There are plenty of obvious choices for tunes for a Halloween party, but for those looking for something different than mashing monsters, purple people eaters, werewolves in London and dancers stuck in a time warp, here is a list of alternatives.
“Boris the Spider” – The Who (1966)
From The Who’s second album, this odd little song chronicles the life and death of the title arachnid. Its weird mix of menace and whimsy in a way makes it the perfect Halloween song. Is it a trick or a treat?
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” – The Beatles (1969)
Join in the exploits of young Maxwell, a serial killer with a penchant for carpentry. Don’t be fooled by the upbeat carousal-like feel of the music or the cheery way in which Paul McCartney delivers the lyrics, this is perhaps The Beatles’ darkest song.
“Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads (1977)
This is another song about a killer, but one that seems to be fed up with society in lyrics like “We are vain and we are blind/I hate people when they're not polite.” The French language has never sounded more menacing than in David Bryne’s singing here.
“Dead Man’s Party” – Oingo Boingo (1985)
Cryptic lyrics combined with a danceable beat describe the coolest party thrown by the dead. Danny Elfman, the front man and songwriter for Oingo Boingo, went on to score many films and to write the songs for Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride.”
“Pet Sematary” – The Ramones (1989
The Ramones scored one of their last big hits with the theme song to the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. The song features the creepy and yet completely silly chorus “I don’t want to be buried in a pet sematary/I don’t want to live my life again.”
“I’m Going Slightly Mad” – Queen (1991)
This is a goofy song about a descent into madness full of such lyrics as “I’m knitting with only one needle.” The laughs have a bittersweet under current when you realize that Queen front man Freddie Mercury was quite literally dying while recording what would be his final work.
“Season of the Witch” – Dr. John (1998)
Coming from the unlikely source of the “Blues Brothers 2000” soundtrack this more aggressive reworking of the Donovan original drenches the song in an ominous atmosphere. Dr. John’s gravelly voice just makes the proceeding all the more unsettling.
“Farewell Ride” – Beck (2005)
Beck takes on mortality in this chronicling of the ride to our final destination: our grave. The song, with its disjointed, twanging guitar and clanging, chain-rattling percussion, creates a sinister soundscape in which Beck lays his dark lyrics.
“The Boogie Monster”– Gnarls Barkley (2006)
The soulful pop group creates an eerie piano based story of a monster lingering in closets and under beds. The song seems like straightforward child’s fare, but throws in a lyrical twist: “I used to wonder why he looked so familiar /then I realized it was a mirror.”
“This is Halloween” – Marilyn Manson (2006)
The shock glam rocker’s cover of one of the songs from “Nightmare Before Christmas” works the quirky, murky lyrics for all they are worth. Marilyn Manson takes the song to a higher level of creepiness while keeping it all in good fun.