Last year I provided a list of less-than-obvious music selections for Halloween gatherings. Well another year, equals another list.
“Black Widow” – Alice Cooper (1975)
What would Halloween be without a little Alice Cooper? There are obvious choices, but this being an alternative list, I’ve gone with this track from “Welcome to My Nightmare” if only because it features a guest appearance by B-horror movie maestro Vincent Price, seven years before making a similar cameo on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
“Planet Claire” – The B-52s (1979)
Best known for their late 1980s hit “Love Shack,” The B-52’s built their career on singing about off-the-wall subject matters. This song combines a driving “Peter Gunn”-esque riff with an atmosphere that recalls 1950s creature features. The scant lyrics include such quirky lines as: “Planet Claire has pink air/All the trees are red/No one ever dies there/No one has a head.”
“Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” – David Bowie (1980))
Despite being the title track of an album this song isn’t as well known as other Bowie title tracks such as “Heroes,” “Let’s Dance” or “Ziggy Stardust,” but it is a prime example of Bowie’s chameleon-like ability to hop genres. The song has a distinctly heavier sound than typically associated with Bowie and appropriately dark lyrics given the title.
“Ghost Town” – The Specials (1981)
English ska group wrote this song about the sociopolitical environment of England under Margaret Thatcher, which, depending on who you talk to, is just as relevant a topic for Halloween as Dracula, ghouls and goblins. Even if you are unaware of the song’s subtext, the eerie, horn-driven atmosphere seals the deal.
“Lullaby” – The Cure (1989)
The Cure was a band known for gloomy and moody lyrics even on more musically cheery songs like “Boys Don’t Cry.” “Lullaby” is a song full of cryptic imagery. With lyrics like: “It’s much too late to get away or turn on the light/the spiderman is having you for dinner tonight” this is probably not the best song to lull a child to sleep with.
“Zombie” – The Cranberries (1994)
OK, so this song isn’t literally about the living dead, but the Irish group uses the concept of zombies as a metaphor in a song about the conflict between England and Northern Ireland. Lead singer Dolores O'Riordan’s haunting, anger-filled vocal is a perfect compliment to the song’s grungy sound.
“Walking With a Ghost” - Tegan and Sara (2004)
The song, which was covered in fine form by The White Stripes, is two verses repeated over and over again with a driving guitar and synth riff. It is simple, direct and repetitive, but damned if it isn’t more infectious than that virus from “28 Days Later.”
“Fire Coming Out of a Monkey’s Head” – Gorilaz (2005)
Buried deep on the second half of the Gorilaz’ second album, this is a brilliant spoken word parable delivered by Dennis Hooper over ominous beats. It is a story of an innocent, sheltered village invaded by greedy, destructive “shadowy figures.” It is the most resonating track of a great album.
“Monster” – The Automatic (2007)
In the spring of 2007 this song about the monster that is drug use from the Welsh band The Automatic was all over indie and alternative radio stations. As quickly as the song and band appeared they disappeared, but with its inordinately catchy chorus of “What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster?” the song is perfect Halloween fodder.
“Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” – Tracy Morgan (2007)
Tracy Jordan, Tracy Morgan’s alter ego on NBC’s hilarious comedy “30 Rock,” scored a novelty hit (at least in the universe of the show) with this goofy song about, as the chorus states it, “boys becoming men, men becoming wolves.” Funny for Jews and goys alike.