It’s Halloween, and if you’re looking for some songs to listen to to get you into the spirit of the day — no pun intended — or if you want to play some tunes that trick-or-treaters can hear to set the mood, you’ve come to the right place!
Halloween may be the second-biggest retail and cultural holiday in the U.S. after Christmas. But you may have noticed a rather startling difference between Christmas and Halloween — namely, that Christmas essentially comes with its own soundtrack, while Halloween does not.
You can go to any music retailer and find literally hundreds of Christmas recordings, from dollar-bin releases from obscure artists you’ve never heard of, to bestselling holiday hits by the biggest artists. These songs include liturgical hymns, some of which are hundreds of years old and celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, such as “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring.” This category also features classic hits from the Golden Age of Christmas music (“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”) and pop ditties by chart-topping artists like Mariah Carey (“All I Want For Christmas Is You”).
By comparison, Halloween is practically devoid of music. There are few tunes that directly reference the holiday by name, for example. What’s more, comparatively few of them mention the zeitgeist of the holiday — that is, dressing up, collecting candy, that sort of thing.
However, with a little imagination, you can tie songs about ghoulies and ghosties and other forms of chicanery to the holiday and still come up with a passable Halloween playlist. Here are ten suggestions.
“This Is Halloween” From The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack
This is one of the few songs that actually mentions Halloween by name. Ironically, it’s from a movie about Christmas, but let’s not quibble.
“This Is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson
If you prefer your Halloween songs from PG-rated movies to be remade by R-rated artists, Marilyn Manson is your guy.
“The Witch Doctor” by David Seville
Back in 1958, Ross Bagdasarian figured out that if you toy with recording equipment — that is, the equipment available at the time — just so, you can alter the pitch of the performers’ voices while still maintaining the desired tempo of the song. Performing under the pseudonym “David Seville,” Bagdasarian used his newfound skills to produce “The Witch Doctor.” Seville would later go on to be the man behind Alvin & The Chipmunks.
“I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
About 15 years before Alice Cooper first made it big, there was Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, whose theatrical stage performances laid the groundwork for later “shock rock” acts like Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, and others.
“Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett
Back in the early 1960s, novelty dances were all the rage. Also popular at the time was parody music, a solid two decades before “Weird Al” Yankovic’s heyday. Bobby “Boris” Pickett combined the two crazes and penned the satirical “Monster Mash.” It was his biggest — and only — hit.
“The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley
Sticking with the theme of novelty hits in the ’50s and ’60s, we have this number from Sheb Wooley. Unlike other songs on this list, which were performed by musicians, Sheb was better known as an actor than a singer.
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
At the height of his career, Michael Jackson caused considerable controversy with this song and video. By today’s standards, it’s almost comically tame, but in 1982, the song and accompanying the video, were so shocking that Jackson was forced to put a disclaimer before the video.
“Ghostbusters” By Ray Parker Jr.
Parker once admitted that he had a hard time fitting the word “Ghostbusters,” a three-syllable word with nothing that rhymes with it, into a song. Fortunately, he figured it out, leading to his biggest hit.
“The Time Warp” From The Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack
If you haven’t seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, rest assured that it transcends being a mere movie and is more of a culture unto itself. One of the songs from the show has become a popular dance hit.
“Grim Grinning Ghosts” From The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland/Walt Disney World
We began with Disney, and we end with Disney. Lots of Disney attractions are associated with catchy music. Some, like a certain attraction with dolls that won’t be mentioned here, are insidious earworms. This one, however, is catchy and perfect for the season.