Whether you’re throwing a Halloween party or just putting together a mix for your iPod, these songs are all guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween.
Witchcraft – Frank Sinatra
Frank is enraptured by the “sly, come hither stare” of a beautiful lady, which he can only write off as pure witchcraft. It is great fun to think there’s some gender reversal here, with Ol’ Blue Eyes being objectified and not knowing what to do. In spite of having him utterly spellbound, he sings, with a wink we can almost hear, that “there’s no nicer witch than you!”
Goblin Girl – Frank Zappa
Leave it to Zappa to give us a blunt, sexualized take on Halloween, where he fetishizes girls in goblin costumes. Naturally, the song takes place at a Halloween costume party. He uses some deliberately botched rhymes – “I’ve been a-hobblin’ / ‘Cause of the goblin” – to comedic effect, set to a placid reggae beat.
It Came In The Night – A Raincoat
This bouncy little tune is perfect for children, with the innocent fear of “things that go ‘bump’ in the night” as the song’s main theme. It’s also incredibly catchy. An obscure piece of bubblegum pop, this song can be heard in Kenneth Anger’s 1979 re-edit of Rabbit’s Moon.
Teen Angel – Mark Dinning
Pop music doesn’t get much more macabre than this, never mind melodramatic: a young couple’s car stalls on railroad tracks, right as a train is approaching. After escaping to safety, the girlfriend runs back to retrieve her boyfriend’s class ring from the car. The song was so shocking in its time that it was banned from airplay on the BBC and countless radio stations across the U.S. Nevertheless, the song still topped the charts in 1960.
Werewolves Of London – Warren Zevon
Most Halloween songs you can find on compilations are straight-up novelty tunes, simple in construction and served up with a nice slice of campiness. While Zevon’s song is humorous, it’s also a great rock and roll song. His straight-faced delivery of lines like “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand […] looking for a place called Lee Fo Hook’s” take it into absurdist territory.
Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.
Although the movie can be watched at any time of year, this song is perfect for Halloween parties. This song is ingrained in all our memories, despite being little more than an advertisement for a fictional business. That said, it’s catchy and has a great beat – what more could one ask of from a great pop song?
I Put A Spell On You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
An inverse of Witchcraft, Hawkins gives an electrifying vocal performance. The song was originally conceived as a ballad, but was radically transformed in the studio as a result of the performers being drunk. Hawkins’ success with this song led him to create a distinct onstage persona, emerging from a coffin and brandishing a fake skull on a stick. It’s not too hard to picture a man fitting that description singing this song.
Night On Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky
This Romantic-era tone poem is meant to provide a musical illustration of a witches’ Sabbath. It’s one of the most ominous pieces of Western art music ever composed, used to great effect throughout popular culture, from Fantasia to a danceable version in Saturday Night Fever.
The Monster Mash – Boris Pickett
It wouldn’t be a Halloween party without this perennial favorite, period. This song is meant for dancing. However, if the original has been played too many times around the house, check out one of the many cover versions out there from The Beach Boys, The Bonzo Dog Band, Vincent Price, The Misfits, The Smashing Pumpkins, and even a rendition by Disney’s Goofy.
This Is Halloween – Danny Elfman
Tim Burton’s resident composer (and former member of the new wave group Oingo Boingo) Danny Elfman gives Halloween its own anthem with this song, first heard in 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The frightening fun of the holiday is summed up with the lyric, “Aren’t you scared? / Well, that’s just fine!” In commemoration of the film’s thirteenth anniversary in 2006, the song was reworked by the dark prince of rock and roll himself, Marilyn Manson.
Alex DiBlasi is a musician pursuing a Master’s Degree in Musicology, specializing in rock and roll history at CUNY Brooklyn.