If there is any holiday wholeheartedly embraced by Team Unwinnable, it has to be Halloween. Halloween is the only holiday that celebrates fun. You don’t need a date, you don’t have to buy gifts, you don’t have to cook all day and you can wear a costume or just wander about as yourself. Halloween also is the only holiday to celebrate all things spooky and scary – and we love a good fright. So, in honor of our favorite time of the year, we bring you, Dear Reader, our Halloween Mix Tape.
“Halloween” – The Misfits
“Theme from Halloween” – MX-80 Sound
“House of 1000 Corpses” – Rob Zombie
“The Stalker” – Paul N.J. Orrosson
“Halloween Hootenanny” – John Zacherle
“Rosemary’s Baby” – Fantomas
“Halloween” – Siouxsie and the Banshees
“It’s Bedtime (Sleep If You Can!)” – Paul N.J. Orrosson
“Surfin Dead” – The Cramps
“Monster Mash” – Bobby “Boris” Pickett
“Halloween” – Dead Kennedys
“Gog” – Peter Hammill
“Night of the Cabbage (Devil’s Night)” – Teen Steam
“The Horror of Our Love” – Ludo
“Time Warp” – Little Nell, Patricia Quinn, Richard O’Brien
“Psycho” – Eddie Noack
“Tubular Bells” – Mike Oldfield
“Happy Halloween” – John Zacherle
“Overture/Hannibal” – Andrew Lloyd Webber
“Halloween” – King Diamond
“Halloween Montage” – John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“Blood in Three Flavours” – Pete Woodhead & Daniel Mudford
“Zombies” – The King Khan & BBQ Show
“Pet Sematary” – The Ramones
“Profondo Rosso” – Goblin
“The Crypt” – Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet
“Metamorphous” – Paul N.J. Orrosson
“Ave Satani” – Jerry Goldsmith
“Halloween II” – Samhain
About a third of my music collection is horror-based and dark, so it was extremely hard for me to narrow it down to one song to include here, but in the end my choice has to be the “Halloween Theme” by MX-80 Sound. They deliver a slightly different version of John Carpenter’s simplistic yet effective cult slasher theme song. The infamous piano is replaced by a steady guitar pluck and the song has elements of hard rock, punk and ska. I first heard this track on the Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Halloween and it has graced every Halloween mix I’ve made ever since. Do yourself a favor – check it out and remember “The Night He Came Home.”
– Kenneth J. Lucas
I like my Halloween music dark and scary. To meet this criteria, one need go no further than Rob Zombie and his “House of 1000 Corpses.” The antithesis of campy monster music like “Monster Mash,” this is all about the dark side of Halloween. Punctuated by sadistic, off-kilter piano strokes, pseudo country-style note slides and Zombie’s whispered lyrics that speak of murder, blood and a house “built on sin,” this is the kind of song that makes people at a party feel uncomfortable. Sheri Moon’s evil laugh punctuates the layered tone of the song so that in addition to worrying about your soul, you feel like you’re going insane as well. “House of 1000 Corpses” embodies all the disturbing aspects of Halloween. While it is a holiday mostly for children, you should feel, just a bit, like it’s all real. And that someone is hiding under the bed.
– Brian Bannen
Peter Hammill’s voice has been compared to the guitar of Jimi Hendrix in terms of range, tone and control but on “Gog,” it’s the instrumentation that drives the drama. The hand-pumped harmonium (no, that’s not a pipe organ you hear) lends an underworldly quality to the song while Hammill’s voice runs the gamut from brooding whispers to demonic screaming. On the album, the song segues into a 10-minute musique concrète piece entitled “Magog (In Bromine Chambers),” which closes the album with sinister percussion and speed-altered, ring-modulated vocals. The whole piece makes me feel uneasy and isn’t that what Halloween is all about?
– Don Becker
Teen Steam is a musical project by friends of Unwinnable Micki Fever and Jumpkick. Their first song, “Night of the Cabbage,” is an homage to the night before Halloween. There is much debate over the naming of the night of dark deeds. Depending on where you grew up you might know it under a different name, be it Goosie Night, Mischief Night or Devil’s Night. However, this song is about how it is locally known in some parts of North Jersey as Cabbage Night. A soon-to-be holiday classic.
– Charles Francis Moran VI
I forced myself to think outside the Carpenter/Goblin box for my pick. A couple of years ago, a little pop punk band from St. Louis named Ludo wrote the creepiest of stalkerish love songs. A perfect addition to our Halloween playlist, “The Horror of Our Love” tells a story about watching a love interest while she sleeps, murdering an entire town out of adoration and leaving love notes on all the victims’ headstones. What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic and a sucker for the classic signs of affection. In the end, it’s creepy, tongue-in-cheek,and as gory as a pop song can be. On Halloween, everyone is entitled to one good scare…and an infatuated stalker.
– Erik Weinbrecht
Kids these days probably just know him as the blind guy who wrote “Lost Highway” (famously covered by Hank Williams), but it’s important to know that Leon Payne also wrote a scary little song called “Psycho” which has been recorded by a roster of artists that includes Elvis Costello. Of course, Payne would probably be horrified by this; according to legend, he forbade his publisher from letting anyone record a version of the song until after he died. But even a blind man’s dying wishes couldn’t deter country music impresarios who sensed the white-hot commercial appeal of a ballad about a murderous man-child that ends in matricide: Eddie Noack’s version came out in 1968, a year before Payne went and died.
Written from the perspective of a serial killer that seems to have Mommy issues, “Psycho” hews close enough to the plot of the Hitchcock movie it shares its name with that it might come off as a novelty along the lines of “Werewolf Watusi” if the lyrics weren’t genuinely creepy. Maybe it’s just Noack’s straight-faced delivery, but I find the verse about what befell the little girl next door convincing: “She was sitting on a bench, Momma/Thinking up a game to play/Seems I was holding a wrench, Momma/Then my mind walked away…”
– Bee Tee Dee
“I don’t want to be alone tonight, I’m gonna walk with the zombies baby” is the killer chorus to “Zombies,” a rowdy foot stomper from punk/doo-wop duo King Khan and BBQ Show, off their 2006 album “What’s for Dinner?” The other oft-repeated lyrics are “I don’t give a fuck.” For me, this track always feels like a lost gem that should have been on the soundtrack for Return of the Living Dead or other ‘80s horror classic. The song is about someone, possibly King Khan, addressing his significant other about taking his life so he can walk with the zombies. If she wishes to do the same, he’ll drink her blood and cry (post-zombification, I assume), but his zombie path is set and hers is not, so maybe he’ll see her at his funeral. Also: something about being masturbated, a barber and eating flesh in the air. Honestly, if you were to ask King Khan what the lyrics meant he’d probably just say “I don’t give a fuck”, so best not to look too deeply into this two-minute ode to our undead brothers and sisters!
– Michael Edwards
There is something about punk rock that lends itself to horror, for some reason (I don’t really understand it…what is so scary about aggressive chords and catchy woah choruses?). The Misfits are the staple here, but for me, the absolute classic Halloween punk song is “Pet Sematary,” by The Ramones. Off the wrongly-maligned 1989 album Brain Drain (seriously: “Zero Zero UFO” and “Palisades Park,” not to mention the creepy cover art – why do people hate on this album?), the lyrics explain why coming back from the dead would suck while leisurely bouncing over a riff that sounds like Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” turned inside out. It’s also my personal pick for Joey’s best recorded vocal performance – smooth and raspy all at once.
– Stu Horvath
The original 1931 film adaptation of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, is a seminal work of cinematic horror, but was lacking one element – a soundtrack – until a full 68 years after its release. In 1999, Universal Studios commissioned a score from famed American composer Philip Glass. Glass teamed with Kronos Quartet to craft a minimalist masterpiece which peaks in several places but hits its most ghostly note in the brief but memorable “The Crypt” – which provides the haunting background music for the great reveal of Dracula and his undead cronies beneath the vampire’s castle early in the flick.
– Matt Marrone