Here are my 13 all-time favorite Halloween songs. They are in reverse order, so be sure to scroll to the bottom and read your way to the top. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!
13 Halloween Hauntings
1) “Rockin’ in the Graveyard“—Roy Loney & The Phantom Movers
“Rockin’ in the Graveyard“—Jackie Morningstar” (Original version)
My favorite Halloween song, at least until something else catches my attention, is the rockabilly ghost tale, “Rockin’ in the Graveyard.” It starts out with the artists explaining that they’re doing it for the money. They both reference David Seville’s “The Witch Doctor” and Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” as selling a million copies, and this one’s supposed to do the same. This beginning explanation is kind of slow and extended. After this part, the song starts rockin’!
The singer describes walking past a graveyard where he sees and hears a lot of strange things made by the ghost inside. But the strangest thing he hears is when the ghost says, “I WANT YOOOOOOU UUUUUUUUU!!!!
The chorus is the best part as the ghost sings: “Wait a minute, boy/Wait a winute/ Wait a minute boy I say/Wait a minute boy/ Wait a minute/Wait a minute/Before you run away!” The song is meant to be fun, not scary, and the rockabilly beat keeps it light.
My only complaint is the intro. Jackie Morningstar did his tongue-in-cheek version when the mentioned songs were popular. Roy Loney didn’t have to, but to his credit, he really hams it up for that section. I would have dropped it for the remake. But either way, this song’s a true Halloween classic!
Well, that’s it. I hope you found a song that you liked or were motivated to check out something new!
2) “I Want to Bite Your Hand”—Gene Moss from “Dracula’s Greatest Hits”
These last two songs are very personal favorites of mine. They are also relatively unknown songs.
Song number two, “I Want to Bite Your Hand,” came out of the same cauldron that ‘created’ “Monster Mash,” with some distinct changes. AM radio was still king, and monster movies were still a hot fad. But that mash potatoes dance had moved on thirty minutes after everyone was into it. To take its place was the British Invasion, and in particular, in a very big way, The Beatles!
The Beatles were so big that one of the fads at the time was to make money off of them. This was the age before big marketing deals that pretty much started with The Beatles, but they were not prepared to stop the onslaught of merchandise that bore their name.
So Gene Moss, taking his cue from Bobby Pickett and his Boris Karloff imitation, decided to do a spot on Bela Lugosi impersonation while satirizing both The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and Dracula. An extra added touch is the Motown or Girl Group soulful backup singers that make Drac sound really hip! It is too cool for words!
And some of the words are hilarious: “And when I bite you I feel happy inside/It’s so delicious that my thirst I can’t hide! I can’t hide! I can’t hide!!!
You can find this song on a CD called “Dracula’s Greatest Hits.” It is worth tracking down! monstersinmotion.com has limited quantities.
3) “Monster Mash”—Bobby “Boris” Pickett
This is the Halloween song that would make number one on most people’s personal lists…and it is worthy of that honor! It is a perfect blending of two campy satires from a time when Monster movies and AM radio controlled a teenager’s mind—when they weren’t thinking about sex!
The music of the song satirizes Dee Dee Sharp’s biggest fad dance craze hits: “Mashed Potato Time” and the follow up “Gravy” (For My Mashed Potatoes).” I guess she thought she would make a career out of doing the “mashed potatoes.”
Monster movies also were a huge fad in the early 60’s including ones that were made in the 50’s and even further back than that. They were shown for matinees and on late night TV. These sci-fi classics were so popular they were even used for several series of bubblegum cards that kids would trade like sports cards. Bobby Pickett does a spot-on impersonation of Boris Karloff, who was often featured in many of the best ones, to seal the deal!
I feel there isn’t a need to discuss the lyrics because I am going to guess that almost everybody has heard either this version of the song or some awful recreation. Unfortunately, there are a lot of those and the reason is obvious. If you can’t recreate that impersonation, there’s no reason to attempt it. But many punk and metal bands still give it a shot. After all, it’s a song that “cuts” across all genres and ages. The only alternative version that I find amusing as an alternative option is by the doo-wop accapella vocal group The Mighty Echoes.
The only reason I’m not making it my personal number one is because it is sometimes played to death. (No pun intended.) To programmers, this is the only acceptable Halloween song on many radio stations and they use it like the all Christmas format uses schmaltzy Christmas songs.
It has been “resurrected” and placed on the Billboard charts many times over the years.
I still love it and I always will! And my hope for it is that it gets reanimated everyHalloween forever!
4) “Psychic Voodoo Doll”–Deadbolt from “Halloween Hootenanny”
First, I have no idea why it has “psychic” in the title. The word is never used in the song. As a matter of fact, until I looked it up for this list, I thought it was just called “Voodoo Doll.” Oh, well. It’s a very minor detail.
The song itself is an atmospheric rock song with very nice tremolo swamp guitar! It has great lyrics about a guy who is under the spell of his lover. The chorus drives home the point because he says, as multiple scary voices support him, “I guess I’ll always be/your voodoo doll.
This version, which is available on “Halloween Hootenanny” by Rhino Records,is quite good. It’s a dark rocker and there is an awesome thunder crack after the opening line, “You take a pin/and put it in my eye.” I have a copy of it, but it’s unidentified.
This one is the perfect number 4 Halloween song!
5) “I Put a Spell on You“—Creedence Clearwater Revival
“I Put a Spell on You“—Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Number 5 has a dual option and both are worthy choices.
I personally prefer the CCR version. The song was a follow up to their first hit, “Suzy Q.” I don’t think that John Fogerty and the band were particularly looking for a perennial Halloween favorite—and maybe for that reason, it hasn’t been. But it contains one of the greatest guitar solos of all time!
Fogerty even does his best to make eerie sounds with his guitar during the solo. And although the song appears to be just a sped up version of the original, they play around enough with the time signatures to make it sound nothing like it. The vocal is incredible, too, and that’s just because the listener is so drawn to the guitar work! I saw John play this a few years ago and it blew me away! First, I didn’t expect to hear it, and secondly, he just shredded it!
Now, the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins version is no slouch, either. First, the horn arrangement is very strange just by itself. And talk about an incredible vocal! The spastic singing at the end plus the music is otherworldly. And he must have known it too because he usually performed the song while coming out of a casket! It’s difficult to decide which one is better. So, you make the choice on this one……………….
6) “The Ghoul I Love the Most“—Tommy Frenzy (From Tuff Darts)
This is the freshest entry on my list. It’s basic four on the floor classic rock. There’s a very good, loud guitar solo in the middle. Other than that it sounds like something from the late 70’s or early 80’s. The melody is simple but memorable. So what’s to like?
Well, all of the things that I just mentioned, I happen to like. There really aren’t many straight ahead Halloween rockers that are catchy and melodically good. Many bands try to overdo it for Halloween songs. This one gets it right.
What puts it over the top for me is the story. The singer is the main character who goes to what he thinks is a Halloween party with costumed guests, but it turns out that all of the monsters are real! They’re all dancing to a skeleton band, having a great time, and now he’s being followed/ by the ghoul he loves the most!” My favorite line is when he realizes that she isn’t fake and falls in love with her charm. “While shaking her hand/I pulled off her right arm!!!!”
That’s pretty much it till it fades. Good ol’ classic rock and Halloween! What else do you want?
7) “Haunted House“—Jumpin’ Gene Simmons
This was my favorite Halloween song for a number of years! Basically, it’s a remedial rock song with breaks. The arrangement includes an adequate sax line and a cheesy organ.
The plot of the song is pretty basic, too. The singer describes what happens when he buys a house that is inhabited by a ghost who doesn’t want him around. The fun part of the song is the descriptions of the antics that the ghost does to scare him off. He drinks “hot grease from the fryin’ pan,” and “drinks hot coffee right from the spout.” It is the only song that I know of that has the line “I had a hunk of meat in my hand.” (And you know what? I don’t think I want to know about any other songs with that line.) The breaks have the ghost questioning him, “See if you’ll be here when the morning come!” And our hero always responds that he’ll be there and he “ain’t gonna run!”
The song was later rerecorded by Gene because the words are hard to understand on the original. I prefer the original because of the same lo-fi approach. Why make the words intelligible? It makes the listener hang on the words.
It is still a favorite of mine, and I enjoy it every year!
8) “The Creature From the Tub”—Andrew Gold
Ooooooooo! This one is really scary—especially if you’re a little kid!!!! It’s bad enough that you have to take a bath when you’re young, but all of the dirty water might cause an apparition to appear: THE CREATURE FROM THE TUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was the mid 1990’s and Andrew Gold, who just became a member of Phil Maq’s Hall of Fame last week, had young children. He took a look around the Halloween musical landscape and didn’t like what he saw—or heard. Outside of a couple of Rhino Recordscollections, or the CDs that rhyme with “Drew’s,” there really wasn’t much to choose from. There was the old tried, true, and either boring or done to “death,” or just plain awful choices. So he did what any father who’s a musician that noticed there was a hole in the musical spectrum would do: He decided he’d make his own family fun music.
Not only did he put together 10 solid songs on one CD, “Halloween Howls,” but he also made one of the best Halloween albums of all time!
To me, the best song on the album is “The Creature from the Tub!” While Andrew sings the lyrics, he does an excellent job describing the bathtub textures and scene. To authenticate the experience, you get to listen in on the mother and son talk about it. The music is a staccato metronome type of beat to simulate dripping water. The musical interludes have nice little synthesizer fills.
And the lyrics are ultra cute. Andrew sings the song from the perspective of the boy and gets to describe the tub water as getting “slimy” “icky,” and “sticky” and hopes the monster “doesn’t lick me.” He even tells his “mommy, it’s not funny.” It is possibly the cutest and most creative song about a monster you may ever hear!
9) “My Son the Vampire”—Allan Sherman
I swear (Of course I do.), this song always makes me laugh. Not because it’s so good. But because it’s so baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad! It’s the only Halloween song I can think of where one of the monster’s actually has an offspring.
Allan Sherman was a comedian, who peaked in the 60’s. He made a series of silly comedy albums that usually included song parodies, and was best known for a brilliant musical letter home from camp known as “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.” He was the “Weird Al” Yankovic of his time—but he really couldn’t sing. He was just funny.
Anyway, back to the song. It starts with something falling over. Music stands? Sticks? Hardened nuclear waste? I don’t know. It’s like an abstract, avant garde beginning, giving the song way more credibility and class. When I listen to it, especially, if it’s something I’ve transferred it to, I skip this part. It just delays the “good” parts of the song.
Doing a terribly bad imitation of Dracula, the chorus consists of him shouting “BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD”
The verses are pure, stupid genius where Allan rhymes long lines that end with the likes of “dental floss” and “Red Cross.” His dad actually is warning people to stay away from him because he needs “BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!” What a good father who is disappointed in his son!
The music is cool lounge Jazz with purposely placed wrong piano notes, muted drums, and nicely accented cymbals. Towards the end, there is even some cowbell … and woodblock! The total effect is a dark brooding song with silly words constructed to keep the listener off balance. There’s even a “ratchet” sound throughout to make the song even more irritating. But the ultimate irritation is when I play this tune around other people—for them, not for me. I’m usually too busy laughing!
It is a relatively unknown Halloween classic!
10) “The Blob”—The Five Blobs
Song #10 is a mostly instrumental one with a pretty awesome saxophone solo—and I am not even a big sax fan! I usually only like it when it’s right, and it’s right in a big way on this song!
It starts out with a nice acoustic guitar riff that pops up again later in the song. Then the sax and the rest of the band falls in including a group of male singers who get to sing about such exciting things as a “splotch” and a “blotch.” The song has a kind of “Tequila” by The Champs feel to it with the occasional break to tell you to “Beware of the Blob!”
The song also includes “pops” done before every chorus. The type of pop I’m describing is the kind where you put your finger in your mouth and pull it out to make that noise. I saw Burt Bacharach a few years ago and he took great pleasure in making that sound—and he should because he wrote the song and it was his first hit! Hard to believe, huh! The guy who gave us great romantic songs like “(They Long to Be) Close To You” and such huge anthems as “What the World Needs Now” started out writing the ending credit song for “The Blob” (the one with Steve McQueen) would give the world such great music! If only the movie would’ve lived up to the campy song!
The song usually makes me laugh if I haven’t heard it in a while, but it wouldn’t be Halloween to me without it!
11) “They Don’t Scare Me”-Mickey Mouse from “Halloween Songs and Sounds”
There are a lot of bad or repetitive children’s Halloween collections that are available (I won’t name names but most of them rhyme with “Drew’s”), so it would make perfect sense that Walt Disney Records has put out several good ones over the years. My only complaint is that their releases are usually split equally between a handful of songs and sound effects.
I picked a song that I think is one of their best. It’s a duet between Mickey and a Dr. John sound alike. Mickey bravely stands up tall to all of the spooky things that his singing partner throws at him by chuckling that “They don’t scare me!” Behind all of this is a nice background of piano and backup singers done in a New Orleans swing style.
At the end, it is obvious that all of Mickey’s responses were actually a false front as the other singer drops out. And when he doesn’t respond, Mickey starts to sheepishly ask if that noise he’s hearing is Goofy. A spooky majestic organ and menacing laughter finishes off the song. (Don’t worry. I think Mickey survived.)
12) “Mr. Halloween”-The Brickbats
Number 12 is a frenetically rockin’ indie song bordering on punk or metal!
I don’t know anything about The Brickbats, but I can tell you that the song is from their“Monster Party” CD. It starts out with a nice tom-tom beat/shuffle intro and then kicks in to the verses. It has a lot of breaks and should be played LOUD!!!
I kind of like the thought about a character known as Mr. Halloween who goes around“dancing on unmarked graves.” As I said before: PLAY IT LOUD!!!!!!!!!!
13) “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”-Blue Oyster Cult from “Agents of Fortune”
To start things off, I have picked a classic rock selection from the 70’s. The song is very atmospheric, and uses dynamics to great effect. Almost acting like a chorus, the hypnotic guitar riff finally gets the opportunity to explode for an extended solo in the middle instrumental section. The words are very descriptive and visual as the reaper tries to seduce the maiden to go with him. What better way to start the holiday list than with this gem!
Oh, and before I go, I almost forgot to tell you, “I have a fever, baby. And the only way to cure it is with more cowbell!” The song, of course, was immortalized with hilarious performances by Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken on a Saturday Night Live satire of VH1 Behind the Scenes! And you know, you can never, ever, have enough cowbell!