Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Music: My Mix CD Edition

Oh, but the wonderful music available at Halloween.  Not near as much as Christmas, I admit, but there are still many choices available to the festive.  Every year, toward the last two weeks of October, the Sounds of the Seasons music channel on my cable television starts playing Halloween tunes.  Prior to that they will play polka because of Oktoberfest.  I have nothing against the polka.  Then, around 2 AM Eastern Time on November 1st the music will abruptly switch to Christmas tunes and stay that way until sometime in January.  Again, I have nothing against Christmas music, but can't we at least get through Dia de los Muertos first?

In recent years (okay, it's been something like 10 years at this point) I have seen a gradual increase in the available Halloween music CDs.  A quick search will reveal well over a dozen pages of CDs and MP3s that fit the descriptor of Halloween.  These selections include soundtracks, compilation albums, sound effects and children's music, and many of them leave much to be desired.  I have never attempted to hide my scorn for Drew and his inexhaustible supply of "party" CDs.  It would seem that a person could build their entire library of semi-classic hits simply by purchasing a Drew's party CD.  What's the most egregious of Drew's sins?  The HIT CREW!  Fie upon the HIT CREW.  Hey, Drew, think you missed a letter "S" there, bud.

Just to be clear, the HIT CREW are studio musicians.  This means that any given Drew's CD may be okay or total shite.  Some vocalists are easy to copy, stylistically, but if you aren't Michael Jackson we are going to know about it.  A HIT CREW cover of Thriller is just awful.  Not only does one have to accept a poor Michael Jackson imitation, but the Vincent Price rap, arguably the best part of the song (apart from the video, which was, if not the greatest of all videos, certainly the video that raised the bar so high on videos that all other artists took a hiatus for a bit just to admire it) is in no way comparable.
As long as I am griping about Drew, allow me to provide an example:
Drew's Extremely Ironic Halloween CD, more like it.

Here is the track listing for the above CD: (with my comments)
1. Soul Man (a good song, but not really Halloween-y)
2. Boogie Oogie Oogie (um, no thank you)
3. Hot Hot Hot (another great song, I love the tune, I love David "Buster Poindexter" Johansen, but again, not really a spooky ooky Halloween tune)
4. Bad Moon Rising (I am going to allow this one under the auspices of its use in American Werewolf In London)
5. Great Balls of Fire (There is nobody as rockabilly as Punkinstein, but I'm calling foul on this, sorry)
6. I Love the Nightlife (Oh, I get it...see this is a Halloween party CD and monsters 'love the nightlife' because they, um, like to boogie?  Yeah, I don't know either)
7. Cat Scratch Fever (Hey now, there are kids at this party)
8. Brick House [Zombie Remix] (That would be Rob Zombie, who is very hip to the Halloween vibe.  On the other hand this funky number, while great for parties, is not a Halloween tune)
9. My Sharona (Okay, this is getting bad...just assume that I am not approving of the tracks and I'll meet you on the other side)
10. Black Betty
11. Smoke On the Water
12. Bad to the Bone
13. Haunted Halloween
14. Boogie Fever
15. Doin the Mash

Now while any of these tracks are good in their own right and are rightly speaking "party music", I feel that a good Halloween party CD should be, and correct me if I am out of line here, Halloween oriented in some way.
I know why this occurs, by the way.  See there really are scores of songs for Halloween out there, some in the public domain.  I have a few CDs that are devoted to them.  Most of these songs are novelty songs and novelty songs are just not as popular as the Top 40 hits.  That's a fairly obvious statement.  Drew makes "party music" CDs, and at a party people don't want to sit around and discuss the deeper meaning of The Wall, they want to drink and dance and get a leg over with somebody.  So I understand the Drew thing...I just don't accept it.  Not with so much good music out there.
On the other hand, there are the HEAVY METAL HALLOWEEN type CDs.  Another, made by the Hit Crew but not sporting a Drew sticker has 14 of your favorite heavy metal songs on it (more or less).  "Don't Fear the Reaper", "Psycho Circus", "Shout At the Devil", and "Number of the Beast" are just a few, all covered by that ubiquitous Hit Crew.  The problem with that CD is the same as the Drew CD above: the songs just aren't Halloween-y.
Let's take a moment here to reflect on the time that Alice Cooper hosted Headbangers Ball for Halloween and featured Horace Pinker (from the film Shocker, which was a new release at the time) and guests.  Alice showed heavy metal videos (it was Headbangers Ball, after all) and interacted with guests and it was all very cool.  I had it on VHS and watched it quite often in my youth.  This would have been about 1989 time-frame.  The point is that heavy metal is sort of always horror music.  Any fan of heavy metal, or more appropriately psychobilly or horror punk, pretty much has Halloween music all the time.  It's not like we have Halloween carols ("It's beginning to look a lot like Samhain"?), so how is one song more Halloween than another?
Well the novelty songs of the Oldies Era (50's, 60's, and such) are more or less the way to go.  In an era of Monster Chiller Creature Feature Hosted shows spooky ooky tunes were at least enough of a rage to inspire novelty tunes.  With those and several years of Doctor Demento you can put together a fun, if not EXTREME, Halloween CD collection.
I own many of those tunes on various collections.  I also have put together my own "Mix CD" of tunes that I find seasonally appropriate, culled from other CD's I own that are not "Halloween" CD's officially.  I chose the tunes listed below because they were spooky, seasonal or outright monstery (copyrighted word), which is what you have to do really, what with a conspicuous lack of songs titled "Halloween Carol of the Bells" and shite.
1. Party Time LP version- 45 Grave (This tune was recut with different lyrics for the film The Return of the Living Dead, but this is the original lyrics.  I admit this is a poor choice.)
2. Surf Bat - 45 Grave
3. Riboflavin -45 Grave (Riboflavin Flavoured, Non-Carbonated, Polyunsaturated Blood...a fun little tune and totally appropriate)
4. Party Time Radio version- 45 Grave (What I said above still applies)
5. Teenage Frankenstein- Alice Cooper
6. He's Back (the Man Behind the Mask)- Alice Cooper (This tune was used in Friday the 13th Part V.  Tracks 5 and 6 are only 2 of Alice Cooper's long list of good songs, but only these two really fit my Halloween concept.)
7. Bag of Bones- Under Sunday (I got this track and the two other Under Sunday tracks from this band, who I discovered via some forum about the film series Halloween.  This is not really a Halloween song, so probably a poor choice.)
8. Bleed Halloween- Under Sunday (This is the track that got me interested in U.S.; this is a song about Michael Myers and the Halloween series)
9. Monster Stomp- Dead Elvi
10. Buddy Bought the Farm- Dead Elvi
11. I am the Loner- Dead Elvi
12. Wolfman's Wagon- Dead Elvi
13. Bone Daddy Shake- Dead Elvi (Tracks 9-13 are taken from the Dead Elvi album Buddy Bought the Farm.  The Dead Elvi are good for both holiday music and rockabilly/classic rock and roll and I felt these selections were particularly good for my mix)
14. Spongebob Scaredypants - The Ghastly Ones (This original retooling of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song can be found on the Spongebob album put out in connection with the television show.  It's a great little surf rock diddy by a spooky surf rock band)
15. Halloween- Helloween (German heavy metal from the 80s, which I love...but not really good party music, I admit and it is over 10 minutes long)
16. Dr. Stein- Helloween (A wickedly amusing track and more fun to dance to)
17. Regretful Wishes- Under Sunday (It's a total bummer and a poor choice.  I apologize...still better than a Drew CD.)
18. Prelude to Madness- Savatage
19. Hall of the Mountain King- Savatage (Halloween CD's featuring classical music often include Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt.  It's a great tune, short and powerful and inherently creepy sounding.  The symphonic metal band Savatage, from which Trans-Siberian Orchestra came, covered the Grieg piece, it is actually covered by Savatage as track 18, then immediately leads to the next track, which is a vocal piece, the names can be confusing)
20. Devil's Eyes- (I don't have the credits handy on this haunting melody, but it came on a CD of original music that accompanied the Halloween 25th Anniversary convention magazine "Return to Haddonfield".  It's a very moody and creepy track about, yes, Michael's also the end of the mix CD.  Bringing it to a close on a downbeat.)
Still, better than anything by Drew.

So that's my jam.  I am only sorry that it is not live footage of me kicking Drew repeatedly in the junk for trying to make Halloween suck.

Until next time, keep your pumpkins lit.


  1. A few years ago I found a couple of amazingly good Halloween compilations put together by a true connoisseur of the holiday over at the Scar Stuff blog. I've been listening to them every Halloween since. They're still there: Check 'em out!

  2. Great post...very thorough as always. And I have to say you have quite a few on your list I haven't heard of and I pride myself on having a huge Halloween List of music too. And I totally agree that the first CD is totally NOT Halloween at all. Hot, Hot, Hot? That is a summer song for me, and it's what they play in the arena while drunk parrotheads are slapping beach balls around while they wait on Jimmy Buffett to take the stage....SO NOT HALLOWEEN for me!

  3. And that was a CD I mixed a few years ago. I could seriously mix a CD today. Unevenly edited, of course.

  4. I have to admit I'm a fan of cheesey movies to note that I Love the Nightlife was used in the vampire movie with George Hamilton called Love at First Bite. But I totally agree, these sorts of mix cds are just awful.

  5. For my own Halloween playlist, I remixed Rob Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe album. You can hear/download it here:

    mp3 download here: