The Vinyl Collective
by Kurt Hackimer
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There was a time when Halloween was considered evil. This is not even meant to allude to the holiday’s pagan origins. It just seems as if today’s children have abandoned the need to scare or be scared on Halloween. As each year goes on, the amount of Harry Potters and princesses gradually outnumber Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula.
Even more modern horror movie icons such as Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger have gone by the wayside in favor of Team Edward and Team Jacob.
Luckily, for those willing to appreciate them, those classic horror gems are still available in text, film, and music.
Music has come a long way since Boris Keeley released his campy bubblegum pop hit ”Monster Mash“ in 1962 in many facets. Since the early 1960s, music has grown progressively louder, darker, and more fitting of Halloween.
In celebration of such a wonderfully fiendish holiday, I have devoted this month’s edition of The Vinyl Collective to my five favorite songs that are simply titled ”Halloween.“ Keep in mind that none of these songs are covers of the other, meaning that each song are only directly similar in title alone. Each band listed has used their musical expertise to create unique tributes to All Hallow’s Eve.
Siouxsie and the Banshees - ”Halloween“
Originally released on Juju (1981)
The first ”Halloween“ song I would like to introduce is by the irreverent Siouxsie Sioux and her Banshees. Rooting themselves firmly in the post-punk/New Wave scene in the late 1970s, Siouxsie and the Banshees had already established themselves as fixtures on the UK charts whenever their third album, Juju, was released in 1981. While Juju, which was ranked by the UK’s Spin Magazine as one of the top 100 records of all time, contained many genre defining songs, the one most fit for the upcoming holiday season is most certainly the track titled ”Halloween.“ The distinctly 1980’s sound of this track may come across as a bit dated, if not slightly cheesy, to today’s listener, but the eerie, bass guitar-driven track about remembering a murdered girl is essential listening for the Halloween season.
Sonic Youth - ”Halloween“
Originally released on Bad Moon Harvest (1985)
The famously artistic post-punk outfit Sonic Youth’s wonderfully sullen and strange take on the Halloween season comes from their 1985 album Bad Moon Harvest. The album’s theme, which marked a great stylistic change as the group removed itself from their noisy roots and focused on a more atmospheric sound, revolves around the dark side of America, featuring references to obsession, insanity, and cultism. Needless to say, Sonic Youth’s ”Halloween“ is a far cry from ”Monster Mash.“ It features only a single ambient guitar, along with drums, being played behind the sexy, detached, voice of bassist Kim Gordon. Sonic Youth’s ”Halloween“ is not about ghouls or vampires, and is certainly far removed from trick-or-treaters. Instead, the song is a dark and creepy voyage into sex and obsession.
The Misfits - ”Halloween“
Originally Released as a 7“ Single called Halloween (1978)
Among those familiar with punk rock, The Misfits are household names. Since The Misfits formed in 1977, the four-piece prodigal horror punk band has evolved (or, as most in the punk rock community would argue, ”devolved“) into a merchandising empire; slapping their Crimson Ghost skull logo on everything from belt buckles to barstools. But no amount of goofy trinkets can make fans forget about the abrasive three-chord masterpieces that The Misfits created in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. Created in a basement in Lodi, New Jersey by vocalist Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only, The Misfits dedicated themselves to making violent, catchy songs that focused on their very favorite things: blood and gore. So, naturally, these punk rockers, costumed with their signature jet black devilock haircuts and corpse-like makeup, have quite an affinity towards All Hallow’s Eve. Among the dozens of Misfits songs that could fit into a Halloween-themed countdown list, none fit better than their 1978 single ”Halloween.“ Written simply about a gang of evil children causing havoc on the devil’s holiday, The Misfits’ ”Halloween“ is a fast, angry punk rock song with vulgar lyrics and a catchy chorus; everything one could expect from The Misfits.
The Dead Kennedys - ”Halloween“
Originally released as a 7“ Single called Halloween (1982) on Alternative Tentacles Records.
Much like The Misfits, The Dead Kennedys are a punk rock institution. Formed in San Francisco, California in 1978, The Dead Kennedys were crucial to the formation of the hardcore punk movement of the 1980s. Their ”Halloween,“ however, is not dark and creepy like Siouxsie’s nor is it concerned with blood and gore like The Misfits’. The Dead Kennedys’ version, released as a 7“ Single in 1982 on Alternative Tentacles Records, is an energetic, catchy, and sarcastic social commentary about social conformity. Lead singer Jello Biafra’s lyrics tell the story of a weak minded individuals who is using a Halloween party as an outlet to let go and be themselves. However, once Halloween is over, the people ”run back and stuff [them]selves in rigid business costumes“ and continue to force themselves to live the ”normal“ lives expected from them.
John Carpenter - ”Halloween“
While all of the aforementioned bands offer unique takes on the Halloween tradition, none capture the eerie spirit of the holiday better than ominous keyboard melody created by film director John Carpenter as the soundtrack to his legendary 1978 independent horror film Halloween. With the budget for his film stretched paper thin, Carpenter simply could not afford to hire anybody to arrange the soundtrack for his film. So Carpenter, who is not a professional musician, decided to arrange the score himself. The result was a piece that was a driving, yet unsophisticated, melody done in 5/4 meter. This simple score, which provides the Halloween with a perfectly unsettling ambiance, remains as the pinnacle of horror movie musicianship; as well as a wonderfully terrifying soundtrack for the holiday season.
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