Recently Rocks Off told you how to put together a solid party playlist. We're coming up on the time of year when people start throwing Halloween parties, so now it's time to get a little more specific.
Don't be content to throw on the old 30 Spookiest Halloween Hits album and walk away, because guess what? All those mixes have all the same songs -- songs people are sick of, songs people hate. Be a little more original. We'll help you get started.
5. Don't Play: Dave Seville, "Witch Doctor" We apologize right off the bat for even needing to bring up this song, because as far as maddening gets-stuck-deep-inside-your-wriggling-brain choruses go, this one's tough to beat. We're convinced most cases of Halloweentime murders could eventually be traced back to overexposure to this annoying staple. Plus it's more than a little bit racist to boot: you do realize that "oo ee oo ah ah, ting tang walla walla bing bang" is supposed to be a depiction of an African tribesman, right?
Instead, Play: Bob McFadden and Dor, "The Mummy" It's just about as old and several times weirder than the Seville song. A nerdy-sounding mummy with bizarrely squeaky footsteps whines about his inability to make friends over a lounge-surf rhythm section; a beatnik cameos. We'll be honest, we have no fucking idea what the performers were even going for on this one, but as far as we're concerned it's a lost schlock classic. There's also a sequel and a cover version by UK post-punk mavens The Fall.
4. Don't Play: Dave Matthews Band, "Halloween" This started popping up on Halloween playlists relatively recently, and as bad as this seminal lawyer-rock band can be, this song is among their worst. Dave Matthews often oversells his vocals, but here he growls and hollers and slobbers so frenetically that you can almost hear the rest of the band pulling away in embarrassment. We hope somebody remembered to wring out the foam covering on whatever microphone he used for this.
Instead, Play: Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Halloween" Siouxsie and crew turn in a tuneful, upbeat yet still quite twisted post-punk number. You should have at least one song on your playlist by one of the original goths, so why not this one? (And yes, we're assuming you've already got The Misfits' "Halloween." You don't need us to do everything, do you?)
3. Don't Play: Blue Oyster Cult, "Don't Fear the Reaper" Don't misunderstand: we love this damn song. It's just totally, completely not a Halloween song. Sure, it's got the word "Reaper" in the title. But look what it also has: "Don't Fear!" You can't tell people to stop being scared on Halloween. That and its romantic portrayal of two lovers gallivanting off into the great beyond while holding hands makes this a mood-destroyer.
Instead, Play: Blue Oyster Cult, "Nosferatu"
Well look at that. Not only did we find another classic-rock tune for you, we even found you one by the same band! We're some people-pleasin' bastards, we are. Its lyrical content is based on the F.W. Murnau silent film by the same name, and most important of all, it actually sounds spooky. You'd think that criterion would not be so overlooked at Halloween-time, but you'd be wrong.
2. Don't Play: Prince, "Batdance" Case in point. The first time we heard this song at a Halloween party, we dismissed it as a fluke. After all it has exactly jack and shit to do with Halloween. But then we heard it again and again and again as in subsequent years it somehow became a thing that's acceptable and we all just need to put a stop to that right the hell now. DO NOT PLAY THIS SONG. Not even at just at Halloween; do not play this song, ever. It is a terrible song. Prince hates this song, and he created it. Like Frankenstein's monster, we must all band together and kill it with fire.
Instead, Play: Ice-T , "The Tower" Oh, you thought we were just gonna keep it fun the whole time? No sir. Sometimes a party needs to get a little gangsta, plus we're sure most of you immediately recognized the backing track Ice-T raps over. Just in case you didn't: yep, that is a slowed-down version of John Carpenter's "Theme from Halloween." As for the subject matter, it's about going to prison, which is a different kind of scary than you may be looking for on Halloween, but just think of it as keeping fear real.
1. Don't Play: Bobby "Boris" Pickett, "The Monster Mash" What can we say that hasn't been said about this godawful overplayed song? Every cultural reference it makes is at least 60 years old by now; are most people nowadays even going to recognize Pickett's affected accent as a Bela Lugosi impression? The music isn't much to speak of, just watered-down doo-wop, and nobody needs the minute or so at the end when Pickett does multiple terrible impressions and starts babbling about Igor the insolent boy and what-not. Just lose this song altogether, please.
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Instead, Play: Eddie Noack , "Psycho" It's a deceptively gentle old country tune until you start listening to the lyrics. This song, more than just about any other, truly gives us the creeps. Gothabilly act Beasts of Bourbon turned in a pretty good version, too, but for our money you just can't beat Noack's descriptions of brutal murders over the tender, lullaby-esque instrumentation. Sweet dreams, little monsters.
* Bonus: Noack (1930-1978) was a Houstonian -- ed.