Top Halloween Oldies

Spooky Rock-n-Roll Songs for Halloween

Here's a list of the best Halloween oldies ever. It's subjective, of course, but it covers the early days of rock and roll (and some other genres of music). Songs about spooky subjects but which don't sound all that creepy (i.e., Sheb Wooley's "Purple People Eater") are not included.

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"I Put A Spell On You," Screamin' Jay Hawkins

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Probably the best actual song here, Hawkins' classic R&B hit is ostensibly about a woman who won't give him the time of day. This record is less notable for what it says, however, than how it says it: Hawkins' frightening yowls and gibbers really sound like some ancient ritual, and led to a long career of him scaring the crap out of everyone with his amazing voice. Rumor has it that this original record only came out the way it did because Jay was, well, not as sober as he should have been.
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"Monster Mash," Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers

Monster Mash Album Cover
Courtesy Garpax Records

THE Halloween song of all time, returning to the Top 100 twice years after its release and still in wide airplay every October. Although the track's hilarious (Bobby's Boris Karloff impersonation is picture-perfect), and it has ambiance to spare, it remains popular mainly because it's a great little dance tune, an exquisite re-creation of the Mashed Potato craze that was then sweeping the nation (featuring Leon Russell on piano). This song has outlasted the hits it parodied. Now that's spooky.

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"Haunted House," Jumpin' Gene Simmons

Not the KISS leader, of course, but an excellent rockabilly, R&B and soul artist who is, sadly, best remembered for this little novelty. It's a great novelty, though, with Simmons determined to stick it out in his new house, despite all the paranormal things that keep happening to him. An extremely strange little record, which is what lands it on this list. (Simmons re-recorded this ditty in the Seventies, a version which brings out the song's swamp-pop roots.)

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"Witch Queen Of New Orleans," Redbone

The Native American group that gave us early-'70s pop gems like "Come And Get Your Love" tries its hand at telling the story of legendary New Orleans voudoun priestess Marie Laveau. It gets all the facts wrong, horribly wrong (Laveau did not live in a swamp, for one thing), but it's suffused with an atmosphere of dread that can't be matched among major oldies Top 40 hits. And there's also one wicked groove. Literally.
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"Out Of Limits," The Marketts

The creepiest, and therefore the best, of the Halloween oldies instrumentals, this is an excellent surf-rock take on the old "Outer Limits" TV show theme. For some reason, "Twilight Zone" covers never seem to catch fire, so this gets the nod instead. Of course, "Pulp Fiction" may color the experience for some of you. (Zed's dead, baby.)
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"Halloween Spooks," Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross

Jazz's greatest vocal trio created a fine novelty record here - it starts off with a few perfunctory words about the spooks of the title, and then spends the rest of the cut doing nothing but making really creepy sounds like spirits from beyond the grave. Excellent atmosphere. Fun for kids, too!
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"Little Red Riding Hood," Sam "The Sham" and the Pharoahs

The other big hit by the beturbaned men who gave us the legendary "Wooly Bully" is more of a lecherous fairy tale than a spookfest, but it's a dark, menacing fairy tale, and one of the finest garage rock songs on record. Extra points for the cute joke at the end, where Sam momentarily forgets he's supposed to be a sheep. (Okay, it's not the most authentic version of the story.)
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"Morgus The Magnificent," Morgus and The Ghouls

The other great TV horror host novelty record isn't very scary, but then, it has a fantastic rock and roll pedigree to make up for it, boasting members of Huey "Piano" Smith's Clowns ("Don't You Just Know It"), Frankie "Sea Cruise" Ford on lead vocals, and Dr. John on piano. New Orleans legendary TV personality Morgus is nowhere to be found, despite the credits. But this is his song, anyway.

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"Dinner With Drac," Zacherley

The king of Fifties horror movie hosts (operating out of New York City) tells us all about his ill-fated dinner with the Count, delivering the story in his usual demented spoken narrative. As with the show, the best thing about the song is John Zacherley's truly infectious maniacal laugh. Nice sax work, though.
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"Bo Meets The Monster," Bo Diddley

There were a number of great R&B and blues songs about aliens and black magic in the '50s - it's practically a subgenre in itself - but the award for best blues-influenced monster song has to go to Bo, who knew a trend when he saw one and who jumped in and made it his. Like any other Bo Diddley song, in other words, except there's a rather vague monster after him this time. Bonus points to Bo for also providing the creature's oogie-boogie voice.