Pillbox

Dance like the undead at your monster mash

The Misfits, who have often been accredited with the creation of the horror punk genre, performed here in Pittsburgh at an all-age event with Code Orange Kids at the Altar Bar last Friday.  (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) The Misfits, who have often been accredited with the creation of the horror punk genre, performed here in Pittsburgh at an all-age event with Code Orange Kids at the Altar Bar last Friday. (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

However you’re planning on celebrating Halloween this year, you may want to consider a holiday-appropriate playlist for the occasion. Or maybe you just need some spooky songs to rock out to while you prepare to put on your costume. Either way, when you’re looking for the best Halloween-themed music, there’s plenty of music available from a range of genres and decades.

Halloween-themed music first began to develop “probably in the late ’50s or early ’60s,” said Michael Devine, a.k.a. DJ Zombo at WRCT 88.3 FM and a Halloween music aficionado. “B-grade monster movies were a hit with youth culture of the day, and soon it was reflected in music.” Indeed, “The Purple People Eater,” by Sheb Wooley, and “Witch Doctor,” by Ross Bagdasarian, both topped the Billboard charts in 1958.

The trend of monster-themed music really caught on, however, after the song “The Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett became a top hit in 1962. After that song’s success, “overnight everyone tried to cash in on the monster craze,” Devine said. Even Frank Sinatra joined the supernatural song trend with his song “Witchcraft.”

If you’re looking for something with a somewhat darker edge than 1950s monster novelty tunes, try jumping forward a few decades to the late 1970s to indulge in some horror punk. Horror punk, a genre whose creation is mainly attributed to the band The Misfits, blends horror movie imagery and themes — particularly vampires, monsters, and alien invasions — with punk rock rhythms, according to the band’s official website, www.misfits.com. The Misfits would often dress up in elaborate costumes when they performed, and many of their songs were sung from the perspective of the monsters from 1950s B horror films. Their cover of “Monster Mash” provides a darker alternative to the original, and their song “Halloween” would make an appropriate addition to any punk Halloween party. Other horror punk bands, all of whom have been influenced by The Misfits, include Balzac, a Japanese rock band formed in the 1990s; American band Calabrese, formed in 2003; and The Other, a German horror punk band formed in 2002.

For a slightly different sound, consider adding The Cramps to your playlist. The Cramps, formed in the 1970s, were a garage punk band that, according to Devine, “made monster music a huge part of their sound.” Key monster-themed songs to track down include “Zombie Dance” and “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.”

Although these are some of the most famous musicians and songs to have defined Halloween music over the years, your options are by no means limited to those listed above. If you’re in the mood for some truly scary music, try downloading the soundtracks to your favorite horror films. The themes from Friday the 13th and The Omen are some eerie songs with which to start. Whether you’re in the mood for terror or for trick-or-treating this Halloween, you’ll be sure to find plenty of monster-themed tunes to meet your mood.