Halloween isn’t just for pagans and children. Or the children of pagans, whom I guess you’d have to call pagan children. It’s also for adults who don’t want to grow up, a denial that beats at the heart of rock music. A time when we dress up like monsters or ghouls, or even hockey players and beg strangers for candy, throwing rotten eggs at them if they refuse or offer something like raisins or pennies. Perhaps the real purpose of Halloween is to cull the archives, looking for the scariest, spookiest tunes and then deciding the ideal order in which to hear them. The perfect excuse for a playlist. Which is not only a list, a tremendous thing by itself, but a list you can play. How can you beat that?
Knopff that is.
So, for space considerations, I’ve reduced the list to ten songs – the original list was perfect; if you’re not happy with the abridged version it isn’t my fault.
1. David Bowie – Future Legend/Diamond Dogs from “Diamond Dogs.”
The only proper way to kick in the creepy new year is with the opening to “Diamond Dogs,” another of David Bowie’s futuristic dystopias, the twist here, it’s populated with animalistic “peoploids,” including rats the size of cats, and of course, the diamond dogs themselves. A swirling maelstrom of deliciously sinister rock.
Alternate 1) Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath from “Black Sabbath”
Sabbath! Sabbath! Sabbath! A Halloween playlist without Black Sabbath is like a Twinkie with no filling, in danger of collapsing in the center.
Here it is, the lead track from the debut album; this was the first time the wicked world would hear Ozzy’s nasally satanic incantations, which still puts a chill down our spines. Black Sabbath is scary – Boris Karloff meets Bela Lugosi scary. This is one of those records that sparked the whole “rock music is the tongue of the devil” era that fans so love and cherish.
2. Alice Cooper – title track to “Welcome To My Nightmare”
Another acceptable alternate for leader of the playlist, “Welcome To My Nightmare” found Alice Cooper in his biggest production to date. Featuring a lavish horn arrangement, “Nightmare” is a gorgeously produced musical rendition of Dracula’s castle.
The Alice Cooper discography is rife with Halloween music, spin the wheel and you’ll land on something gooey and creepy.
3. King Crimson – One More Red Nightmare, from “Red”
Another nightmare of a different color; progressive rock innovators King Crimson were making scary music of a distinctly other order. “Red” finds the band at the end of the monstrous Whetton/Bruford/Cross era – spooky music occasionally bubbling over into hysteria recorded at levels nearly always in the red.
4.Peter Gabriel – Intruder, from the self-titled “Melted Face” album
After Genesis, but before Peter Gabriel became a household name generally placed in a warmer context (his success following 1986’s “So” album), there was something a little strange – quite sinister actually, going on here. “Intruder” takes us through the viewpoint of an obsessed psychopath, entering the dark, locked chambers of his helpless victim, the perverse pleasure mounting as he goes through her things and the seconds pass just before she awakens…
5. Bryan Ferry – I Put A Spell On You, from “Taxi”
Howlin’ Wolf put it first, gave it to John Fogerty (of Creedence Clearwater Revival) who passed it on to Bryan Ferry. They all had the voodoo and didn’t hesitate to use it. Always coming up with fascinating choices for songs to cover, in 1993 Bryan Ferry (founder of Roxy Music) recorded “Taxi,” one of several albums he dedicated to covers. Even through a slicked-down production, Ferry’s take on “I Put A Spell On You” crawls up through the depths of a velvety black dungeon to the rain-slicked midnight boulevard waiting above.
6.Blue Oyster Cult – Black Blade, from “Cultousaurus Erectus”
Here’s another of rock’s premier bands, whose catalog at times, would seem to be one long Halloween playlist. With songs like “Tattoo Vampire,” “Harvester Of Eyes” and “Joan Crawford Has Risen From The Grave,” Blue Oyster Cult makes certain we understand the underlying theme here is the occult. Then there’s the FM blockbuster “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” perhaps rock’s first horror power-ballad. Not to mention “Godzilla”…
Black Blade sizzles with its medieval “workshop of the telescopes” ambience; put this record on and hear the thunder roaring through the castle.
7. Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Chile from “Electric Ladyland”
Bubbling up from Vesuvian craters, “Voodoo Chile” assumes form on the third and final studio album of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, their most expansive and arguably their best. Guest player Steve Winwood’s first oozing chords on the organ announce the looming evil presence about to stomp the terra. What follows is a fifteen-minute slow eruption as metal meets blues meets Satan down in the fiery feast of ghouls.
8. Frank Zappa – Goblin Girl from “You Are What You Is”
OK, so there’s nothing particularly scary about “Goblin Girl,” however it is smutty and it is about Halloween, which can’t happen by the way, without a visit from Uncle Frank. Wrapping up the end of his prodigious touring career, Frank Zappa put on a series of unforgettable Halloween shows, giving us yet another reason to celebrate.
9. Hawkwind – You Shouldn’t Do That from “In Search Of Space”
Having skipped the number-2 spot in favor of an alternative for the number-1 spot on our list leaves us without a number-10. To remedy this we’ll close out the night with another fifteen-minute extravaganza, “You Shouldn’t Do That” from Hawkwind’s second release, “In Search Of Space,” one of space-rock’s founding documents. Tribal rhythms overlayed with Dave Broch’s creepy, repetitive vocal against a backdrop of soaring meteorites takes this track on one dead-serious macabre trip through the galactic outskirts in our proto-metal spaceship. The perfect pad to launch us into the witching hours.