The Hallowe’en Mix Tape

Film still of Bela Lugosi as Dracula with intense gaze and outstreched hand in claw gesture.
Screenshot from “Internet Archive” of the movie Dracula (1931) on Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

It’s not good enough when a song has a spooky title. A Hallowe’en mix tells stories through music to celebrate the atmosphere of Hallowe’en. There has to be a sense of thrill, danger, some camp, the beautiful grotesque, the gothic and mystery. As a “recovering” goth myself, it is harder yet to separate my daily soundtrack from the tunes you creasters only listen to around Hallowe’en.

I’ve tried to add some interesting inflections for the season. Dear reader, you must understand the restraint I have used given this is my favourite time of year.

I start by bending the classic Hallowe’en music genres with a haunted cowboy tale that leaves us with spectral visions in the sky imparted by Johnny Cash’s baritone:

Johnny Cash — Ghost Riders in the Sky

Danny Elfman — Tales from the Crypt

Long-term creative partner with Tim Burton, Danny Elfman’s self-trained orchestration of the spooky is the soundtrack for Halloween. The main title of the ‘80s HBO unfiltered classic is particularly exhilarating. Put this together with Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and it’s no surprise I turned out the way I did. There was something really special about Hallowe’en as a kid in the 1980s.

Try listening to this theme song when you are getting your costume on.

Marilyn Manson — This is Halloween

I was in the wave of goths slightly before Marilyn Manson wooed the world to the dark side, but this is a great nod to the original sung by Danny Elfman himself as Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Richard O’Brien — Time Warp

Hallowe’en brings out the campiest in us, which is another reason it’s so worth celebrating. It would be a horrible mistake to exclude the Time Warp from The Rock Horror Picture Show which inspires us to pushing the boundaries that make Hallowe’en so tantalizing. This cult classic seduces us to otherworldly pleasure and bumps Monster Mash off any lists of mine. Sorry, folks.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince— Nightmare on my Street

A dogs breakfast of campy Hallowe’en tropes, Will Smith uses his classic narrative style to explain what is wrong with the picture again with a backing track that’s just atmospheric enough to be nostalgic.

The Specials — Ghost Town

The Specials prove you can make a ska backbeat spooky and make music for the possible break up of a band while commenting on hard economic times. It harkens to the emptier streets and wallets of pandemic times.

When I hear it, I get the feeling I had when I was out too late after the tick-or-treaters had claimed their loot and burnt pumpkin smoke lingered in the air.

Ministry — Every Day Is Halloween

Early industrial synth forebodes and invites you into the world of Hallowe’en and the everyday world of the outcast. Welcome. It is an indispensable misfit anthem an outstanding dance track.

Bauhaus — Bela Lugosi’s Dead

The essential song on the roster on goth nights, this is an ode to the beauty of Universal Horror Pictures star, Bela Lugosi and his transcendance in his role as Dracula’s to his undead embodiment. Peter Murphy’s urgent droning takes you on a journey with the band’s descending chords, low-fi hum and minimalist, spacious percussion. It is the distillation of Hallowe’en where the line between dead and living is the thinnest. Enter.

More next year. Happy Haunting!

Thanks to The Riff and my musical partner in crime, Terry Barr.

Jessica Lee McMillan © 2020

MA Eng. Mama, Poet, Iconoclast, Word Nerd. Likes shiny things. Writes on Philosophy, Art, Music, Nature.

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