Crank It Up So Nobody Can Hear Your Party Guests' Screams
By Christopher Muther
OCTOBER 27, 1997: Monsters, witches, devils and ghosts are possessing your CD collection. Just skim the titles. There's a "Psycho Killer" lurking on your Talking Heads disc. Beck is forgoing Supercuts for "Devil's Haircut," and even the jive talkin' Bee Gees are singing about a "Tragedy." This is the perfect time of year to let all those musical demons loose and put them on a tape for background music at your Halloween bash. Remember, scary songs like the frighteningly horrible "Butterfly Kisses" or the rotten-to-the-core "Macarena" don't count. Here are a few suggestions.
Squirrel Nut Zippers, "Hell" (Hot/Mammoth). Start your tape with the most wicked, delicious, and subversive party song of the year. Whoever thought you could dance calypso to lines like "Teeth are extruded and bones are ground/Made into cakes that are passed around"?
Lou Reed, "Halloween Parade" (New York/Sire). Low-key Lou takes a walk on the wild side as he comments from the sidelines of this Greenwich Village institution.
KC & the Sunshine Band, "I'm Your Boogie Man" (Best Of/WEA). Okay, so he doesn't mean that kind of Boogie Man. But it's still a good party song, and it's Halloween, so we can pretend.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising" (Chronicle/Fantasy). John Fogerty turns psychic as he predicts trouble based on astronomy.
Bauhaus, "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (1979-1983/Beggars Banquet). The band can be seen performing this brooding goth classic in the Catherine Deneuve/David Bowie vampire flick The Hunger.
AC/DC, "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be" (If You Want Blood/Atlantic), "Hell's Bells" (Back in Black/Atlantic), "Highway to Hell" (Highway to Hell/Atlantic). Three guesses as to where these Aussie metalheads are headed.
Donovan, "Season of the Witch" (Donovan's Greatest Hits/Epic). The normally mellow Donovan gets haunted by a hallucinatory witch as the world goes crazy with "beatniks out to make it rich."
Annie Lennox, "Love Song for a Vampire" (Bram Stoker's Dracula/Sony). This hauntingly beautiful ballad doesn't mention vampires, but it was the theme of the film Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Halloween"/"Voodoo Dolly" (JuJu/Geffen). The ever-creepy Siouxsie and her Banshees wrote the theme song for this holiday. The occult favorite "Voodoo Dolly" is the perfect goth companion tune.
Michael Jackson, "Thriller" (Thriller/Epic). These days, Michael Jackson's real face is a lot creepier than his "Thriller" video makeup. Fortunately, the song has held up better than Jackson's mug. Vincent Price's "rap" makes this song campy Halloween fun.
Warren Zevon, "Werewolves of London" (Excitable Boy/Elektra). Aaaoooo. Zevon's hair-raising hit about London nightlife makes for a spooky sing-along.
INXS, "Devil Inside" (Kick/Atlantic). "Look at the faces/Listen to the bells/It's hard to believe we need a place called Hell." Amen.
Alice Cooper, "Feed My Frankenstein" (Hey Stoopid/Epic). Every day is Halloween for this shock-rock son of a preacher man.
David Bowie, "Scary Monsters (and Supercreeps)" (Scary Monsters/Rykodisc). Bowie battles his drug-induced monsters and superfreaks.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "A Nightmare on My Street" (He's the Rapper. I'm the DJ/BMG). The movies are better than this rap tribute. It still beats the pants off of MC Hammer's lame "Addam's Groove."
Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, "Monster Mash"; The Ran-Dells, "Martian Hop"; Sheb Wooley, "Purple People Eater"; David Seville, "Witch Doctor" (all available on Dr. Demento's 20th Anniversary Party Collection/Rhino). These novelty hits from the 1950s and 1960s have become standard Halloween party fare. The best known of the bunch is Somerville's own Bobby Pickett and his Boris Karloff impersonation on "Monster Mash."
Kate Bush, "Waking the Witch" (Hounds of Love/EMI). Bush gets in touch with her inner crone.
Kirsty MacColl, "Halloween" (Electric Landlady/IRS), Gary Numan, "Halloween" (Human/Numa). Not to be outdone by Siouxsie, Kirsty MacColl pens her own ode to the witching hour, while New Wave auto owner Gary Numan tries his hand at an electronic tribute to the holiday.
Dead or Alive, "Something in My House" (Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know/Epic). DOA lead singer and drama queen Pete Burns falls to pieces at midnight on Halloween when his lover skips town. The remix of the song expertly samples dialogue from The Exorcist.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins, "I Put a Spell on You" (I Put a Spell on You/Collectibles Records). The voodoo king, who emerged from a coffin during his stage shows, reportedly recorded this 1956 classic in a drunken stupor (hence the grunts and groans).
Nine Inch Nails, "Help Me, I Am in Hell" (Broken/Interscope). Trent Reznor's industrial cry for help from the underworld. Satan must be out of fishnet stockings.
Fred Schneider, "Monster" (Monster/Warner Bros.). The B-52's front man mixes sex and horror ("There's a monster in my pants and it does a funny dance") in this goofy spoof.
Psychedelic Furs, "The Ghost in You" (Mirror Moves/Columbia). It's more a love song than a haunted Halloween tune. Who says love can't blossom out of horror?
Coolio, "The Devil Is Dope" (My Soul/Tommy Boy). Clever wordplay by the rapper in this antidrug message. Or maybe it's not-so-clever wordplay praising Satan.
Rocky Horror Picture Show Cast, "Time Warp" (Rocky Horror Picture Show/Rhino). It's not Halloween without a little dance instruction from Dr. Frank N. Furter and his friends at the castle.
Future Bible Heroes, "Death Opened a Boutique" (Memories of Love/Slow River). The trio (fronted by the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt) bring death into the haute couture consumer age.
Whodini, "Haunted House of Rock" (Dr. Demento's Spooky Tunes and Scary Melodies/Rhino). Early rap pioneer gets funky in his spooky pad inhabited by the undead.
For all-night parties, there are still more titles. Try "Every Day Is Halloween," by Ministry (12-Inch Singles/TVT); "Release the Bats," by Birthday Party, featuring Nick Cave (Hits/Warner Bros.); "Somebody's Watching Me," by Rockwell (Motown Singles Collection Vol. 2/Motown); "Nosferatu," by Blue Öyster Cult (Spectres/Sony); "Spooky," by Classics IV (Greatest Hits/Capitol); "Halloween," by Dead Kennedys (Plastic Surgery Disasters/Alternative Tentacles); "Big Top Halloween," by Afghan Whigs (Up in It/Sub Pop); "Devil's Whorehouse" and yet another "Halloween," by the Misfits (Box-Set/Caroline); and "The Devil (Okay)," by Marc Almond (Absinthe/Thirsty Ear).
Christopher Muther is a freelance writer living in Boston.
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