It’s a special holiday edition of Monday’s Music Moves Me this week with our theme being HALLOWEEN. I got into Halloween as a kid and have fond memories of Trick or Treating on cold Western New York evenings (and once I even remember trick or treating in the snow!). But I’ve never really been into Halloween as an adult, especially since my friend Kathie and I were accosted by three men in masks one Halloween night as we were bar-hopping in downtown Niagara Falls. It’s a long story and it wasn’t fun. Since then, I hate people wearing masks. It weirds me out. I don’t like it.
BUT there are some really awesome Halloween songs! I’ve put together a playlist with my favorite Halloween-y songs, with some background information for your enjoyment.
My Halloween Playlist
Season of the Witch by Donovan – “Season of the Witch” is one of the first songs to fit the “psychedelic” genre. It was written by Donovan and Shawn Phillips and released in September 1966 on Donovan’s Epic Records (USA) album Sunshine Superman. (Donovan recorded it in May 1966, shortly before his highly publicized arrest for possession of marijuana). Donovan is the Scottish-born singer/songwriter and guitarist most known for his hits “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”
Although originally written and recorded by Donovan, a version by The Pandamonium was released in the United Kingdom as a single in November 1966 while Donovan’s version was finally released in June 1967 on the Pye Records compilation Sunshine Superman. (The song was never released as a single but it became a very popular song with fans, enough so that Donovan himself played it live more than most of his other hits.)
Fun Fact: The recording features Bobby Ray on bass and “Fast” Eddie Hoh on drums. The hauntingly eerie guitar is provided by Jimmy Page, then a noted session guitarist working in England.
The song was covered by many artists but one that I’m very fond of is by this next band:
Season of the Witch by Vanilla Fudge – Vanilla Fudge is an American rock band known predominantly for their extended rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs (most notably “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”). The band has been cited as “one of the few American links between psychedelia and what soon became heavy metal.” Vanilla Fudge also is known to have influenced other major bands such as The Nice, Deep Purple, Yes, Styx, and Led Zeppelin.
The band’s original lineup—vocalist and organist Mark Stein, bassist and vocalist Tim Bogert, lead guitarist/vocalist Vince Martell, and drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice—recorded five albums during the years 1967–69, before disbanding in 1970. (The band is currently touring with three of the four original members, Mark Stein, Vince Martell, and Carmine Appice with Pete Bremy on bass as Bogert retired in 2009).
Their cover version of “Season of the Witch” was on Vanilla Fudge’s third album Renaissance, released in June of 1968. The band also interpolated lyrics from an Essra Mohawk song, “We Never Learn” into their rendition of “Season of the Witch”. It’s the longest song on the album at 8:40 (8 minutes and 40 seconds).
Witchy Woman by the Eagles – “Witchy Woman” is a song written by Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, and recorded by the American rock band Eagles. Released as the second single from the band’s debut album Eagles, it reached No. 9 on the Billboard Pop singles chart and is the only single from the album to feature Henley on lead vocals.
Background of the song: The guitarist Bernie Leadon first started writing “Witchy Woman” while he was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers. After joining the Eagles, Leadon and Don Henley then finished the song together, and it would be the only song on the Eagles’ debut album where Henley had a writing credit. The song was conceived while Don Henley was living in an old house near the Hollywood Bowl, with his flat mate, Henry Vine (aka ‘Blitz’). Henley said of the origin of the song: “[Leadon] came over one day and started playing this strange, minor-key riff that sounded sort of like a Hollywood movie version of Indian music — you know, the kind of stuff they play when the Indians ride up on the ridge while the wagon train passes below. It had a haunting quality, and I thought it was interesting, so we put a rough version of it down on a cassette tape.” Henley also gave the song an R&B pulse in its music.
The inspiration for the title and lyrics about a seductive enchantress came from a number of women, although Henley had one particular woman in mind – Zelda Fitzgerald whose biography he was reading while writing the song. According to Henley, he was suffering from flu with a very high fever and become semi-delirious, and every time the fever subsided, he would continue to read a book on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, and the character in the song would be a mix of Zelda Fitzgerald “along with amorphous images of girls [he] had met at the Whisky and the Troubadour”. Zelda, the muse behind her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, was known as a wild, bewitching and mesmerizing “Flapper” of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties, and is sometimes thought to be the model for the character of Daisy Buchanan in his novel, The Great Gatsby. In “Witchy Woman”, the line “She drove herself to madness with the silver spoon” may be a reference to Zelda’s time in a mental institution and the special slotted silver spoon used to dissolve sugar cubes with absinthe, the popular 1920s alcoholic beverage distilled from the wormwood tree and called “the green fairy” for sometimes inducing hallucinations.
According to Henley, other influences for the song include books by Carlos Castaneda on shamanism, and a girl he knew who was interested in the occult. Henley said of the song: “An important song for me, because it marked the beginning of my professional songwriting career.”
Spooky by the Classics IV – “Spooky” was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a “spooky little girl”. In 1968, the vocal version of the song reached #3 in the U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) and #46 in the UK.
This was one of the first songs to get a lot of airplay on the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. FM was relatively new, and AOR was a great format for people who wanted to hear songs on rock albums that weren’t necessarily hits.
The Classics IV is a band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, in 1965. The band is often credited for establishing the “soft southern rock” sound. The band, led by singer Dennis Yost, is known mainly for the hits “Spooky”, “Stormy” and “Traces”, released 1967 to 1969, which have become cover standards.
The song was also a hit when covered by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The Classics IV member Cobb and bandmate Dean Daughtry later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and they re-recorded “Spooky” in 1979, also produced by Buie. It was the second of two singles released from their Underdog LP. Atlanta Rhythm Section’s version hit #17 in the US on Billboard and #15 on Cash Box. It also charted minorly internationally. I’ve also included their version in my playlist.
Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett (and the Cryptkickers) – “Monster Mash” is a 1962 novelty song and the best-known song by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. The song was released as a single on Gary S. Paxton’s Garpax Records label in August 1962. Paxton distributed it to radio stations around southern California. Response was overwhelming, as the stations saw their phone banks lighting up with requests for the song. A deal was struck with London Records, who distributed the song worldwide.
The “Monster Mash” single was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on October 20–27 of that year, just before Halloween. It has been a perennial holiday favorite ever since.
When a novelty song becomes a surprise hit, a hastily produced album typically follows. In this case, the album was called The Original Monster Mash and included several other monster-themed songs like “Blood Bank Blues,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Transylvania Twist,” “Me And My Mummy” and “Irresistible Igor.”
Pickett was a nightclub entertainer who performed with a group called The Cordials. He wrote “Monster Mash” with his friend Lenny Capizzi. They were both big horror movie fans, and Pickett would do an impression of the actor Boris Karloff (known for playing the monster in many Frankenstein movies) during the speaking part of “Little Darlin'” that went over well in his act. As Capizzi played the piano, he and Pickett put together this song with his Karloff impression in mind. They came up with the plot about Frankenstein’s monster starting a dance craze.
The lyrics are based on the story of Frankenstein, which started as an 1818 novel by Mary Shelley and evolved into various film adaptations. In the story, Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature who comes to life, but what he created is a monster. The book is sober tale of regret and unexpected consequences, but the story is often played for comedy. In this song, the monster throws a big dance party, which is enthusiastically attended by many other creatures of lore (Dracula, Wolfman).
Pickett is imitating Boris Karloff, but is narrating the story as Dr. Frankenstein, not the monster that Karloff famously portrayed. Here he is performing the song on American Bandstand on October 13, 1964, with a comical introduction by a young Dick Clark. I just love his facial expressions!
Pickett and Lenny Capizzi wrote this song in about two hours. They recorded a demo to tape and brought it to Gary Paxton, lead singer of The Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”). They recorded the song with Paxton and studio musicians Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae and Rickie Page, who were credited as “The Cryptkickers.” Paxton, who is credited as the song’s producer, also added the sound effects.
This being 1962, many of the sound effects had to be created in the studio. The sound effects on the song were done as follows:
The coffin being opened was made by pulling a rusty nail out of a lump of wood with the claw of a hammer.
The bubbling sounds came from blowing through a straw in a glass of water.
The sound of the chains was made by dropping chains onto plywood planks on the record studio floor.
This is arguably the most successful novelty song of all time. Bobby Pickett accomplished the rare feat of reaching the top 100 music chart three times with the same song. On October 20, 1962, the original release hit #1 in the US. The song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 on August 29, 1970 peaking at #91, and then again on May 5, 1972 when it went all the way to #10. The song has sold over four million copies and continues to be a Halloween favorite.
Frankenstein by Edgar Winter Group – “Frankenstein” is an instrumental by The Edgar Winter Group from their album They Only Come Out at Night.
The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in May 1973, being replaced by Paul McCartney’s “My Love”. It sold over one million copies. In Canada it fared equally well, reaching #1 on the RPM 100 Top Singles Chart the following month, the same month that saw it peak at #18 in the UK.
This is one of the most famous instrumental rock songs. In fact, Rolling Stone lists “Frankenstein” as one of the top 25 best rock instrumentals. The single sold over 1 million copies and became a classic rock staple.
It got its title because of the intense editing that went into the song; it became a monster when it was pieced together in the studio. Said Winter: “When we were editing it in the studio, back in those days when you edited something, you physically had to cut the tape and splice it back together, so it was all over the control room, draped over the backs of chairs and the couch. We were making fun of it, trying to figure out how to put it back together, saying ‘Here’s the main body; the leg bone’s connected to the thigh bone… ‘ Then Chuck Ruff, my drummer, says, ‘Wow, man, it’s like Frankenstein.’ As soon as I heard that, I went, ‘Wow, that’s it!’ The monster was born.” Winter frequently refers to the appropriateness of the name also in relation to its “monster-like, lumbering beat.”
Winter played many of the instruments on the track, including keyboards, saxophone and timbales. Rick Derringer produced this and played guitar on the track along with Ronnie Montrose. As the release’s only instrumental cut, the song was not initially intended to be on the album, and was only included on a whim as a last-minute addition. It was originally released as the B-side to “Hangin’ Around”, but the two were soon reversed by the label when disc jockeys nationwide in the United States, as well as in Canada, were inundated with phone calls and realized this was the hit. The song features a “double” drum solo, with Ruff on drums and Winter on percussion. In fact, the working title of the song was “The Double Drum Song”. This was the first hit song that used a synthesizer as the lead instrument.
The group performed the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973. The song was actually performed three years previously when Edgar was playing with his older brother Johnny Winter at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. This rare recording was recently released as one of several live bonus tracks included in the two-disc Deluxe Edition CD of Johnny Winter’s Second Winter.
Speaking of They Only Come Out at Night, how about my next pick for a Halloween song:
Thriller by Michael Jackson – “Thriller” is a song recorded by American singer Michael Jackson, composed by Rod Temperton, and produced by Quincy Jones. It is the seventh and final single released by Epic Records from his 1982 studio album Thriller. A 14-minute video showing Jackson in a horror-themed performance premiered on November 14, 1983. It was first shown on MTV on December 2, 1983. The song was not released as a single until January 23, 1984.
In the song, sound effects such as a creaking door, thunder, feet walking on wooden planks, winds and howling dogs can be heard, and the lyrics contain frightening themes and elements. “Thriller” received positive reviews from critics and became Jackson’s seventh top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart from the album, while reaching the top of the charts in France and Belgium and the top ten in many other countries.
“Thriller” was adapted by director John Landis into a highly successful music video, known independently as “Michael Jackson’s Thriller”. At fourteen minutes the video is substantially longer than the song, which ties together a narrative featuring Jackson and actress Ola Ray in a setting heavily inspired by horror films of the 1950s. In the video’s most iconic scene, Jackson leads other actors costumed as zombies in a choreographed dance routine. Though it garnered some criticism for its occult theme and violent imagery, the video was immediately popular and received high critical acclaim, being nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 (the very first MTV Video Music Awards) and winning three (Best Performance Video, Best Choreography, and Viewers Choice). Considered the most famous music video of all time, it was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2009, the first music video ever selected. How cool is that?!
Most homes had VCRs in 1983 and sales of videos were big business. Along with the Jane Fonda workout tapes, you could buy a VHS or beta copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which included the full video and also “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” a behind the scenes documentary. This tape became the best-selling music video at the time, and was later certified by Guinness World Records as the top selling music video of all time, moving nine million units. Part of its appeal was the price, a mere $24.95 at a time when movies on tape cost much more.
The video distribution deal was through a company called Vestron, who approached John Landis about selling the film directly to consumers, which turned out to be very profitable. The timing helped, as the video was released a few weeks before Christmas.
Thriller is by far the best-selling album in the world. In the United States, it was overtaken by The Eagles Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, but reclaimed the title after Jackson’s death.
Fun Fact: Rod Temperton recalled that when he wrote this song he envisaged “this talking section at the end and didn’t know really what we were going to do with it. But one thing I’d thought about was to have a famous voice in the horror genre to do the vocal. Quincy (Jones, producer)’s wife knew Vincent Price, so Quincy said to me, ‘How about if we got Vincent Price?'” (Source Q magazine August 2009).
Vincent Price, an actor best known for his work on horror films, did the narration at the end of the song, including the evil laugh. Price’s rap includes the line “Must stand and face the hounds of hell.” (This was inspired by the most popular Sherlock Holmes novel to date, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in which Sir Henry Baskerville’s family is supposedly cursed by a bloodthirsty, demonic hound. Price’s personal friends, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (who appeared in several horror films with him), starred in a loose 1959 film adaptation of it. It was the first Sherlock Holmes film shot in color). Price recorded the central spoken section in this song on his second take, after it had been written by Rod Temperton in the taxi on the way to the studio for the recording session.
Vincent Price, while a guest on the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, laughingly stated that when he did the narration for “Thriller” (at the request of Michael Jackson who was a big fan of Price) he had a choice between taking a percentage of the album sales or $20,000. Price was well along in his career, so he took the $20,000. He was good-natured about it when Carson told him he could have made millions off of the royalties due to the vast number of copies sold even at that time. Price laughed heartily and said: “How well I know!”
Ghosts by Michael Jackson – “Ghosts” is a 1996 song by Michael Jackson. “Ghosts” was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Teddy Riley in 1996. Commentators made observations about the paranoid lyrics, a common theme in Jackson’s work. Its music video was a five-minute clip taken from the much longer film of the same name. It was released as part of the single release “HIStory”/”Ghosts”, a double A-side single from Michael Jackson’s 1997 remix album Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix.
The song would become a top five hit in the UK and Italy, but did not chart as highly elsewhere. Specifically “HIStory/Ghosts” did generally well of music charts worldwide, having charted within the top-ten and top-twenty in multiple countries. The song’s highest peak position was in Italy, charting at number three. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden “HIStory/Ghosts” spent seventeen to eighteen weeks on the charts. In Australia “HIStory/Ghosts” peaked at forty-three before falling off the chart. The single did not appear on any United States Billboard charts.
The music video for “Ghosts” was a five-minute cut-down of the short film of the same title, which Jackson unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the album promotion. It was released theatrically in the US in October 1996 and made its UK debut the following May at the Odeon Leicester Square. The music video won the Bob Fosse Award for Best Choreography in a Music Video.
Written by Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston, the short film was inspired by the isolation the singer felt after he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993. It centers on the Maestro (Jackson), who’s nearly chased out of his town by the residents and the mayor (who intentionally resembles Tom Sneddon, a prosecutor in the 1993 accusations) because they believe him to be a “freak.” The film includes several songs and music videos from the albums HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. At 38 minutes, the film holds the Guinness World Record for longest music video. The short version is included in Michael Jackson’s Vision.
Ghost Riders in the Sky by the Outlaws – The original song is “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend,” a cowboy-styled country/western song written in 1948 by American songwriter, film and television actor Stan Jones.
The song tells a folk tale of a cowboy who has a vision of red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them, forever “trying to catch the Devil’s herd across these endless skies”. Jones stated he had been told the story when he was 12 years old by an old cowboy friend. The story resembles the northern European mythic Wild Hunt.
More than 50 performers have recorded versions of the song. One of the charting versions that I’m most familiar with was recorded by the American southern rock band Outlaws and appears on their sixth album Ghost Riders, released in 1980. It is regarded by many fans as the last Outlaws album that followed their old fashioned southern rock style, and also a comeback after some mediocre albums saleswise. Their cover of “(Ghost) Riders In the Sky” was one of their most successful songs, and has earned the band some attention from outside the southern rock circles.
Goblin Girl by Frank Zappa – I’m not much of a Zappa fan but I just had to include this song. “Goblin Girl” is from Frank Zappa’s double album You Are What You Is. It was originally released as a double album in 1981 and later by Rykodisc as a 20-song CD.
Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London” is a rock song composed by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, and Warren Zevon and performed by Zevon. Included on Zevon’s 1978 album Excitable Boy, it featured accompaniment by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. It was produced by Jackson Browne.The single was released by Asylum Records and it entered the American Top 40 charts on April 22, 1978, reaching number 21, and remained in the Top 40 for six weeks. In New Zealand, the song reached number 15. This was the only Top 40 hit for Warren Zevon as singer.
When Zevon was working with The Everly Brothers, he hired Wachtel to play in their backing band. At one point, Phil Everly asked them to write a dance song for the Everly Brothers called “Werewolves of London.” Wachtel and Zevon were good friends and were strumming guitars together when someone asked what they were playing. Zevon replied, “Werewolves of London,” and Wachtel started howling. Zevon came up with the line “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand,” and they traded lyrics back and forth until they had their song.
The lyrics tell the story of “a hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent.” He’s well-dressed (“I’d like to meet his tailor”), well-groomed (“His hair was perfect”), and “preying on little old ladies.”
Fun Facts: The Chinese restaurant mentioned in the song, “Lee Ho Fook,” is a real location. It is situated on Gerrard Street in London’s Chinatown (the nearest Tube station is Piccadilly). The patron proudly displays Zevon’s photo.
When Zevon played this live, he sometimes replaced the line “I’d like to meet his tailor” with “And he’s looking for James Taylor!”
In 2000, a fight broke out while Zevon was performing this at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Zevon stopped, waited for the fight to end, said “I bet this never happens at Sting concerts,” and continued the song.
Zevon filled in for bandleader/keyboardist/producer Paul Shaffer at Late Night with David Letterman whenever Shaffer was unable to attend the taping of the show. Letterman was a big fan of Zevon, and did some very moving interviews with him before his death, including one in which Zevon gave this advice: “Enjoy every sandwich.”
Zevon died of lung cancer in 2003. He lived with the disease longer than doctors expected and made his last album, The Wind, while he was dying.
Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer” is a song written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and first played by their band the Artistic in 1974, and as Talking Heads in 1975, with a later version recorded for their 1977 album Talking Heads: 77.
The band’s “signature debut hit” features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad, “Psycho Killer” became what AllMusic calls a “deceptively funky new wave/no wave song” with “an insistent rhythm, and one of the most memorable, driving basslines in rock & roll.”
The song was the result of lead singer David Byrne trying to write an Alice Cooper song, but it came out much more introspective. It ended up being about the thoughts of a murderer. They lyrics were inspired by the character Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, in the 1960 movie Psycho. Byrne never thought this would be a hit. He considered it a “silly song” at the time, and was surprised when it took off.
Part of the chorus and the bridge are in French. The verse translates to “What I did, that evening, what she said, that evening fulfilling my hope I throw myself towards glory.” The chorus lyric “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” means “What is this?”
The “Fa Fa” part comes from an Otis Redding song called “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).” Redding and other Soul singers were a big influence on Talking Heads.
An acoustic version was the flip side of the single. In the liner notes for Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads (1992), Jerry Harrison wrote of that b-side acoustic version that featured Arthur Russell on cello, “I’m glad we persuaded Tony [Bongiovi] and Lance [Quinn] that the version with the cellos shouldn’t be the only one.”
The song was composed near the beginning of the band’s career and prototype versions were performed onstage as early as December 1975. When it was finally completed and released as a single in December 1977, “Psycho Killer” became instantly associated in popular culture with the contemporaneous Son of Sam serial killings. Although the band always insisted that the song had no inspiration from the notorious events, the single’s release date was “eerily timely” and marked by a “macabre synchronicity”.
“Psycho Killer” was the only song from the album to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 92. It reached number 32 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, and peaked at number 11 on the Dutch singles chart in 1977. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. – “Ghostbusters” is a song written and recorded by Ray Parker Jr. as the theme to the film of the same name starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. Debuting at #68 on June 16, 1984, the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 11, 1984, staying there for three weeks, and at number two on the UK Singles Chart on September 16, 1984, staying there for three weeks. The song re-entered the UK Top 75 on November 2, 2008, at No. 49.
It was nominated at the 57th Academy Awards for Best Original Song, but lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”.
According to Parker, he was approached by the film’s producers to create a theme song for the film, though he only had a few days to do so and the film’s title seemed impossible to include in any lyrics. However, when watching television late at night, Parker saw a cheap commercial for a local service that reminded him that the film had a similar commercial featured for the fictional business. This inspired him to write the song as a pseudo-advertising jingle that the business could have commissioned as a promotion.
Parker added that he got his girlfriend and her friends to shout the title for the chorus, since he didn’t want to sing it. Parker, who was a renowned session musician, played most of the instruments on the track.
Fun Fact #1: Lindsey Buckingham claims to have been approached to write the Ghostbusters theme based on his successful contribution to Harold Ramis’s National Lampoon’s Vacation (the song “Holiday Road”). He turned down the opportunity as he did not want to be known as a soundtrack artist. He mentions this on the “Words & Music” interview disc.
The music video for the song was directed by the same director as the Ghostbusters film, Ivan Reitman, and produced by Jeffrey Abelson. It features a young woman, played by actress Cindy Harrell, who is haunted by a ghost portrayed by Parker, roaming a nearly all-black house interior with vibrant neon designs outlining the sparse architectural and industrial features until the woman finally calls the service. It also contains footage from the film and features cameos from many celebrities of the day, including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, Ollie E. Brown, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr; all of whom exclaim the song’s “Ghostbusters!” refrain when shown. Chase appears again after Garr, but chokes on his cigarette when he tries to exclaim “Ghostbusters!” Franken also pops up in the house before the separately framed cameos begin.
The video concludes with Parker and the stars of the film, in full Ghostbuster costume, dancing down the streets of New York City. The Ghostbusters also perform the same dance in the closing credits to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series as well as in a trailer for the 2009 Ghostbusters video game.
Fun Fact #2: Huey Lewis sued Parker for plagiarizing the medley to his song “I Want A New Drug” on this track. They settled out of court and agreed not to talk about the case in public, but in 2001, Lewis revealed that Parker paid to settle the suit on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Parker then sued Lewis for violating the terms of their agreement and breaching confidentiality.
Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult – “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is a song by the American rock band Blue Öyster Cult from their 1976 album, Agents of Fortune. The song, written and sung by the band’s lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, deal with eternal love and the inevitability of death. Dharma wrote the song while picturing an early death for himself.
Released as an edited single, the song was Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest chart success, reaching #7 in Cash Box and #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1976. Additionally, critical reception was mainly positive and, in 2004, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was listed at number 405 on the Rolling Stone list of the top 500 songs of all time.
Blue Öyster Cult was considered a “cult” band, somewhere in the realm of heavy metal with complex and often baffling lyrics dealing with the supernatural. Those inside the cult took the time to understand that like Black Sabbath, BOC combined outstanding musicianship with fantasy lyrics, and they weren’t for everyone. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” exposed them to a wider audience, which was good for business but bad for art. Buck Dharma said in a 1980 interview with NME: “Ever since ‘The Reaper’ was a hit we’ve been under pressure to duplicate that success; the body of our work failed. Even on (1977 album) Spectres everyone tried to write a hit single and that’s a bad mistake. The Cult is never destined to be successful at a format. To be a singles band you have to win the casual buyer.”
Fun Fact #1: The song has been used in several horror movies, including Halloween, The Frighteners and Scream. Stephen King cited the song as the inspiration for his novel The Stand. He quoted the lyrics to this song at the beginning of his novel, in which 99.9% of the US population is killed by a manmade disease called “Superflu.” It is also used in King’s miniseries of the same name during a montage showing the corpses of those who had been killed by the disease. King often quotes songs in the beginning of his books.
Fun Fact #2: The song was memorialized in the April 2000 Saturday Night Live comedy sketch “More Cowbell”. The six-minute sketch presents a fictionalized version of the recording of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Will Ferrell wrote the sketch and played Gene Frenkle, an overweight cowbell player. “Legendary” producer Bruce Dickinson, played by Christopher Walken, asked Frenkle to “really explore the studio space” and up the ante on his cowbell playing. The rest of the band are visibly annoyed by Frenkle, but Dickinson tells everyone, “I got a fever, and the only prescription–is more cowbell!” Buck Dharma thought the sketch was fantastic and said he never gets tired of it.
For some reason, the skit’s embed code wouldn’t work but here’s the link to the NBC site where you can watch the entire hilarious skit. Besides Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell, James Franco and Jimmy Fallon are also in the skit. Enjoy!
Murder by Numbers by the Police – “Murder by Numbers” is on English rock band The Police’s fifth and final studio album, Syncronicity, released in June 1983.
The lyrics describe how to get in the mindset of killing people. Sting said it is about the evil deeds of politicians. Sting wrote this with guitarist Andy Summers. It was their only collaboration on Synchronicity; besides the songs “Miss Gradenko” (Stewart Copeland) and “Mother” (Summers), the songs on the album were written entirely by Sting.
This was used as the B-side of “Every Breath You Take,” but it was omitted from the vinyl copy of Synchronicity. At the time, vinyl copies went on sale before cassettes, and CD technology was just emerging. Many people would buy the vinyl copies right away, so leaving this off encouraged them to also purchase the “Every Breath You Take” single or the cassette. At some concerts, Sting introduced this by saying it was about the manipulation of large groups of people, knowing that the audience were being manipulated the whole time.
Fun Facts: This song was featured in the Sigourney Weaver movie Copycat. In the film, a serial killer leaves the lyrics to the song as a clue.
Murder by Numbers is the title of a 2002 movie starring Sandra Bullock.
TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart said that this song was performed by “The sons of Satan.” In 1988, a few years after he made his comments, Swaggart was involved in a sex scandal.
Sting appeared at a Frank Zappa concert after meeting the eccentric composer before the show. When he got onstage, the band started to play “Murder by Numbers” as Sting talked about the comments Jimmy Swaggart made about this song being written by Satan, Beelzebub, and Lucifer. He concluded by saying, “I wrote the fucking song, alright?” He went on to sing the whole song with the band and the track appears on Zappa’s live album, Broadway the Hard Way.
Superstition by Stevie Wonder – “Superstition” is a song by American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder. It was released as the lead single from his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book (1972). The album was called Talking Book because wonder considered the songs akin to chapters in a book that tell a whole story. On the cover is a rare photo of Wonder without his sunglasses on.
The song’s lyrics are chiefly concerned with superstitions, mentioning several popular superstitious fables throughout the song, and deal with the negative effects superstitious beliefs can bring. Wonder wrote this about the dangers of believing in superstitions. Some of the bad luck superstitions he alludes to include walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror (said to bring seven years of bad luck), and the number 13.
It reached number one in the U.S. and number one on the soul singles chart. The song was Wonder’s first number-one single since “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. Overseas, it peaked at number eleven in the UK during February 1973. In November 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song at No. 74 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
This was intended for Jeff Beck, who was brought in to play some guitar parts on the album in exchange for a song. At one of the sessions, Stevie came up with the riff and wrote some lyrics, and they recorded a rough version of the song that day for Beck. It took Beck a while to record the song due to album delays, and by the time he released it, Wonder’s version had been out for a month and was a huge hit. Beck felt shortchanged, and made some statements in the press that Wonder didn’t appreciate. In 1975, Beck released an instrumental version of Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” on his album Blow By Blow. The album was a hit and helped solidify Beck’s reputation as an elite guitarist.
Jeff Beck finally recorded his own version of this song in December 1972 with bass player Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. They recorded as Beck, Bogert and Appice, and while their album did well, their version of this song was hardly noticed.
Several artists besides Jeff Beck have covered this. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version is still played on Classic Rock radio, and has grown even more popular since Vaughan’s death in 1990.
This song incorporates many elements of rock music, which helped Wonder extend his appeal to a white audience. Before Talking Book was released, Stevie went on tour with The Rolling Stones, which boosted his credibility in the world of rock. When “Superstition” was released, it was warmly welcomed on the same radio stations that played The Stones, earning Wonder many new fans. It also helped Wonder move past his image as a child star.
Wonder appeared in Bud Light commercials that debuted during the Super Bowl in 2013. As part of the “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work” campaign, which showed superstitious fans acting compulsively in an effort to steer their teams to victory, Wonder appeared as some kind of witch doctor in New Orleans (where the game took place). Asking, “Are you looking for a little mojo?” Wonder then transports our hero to the big game, where he has a voodoo doll to help his cause. The song “Superstition” plays throughout.
Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me” is a song by American singer Rockwell from his 1984 debut studio album Somebody’s Watching Me. Rockwell is Kennedy Gordy, son of Motown founder Berry Gordy from a relationship with Margaret Norton. The Motown brain trust came up with the name “Rockwell.” Prince and Madonna were doing very well using one name, and inspiration struck when someone saw a photo of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Kennedy put the demo together with the help of a Motown producer named Curtis Nolen. Berry Gordy didn’t have much faith in his son as a recording artist, but when he heard this, he knew it was a hit and agreed to release it.
The song was released as Rockwell’s debut single and lead single from the album on January 14, 1984, by Motown. It features former Jackson 5 members Michael Jackson (vocals in the chorus) and Jermaine Jackson (additional backing vocals).
“Somebody’s Watching Me” became a commercial success internationally, topping the charts in Belgium, France and Spain. “Somebody’s Watching Me” also peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as reaching number six on the UK Singles Chart.
Due in part to the popularity of the music video, the song is sometimes used for Halloween celebrations, with cover versions found in various collections of Halloween music.
The single’s music video underscores the song’s paranoid tone with a haunted house-inspired theme, including imagery of floating heads, ravens, graveyards, and shower scenes referencing Psycho.
The video opens with Rockwell coming home to discover that the wrong newspaper has been delivered to his doorstep. As he takes a quick shower, he begins to have strange visions (in a manner recalling The Dead Zone) of himself being pursued around his house by assorted ghoulish appartions, of the looming figure of a cadaverous-looking man, and of finding a tombstone engraved with his own name. His shower is interrupted when he hears something outside and goes out on his balcony to investigate. He is shocked to see the man from his visions standing at his gate, but as he struggles to get a better look in spite of the sun in his face he is greatly relieved to see that he is merely a mailman, come to deliver the correct newspaper. As the mailman walks up the path towards the front porch, however, a brief close-up of his arm reveals that he is, in fact, a zombie. Rockwell emerges onto the porch to receive the paper, which the mailman genially hands over. As the mailman brings his other arm around to strike, Rockwell has just enough time to notice that he is not human.
This is Halloween – “This Is Halloween” is a song from the 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, with music and lyrics written by Danny Elfman. In the film it is performed by the residents of the fictional “Halloween Town”, which is the film’s main setting, and introduces the town’s Halloween-centered lifestyle.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (also known as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) is a 1993 American stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy film directed by Henry Selick, and produced and conceived by Tim Burton. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, a resident from “Halloween Town” who stumbles through a portal to “Christmas Town” and decides to celebrate the holiday, with some dastardly and comical consequences. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. The principal voice cast also includes Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens and Glenn Shadix.
The Nightmare Before Christmas originated in a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982, while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation. With the success of Vincent in the same year, Walt Disney Studios began to consider developing The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short film or 30-minute television special. Over the years, Burton’s thoughts regularly returned to the project, and in 1990, he made a development deal with Disney. Production started in July 1991 in San Francisco; Disney released the film through its Touchstone Pictures banner because the studio believed the film would be “too dark and scary for kids”.
The film was met with both critical and financial success, grossing over $76 million during its initial run. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, a first for an animated film. The film has since been reissued by Walt Disney Pictures, and was re-released annually in Disney Digital 3-D from 2006 until 2009, making it the first stop-motion animated feature to be entirely converted to 3D.
And since my Halloween tradition for the last several years is to turn off all the lights and pretend no one is home and then watch the original 1978 movie Halloween by John Carpenter…and maybe a few more in the franchise… I’m including the Halloween movie trailer here, followed by the theme song.
Halloween, the movie: For those who aren’t familiar: Halloween is a 1978 American slasher film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with producer Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut. It is the first installment of the Halloween franchise. In the film, on Halloween night in 1963, Michael Myers murders his sister in the fictional Midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois. He escapes on October 30, 1978 from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, and returns home to kill again. The next day, Halloween, Michael stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends, while Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, pursues his patient.
Halloween was produced on a budget of $300,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States, $23 million internationally, for a total of $70 million worldwide, selling almost 30 million tickets in 1978, equivalent to $269 million as of for 2017. It became one of the most profitable independent films. Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Some critics have suggested that Halloween may encourage sadism and misogyny by audiences identifying with its villain. Others have suggested the film is a social critique of the immorality of youth and teenagers in 1970s America, with many of Myers’ victims being sexually promiscuous substance abusers, while the lone heroine is depicted as innocent and pure, hence her survival. Nevertheless, Carpenter dismisses such analyses.
Movie Fun Facts: After viewing Carpenter’s film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) at the Milan Film Festival, independent film producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad sought out Carpenter to direct a film for them about a psychotic killer that stalked babysitters. In an interview with Fangoria magazine, Yablans stated, “I was thinking what would make sense in the horror genre, and what I wanted to do was make a picture that had the same impact as The Exorcist.” Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began drafting a story originally titled The Babysitter Murders, but, as Carpenter told Entertainment Weekly, Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night and naming it Halloween instead.
Akkad agreed to put up $300,000 for the film’s budget, which was considered low at the time. (Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precinct 13, had an estimated budget of $100,000). Akkad worried over the tight, four-week schedule, low budget, and Carpenter’s limited experience as a filmmaker, but told Fangoria, “Two things made me decide. One, Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he told me he didn’t want to take any fees, and that showed he had confidence in the project”. Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing, and composing the music, retaining rights to 10 percent of the film’s profits.
Because of the low budget, wardrobe and props were often crafted from items on hand or that could be purchased inexpensively. Carpenter hired Tommy Lee Wallace as production designer, art director, location scout and co-editor. Wallace created the trademark mask worn by Michael Myers throughout the film from a Captain Kirk mask purchased for $1.98. Carpenter recalled how Wallace “widened the eye holes and spray-painted the flesh a bluish white. In the script it said Michael Myers’s mask had ‘the pale features of a human face’ and it truly was spooky looking. I can only imagine the result if they hadn’t painted the mask white. Children would be checking their closet for William Shatner after Tommy got through with it.” Hill adds that the “idea was to make him almost humorless, faceless—this sort of pale visage that could resemble a human or not.” Many of the actors wore their own clothes, and Curtis’ wardrobe was purchased at J. C. Penney for around a hundred dollars.
It took approximately 10 days to write the script. Yablans and Akkad ceded most of the creative control to writers Carpenter and Hill (whom Carpenter wanted as producer), but Yablans did offer several suggestions. According to a Fangoria interview with Hill, “Yablans wanted the script written like a radio show, with ‘boos’ every 10 minutes.” Hill explained that the script took three weeks to write and much of the inspiration behind the plot came from Celtic traditions of Halloween such as the festival of Samhain. Although Samhain is not mentioned in the plot of the first film, Hill asserts that:
“…the idea was that you couldn’t kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that’s what made Halloween work.”
Hill wrote most of the female characters’ dialogue, while Carpenter drafted Loomis’ speeches on the soullessness of Michael Myers. Many script details were drawn from Carpenter’s and Hill’s adolescence and early careers. The fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois was derived from Haddonfield, New Jersey, where Hill grew up, and most of the street names were taken from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Laurie Strode was the name of one of Carpenter’s old girlfriends and Michael Myers was the name of an English producer who had previously entered, with Yablans, Assault on Precinct 13 in various European film festivals. In Halloween, Carpenter pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock with two characters’ names: Tommy Doyle is named after Lt. Det. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey) from Rear Window (1954), and Dr. Loomis’ name was taken from Sam Loomis (John Gavin) from Psycho, the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, who is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis). Sheriff Leigh Brackett shared the name of a Hollywood screenwriter.
“I met this six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes; the devil’s eyes […] I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.”
— Loomis’ description of a young Michael was inspired by John Carpenter’s experience with a real life mental patient.
Carpenter’s inspiration for the “evil” that Michael would embody came when he was in college. While on a class trip at a mental institution in Kentucky, Carpenter visited “the most serious, mentally ill patients”. Among those patients was a young boy around twelve to thirteen years-old. The boy gave this “schizophrenic stare”, “a real evil stare”, which Carpenter found “unsettling”, “creepy”, and “completely insane”. Carpenter’s experience would inspire the characterization that Loomis would give of Michael to Sheriff Brackett in the original film.
The limited budget also dictated the filming location and time schedule. Halloween was filmed in 20 days in the spring of 1978 in South Pasadena, California, and the cemetery at Sierra Madre, California. An abandoned house owned by a church stood in as the Myers house. Two homes on Orange Grove Avenue (near Sunset Boulevard) in Hollywood were used for the film’s climax. The crew had difficulty finding pumpkins in the spring, and artificial fall leaves had to be reused for multiple scenes. Local families dressed their children in Halloween costumes for trick-or-treat scenes.
The Halloween Theme Music: Another major reason for the success of Halloween is the moody musical score, particularly the main theme. Lacking a symphonic soundtrack, the film’s score consists of a piano melody played in a 10/8 or “complex 5/4” meter composed and performed by director John Carpenter. It took Carpenter three days to compose the entire score for the film. Critic James Berardinelli calls the score “relatively simple and unsophisticated”, but admits that “Halloween’s music is one of its strongest assets”. Carpenter stated in an interview, “I can play just about any keyboard, but I can’t read or write a note.” In the end credits, Carpenter bills himself as the “Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra” for performing the film’s score, but he did receive assistance from composer Dan Wyman, a music professor at San José State University.
Some songs can be heard in the film, one being an untitled song performed by Carpenter and a group of his friends who formed a band called The Coupe De Villes. The song is heard as Laurie steps into Annie’s car on her way to babysit Tommy Doyle. Another song, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, appears in the film.
And this wraps up my Halloween themed Monday’s Music Moves Me playlist. Hope you all enjoy it. HAPPY HALLOWEEN and be sure to keep your doors locked and whatever you do, don’t open the closet door or go down in the basement!
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by JAmerican Spice, Stacy Uncorked and Curious as a Cathy. Be sure to stop by the hosts and visit the other participants.