Halloween songs are bad, but they still slap

By CLAIRE BEAVER | October 31, 2019

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PUBLIC DOMAIN Despite its subpar quality, nostalgia still draws Beaver to Halloween music.

This week we’re gonna take a deep dive into my childhood.

I’m kidding (kind of). I threw it way back and listened to the weird Halloween songs teachers played for us in elementary school, only half of which are actually Halloween songs. You know what I’m talking about, songs that are absolutely ancient yet are still played in Starbucks the week of Halloween (I heard “Ghostbusters” while waiting in line for my coffee this morning).

I feel as if I must note that I am one of those people who wants things to stay in their goddamn places, such as Halloween music at Halloween. 

None of the “Christmas in July” bullshit for me. 

I started this musical journey with the classic, nay iconic “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett. 

I personally can’t believe this song didn’t end music altogether. How can we as a people come back from the lyric “From my laboratory in the castle east / To the master bedroom where the vampires feast/ The ghouls all came from their humble abodes / To get a jolt from my electrodes?” 

First, is this a sex thing? It really seems like it, and I’m not down. Do the “electrodes” make people dance, or is this a morbid metaphor for giving electric shock to monsters? Also, rhyming “east” and “feast” really feels like a last-ditch effort. Try harder, Bobby.

He wrote this song because his friends told him he did a good imitation of Boris Karloff, the dude who played Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Frankenstein film. If I wrote an entire song because I had a good imitation on the back burner, I’d be rich by now (yes, I am bragging about my imitations).

I interviewed a dear friend who is certainly biased and not at all a sound resource to defend “Monster Mash,” as she was appalled at the fact that I was preparing to wreck it. Here is the verbatim interview:

Me: Why do you like it so much?

Her: It’s like an oldie song; it has an old feeling to it.

Me: That means nothing to me. That makes it good?

Her: Yes, it’s also iconic.

Me: Wait, just because it’s iconic doesn’t mean it’s good?

Her: It’s just a good song, Claire.

Titillating interview, really. If your friends ever try to defend music to you without any explanation besides the age of the song, try comparing them to your grandpa and wag your fist. It didn’t work for me, but let me know if you figure something else out.

Next I moved on to “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon, which, by the way, is a dope name. It came out in 1978, and it had my heart from the first time I heard it and still does. Maybe because I was prone to howling, but that’s beside the point.

I was groomed to be a rocker as a kid, with the Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones all on rotation in my dad’s truck, so I was bound to like this one simply through that classic childhood phenomenon of liking familiar things (science side of Hopkins, check on that).

While this song is also wild lyric-wise, and honestly I can’t tell what it’s about, it’s got a real Bob Seger feel to it that I can vibe with.

A YouTube comment on the recording I was listening to while writing this said “WEREWOLVES OF LONDON STILL SOUNDS GREAT!! 2019!!!!” Thank you for that, user Vivi Lànoux. It was also posted eight months ago, so nowhere near Halloween season. That person was really listening to “Werewolves of London” in February and got so moved by it that they felt they simply had to comment on the YouTube video, in all caps no less. I just wish I had an ounce of that passion.

The last song I’ll talk about, though there are plenty more, is “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley from 1958. This was one that really got me as kid. What did it mean? Would I be consumed by this creature? Would he really get to be in the rock-and-roll band he descended to Earth to join?

I’m getting flashbacks of my little twiggy second-grade form flailing around to this song while dressed as Cousin Itt from The Addams Family, fedora and all. If you have also been possessed by the Purple People Eater, please — don’t hesitate to reach out. 

While of course I came here to do one job, which is to end the lives of some terrible art, I have to admit that even the shittiest of Halloween songs that accompany one of my favorite holidays will be on my playlist. Though once it becomes November, I will place them back in the recesses of my mind. Where they belong. I’m looking at you, YouTuber Vivi Lànoux.

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