So you want some creepy Halloween songs to add to your spooky party playlist? But you're burnt out on the "Monster Mash", "Thriller" doesn't thrill as hard the 100th time, and the "Halloween" movie theme is wearing a bit thin?
Here are 15 Halloween-friendly songs that can spark some new life into your undead jams.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Little Demon
Cleveland native Screamin’ Jay Hawkins came to national attention in 1956, with his hit record “I Put A Spell On You”. This song, “Little Demon” was the B-side to the often-covered classic, and became a success in it’s own right, with Hawkins insane hooting and nonsense blubbering serving as the demon’s “language”. You probably can’t dance to it, but it’s full of rockin’ energy, and will make people who haven’t heard it before say “What IS this we’re listening to?”
Reverend Horton Heat - Halloween Dance
This track from 1998’s “Halloween Hootenanny” compilation is a standout, courtesy of the long-running rockabilly act Reverend Horton Heat. With it’s 1950’s throwback sound, “The Halloween Dance” pays homage to the novelty dance crazes of the drive-in monster movie era.
Hot Blood - Soul Dracula
Before Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” lit up dance floors, German disco group Hot Blood produced horror you could move to with “Soul Dracula”. This 1975 single was a bigger hit overseas than in America, but still made ghouls groove.
Andre 3000 - Dracula's Wedding
2003’s double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below saw Outkast’s two distinct voices branch into solo territory, with freakier member Andre 3000 giving listeners “Dracula’s Wedding”. Using vampires as a way to talk about fear of “eternal” commitment, Andre also gives us the wonderful line: “I make great peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, Van Helsing”.
Whodini - The Haunted House of Rock
In what might have the goofiest lyrics of any song on this list, Whodini’s “Haunted House of Rock” has a classic early-80’s beat and cartoon-level horror. Produced in 1983, (hence why Whodini is still labeling themselves as “rock” – rap still hadn’t quite created its own place on the map yet) this fun-spirited romp gives us Dracula downing Bloody Marys at the party’s bar. What’s not to like?
Alice Cooper - He's Back (the Man Behind the Mask)
With the release of “Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives” the long-running movie series was looking to cash in further by creating a chart-topping single. While the song didn’t exactly burn up the charts (it found its peak position at #61 on Billboard), it’s faintly New-Wave style production and sampling of the classic Jason Voorhees warning sound (ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma), the song captures the flavor of watching 80’s horror schlock quick nicely.
Antsy Pants - Vampire
Best known for its placement on the Juno soundtrack, this short and sweet song takes a childish sympathy towards a vampires plight in life. Led by Moldy Peaches frontperson Kimya Dawson, this ukulele-driven minute and change is what we call a “Halloween palate cleanser”.
Siouxsie & the Banshees - Halloween
Dramatic and driving, Siouxsie & the Banshees name-check Halloween, trick-or-treating and ghosts in this classic Brit-goth-rock song. What more do you need?
The Cramps - Goo Goo Muck
There’s something about the sound of early-50’s rock and roll, paired with the feel of the Deep South that lends itself so well to creepy-crawly style horror. Maybe no other band captured both spirits quite like The Cramps, with their unhinged tributes to monsters, nutjobs and the undead. The song “Goo Goo Muck” paints the portrait of a teenager who transforms under a full moon into the titular creature.
Justin Timberlake - True Blood
From 2013’s The 20/20 Experience Part 2, Justin Timberlake conflates attraction with a vampire’s lust for blood (vampires get a LOT of mileage in pop music when it comes to talking about being horny), and “True Blood” creates an atmospheric dance tune that would pair great with a smoke machine.
No One Believes Me - Kid Cudi
Created as the theme song to 2011’s ill-fated remake of 80’s meta-horror movie Fright Night, Cleveland native Kid Cudi produces a song of slow dread and paranoia. No One Believes Me combines dragging cello strings, a sludgey beat, and fuzzed-out lyrics into an atmospheric ride.
The Ramones - Pet Sematary
Yes, it’s another movie tie-in song. This is one of the classics, with The Ramones singing the title theme to the 1989 version of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. King reportedly was such a huge fan of the band, he invited them to his New England home before filming, to personally hand them a copy of his book for their inspiration. The song became one of the biggest hits for the seminal New York punk acts.
The Surfmen - Ghost Hop
The Surfmen, who enjoyed a brief career in the early 1960’s as a big-label California surf band, recorded “Ghost Hop” in 1962. While there’s no clear reason this should be on a Halloween song list, (the title of the song could be anything, there’s no lyrics or ghostly effects on the recording) but it just sounds right, doesn’t it? It could stand-in as the theme for an old TV show where the dad is a ghost, or something.
Danny Elfman - Tales From the Crypt (Main Theme)
You could do a whole separate list of horror movie and TV themes. But while some soundtrack music can be lengthy, or have lulls of silence, the opening credit music to Tales From the Crypt is a quick roller coaster of chills. Written by legendary film composer Danny Elfman (Batman, Beetlejuice, theme to The Simpsons), it sounds like a highlight reel of Elfman’s career.
The Specials - Ghost Town
Party’s winding down, the guests are slowly shambling out. (Or you’re driving home, leave clean-up for someone else, right?) The Specials classic ska number from 1981 is the perfect end-of-the-night track, with whistling winds and creaking organ playing against a slow reggaeton vibe.