Pumpkins, orange and black colors, and costumes may be the telling signs of Halloween. But there is nothing like hearing the cackles of a witch or the howls of a wolf to set a creepy – and festive – feel of the holiday.
Inspired by the Halloween season, Daily Bruin A&E; discusses horror-influenced music from television show theme songs to top-10 singles, perfect for a social gathering or if you dare, a night alone on Halloween.
“I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
“I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins has been a demented classic since it was released in 1956. A great craggy blues vocal performance by Hawkins is punctuated by pained howls and yelps from the singer. To capitalize on the creepy sound, Hawkins eventually built his stage act around the song, dressing up in capes and tusks while surrounded by macabre material. The classic track has been covered a multitude of times, most notably – for Halloween at least – in the 1993 Disney film “Hocus Pocus.” A cover by Joss Stone and Jeff Beck was nominated for a Grammy Award for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal and the song was included on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
But even with all the accolades, perhaps the greatest reward for listening to the track is the chill that runs down your spine from the opening saxophone line and the suspicion that just maybe, Hawkins did put a spell on you.
— Kevin Truong
“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett
It’s a novelty song from 1962. It’s been covered by dozens of music groups, from Alvin and the Chipmunks to the Misfits. It’s “Monster Mash.” “Monster Mash” is probably the most iconic Halloween song heard at parties and grocery stores alike. Its opening sounds of creaking doors and bubbling cauldrons and Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s signature drawl make it instantly recognizable. The song is a classic ritually played each year, and as such it is imbued with the comforting sound of nostalgia. In contrast to the dark, scary corners of Halloween, “Monster Mash” is all campiness and the perfect song to listen to while carving pumpkins or baking goodies.
— Savannah Tate
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
Despite the creaky door sounds, wolf howls and sufficiently spooky music video, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is the perfect Halloween jam for those who tend to keep themselves at a distance from more overtly horrifying holiday songs. Jackson keeps “Thriller” enjoyable year-round by retaining his signature voice stylings and allowing the heavy synthesizer and thunderous booms to take care of the mood.
Released in 1983, “Thriller” quickly became the seventh top-10 single to come from Jackson’s album of the same name. Its music video, which was selected as one of Time magazine’s “30 ALL-TIME Best Music Videos” in 2011, and signature dance featured in the video continue to be referenced in pop culture, reflecting the timelessness of the creepy classic.
— Emaan Baqai
“The Addams Family Theme” by Vic Mizzy
With a few notes and a series of snaps, The Addams Family’s theme is automatically recognizable to anyone familiar with the television series or movies. The lyrics are straightforward – explaining the “creepiness” and “kookiness” of the aforementioned family – yet listeners need hardly more than a snap to be entranced with what follows.
Based off of a cartoon, the gothic bunch mockingly rejects stereotypical American family ideals in favor of electric chairs and macabre interests. The Addams family is made up of the Addams, Gomez and Morticia, and their children, Pugsley and Wednesday, as well as Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt, Grandmama, the butler Lurch and a disembodied hand called Thing. The simple and self-aware song embodies them all, a perfect pairing to Halloween fun.
— Natalie Green
“The Murder” by Bernard Herrmann
Nothing screams Halloween like “Psycho,” the black and white 1960 horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. “Psycho” became a classic, with the infamous 45-second montage shower scene with the murder of Marion Crane, played by actress Janet Leigh. Accompanying the scene is the song “The Murder,” an orchestral score composed by Bernard Herrmann, which features alarming sounds with no direct melody and screechy instrumentals. With the alternating use of semitones that audiences now associate with a looming sense of fright, “The Murder” will set the mood for any Halloween event.
— Pauline Yang