Happy Hallowe’en boys and girls!
Well ok, the actual All Hallows Eve was in fact last night, but themed parties will be going on all weekend, so I say we keep the festivities going. And, uh, it’s All Saints’ Day aka Hallowmas today, so there’s totally a reasonable excuse to carry on gorging and dressing up still. Hurray!
While costumes and candy should certainly be encouraged at this time of year (and indeed, always) I think the single most important aspect to celebrating Hallowe’en properly is an appropriate playlist.
I’ve been blasting mine out at visitors for the past few days. Some of it involves an appreciation for lateral thinking, death metal or strange cover versions (and sometimes all three at once) but I’m adamant that its contents are all very much on topic.
To get (or keep) y’all in the mood, here are ten suggestions of songs that I really think ought to grace your speakers over the next few days for all the elongated All Hallows celebrations to come over the weekend. Crank ’em up!
Misfits – ‘Halloween’
An obvious choice to begin with, given the title and just the Misfits’ vibe in general, and with more acceptable lyrics to sing along to in public than some of their other songs. Ok, there’s some stuff about dead cats hanging from poles but no telling somebody to shut their pretty mouth and die, or anything about killing a baby à la ‘Die, Die My Darling‘ or ‘Last Caress‘. Since you’ll probably end up hearing this song a lot around this time of year I suppose you could always opt for a cover version instead (there’s a plethora including AFI, Dropkick Murphys and Alkaline Trio) or you could plump for the original B-side, the inventively titled ‘Halloween II‘, for some fun horror punk Latin chanting!
Black Uhuru – ‘Vampire‘
Vampires are a Hallowe’en staple anyway, and with the current popularity of True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Being Human and whatnot, I expect to get bored with standard fanged costumes quickly. I was trying to think of what my favourite vamp-related song was, could it be True Blood‘s awesome theme tune? Something from Buffy‘s musical episode ‘Once More With Feeling’? Something by Vampire Weekend? The Mountain Goats’ ‘Damn These Vampires‘? Then I realised that the answer was, as it often is, Needs More Reggae. ‘Vampire’ is from Black Uhuru’s (awesome) 1980 album Sinsemilla and it’s upbeat and fun, with lyrics about blood sucking. Its title alone clearly makes it Hallowe’en-relevant, so take the excuse to stick it on!
Donovan – ‘Season of the Witch’
This is such a classic that it’s got to be my pick to represent witchiness audibly (although the Eagles’ ‘Witchy Woman‘ and Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the Wizard of Oz song ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ definitely deserve a look in too, as does a good portion of the Wicked soundtrack when you think about it). ‘Season of the Witch’ has been used liberally on multiple soundtracks, and relatively recently to great effect in a season one episode of Grimm to underscore Adalind’s hexenbeastfulness. It’s also been covered a boatload of times, so if for some reason you’re done with Donovan, why not check out Dr. John, Richard Thompson and/or Joan Jett‘s version? Or just bung ’em all on the playlist, this song doesn’t get old no matter how many times you listen to it, it’s all good.
Jonathan Coulton – ‘Re: Your Brains’
I adore this fun song about zombies, and Jonathan Coulton’s whole Thing A Week project (from which this song stems). The song’s plot basically revolves around a load of office workers emailing and getting zombified, and includes the line ‘we’re not unreasonable, I mean no-one’s going to eat your eyes’ which is what made me fall in love with it. On this theme, see also Harry Belafonte’s ‘Zombie Jamboree‘, Voltaire’s ‘BRAINS!‘ and John Fogerty’s ‘Eye of the Zombie‘. (Oh, and I guess ‘Zombie‘ by The Cranberries. And ‘They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!‘ from Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois album, for all those exclamation marks if nothing else. And uh, anything by The Zombies or Rob Zombie too? Man, finding relevant songs is a way easier for zombies than lot of those other monsters. Anyone having a reanimated corpse themed party this weekend has it good!)
The Specials – ‘Ghost Town’
This is one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s just so perfect. It’s eerie and funky, and it doesn’t really sound like anything else, and it was also a poignant piece of 1980s UK social commentary. It captures the sense of everything falling apart and going to shit around you, and I’ve had it stuck in my head pretty much ever since David Cameron became Prime Minister. (Oooh topical, no but really.) As such it captures a different kind of fear (the less fun, more lasting kind) than other ghoul-related ditties (such as Jolie Holland’s ‘Ghostly Girl‘, Say Hi To Your Mom’s ‘I Think I’ll Be A Good Ghost‘ or the Ghostfacers theme from Supernatural– those may have been weird choices, I can’t tell, I’M TOO DISTRACTED BY HOW MUCH I LOVE THE SPECIALS, OK) but it’s fucking fabulous and an excuse to blast it out loud should, I think, never be ignored.
Captain Beefheart – ‘When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy’
This song is about an Oedipal complex, yes? It’s also ostensibly about a mummy, a stock creepy movie monster about which I think there’s a sad lack of songs (unless you’re a fan of CBBC’s Horrible Histories and their ‘Mummy Song‘). Probably because they run the risk of sounding like they’re songs about an Oedipal complex. Which this song is. And I’m not the only person who thinks so, yes? CAN SOMEBODY JUST AGREE LOUDLY WITH ME ALREADY, THANKS. Anyway, this definitely deserves a place on any Hallowe’en playlist, because it’s both disturbingly creepy and awesomely good. And it’s representing for all the undead folk wrapped in toilet paper/very old bandages. Also of note, basically anything by The Mummies and Here Come The Mummies, although this may require a video playlist in order to show off the excellent outfits donned by both bands.
Warren G and Sissel Kyrkjebø – ‘Prince Igor’
This isn’t even my favourite song from The Rapsody Overture: Hip Hop Meets Classic (see it’s a pun! Classical music has rhapsodies and hip hop has rap, ha!), that’d be LL Cool J rapping over the Flower Duet from Lakmé on ‘Dear Mallika‘ which is haunting and beautiful and lovely and sweet and I will defend it to the end of time because I love it so, but ‘Prince Igor’ is arguably the track most relevant to Hallowe’en. While Warren G’s mostly waffling about how great he is, which isn’t particularly scary, and I have no idea what Norwegian soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø is singing about (in what I think is Russian) her vocals do sound hella creepy. It’s a piece from Alexander Borodin’s opera (also titled Prince Igor) which was left unfinished upon his death. Ooh, spooky! Plus Igor is of course the name of plenty of creepy assistants to varied villains in film, television and literature, so a song with that name in it totally deserves a lot of play at this time of year.
The Mountain Goats – ‘Cut Off Their Thumbs’
People want to sing along to this song. They just don’t know it yet. A gaggle of guests chanting ‘I’m going to kill everybody in this ro-o-o-om!” sinisterly is exactly what you want at your All Hallows party, trust. This is a non-album track that John Darnielle (His Mountain Goatiness himself) gave away to the internet a few years ago for Christmas, and while it’s clearly appropriate for all festivities, the serial killer vibes seem to fit this holiday like a fingerprint-concealing glove. While you could also go for something else along the same lines, like Sufjan Stevens’ ‘John Wayne Gacy, Jr‘ or Tori Amos’ cover of Eminem’s ”97 Bonnie and Clyde‘ from her Strange Little Girls album, and they are both definitely suitably disturbing, they’re not as fun to sing along to as this. Because nothing really is.
Easy Star All-Stars – ‘Thriller’
Easy Star All-Stars’ latest reggae cover album is their take on Michael Jackson’s classic 1982 album, retitled Thrillah. While it’s not as ridiculously amazing as Dub Side of the Moon, it’s definitely a solid offering (particularly impressive, I think, is the way they made ‘The Girl Is Mine‘ not sound like an awkward cheese-fest like the original Jackson/Paul McCartney enjoyable travesty). Their cover of the title song is of course relevant to Hallowe’en playlists since the original-and especially its video– is an enjoyable monstrous romp. It’s also likely to get played to death around now, and it’s not a song that anyone should ever be forced to get bored of due to over-exposure. So mix things up by playing Easy Star All-Stars instead this year!
Lou Reed – ‘Halloween Parade’
And to finish us off, just like the first here’s another song that directly namechecks Hallowe’en in its title and lyrics. This Lou Reed (he being the former Velvet Underground frontman) song is from his utterly fabulous 1989 album New York (seriously, ‘Dirty Blvd.‘, ‘Romeo Had Juliette‘, ‘Beginning of a Great Adventure‘… this album is a (velvet, ha) goldmine). ‘Halloween Parade’ has a particularly maudlin air to it, as its lyrics are about loss and change, and the people who aren’t around to see it contrasted with the pageantry of the holiday. It’s also a thumpingly awesome song that’s lots of fun to sing along with, which I think should be a key priority when constructing any party playlist!
What are your favourite Hallowe’en related songs? Comment away to let us know!