to go to a Halloween party like the one in the movie and dance to this song until five in the morning. Word is this song will make another appearance on this list but by another artist.
The Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett: Another goodie that reminds me of being a kid around Halloween time. Spooky but not creepy, and makes perfect background music while you bake pumpkin muffins.
John Boyanoski’s Bootastic Ballot
Born on Hallowe’en by Russ Ballard: Best known as the lead singer and guitarist for Argent in the early 1970s, Ballard carved a long career as a guy who wrote a ton of hits for other musicians. Some of them were songs he recorded himself that became monster tracks for other artists (Winning by Santana and Liar by Three Dog Night). In contrast, he simply wrote for others (Back in the New York Groove most famously by Ace Frehley and You Can Do Magic by America). Somewhere in there, he wrote Born on Hallowe’en, which is biographical since he was born on Halloween. It sounds like he wrote the music for Elton John (it’s good stuff) and added some throwaway lyrics. He then just decided to record it himself.
Vampire Girls by Jonathan Richman: After disbanding the Modern Lovers (one of my all-time favorite bans BTW), Jonathan Richman carved out a career of writing quirky little pop numbers. This is one of them. How many people would rhyme “beans and rice” with “ritual sacrifice” and make it work? This song does. Plus it includes Richman intoning the words “evil now, scary now” over and over, which is a nice segue to my next pick.
Werewolf Bar Mitzvah by Tracy Morgan: This song started as a snippet of a joke on the amazing 30 Rock, but due to the efforts of cast members, staff writers, and Donald Glover (who also makes an appearance on Anna’s list) it became a full-fledged song recorded just a few days before Halloween. It also uses the phrase “spooky scary,” and reminds me of Richman's work. I love this song.
Frankenstein by the Edgar Winter Group: An amazing instrumental that hit number on the Hot 100 in 1973, this song gets its name from the way it was spliced together from numerous takes. Kind of like Frankenstein. Bonus horror points: This song appeared on the album “They Only Come Out at Night,” whose cover photo was compared to what vampires look like and do in Stephen King’s classic, Salem’s Lot.
Devil Woman by Cliff Richard: The biggest star in British rock music before the Beatles hit the scene, his career lagged in the 1960s behind a squeaky clean image. However, the spooky-themed Devil Woman brought him back into the mainstream in 1976 as well as give him his first major hit in America. With lyrics about black cats and crystal balls, it’s a little corny, but Richard has a great voice and really sells it.
The Classics: These are the songs that you almost only hear once a year
The Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett: Probably the major Halloween song that really was the first pop song to capture the ethos of the Halloween spirit. Told from the standpoint of a Frankenstein-like doctor who creates the ultimate Halloween boogie. It’s fun and effective. For a bonus, here is a version by The Beach Boys, and it’s obvious that Mike Love is loving this song.
Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley: A goofy little song from the early days of rock and roll (rock-n-roll?). Another infectious song that easily puts a smile on your face. Fun fact on Sheb Wooley….he also is the Wilhelm Scream.
Thriller by Michael Jackson: Yes, this song does get played at other times of the year, but you almost never hear the spoken word part from the indomitable Vincent Price. This song resurrected Price’s career in the 1980s and opened up his talents to a new generation of fans.
I Put a Spell on You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: The original by the prolific Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was a “love song” that came off as a horror classic due to the singer’s on-stage theatrics. Singing with a skull in his hand. A coffin on stage. He was Alice Cooper before there was Alice Cooper. He also was allegedly drunk during the recording.
Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr.: Who you gonna call? This song. That’s if you want to get everyone singing along in a woozy rhythm at your Halloween party.
Penny’s Purrfect Picks
Year of the Cat by Al Stewart: I’m a cat. I don’t care for Halloween so here are my songs about cats. You can’t fire me. I’m the office cat.
Cat Scratch Fever: This does not endorse anything about Ted Nugent. I just like the song.
Cats in the Cradle: Good song. I don’t need a cradle. I sleep wherever I like and when I like.
Katmandu by Bob Seger: A place that exists for cats? Count me in.
CATS: The entire soundtrack. Love it. The original Broadway version. Not THAT movie. Makes me want to puke up a hairball just thinking about it.