It’s crazy how much some people look forward to Halloween. It’s like Christmas and high school graduation all rolled into one. The only made up holiday where you get to dress up and people give you free stuff. Here’s a quick selection of spooky, moody songs that are otherwise overlooked for most of the year. This list of rock and pop songs assumes you prefer power chords to pop princesses.
Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon
“Werewolves of London” proves how just one song can make someone a household name. Most fans of classic rock will know the name Warren Zevon but have a tough time naming any of his other songs or claims to fame. The song’s sharp witty lyrics are what makes this song both fun and spooky at the same time. Martin Scorsese used the song to accompany Tom Cruise dancing with a pool cue in The Color of Money, which may have helped keep the song’s legacy alive.
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
Rolling Stone magazine named “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” song of the year in 1976. Like the aforementioned “Werewolves of London”, it’s a song that serves as a gateway to everything else by Blue Oyster Cult. Reaper captures what the band is all about: a spooky brew of punk, prog rock, heavy metal and lyrics about dying. It also has a great guitar riff that is worth learning and adding to your repertoire.
Highway to Hell by AC/DC
What makes “Highway to Hell” one of the most enduring rock anthems is the fact that singer Bon Scott is not just striking a rock and roll pose. AC/DC lived on the road so long that they truly felt like they were on a highway to hell. This song tells the story of the bad things they did and all the bad things that would happen to them. It was all in pursuit of making loud music that people would connect with. When people say AC/DC only has one song, this is the one they mean.
Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell
Rockwell might be the biggest one hit wonder of the 1980s. Fortunately, this song never quite fades into obscurity because it’s reborn every year just before Halloween. It’s a perfect mix of pop, R&B, rock and MTV video madness. This all makes sense, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, lends vocals to the song and that’s surely a big part of the song’s success.
Thriller by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is the song that shows up on nearly everyone’s Halloween playlist. How can you listen to “Thriller” and not remember the 14 minute video/movie where Jackson leads a pack of zombies through a choreographed dance routine. The Walking Dead owes a huge debt to Jackson for making zombies do silly thing without being laughable.
Season of the Witch by Donovan
Scottish folk singer Donavan began experimenting with psychedelia in 1966 with songs like “Season of the Witch.” It features session player Jimmy Page on guitar. The sound is spooky, especially when heard in contrast to the album’s other notable song, the sunny sounding “Sunshine Superman.”
People are Strange by Echo & The Bunnymen
Echo & the Bunnymen’s version of “People Are Strange” is by no means superior to the original by The Doors. But it is a good choice for a Halloween playlist. It’s nearly twice as long as the Doors version, which raises the question why is one of the best Doors songs also their shortest. But the real reason for choosing it is its inclusion on The Lost Boys soundtrack, the 1987 vampire movie with Kiefer Sutherland as head vampire. This is a spooky version to check out this Halloween.
Psycho Killer by Talking Heads
Some people are afraid of clowns. Shouldn’t we really be scared of psycho killers that sing confessions in English and French? “Pyscho Killer” has a driving baseline makes the song safe enough in the light of day, but at night you’ll be wondering who this killer is and why isn’t he hasn’t been caught yet. Ever notice that Talking Heads singer David Byrne looks a lot like Norman Bate’s from Psycho?
Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield
What is “Tubular Bells?” Is is prog-rock or a movie soundtrack? It’s forever associated with spookiness owing to its use in the 1973 horror movie The Exorcist. Mike Oldfield played most of the instruments on the album, recording them one at a time and layering the recordings to create the finished work. Tubular Bells stayed in the British charts for 279 weeks. It climbed the charts slowly and eventually reached the number one spot after a year.
Doom and Gloom by The Rolling Stones
While The Rolling Stones are currently on tour and have a new album due out soon, one of their most recent song is from 2012. “Doom and Gloom” covers contemporary topics like fracking, class warfare and fighting zombies. It actually could have been written this year. And I think Mick Jagger might have just seen World War Z before writing this one.
Those songs will get you started on making your own Halloween playlist. What other songs would you recommend for a Halloween party? Let us know in the comments.