Another reader request column! They wanted a playlist of songs that I like that would make the perfect music for an adult's Halloween party. Now, I struggled a bit with this. I have a collection of some death metal, some very heavy metal, and some black metal that would be perfect, but I don't think the songs would create a particularly good party vibe. But I didn't want everything to be a light song, either.
So, what I did was go through my music collection. Well, not quite. Straight off the bat, twelve songs just came to me. Actually, it was fifteen, but that was when I decided I only wanted songs with lyrics, so Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells (opening theme)' (from The Exorcist), Carpenter's theme from Halloween and Hermann's theme to Psycho all went. Shame.
The lyrics have to be about something creepy or Halloween-y. One song per artist (sorry AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper fans!). And no songs with the word "Devil" in the title because that is another list for Halloween coming soon (a different reader request!). I also decided that songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show were off-limits for this list. That's what I set for myself, and so here's a list of 20 songs for a Halloween party!
'I Put a Spell On You' by Screaming Jay Hawkins (1956)
There have been so many versions of this song released, but this one has the best Halloween vibe about it, mainly because Screamin' Jay is just so insane, and it comes through in his voice. Scream along with him!
'The Purple People Eater' by Sheb Wooley (1958)
My parents had this on 45, so growing up I heard this song a lot. For me, this is the quintessential song about monsters. I mean, it makes no sense (well, not much – certainly more sense than the similarly themed 'Rapture' by Blondie) and it is a silly novelty song, but I have a soft spot for it, so here it is.
'Monster Mash' by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Cryptkickers (1962)
Oh, come on! You knew this one was going to be here! A novelty song, sure, and a little cheesy, but it is really a bit of fun that no Halloween party would ever be without. Name-dropping the classic Universal monsters, with groan-inducing lines, it is a good little song. And, really, what did happen to the Transylvania Twist?
'Black Sabbath' by Black Sabbath (1970)
One of the first songs by the band that gave us Ozzy Osbourne, possibly coming from influences by the band Coven. I won't go there. Still, a dark, brooding, slightly Satanic song, and perfect for Halloween.
'Horror Movie' by Skyhooks (1974)
Classic Australian rock, with a nice twist at the end. Look, the song is old enough – the horror movie of the title is the television news. This is probably even more the case in 2020. But also, that opening intro music is just so awesome.
'Welcome To My Nightmare' by Alice Cooper (1975)
So many Cooper songs to choose from! But let's go right back to start of his career and this fantastic song. I have seen a live video where he is on stage with two enormous dancing spiders, but even without that visual, this is a creepy song that is very worthy of any Halloween party.
'(Don't Fear) The Reaper' by Blue Oyster Cult (1976)
Look! A song of hope! Don't be afraid! …of death? Ook. Still, this is a classic rock anthem, a song known by many aficionados of the musical sub-genre. Those glorious vocal harmonies, that fine guitar playing, those deeply disturbing lyrics… what a track.
'Psycho Killer' by The Talking Heads (1977)
Yes, the track with the killer bass-line and, well, it's all there in the title, really. You can't get much more Halloween-y than a psycho killer, and the song was released before the rash of serial killer films swamped us all with their formulaic tedium.
'Werewolves Of London' by Warren Zevon (1978)
Okay, the werewolves aren't really werewolves, it's a metaphor, but the song still has that werewolf-y feel, especially when Zevon sings the "Arr-hooo!" bits.
'Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)' by David Bowie (1980)
This is a song that is much ignored and shouldn't be. Look, Bowie had so many great songs, it is easy to overlook some, and this one is perfect for a Halloween party.
'Hells Bells' by AC/DC (1980)
From the classic Back In Black album, the doom bell tolling to start it off and that chugging guitar riff sets this as a song perfect for Halloween.
'Number Of The Beast' by Iron Maiden (1982)
Borrowing Biblical iconography to create a fantastic song, my favourite NWOBHM band hits us with another fine track. That chorus is actually a really good sing-along, as we found out at a few parties back in the 80s.
'Nebraska' by Bruce Springsteen (1982)
Hang on, you may be asking? Springsteen? Well, this is a slow folk-blues track from the stripped-down Nebraska album and it is about… Charlies Starkweather, the spree murderer from the 1950s (also name-dropped in Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start The Fire'). Yeah. And the final lines, giving it a sense of the mundane, are truly terrifying.
'Dracula's Tango (Sucker For Your Love)' by Toto Coelo (1982)
Yeah, more cheese. This group's biggest hit was called 'I Eat Cannibals' (no, really), and this is another strange song. It's about being in love with Dracula. And… yeah. That's about it.
'Thriller' by Michael Jackson (1982)
Yep, the full version!
Another track that just had to be on this list. For kids in the 80s, this was the Halloween song, and it has what I still consider the best music video of all time ever. And the Vincent Price rap in the middle is so wonderful. I surprised myself by actually reciting the whole thing, word-perfect before watching this video. Great, just great.
'Ghostbusters' by Ray Parker Jr. (1984)
Theme song to the film of the same name, this is a great bit of 1980s pop that was a huge hit at Blue Light Discos "back in the day", and still stands up. The remake from the rebooted film, though… urgh. Stick with Ray Parker Jr. You don't need anyone else.
'Somebody's Watching Me' by Rockwell (1984)
The paranoiac's theme song, with guest vocals from Michael Jackson. While the singing may not be the best from Rockwell, this is still a great track that really captures a vibe of being at the centre of something you don't understand, and that it's out to get you. For what it's worth, I could find nothing about Rockwell after this, so maybe they did get him…
'A Nightmare on My Street' by DJ Jazzy & The Fresh Prince (1988)
They were more than 'Boom! Shake The Room!'. This song is a riff on the Nightmare On Elm Street movies, though was not an actual theme song (despite what Wikipedia insisted a few years back). Look, this was when Will Smith was at the goofy start of his career, and this is another fun song.
'Pet Sematary' by The Ramones (1989)
The theme song to the Stephen King film adaptation of the same name (though apparently based on the book), this is a fun bit of punk-pop that is just perfect.
'We're All Gonna Die' by Slash with Iggy Pop (2010)
We're going to die anyway, so let's just have fun, all right? And that's the gist of this hard song from a great album. I tend to focus on other tracks from the CD, but this is still a great track, and Iggy's voice suits it perfectly.
Okay, there we are – 20 songs for your next Halloween party! Even if 1982 is slightly over-represented here… Fun and dark, light and deep, bubbly and slow, there's a bit of something for everyone, so the party will go ahead wonderfully.