Slaylist is a spooky playlist of 13 songs chosen by one of our contributors to get people in the proper mood as Halloween approaches. The Spotify Playlist can be found at the end of the post if you wish to add it to your daily aural rotation.
Thirteen songs simply isn’t enough for a Halloween party playlist. I’ve thrown countless parties in my life and one thing I know is that the wrong music played at the wrong time can kill a groove and the right music will set a mood that will have people talking about your party for years to come. I eschewed the 13 song limit and opted for a full hour (the length of your average mixtape or mix CD), perfectly sequenced for ultimate partying…just add Malort!
Now just put it on and let ‘er rip!
“Theme From Halloween” by MX-80 Sound
I’ve been to Bloomington, Indiana—the home of MX-80 Sound aka simply MX-80—and I imagine that’s what Haddonfield, Illinois would look like. The noise-rock outfit recorded “Them From Halloween” for its 1981 album Crowd Control, but most people probably heard it for the first time on Rhino’s 1998 release New Wave Halloween from their long-running Just Can’t Get Enough series. It’s worth noting that the band also covered Bernard Herrmann’s “Theme From Sisters” for the same album.
*This recording isn’t available on Spotify so I substituted “Halloween Triumphant” by John Carpenter.
“Skulls” by Misfits
Look, you can put the whole Misfits catalog on at a Halloween shindig and most nobody will complain, but “Skulls” remains a personal favorite. This was a staple of my band The Romero’s sets, and one of my favoire memories of being in the band was playing it on the fly when we opened for Local H, a big show for us. We had a perfectly curated setlist—yet had a disastrous practice the night before—and three songs in, we had the crowd eating out of our hands. Being tight and well-rehearsed, we had a little extra time and out of nowhere, bassist Pat O’ Sullivan called out “Skulls” and without hesitation, the band ripped into two minutes of punk rock savagery. Even the sound guy–typically the grumpiest guy in the club—was dancing and singing along.
“Chain Saw” by Ramones
After two corkers, the third song on a party tape has got to rock, and very few bands rock as much as The Ramones. Johnny Ramone is famously a horror movie enthusiast, collecting ‘50s genre posters—close friend Nicolas Cage made sure that 2006’s THE WICKER MAN was dedicated to Johnny and the hubris of mispronouncing “massacre” in order to rhyme it with “took my baby away from me” is the most punk rock thing in linguistics.
“Fright Night” by J. Geils Band
“We wanted something really pop and fun to get people dancing and jumping and smiling,” FRIGHT NIGHT music supervisor told me in 2015. “J. Geils was just that kind of band.” “Fright Night” opens up the album, but plays over the film’s closing credit, putting a button on things as Evil Ed exclaims, “you’re so cool, Brewster.” The FRIGHT NIGHT soundtrack consists mostly of songs composed explicitly for the film, a trend that’s all but gone by the wayside. “Soundtracks now are based more in licensing,” explained Chackler. “It’s a lot more work to have original songs in your movie. You need a couple of demos for the director to listen to see if it fits, to interpret his vision of the scene.” After FRIGHT NIGHT, Chackelr continued to work in the horror genre, bring in Dokken to record “Dream Warriors” for the third ELM STREET film and supervising the soundtrack to 1988’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, PART II. Its worth noting that singer Peter Wolf left the band in 1983 and this song features keyboardist Seth Justman on lead vocals.
*“Fright Night” is not available on Spotify, I’ve substituted “Armies Of The Night” by Sparks, but any song off this soundtrack will do.
“Over At The Frankenstein Place” by Rocky Horror Show Roxy Cast
Initially a box office bomb, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE show became a pop culture right of passage and a Halloween tradition. There are plenty of cast recordings available outside of the theatrical cast, but my favorite has always been my favorite. The original play was a minor hit in London when Lou Adler brought it to Los Angles for a run at the world-famous Roxy nightclub. Adler also produced a cast recording for his Ode Records label that featured Tim Curry and Meat Loaf (both who would go on to star in the film adaptation) as well as noted session group The Wrecking Crew. The recording was far bigger and slicker than the original London Cast (which also featured Curry) and featured a smokin’ horn section. Like the Misfits or Blue Oyster Cult, you could pick a song at random from ROCKY HORROR and it will slide right into a Halloween playlist, but with its driving beat, a nod to ol’ Dr. Frankenstein, and a verse from Brad Majors excised from the film’s version, the Roxy recording of “Frankenstein Place” is undeniable.
“Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell
Rockwell—otherwise known as Kennedy William Gordy—was destined to put out at least one hit being the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy. With nods to The Twilight Zone and PSYCHO, his ode to paranoid delusions “Somebody’s Watching Me” features a creepy video, backup vocals from Michael Jackson, and was included in the 1987 Disney television special, DTV Monster Hits further solidifying it’s status as a Halloween mixtape mainstay.
“Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult
There are plenty of underrated bands in rock ‘n’ roll, but Blue Oyster Cult remaining a…cult act…is confounding. Founded in 1967, the band blends heavy metal, occult imagery, and prog never neglecting the hooks that draw in the average pop music fan; weird, but not too weird. Penned by lead guitarist Buck Dharma, the tune is an affectionate tribute to the big green guy who has been destroying Tokyo for over fifty years, this one will have everyone singing along, “go, go, Godzilla.”
“Gonna Raise Hell” by Cheap Trick
While Cheap Trick are considered power-pop luminaries, their lyrical content has always been considerably more sinister than their contemporaries. That said, they’ve never done an explicitly “scary song.” Ira Robbins of Trouser Press believed the song to be about the Jonestown Massacre while songwriter and guitarist Rick Neilsen claim it’s about “religious, political, and nuclear fanatics.” The song does have Halloween credibility as it scored the holiday episode of Freaks and Geeks. Any way you slice it, it’s all pretty scary stuff. Featuring a Detroit style jungle beat, “Gonna Raise Hell” is almost a disco song, so it’s a perfect dance tune to end side one of your mixtape.
*Feel free to substitute the recording from Music For Hangovers for a wilder take on the song.
“City Of The Dead” by The Clash
A B-side to 1977’s “Complete Control,” “City Of Dead” is not explicitly a horror song, despite lifting its title from the 1960 British film released in the U.S. as HORROR HOTEL. Instead, it’s a punk rock song about punk rock, Joe Strummer commenting drug abuse and violence against fans and musicians in the then-burgeoning punk rock scene. “City” is notable in the Clash catalog as being the first song to feature instrumentation outside of drums/bass/guitar with a saxophone blown by Steve Nieve of Elvis Costello And The Attractions. I put this on a Halloween mixtape in the late ‘90s, and whenever I hear that opening saxophone, it takes me back to being a teenager on the verge of my twenties, playing that tape loud in my ‘91 Cavalier convertible.
“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Punks, metalheads, rockers, mods, R&B fans…if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 39 years on this earth, nobody doesn’t like Creedence. Influenced by the film THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER, “Bad Moon Rising” will forever be part of the horror movie pantheon for its inclusion in John Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON not to mention TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS, and BLADE.
*If “Bad Moon Rising” is played out for you (FACT: That’s impossible) feel free to replace this with “Sinister Purpose” from GREEN ROOM.
“Creature From The Black Lagoon” by Dave Edmunds
I can relate to the gill man: he loves the beach, bathing brunette beauties, and is just looking for a little action. “He was feeling like any other lonely fella, decided to take one while the city was asleep,” is pretty typical for power-pop lyrics, and songwriter Billy Bremner attributing it to a classic Universal Monster is a work of subversive genius. The song appeared on Edmund’s solo album Repeat When Necessary which featured Bremner, Terry Williams and Nick Lowe backing Edmunds up.
“Season Of The Witch” by Richard Thompson
Written, recorded, and released by Donovan in 1966, “Season Of The Witch” featured Jimmy Page—then a session musician working in England—on guitar. In 2003, a cover version from noted guitarist and singer Richard Thompson appeared on the soundtrack to the NBC series Crossing Jordan and features Thompson’s notable vocals and distinct guitar playing.
*The Richard Thompson recording is not available on Spotify, so I substituted Al Kooper’s raucous rendition.
“Devil Woman” – Cliff Richard
A top ten hit in the states in upon its release in 1976, “Devil Woman” is a classic of ‘70s A.M. pop. Performed by British singer Cliff Richard and written by Terry Britten and Christine Holmes, Making “Devil Woman” the theme for a sultry femme fatale seems like an easy win, yet the tune didn’t get utilized in anything horror adjacent until appearing in an episode of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch in 2018.
“Pet Sematary” by The Ramones
Despite hitting #4 on the Billboard Alternative charts upon its release, “Pet Sematary” was somehow nominated for the Razzie Award For Worst Original Song in 1989. Ramones bassist Dee Dee wrote the song in Stephen King’s basement…how’s that for inspiration. The track was masaged by producers Daniel Ray and Jean Beauvoir giving “Pet Sematary” a slicker, more radio-ready sound,
“Do The Freddy” by The Elm Street Group
One of my favorite pieces of Freddy Krueger merchandise is the 1987 album Freddy’s Greatest Hits (I still can’t believe I didn’t own this in the ‘80s). “Do The Freddie” was penned by Dennis Lambert and Lou Courtney, the tune was based on the ‘60s fad dance, “the Freddie.” Recorded and released by British band Freddie and the Dreamers, “Do The Freddie” peaked at #18 on the Billboard charts in June of 1965. “Do The Freddy” on the other hand was performed by The Elm Street Group—a collection of studio musicians—and features Robert Engund as the Springwood slasher just popping in to deliver his maniacal laugh on the choruses. Freddy’s Greatest Hits remains one of the oddest pieces of classic ELM STREET merchandise and you got to hand it to Englund, he never phoned any of this stuff in.
“Monster Mash” Bobby “Boris” Picket
Let’s face it: if you don’t play “Monster Mash” at your Halloween party, your Halloween party aint shit. The 60s were a golden age of novelty recordings from the Chipmunks to Camp Granada and Bobby “Boris” PIcket’s “Monster Mash” is one of the most memorable. Inspired by hit Gary S. Paxton’s “Alley Oop”, the Mashed Potato fad dance, and Boris Karloff, the song was composed by Pickett and band member Lenny Capizzi. The song hit #1 on the Billboard charts upon its release in October of 1962 and re-entered the charts in August of 1970 and May of 1973.
“Saturday Night” by Misfits
The Misfits are like the punk-rock Van Halen. While Glenn Danzig is the originator, there is a loyal band of Michale Graves enthusiasts, some who may even opine that the Graves records are more enjoyable. There’s s certainly more spit and polish on 1999’s Famous Monsters, the second Misfits album to feature Graves, featuring more production and a massive guitar sound. “Saturday Night” finds Graves singing of proms, and drive in’s, nodding to the chord progression that can be heard on so many romantic ballads from the Eisenhower era….oh, and murder.
“It’s Halloween” by The Shaggs
Some call it outsider art, some call it proto-punk; either way, The Shaggs’ Philosophy Of The World is one of a kind. A favorite of Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain, The Shaggs was made up of the Wiggins sisters, and put in motion by patriarch Austin Wiggins who was convinced that the band was destined for rock ‘n’ roll glory despite their first performance being met with “jeering and soda cans tossed from the audience.” “It’S Halloween” became a favorite novelty tune after Dr. Demento began playing it on his syndicated radio show. The song gives new meaning to the term, off-beat. Play this one last, otherwise, it might kill the party.