(go here for part 1)
1. Tales From The Crypt “Main Theme” – Part Two of our Halloween soundtrack kicks off with a theme song from beyond the grave. So many of us have fond memories of sitting around the television on dark nights during our childhood, glued in terror and fascination to HBO’s spooky series, Tales From The Crypt. With gruesome host The Cryptkeeper and a cast of guest stars that included everyone from Tom Hanks, Adam Ant and John Lithgow to Brooke Shields, Meatloaf and Bobcat Goldthwait, the show never failed to send chills down the spines of even the most jaded horror fans. And of course, who better to turn to for a fittingly chilling theme song than the master of dark musical accompaniment, the one and only Danny Elfman. Elfman has pretty much cornered the market in this particular genre, and with themes like this one it’s easy to see why.
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show “Sweet Transvestite” – Halloween weekend 2010 marks the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest spectacles to ever be captured on celluloid, so I pay homage with my favorite track from that film’s soundtrack. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is in a class all by itself, an over-the-top parody of sci-fi and B-movie horror films that in some ways became the ultimate sci-fi/B-movie horror film itself. Ever since the first midnight viewing at New York City’s Waverly Theater on April 1, 1976, legions of audience-participating fans have catapulted this diabolical display of decadence and debauchery to cult status. “Sweet Transvestite” marks the moment in the film when I realized that newcomer Tim Curry was a genius, and I always find myself pulling this fantastic soundtrack out at Halloween time. So, don’t shiver with antici-SAY IT-pation any longer, kiddies, just listen to the song.
3. Alice Cooper “Welcome To My Nightmare” – It’s only fitting to follow The Rocky Horror Picture Show with one of the original masters of shock rock theater, Alice Cooper. With his dark, macabre and somewhat glam aesthetic, Cooper would probably have fit right in with the RHPC cast. Although I’m only putting one song from this album on the playlist, the entire Welcome To My Nightmare (1975) album is a perfect listening experience for Halloween. A concept album that centers on the nightmares of a child named Steven, the story winds its way song by song through dark and harrowing topics and provides a twisted sonic backdrop for all sorts of nocturnal mischief. In fact, you can pretty much put most Alice Cooper records on the turntable for Halloween; the man has always dwelled in a very dark realm. Check YouTube for a brilliant version of this song performed by Cooper on The Muppet Show in 1978.
4. Joy Division “Dead Souls” – There’s an inherent darkness to most of Joy Division’s music, but the JD track that I pull out more than any other at this time of year is “Dead Souls”. Originally released in 1980 by French label Sordide Sentimental as the B-side to “Atmosphere”, “Dead Souls” hints at the torment that was going on inside of singer Ian Curtis, whose struggles with mental and physical illness are well documented. Nine Inch Nails recorded an excellent cover of “Dead Souls” for the soundtrack of the 1994 movie The Crow (that soundtrack itself is a Halloween must-listen) that did justice to the original while adding their own flavor. For me, though, the original better evokes an eerie, somewhat paranoiac feeling that fits so well with the horror and mystery of Halloween.
5. Louis Armstrong “The Skeleton In The Closet” – Pops Armstrong wasn’t necessarily known for Halloween-worthy tales, but I stumbled across this gem from the 1936 film Pennies From Heaven and it totally fits the bill. A legendary artist in a groundbreaking movie role (in Pennies From Heaven, Armstrong was the first African American in Hollywood history to get featured billing alongside white actors), it’s pure pleasure to watch this scene where Armstrong recounts a tale of ghosts and goblins cavorting in a deserted mansion during the witching hour. The scene that features “The Skeleton In The Closet” is a who’s-who of music legends from the 1930’s, as Armstrong performs the song with Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra, featuring the incomparable Lionel Hampton on drums. You’ll be jiggling like a skeleton’s bones to this one.
6. The Sonics “The Witch” – Before there was punk, there was garage rock, and one of the enduring beacons of the garage sound was The Sonics. Grittier than The Who, harder than The Kinks and more esoteric than The Rolling Stones, The Sonics were as close of a precursor to the bombastic sound of early ‘70s punk as you can find. Four of their most well known singles make excellent additions to any Halloween playlist; “Psycho”, “Strychnine” (which has been covered by The Cramps and Flaming Lips, among others), “He’s Waitin’” (with Satan as its subject matter) and this track from their 1965 debut album Here Are The Sonics. “The Witch” warns all the boys to watch out for an evil new girl in town, with long black hair and a big black car, but I think I know a few guys that wouldn’t mind meeting up with this chick in a dark alley.
7. Son House “Death Letter (Blues)” – If you’re talking about the early roots of American blues, don’t forget to include Son House in the conversation. While many blues aficionados tend to focus on Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker (and respect is definitely due to these legends), it is often the more obscure bluesmen that capture my attention. A product of the Mississippi Delta blues culture of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, Son House lived and recorded in scary times and it often showed in his lyrical content. “Death Letter (Blues)” deals with the receipt of a letter that tells Son House that the woman he loves has died, and he rushes back to sit with her body and make sure that her spirit rests until Judgment Day. There are elements of olden-time death rituals and even voodoo tradition in this track that are very welcome on Halloween.
8. The Pogues “Haunting” – Some might consider it blasphemy to include a song from a Pogues album that was recorded without Shane McGowan, but alas, Waiting For Herb (1993) is the album that contains “Haunting”, a song about being scared out of your wits by a possessed tree on the way to a dance in Ireland. There’s something truly Irish about riding your bicycle along the road, stopping by a tree to get out of the rain, and suddenly the tree starts talking to you. Irish folklore is chock full of fairies, goblins, sprites and all sorts of other merry- and mischief-making creatures that wreak havoc on the unsuspecting, and The Pogues tell the story as if it’s an old drinking tale. Which makes total sense – since we’re talking about the Pogues, here.
9. Coldplay “Cemeteries Of London” – I’m a big fan of cemetery architecture and landscaping, forever taking my camera to one resting place or another and shooting angels, saints and other interesting graveyard statuary and stones. Some of the most grand and beautiful cemeteries are in Europe, most notably England and France. The first time I heard Coldplay’s beautiful “Cemeteries Of London” from 2009’s Viva La Vida LP, I imagined wandering through London’s famous Highgate Cemetery with my camera, getting tangled in ivy and losing my way among the aging mausoleums. The song’s structure and melody also evoke old seafaring laments, so one might imagine the ghosts of British sailors lost at sea wandering through the night in search of lost loves. Delicious visions for Halloween night.
10. 45 Grave “Surf Bat” – We leave you to your tricks and treats with a very Munsters-esque track from L.A. horror-punk/death rockers 45 Grave, “Surf Bat” from their 1983 full-length album Sleep In Safety. Along with The Cramps and the Misfits, 45 Grave are frequently credited as being one of the creators of the horror-punk genre, making them a perfect addition to any Halloween exploit. And on that note, Halloween playlist Part Two comes to its creepy conclusion…. a merry Devil’s Night, Happy Halloween and Feliz Dia de los Muertos to all.