When it comes to compiling a Halloween playlist, there are the staples like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and “The Monster Mash” sung by the theatrical Bobby Boris Pickett. Oddly enough the 60s and 80s created a lot of the music that has ended up being played at nearly every Halloween event, but then every decade has produced some uncanny tracks. And for inspiration we’ve brewed up a short list of some of our favorites to spice up your Halloween festivities.
Scarlett Cerna, host of Studio One:
Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees not only epitomizes gothic style, but her cutting vocals are also a driving force behind the music that is haunting yet seductive. Their 1988 release of “Peek-a-Boo,” is one of my favorite picks for Halloween because the chorus includes their own twist to the 1938 tune, “Jeepers Creepers.”
Another pick is Timber Timbre’s “Too Old to Die Young,” off of their fourth LP Bad Ritual which blends elements of film noir, 60s pop, and horror. Taylor Kirk’s spine-chilling baritone vocals are very comparable to the likes of Nick Cave, Peter Murphy, and Mark Sandman especially on this particular track.
Tony Dehner, host of Studio One:
Speaking of Nick Cave, his 1994 single “Red Right Hand” gets a boost from having been used in an episode of The X-Files, but it’s a terrifically creepy song with a sense of impending doom. Borrowing its title from a line in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Cave’s one-of-a-kind voice and the spare instrumentation are the key elements here.
“What’s He Building?” from Tom Waits’ 1999 album Mule Variations barely qualifies as a song: the lyrics are spoken, and there’s not much melody or rhythm to speak of. Still, this track gets right to the heart of the anxiety that can come from never really knowing what our neighbors are up to.
Karen Impola, host of The Folk Tree:
The title song to David Bowie’s 1980 album “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” is appropriately eerie, with guitar solos from the ever-adventurous Robert Fripp. The album was a comeback of sorts for Bowie, as his first platinum album since 1972’s “Ziggy Stardust”.
“Season of the Witch” is a perennial and much-covered Halloween favorite. Here is the original version, from Donovan’s 1966 excursion into psychedelia, “Sunshine Superman”. The guitarist is Jimmy Page, later of Led Zeppelin fame. It clocks in at just under five minutes, which was extremely long for a pop song at the time.
Mark Simmet, host of Studio One:
Hi, Mark Simmet here with a couple of tracks suitable for Halloween. One seems so fitting for Halloween traditions, and the other is one of those fabled “deep cuts.” Let’s begin with the deep cut- Townes Van Zandt’s “Billy, Boney And Ma.” This is late-period Townes (No Deeper Blue album from 1994), a graveyard tale with a beginning, middle and end. It’s worth attending to for Van Zandt’s wit and attention to detail.
My other pick is “Candy Everybody Wants” by 10,000 Maniacs. A single from their 1992 album Our Time In Eden, the song is musically jaunty and whistle-worthy, with lyrics that seem to be saying there is something sinister about the candy we all crave in our Trick-or-Treat bags.
Al Schares, Music Director:
Fad Gadget was the stage name used by Francis John Tovey. “Collapsing New People” from 1984’s Gag is a great example of the bleak, industrial pop he created as Fad Gadget in the first half of the 80’s and later as Frank Tovey. Something very unsettling about this track.
Hard to beat Peter Gabriel’s “Intruder” when it comes to creepy. Great track from this 1980 solo release. Defined a drum sound for the decade.
Plus, here’s an extra ghoulish treat!