Halloween. You know you love it. Everyone does.
With Halloween coming up, it is a fantastic time to talk about a couple of great Halloween records. Rock & Roll is the only thing that is as necessary a component of Halloween as candy and a costume.
Since the dawn of Rock & Roll, Halloween and music have gone hand in hand. In fact, one could seriously argue that under the umbrella of Rock & Roll “oldies” exists a viable sub-genre of songs about Halloween-y subjects. Monsters, murderers, mad scientists, Martians, nightmares, graveyards, Wolfmen, Draculas, and Frankensteins are all lyrical fodder for those first-wave Rock & Rollers who love spooky movies.
“Horror Hop” is a 31-song compilation released in 1994 by Buffalo Bop Records. This comp is squarely aimed at those for whom old school Rock & Roll is king, yet “Monster Mash” and “Purple People Eater” are simply too trite.
This compilation is a dream come true for cratediggers with a penchant for horror rock. Compiling some of the most innovative and out-there, horror rock from the 1950s and (probably) 60s, “Horror Hop” satisfies endlessly. From the sleazy swamp rock of Kip Tyler’s “She’s My Witch,” to the raucous rockabilly of “The Mortal Monster Man” by The Savoys, to Dave Gardner’s “Mad Witch:” a ghoulishly galloping ode to demonic possession, “Horror Hop” has it all.
What makes “Horror Hop” so satisfying is that the music transcends its potentially gimmicky subject material. “The Zoo,” Mickey Lee Lane’s has-to-be-LSD-fuelled recollection of a recent outing to some kind of wildlife preserve is equally as bonkers at any other time as it is near Halloween. “Wombie Zombie,” an uptempo western swinger by Billy Taylor is just as guaranteed to have you cranking it up to 11 at Christmas, or Easter, as it is in the season of Samhain.
Next up is another compilation of sorts. From Yep Roc Records we have “Mondo Zombie Boogaloo: 100 Years of Roc.” Released in 2013, this compilation features three bands: the legendary originators of “super rock” The Fleshtones , surf and rockabilly icons Los Straightjackets, and the culinary-minded hillbillies from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Southern Culture on the Skids.
Chances are if you know and like one of these bands, you will like the other two. Their styles are by no means interchangeable; however it’s evident that the various members of the three groups grew up on many of the same records. If I was to list influences like: The Cramps, Link Wray, Hasil Adkins, Wanda Jackson, Dick Dale, The Markettes, The Ventures, T-Rex, etc, would that pique your interest?
I’m also willing to bet there were a lot of Halloween records included in that upbringing.
There are many standout tracks on this album. From the instrumental psychobilly stomp of Southern Culture on the Skids’ “La Marcha de los Cabrones,” to the 60s- inspired Rock & Roll of The Fleshtones’ “Dracula a Gogo,” to the ethno-bending surfed out cover of Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” by Los Straitjackets, “Mondo Zombie Boogaloo” packs enough horror themed Rock & Roll to keep your Halloween guests dancing and debaucherous, until Dracula must return to his coffin.
Finally on the list is a record by a band that, ask any of their fans, is Halloween incarnate. A band that didn’t used to just play on Halloween, but that turned every night that they played into Halloween. A band that, quite embarrassingly, is absent from just about every list of “best Halloween albums” that a Google search turns up.
That band is Oingo Boingo. The record, from 1985, is “Dead Man’s Party.”
Of course, Halloween jams are scattered about all of the band’s nine albums. However, “Dead Man’s Party” is for many fans, the band’s magnum opus. It is also, in my opinion, the only of their albums to be completely Halloween themed.
Disagee? Think about it. The album has nine tracks, which feature the following subjects: suicide, an actual monster mash, a ghost, a satanic ritual, a Jeffery Dahmer/Buffalo Bill style serial killer, a scary treatise on existentialism, an ode to Dr. Frankenstein, a rumination on becoming accustomed to being dead, and the self-explanatory “Weird Science.”
Frontman Danny Elfman’s dark and morose lyrics are the ideal complement to the truly unique musical styling of the now (sadly) defunct Los Angeles octet. Take the song that closes out side one of the album: “No One Lives Forever.” Lyrically, the song is a celebration of hedonistic revelry in the face of one’s impending mortality. But good luck getting to that before the music gets to you.
If Satan ever truly existed, and his goal was to steal souls, what a pied piper he would have been, had he been playing a tune as satisfying as this.
The bottom line is this: any Oingo Boingo record will suffice, if it is Halloween sounds you seek. However, if you want to find the record that has both the highest concentration of tunes that’ll keep your neighbors calling the cops, and the record that features this essential band at arguably their most powerful, look no further than “Dead Man’s Party.”
If you like to party on Halloween (and who doesn’t), and you love great rock & roll, try one of these records on for size. Why run the risk that your Halloween party might suck?
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