Two years ago, I compiled a list of Halloween-Related Music Videos (which is really rather embarrassing, but I'll make the mistake of linking you to it anyway). This year, I am focusing on the scarier sound or lyrics of a song rather than the videos, although a lot of them have fun/scary videos anyway. I will admit, some of my choices are recycled from the previous list.
So, in no particular order (apart from musical flow), here is a list of twenty songs for a Halloween playlist (explanations after the image).
"Thriller" by Michael Jackson
I know, it's obvious, it's cliched, but "Thriller" is just a great Halloween song. It's perfect to kick off the playlist, with its high-energy, but beyond that, it has all the references to classic horror elements, from the monsters to the tense thriller feeling. Plus, any song with Vincent Price narration has to be a bit frightening. And of course, it has a terrific, groundbreaking music video:
"Zombie" by The Cranberries
The Cranberries are an under-rated 90s band. I can never understand how there are so many of their CDs floating around thrift stores and yet no one seems to want them now. In any case, a song referencing zombies is a definite Halloween winner in my book (even if it is an anti-war song).
"Lullaby" by The Cure
For a band with such a goth appearance, many of The Cure's songs seem to have a positive, romantic subject matter. Such is not the case with "Lullaby" which details the story of Robert Smith preparing to be eaten by a giant spider. I don't know about you, but giant, goth-digesting spiders seem pretty freaky to me.
"11 Mustachioed Daughters" by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Believe it or not, I actually am capable of going a whole blog post without mentioning The Bonzos. I just prefer not to. While most Bonzos songs pivot on the bizarre and the sometimes comedic, this song takes "unhinged" to a whole new level. It's quite impossible to properly explain the creepiness of this song without you hearing it for yourself.
"Leave It Open" by Kate Bush
The Dreaming is a slightly spooky album altogether with Bush's usual haunting voice. But little is creepier than "Leave It Open." The ambiguous and insane lyrics paired with the strange and slightly futuristic vocal effects make this song sound more than a little off its rocker.
"Turn The Lights Off" by Tally Hall
This was my summer song, along with all of Good and Evil. But we can still take it at its surface meaning rather than the obvious innuendos due to the clever video that was just released for it:
You know, monsters, claws, it's Halloween right?
"Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads
I never would have included this until I saw it suggested by somewhere around three other people. I got to thinking about it and I decided that killers are pretty scary. I'm just not afraid of David Byrne, that's all.
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
Another obvious choice. Ghostbusters is an amazing movie though, and this is a great song for going out and sucking up poltergeists in your unlicensed nuclear accelerator.
"Love Potion #9" by The Clovers
Guy gets a "potion" from a creepy gypsy lady. Enough said. It was pointed out to me that this is not the most common version of the song. Most people know it by The Searchers. I would like to clarify that The Clovers are the original artists of this song.
"Damn These Vampires" by The Mountain Goats
Once again, I'm just going to take this song literally, because it's a good song and it relates at face value. It has the typical elements of a Mountain Goats song, while still managing to capture an old-time feeling and referencing vampires.
"Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon
A bit of comic relief in this playlist. It's very Halloween-ish, but in a completely-ignoring-the-subtext way (spoiler alert: it's probably not really about werewolves). I'm sure Warren Zevon meant it to be humorous and it's a great classic rock song no matter what time of year it is.
"Ode To Billy Joe" by Bobbie Gentry
This song is spooky. Not only is there the death of Billy Joe, but also: what were they throwing over the Tallahassee Bridge?
"Kids" by Ben Lee
The original version of this song is unusual. This cover is eerie. Also, beautiful. There's no legitimate video for this cover, but there's a live version:
The album version is a little slower and more hair-raising, but not extremely dissimilar.
"Bang Bang" by Nancy Sinatra
This song got street cred. and about 100% scarier by being featured in Kill Bill. Even without that though, that boy derives a sadistic pleasure "shooting her down." And Sinatra sings it slowly and hauntingly enough to make it fitting for the occasion.
"Girl With One Eye" by Florence + The Machine
Like the great spooky songs, the exact circumstances of this song are unclear, but the horrific intent is none-the-less there.
"A Forest" by The Cure
This song was suggested by my brother. I thought I had enough Cure songs on this playlist, but once I re-listened to the lyrics, I decided he was correct, it's a great Halloween song.
"Get Out Of My House" by Kate Bush
My mom used to play this to creep me out, because it worked. Another track from The Dreaming, "Get Out Of My House" implies an intruder of some sort. Classic thriller movie stuff.
"Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles
Death, ghosts, faces in jars- what more do you want?
"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Well, this is the werewolf change music from An American Werewolf In London, but aside from that, it's almost as good as "Thriller" for implying impending danger.
"The Monster Mash" by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
The most obvious Halloween song, yes. But not by the original artist! The Bonzos have a certain way of capturing a song and forcing it into their servitude. Although this version isn't far from the original, it's no exception to their ways.
And if none of these appeal to you, may I suggest any Bernard Herrmann score?
You can listen to most of these songs on a playlist I created over on myspace. If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know in the comments! Have a safe and happy Halloween.