Don't Fear The Reaper

Watch out Christmas! While December 25 may be the holiday with the most music written specifically to celebrate it, Halloween, that delightful pagan holiday that has become a multi-million dollar business in the United States, has its own growing body of musical works dedicated to ghosts, goblins and having a good time.

Along with the usual mix of sound-effect records featuring creaking doors and unhinged laughter, there are the mix records intended for Halloween parties. Of course it could be argued all Halloween records are party records? Most of these tangentially related rock compilations contain the usual suspects like Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London," Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein," and that eternal and overplayed anthem of Halloween, Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kicker's, "Monster Mash."

Not to suggest that anything related to Halloween is even remotely serious, but if you have a less-than-serious side to your musical consumption habits, there are a few Halloween-themed collections worth seeking out.

For completists, the Halloween entry in the long-runningNow That's What I Call compilation series from Universal Music is the best single LP collection. It's also available on CD and MP3. It includes such obscurities like John Carpenter's "Halloween Theme," The Citizens of Halloween's "This is Halloween," and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra & Chorus playing "O Fortuna." A nice addition here is Mike Oldfield's spooky "Tubular Bells," which was used as the theme to The Exorcist movie and yet is often overlooked as Halloween music. A surprisingly intrepid composer of movie themes, Carpenter has just released a collection of his horror movie music, Anthology, (1974–1998) that to my ears is very interesting music and worth a serious listen.

E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt got into the Halloween compilation game in 2008 with the now out-of-print CD Little Steven's Underground Garage presents Halloween A Go-Go. Along with Springsteen's "Restless Nights," this 15-track collection includes The Fuzztones "I'm the Wolfman," Jarvis Humby's "Man with the X-Ray Eyes," and The Stems, "She's A Monster."

For crate diggers there's German label Buffalo Bop's 1993 CD compilation Monster Bop, which collects and nicely remasters impossibly rare early-rock 45s like Mack Allen Smith's "Skeleton Fight" and Eddie Thomas's "Frankenstein Rock."

Finally, just the word "Halloween" has inspired its own raft of tunes by 1980s/'90s rock bands like The Dream Syndicate, Mudhoney, Dead Kennedys, and Sonic Youth. All those tracks, plus Dave Edmunds' "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" and Roky Erickson's "Creature with the Atom Brain" (his "Two-Headed Dog Red Temple Prayer)" also fits), are included on Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Halloween from the still-reigning masters of the compilation for any occasion, Rhino Records. Rhino's 1993 orange vinyl, pumpkin-shaped 7" EP Horror Rock Classics remains the most collectible Halloween musical artifact yet issued.

jrmandude's picture

What, no Revolution 9? Charles Manson's favorite song.

dalethorn's picture

Actually, Manson's favorite songs are on iTunes, 7 entire albums he recorded. He was well-liked by Beach Boys, Neil Young and others, but he lost his big break in the music biz when word got out that he shot a drug dealer in Hollywood.

dalethorn's picture

Screamin' Jay Hawkins. 'Nuff said.