It’s that time of year where you engorge yourself on candy while being scared silly. That’s right, it’s Halloween! Parties will start this weekend and that means you need a killer playlist. That’s why I’m here to help. It turns out lots of artists love to talk about Halloween. They either make songs directly about the holiday itself or they embody the spirit of it. Either way they’re perfect for getting you in the spooky mood. While there are lots of songs out there that talk about things that go bump in the night, here are some of the best and most essential for your Halloween playlist.
This is Halloween – Marilyn Manson
When The Nightmare Before Christmas was re-released, many artists were called in to cover the movie’s superb soundtrack. While some of the picks were questionable, they got it right when it came to Marilyn Manson covering the film’s iconic song. Manson already has the reputation of being a creepy guy, so it makes sense he would have something to do with the project. For his version, Manson keeps some of the whimsy of the original with some harsh guitars added in for an edge. Manson sounds creepy and haunting as he sings “I am the one hiding under your bed/teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red.” What’s even better is he uses different voices for each part from unnerving falsetto to an eerie low register. It’s an essential song for the season and it’s even better with the Mason touch.
Spookshow Baby – Rob Zombie
Honestly, all of Rob Zombie’s albums would be appropriate for this list, but this is one of his best for Halloween. The music starts out with Middle Eastern inspired guitars before launching into the heavy hitting sound Zombie has become known for. He sounds like he’s growling as he talks about the Devilman, voodoo spells, and psycho activity all happening in the light of the dead moon. The way he sounds threatening as he shouts “She’s a killer!/She’s a thriller!/Spookshow baby!” makes you feel he’s around the corner ready to strike. It’s a great song that captures the chilling and uneasy spirit of Halloween.
Lullaby – The Cure
Don’t expect to find any comfort in this song, especially if you hate spiders. If there’s anything worse than coming across a spider it’s getting eaten by one, which is what Robert Smith describes in this eerie song. Here, he talks about a creature who goes by the name “Spider Man,” no relation to the comic book hero, who creeps into your room and devours you. Though the single is 25 years old, it’s still effective with the creeping piano riff that sounds like a spider stalking across the floor and Smith singing just a hair above a whisper. It’s a Cure classic that still freaks out fans today along with the chilling video.
Thriller – Michael Jackson
When the King of Pop sat down to write this song, he didn’t know he was going to create the perfect track for Halloween. Zombies, night creatures, demons, Vincent Price’s menacing laugh. What else could you ask for in a song named “Thriller?” Michael Jackson wasn’t the scariest guy around, but he sure knew how to make everyone shudder when it came to this classic track. He talks about the things that go bump in the night while an infectious rhythm snakes around encouraging everyone to pull off their best scary bear. Of course, you can’t talk about this song with mentioning the epic video, which is a mini-horror movie in itself. Jackson goes from werewolf to zombie to dancing superstar in a matter of minutes. Thanks to the Rick Baker special effects, the short film still gives you chills today.
Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
Whether you’ve seen this movie fifty times or zero, you can’t deny how catchy this song is. Yes, it’s pretty cheesy. Yes, it wound up being Paker’s only hit. But admit it, you love yelling out “Who ya gonna call?/ Ghostbusters!” whenever the song comes on. The best part is when Parker gets cocky and reassures the listener that he “ain’t afraid of no ghost.” The high pitched squealing riff puts the icing on top of this spooktacular cake. (I’m sorry. I won’t say that again). This is the type of song that could only come out of the ’80s with it’s big synth style and novelty that has yet to wear off. My question is whose going to cover the song for the new movie?
Halloween – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxsie Sioux sounds like a howling ghost on this song dedicated to the creepy holiday. As you dive into the lyrics you find out it’s not all treats and sweets with lyrics like “A sweet reminder in the ice-blue nursery/Of a childish murder of hidden luster and she cries.” Even though the chorus consists of the word “Halloween” being repeated over and over, the track takes a dark turn. It’s actually about the loss of innocence, which gives it a bleak outlook. Still, the stark music and shrieking guitars matches the dark, chilly nights of knocking on strangers’ doors and asking for candy. Isn’t this what our parents warned us about when we were little?
(Every Day is) Halloween – Ministry
This early Ministry track doesn’t have much to do with Halloween, but it’s so aptly named it feels wrong not to have it on this list. It actually talks about people who dress differently, usually punk or goth, the weird stares they get, and the comment that they look like they’re ready for Halloween. The overall message is we’re all the same; why should I be treated any differently because our fashion sense are not the same? It’s a message that can still be applied to today’s society. Still, it’s one of the band’s most notable songs mainly for the catchy music and the irresistible hook of “mmbop-bop-bop.” It’s one of those things you can’t help singing out loud. And really, would it be so bad if every day was Halloween? Think of all the candy!
Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus
Often credited as the first goth rock record to be released, this 1979 track talks about the death of actor Bela Lugosi, who was known for his portrayal in the 1931 film adaptation of Dracula. The track is down right haunting with its dark references to bleeding victims and brides mourning the death of their vampire leader. Not to mention Peter Murphy’s eerie voice resonates throughout the entire song making your skin crawl. The music is also perfectly creepy with an ominous bass line, stark riffs that grow louder and more violent as the song goes on, and the steady ticking of the drums that sound like an old rusty clock. Just listening to it you can picture an abandoned cemetery where bats gather on the trees and the owl’s hoot echos in the night sky. With the different musical changes and vocal embellishments, you won’t mind that it’s over nine minutes long. It’s an essential track for alternative and goth rock and the one Bauhaus has gone down in music history for.
I Walked With a Zombie – Wednesday 13
Wednesday 13 is b-horror movies personified. He takes his love of horror films and channels it into his music, similar to Rob Zombie. All his songs have references to the supernatural and scary movies. His entire catalog would be appropriate for Halloween, but this is one his most popular songs. It’s pretty clear from the title what this horror-punk track is about meaning it’s perfect for all the zombie fanatics out there. Inspired by the film of the same name, the music comes rushing at you and is made for moshing. The way 13 sings “I walked with a zombie/zombie/zombie” is pretty damn catchy. Just imagine a whole group of zombie’s slam dancing to this song. It’s fun, a bit silly, and perfect for Halloween.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
This song is the epitome of hellfire and damnation. As soon as you hear the tolling church bells and the violent rainstorm at the beginning you know things aren’t going to end well. Everything about the song is haunting from Iommi’s trembling riff, to the lyrics that talk about “the figure in black” with burning eyes, to Ozzy’s anguished cried of “Oh no/no/please god help me.” It’s the perfect fit for any eerie night or haunted house. To make things even more chilling, the track is based on an actual experience that Geezer Butler told Ozzy. Apparently, Butler painted his apartment black, hung up crucifixes, and pictures of Satan on the walls. He the read a book on witchcraft and went to bed. When he woke up he saw a big black figure standing by his bed and the book was gone. The lesson here: don’t mess with Satan or his books on witchcraft.
Pet Sematary – The Ramones
Recorded for the Stephen King movie of the same name, this Ramone’s song talks about the cursed titular cemetery that brings back your loved ones, but not the way you remembered them. The band are at least smart about it as they sing “I don’t want to be buried/in a pet sematary/I don’t want to live my life again.” The rest of the song does a great job painting the picture of the creepy graveyard with the cold wind blowing and wolves howling at the moon. What’s great is the music still has their brand of punk rock and as with most of their songs, it’s catchy. You’ll find yourself singing it before it ends. It may not be the creepiest song on the list, but it does capture the Halloween mood well. Plus, it’s the Ramones. What’s not to like about this song?
Dead in Hollywood – Murderdolls
This band comprised of the aforementioned Wednesday 13 and Slipknot’s Joey Jordison talks about the iconic movie monsters on this track. 13 takes his love of all things horror even further on this song as he pays tribute to horror movie villains. He makes sure to name check Frankenstein, Norman Bates, Leatherface, and even famed director Ed Wood while shouting “Cause all my heroes are dead in Hollywood!” Just like 13’s solo material, the Murderdolls also have a number of songs that could be fit for Halloween, such as “B-Movie Scream Queen” and my personal favorite “She Was a Teenage Zombie.” Sadly, the band won’t be making horror filled music anymore since they disbanded in 2011.
Halloween – AFI (Misfits Cover)
Though this spooky song was originally done by the Misfits, I’ve always preferred AFI‘s rendition. Bringing up gruesome images of “Burning bodies hanging from poles,” dead cats, candy apples, and razor blades, the song talks about a violent and destructive Halloween. With gang vocals shouting “Halloweeeen” over and over again paired with Davey Havok’s distinct vocal style makes you want to raise your fist in the air and form a bad ass circle pit. Though the band stays true to the original, the biggest change comes at the end, which adds one minute of eerie scratches and squeals, perfect for a dark Halloween night.
I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Many artists have covered this song from Marilyn Manson to Nina Simone, but only Screamin’ Jay Hawkins makes it so damn unnerving. With his sinister growls and howls, he commands “I put a spell on you/because you’re mine,” sounding like a real life Oogie Boogie. To add to the creepy factor he peppers the track with his haunting and mischievous laugh, ready to pounce on you at any moment. The song ends with his anguished yelps and hollers as he declares one final time “Oh, you’re mine!” He sounds like a mad man and if you’ve ever seen him perform you’re fully convinced he’s crazy. While Bette Midler and the Hocus Pocus crew did a respectable job with the tune, the original is by far the best.
Mr. Crowley – Ozzy Osbourne
Arguably one of Ozzy’s best songs, this one has a thick Gothic atmosphere that’s essential for Halloween. This is mostly due to the opening that was made for a dark and stormy night. And since it’s based on English occultist Aleister Crowley, there’s bound the be spookiness. Ozzy sounds haunting and in awe as he sings “Mr. Crowley/did you talk to the dead?” and Rhandy Rhoads shows off his skill in the electrifying and trilling guitar solo that finishes off the song. It reinforces the creepy lore surrounding Crowley, yet makes you want to read some of his work. It’s a classic track that shows why Ozzy is still the Prince of Darkness.