Whilst Halloween 2020 may be pretty disappointing, there’s no reason why you can’t summon those spooky Halloween vibes via some amazingly eerie tunes. Halloween music is far superior to any other holiday-based music (yes, including Christmas. I said what I said). So, with that in kind, I thought I would open the musical crypt and shed some light on ten of the greatest Halloween songs to ever grace the airwaves.
10. Suicide – Frankie Teardrop
Kicking off the list we have a 10-and-a-half-minute epic from Suicide’s 1977 self-titled album. A song so chilling that even Alan Vega, who wrote it, reportedly found it difficult to listen to. The story follows Frankie, a young father who is driven to insanity as a result of his destitution. Frankie murders his wife and child, then kills himself, and the song follows his journey to hell. The song is interspersed with Vega’s desperate, blood-curdling shrieks and is backed by a constant driving drum-beat to create something incredibly harrowing and yet brilliant which you should definitely listen to, if only once.
9. Alice Cooper – Dead Babies
On a not-so lighter note, the godfather of shock rock Alice Cooper’s ‘Dead Babies’ (from the 1971 album ‘Killer’) is fairly self-explanatory. The song details Betty, a baby, overdosing on her neglectful mother’s aspirin “Betty’s mommy wasn’t there to save her / She didn’t hear, hear her little baby call”. Whilst there is no shortage of Alice Cooper songs that would be appropriate on this list, Dead Babies is definitely one of Cooper’s creepiest tracks.
8. Night Shades – Ghoul Song
London’s Night Shades injected some adrenaline into spooky season in 2017, releasing their debut album ‘Evil Dreams’ on Halloween. ‘Ghoul Song’, taken from that album, blends 1950’s rock n roll riffs to grunge-y, distorted guitar tones and vocals to create this beautifully hair-raising track which could not only raise the dead, but cause some graveyard mosh pits too!
7. The Ramones – Pet Sematary
In 1989 The Ramones temporarily took a break from creating their usual blisteringly fast-paced punk rock anthems in order to craft this undisputed Halloween classic. Originally written by Dee Dee Ramones (i.e. the best Ramone) for the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the song was nominated for Razzie Award for Worst Original Song. I, however, would say that, whilst this certainly isn’t The Ramones’ best work, it’s a staple of any good Halloween party and it has a certain charm to it, perhaps due to the fact it sticks out among the rest of The Ramones discography as something completely different.
6. Siouxsie And The Banshees – Halloween
What would this list be without the inclusion of the undisputed queen of spook, Siouxsie Sioux? This is also the only song in the list to actually be about Halloween, as the name probably suggests. Siouxsie manages to blend pop, goth and punk in a way no one else ever could, and pretty much all of her albums are great for Halloween parties, though this song is definitely the most overt.
5. Kip Tyler & the Flips – She’s My Witch
A seemingly forgotten musician of the rockabilly period of late 1950’s America, Kip Tyler created some of the most interesting records of that period. She’s My Witch is a bass-heavy, slow-paced, sinister number backed up with horns and piano – and the occasional scream for extra spooky points. You can definitely see the influence of this track upon the psychobilly genre, and bands like the Cramps (who will appear later in this list).
4. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
This early 80’s Bowie track (which, weirdly, was covered by Skrillex at one point) is a definite earworm, like so much of the rest of Bowie’s work. From the title alone you should be able to deduce its inclusion on this list. Although it’s maybe more upbeat or pop-y than the rest of the tunes, the whining guitar tones and drones which close the track out give it a great Halloween vibe.
3. The Cramps – I Was a Teenage Werewolf
It was a struggle to figure out specifically which Cramps song to include in this list – ‘Surfin’ Dead’, ‘Human Fly’, ‘The Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon’, it could have been any one of them. Alas, the wolf howls of lead singer, Lux Interior, and one of the most sinister basslines I’ve ever heard, gave this song an edge over the others. Maybe I am biased, as The Cramps are one of my all-time favourite bands, but this song isn’t only one of the greatest Halloween songs but one of the greatest songs of the psychobilly genre as a whole. Dirty, chaotic, and reminiscent of a fever-dream nightmare, just as all things should be.
2. The Cure – Lullaby
I mean come on, you didn’t expect to reach the end of the list without coming across Robert Smith, did you? That man lives everyday like Halloween! Much like some of the other artists on this list, there is a plethora of Cure songs that would provide fitting moodiness to your Halloween parties, but Lullaby had to be included if only for the Tim burton-esque music video in which Smith plays both himself and the nightmarish ‘spiderman’ whom encased him in cobwebs, to be later devoured by a gigantic spider. It’s… an experience, for sure.
1. Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead
What else? Recognised by many to be the first ever gothic record, Bauhaus’ first single ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ is the perfect Halloween song. After all, it takes its name from horror film legend Bela Lugosi, who played Dracula in 1931, and the legendary cover art is taken from the 1920’s horror film ‘The Sorrows of Satan’, the song also appeared on the soundtrack to horror film ‘The Hunger’ in 1983 (starring David Bowie), so whichever way you look at it: this song has deep roots in horror. If you’re looking for a definitive gothic Halloween banger, look no further than Northampton’s Bauhaus!
Listen to all of Ben’s recommendations here:
Header image: Alice Cooper at the Beacon Theatre, 2018. Credit: Nick Karp via Forbes.