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  • Darryl Dawson

5 Songs Perfect for Halloween (that aren't "Monster Mash" or "Thriller")

October is upon us. The appropriate chill is in the air, along with the sound of dry leaves at your feet and pumpkin spice in your coffee.

Here in Arizona, the Halloween season marks the end of the monsoon and the start of more reasonable daytime temperatures, which gives horror buffs like me more reason to enjoy it. On those rare occasions when I’m invited to a Halloween party, I put a little more thought into my costume than most. Instead of something humorous or obvious, I prefer a more abstract ensemble, like the one you see in the picture above (that's me, second from the right). Usually I’m dressed as something that can’t be named, that is unsettling in its appearance. I like leaving it to the imagination. It is Halloween after all, the season to be scared.

Every party needs just two things to be successful: the right décor, and the right music. Let’s talk about the latter for a bit. Fans of this time of year know that Christmas music is easy to come by; Halloween music is typically not. The problem is there really aren’t enough popular songs that truly capture the essence of October. Once we sip from “Thriller,” “Dead Man’s Party,” and the old standby “Monster Mash,” the well is almost dry. Let me suggest five not-so-popular tunes you can insert into that playlist without causing major ripples in your Halloween get-together, starting with…


1. The Darts “Love U 2 Death” If this is not a Halloween song, it should be. It sets you adrift on an ocean of fuzz-filled guitars and haunting farfisa chords, buttressed by a bass and backbeat that would feel right at home in David Lynch’s Black Lodge. When Nicole sings “You have no idea what I’m capable of/You have never tasted this kind of love,” you desire and fear her. This one’s right up your vampire alley.

2. Funkadelic “Atmosphere” The freaky album cover art (R.I.P. Pedro Bell) would lead you to believe Funkadelic’s Let’s Take It To The Stage was the soundtrack to a horror show. But it’s the final track on the album that really connects to the cover image. “Atmosphere” is actually a solo tour-de-force by the late, great Wizard of Woo, Bernie Worrell, who combines organs and synths with George Clinton’s profane mad scientist ramblings into a mind-bending monster movie stew.

3. Roky Erickson “I Walked With A Zombie” This forgotten gem from the early 80’s consists of just four chords and a single lyric, and that’s all this psychedelic pioneer needed to create this seasonal classic. The former leader of the 13th Floor Elevators sings with gusto and whimsy about his strange encounter with the undead, almost conveying a sense of disbelief—or maybe incredulousness. Anyway, it’s a weird and wonderful track just right for any Halloween shindig.

4. The Cramps “Goo Goo Muck” A band I wish I could have seen in their prime, the Cramps were the wild combo for whom the term “psychobilly” was invented. On their best-known track (one you probably didn’t know was a cover), Lux, Ivy and company bring their patented sleaze and swagger to a tale of monstrous nocturnal urges. “The city is a jungle and I’m a beast/I’m a teenage tiger looking for a feast.” Mr. Hyde? The Wolfman? Perhaps both! Either way, the Goo Goo Muck is as cool as he is scary.

5. The Mission Creeps “Fright Night Creep Out” Speaking of the Cramps, here’s one of the many bands upon which they’ve sprinkled their influence. Having seen these Tucson, Arizona garage rockers dozens of times and being familiar with their catalog, I can say for certain that there is a boatload of songs of theirs that could have made this list. I chose this one because it’s one of their most recent, and for its irresistible 60’s “go-go” rhythm. It’s the perfect complement to an I-10 road trip, or a costume party.


So those are my suggestions. What are yours? And what’s your go-to Halloween costume?


#halloweenmusic #scarymusic #halloweenplaylist

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