By John Lentz, Senior Music Director | FirstCom Music
Halloween is a fun holiday for both youths and adults. Part of the fun is the wide variety of music that is played on radio, TV, in commercials, and at social gatherings. Here is a list of ten of the greatest and most memorable songs that are associated with Halloween. Some are spooky, some are funny, and all have an unusual element to them. How many of these do you remember?
10. “A Nightmare on My Street” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1988)
The new jack swing sound was hot in 1988 and so was DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. This haunting, but fun track was a top 15 hit in the summer and a major player around Halloween.
9. “I Put a Spell on You” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (1956)
A gritty blues/rock tune that is actually a re-recording of the same song recorded in 1955. The first version was not released at that time, but the second version became very popular. The screaming vocal delivery from Hawkins added a hard edge to the record giving it a more sinister feel.
8. “Bark at the Moon” – Ozzy Osbourne (1983)
Would Halloween be complete without Ozzy Osbourne? Of course not. “Bark At The Moon” was not a major hit on pop radio, but the rock stations loved it, and the album of the same name was certified triple platinum. The video for the song finds Ozzy squarely in his element as a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde character. This timeless recording is still played around Halloween every year by rock stations worldwide.
7. “Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell (1984)
Rockwell (the son of Motown CEO Berry Gordy) burst out of nowhere in 1984 to notch this hit that peaked at #2 and was certified gold. The music video made this song very Halloween friendly. Another reason it was so popular is that Rockwell’s backing vocalists included a couple of guys named Jermaine and Michael Jackson.
6. “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” – Blue Oyster Cult (1976)
Blue Oyster Cult’s biggest hit was a top 15 record in the summer of 1976. The cool rock/pop hit had a radio version and a longer album version that featured a driving, progressive rock instrumental section in the middle of the song. The song was originally recorded without a cowbell, but it was later added to become one of the memorable cowbell featured songs in history.
5. “Time Warp” – composed by Richard O’Brien, for The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
From perhaps the greatest audience participation film of all-time, “Time Warp” has an ear worm type of melody that is difficult to forget. A combination of glam and early rock & roll styles, the song features the vocals of Meat Loaf, who would become a major global star two years later. The song is still often played at dances, weddings, and Halloween parties. If you are familiar with the song, you are probably already singing it.
4. “This Is Halloween” – composed by Danny Elfman, for The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
When Danny Elfman is composing music for a Tim Burton approach to Halloween, a gem like this is the result. Complete with an assortment of characters describing themselves in their Halloween role, Elfman’s masterful orchestral arrangement bounces along in a haunting, but not terrifying manner. Only Elfman could write a song like this…only Tim Burton would ask him to do so.
3. “Ghostbusters” – by Ray Parker Jr. (1984)
From the film of the same name, “Ghostbusters” was a smash hit selling over 3,000,000 copies, staying at #1 on the pop chart for three weeks, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. The fun, bouncy record is an ideal song for Halloween as it is all about ghosts, but never gets too scary.
2. “Monster Mash” – Bobby “Boris” Pickett (1962)
This record hit #1 on the pop charts with the lead vocal being a spoken word imitation of long-time horror film actor, Boris Karloff. With vintage girl group and doo wop backing vocals (sung by Darlene Love), the record sounded like a parody of “Mashed Potato Time” by Dee Dee Sharp. The record took off and spent two weeks at #1 on the pop chart in 1962 and later hit the top ten again in 1973. “Monster Mash” is probably the most recognized of all Halloween songs.
1. “Thriller” – Michael Jackson (1982)
In 1982, the brilliant trio of Rod Temperton (composer), Quincy Jones (producer), and Michael Jackson (performer) got together to create perhaps the greatest Halloween hit song of all-time. Coming from the monster album of the same name, “Thriller,” has a driving funk/disco beat with plenty of creepy sound effects and the distinctive voice of, Vincent Price. If Halloween ever had a trendy and cool sound that was not a novelty song, this was it.