Music: Fighting the War on Terror

Uptight worrywarts want to take away your Halloween. Our solution: Crank it up!

Oct 29, 2007 at 2:06 pm
C. Matthew Hamby

Delusional Christians and other religious malcontents, along with the always well-intentioned but woefully misguided PC Police, might be doing everything they can to strip the fun out of Halloween by eradicating its, you know, oh-so-satanic presence from our public schools. But it's a wasted effort since, for better or worse, Halloween is hardwired into Americans' souls.

Sure, these ultra-conservative fruitcakes who want to transform our culture into some sort of homogenously mundane existence might have succeeded in turning trick-or-treating into an act of open rebellion, but the desire to be scared senseless is part of who we are as a people (which is, if you haven't figured it out yet, how our president got re-elected). In brighter times, our desire to experience terror was limited to vicarious thrills, which is why horror has always been such a beloved movie genre. It's why Stephen King is richer than most African countries.

To commemorate this sacred expression of America's psyche, we've decided to turn to Rock history, where horror is generally overlooked, to compile a list of the scariest and/or most memorable Halloween-themed songs. Enjoy, if your heart can bear the chills!

"I Love the Dead," Alice Cooper (1973)

It's sometimes difficult to fathom how the guy who recorded "School's Out" and "Only Women Bleed" could also be responsible for some of the greatest Shock Rock ever, but it's true. "I Love the Dead," during which ol' Coop professes his amorous affection for recently dead corpses, is one of the best examples of how far he'll go to creep the hell out of you.

"I'm Your Boogie Man," White Zombie (1996)

White Zombie named itself after the first zombie movie ever made, so it's no surprise that these shock rockers forged much of their career out of the horrific.

Oddly enough, though, this grinding track with demonic vocals by Rob Zombie started out as a cover of a KC and the Sunshine Band song.

"Thriller," Michael Jackson (1982)

The video for "Thriller," directed by John Landis, was terrifying in its day, as was Vincent Price's diabolical laugh, but everything about it, including the ghoulish special effects, seems rather quaint today. Much scarier? The fact that Jackson could now play one of the corpses ... no makeup required!

"Psycho Killer," Talking Heads (1977)

Sure, Halloween is generally about the universal monsters and other unholy creatures of the night. But the Talking Heads' "Pscyho Killer" offered up a window into the mind of the very mortal and, at that time (Ted Bundy was still active), very trendy serial killer. If Hannibal Lecter had a theme song, this would be it.

"Living Dead Girl," Rob Zombie (1998)

Rob Zombie has become something of a modern master of horror, somehow crossing over from his scary-as-all-hell songs like "Living Dead Girl" to the big screen with movies like House of 1,000 Corpses and the new Halloween. Before all that, though, the Zombie-directed video for this dance-worthy Rock track (which sounds a lot like the soundtrack to a vampire rave) managed to be even more unsettling than the song itself.

"Nightmare on My Street," DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (1988)

Somehow Jazz and the affable Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) thought they could get away with recording a Rap song about a burnt-up dream killer called Fred without paying for the rights, which, of course, resulted in them being sued for copyright infringement. The song wasn't worth the affronted producers' time, though, since it doesn't hold up at all; it's little more than a giggle-worthy gimmick that reminds us how once, long ago, Freddy Kruger was more than just a pop culture has-been.

"Pet Sematary," The Ramones (1989)

There is only one reason why "Pet Sematary" is scary, and that's because the Ramones actually agreed to record it as the titular track for a lame-o Stephen King movie. That is so, um, not Punk.

"The Time Warp," Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack (1975)

Whether you want to or not, you will hear "The Time Warp" every Halloween no matter how hard you try to avoid it. This is because it's somehow managed to become beloved while being utterly unbearable, too. Still, if you need a reason to get your party going, "It's just a jump to the left..."

"Walk Like a Zombie," HorrorPops (2005)

You might not have never heard of the HorrorPops, but this Denmark Psychobilly outfit knows how to combine '50s-style harmonies and Doo Wop with the Theremin when crafting songs about falling in love with those of a supernatural disposition. "Walk Like a Zombie" is as much fun as "Monster Mash," but, you know, not just kitschy cool.

"Halloween," The Misfits (1981)

It seems just about everyone and their mother in the music business thought to record a song called "Halloween," but The Misfits are the only ones that accurately captured everything the holiday is about — from the yearning of candy- and scare-happy youth to the commercial mythologies propagated by corporate America. "I remember Halloween," Glenn Danzig howls. "Hallowee-ee-een!" However, as much as we remember the razor-blade scare that earns a reference in the lyrics, none of us recalled "dead cats" or "burning bodies hanging from poles." This can only mean that Danzig's childhood is scarier than most movies you've seen.

"Monster Mash," Bobby Pickett & the Crypt Kickers (1962)

As much as "Monster Mash" has been reduced to a grade-school sing-along suitable for Disney Channel exploitation, it's still, hands down, the greatest Halloween-season song ever recorded. This is especially ironic since it began as a loose parody of some of Pickett's earlier work as well as the Mashed Potato dance craze. All these years later, the Boris Karloff impersonation remains unforgettable — just like the lyrics about a mad scientist who creates a Frankenstein-like monster with a Billy Elliot-grade need to dance and consequently throws the greatest monster ball in history. ©