These songs are to Halloween what Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" and Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" are to Christmas—an unmistakable sign that a holiday is at hand.
Here are Halloween's biggest hits. In the words of a memorable TV theme song, "They're creepy and they're kooky/Mysterious and spooky..."
I follow the top 10 with 20 other songs that have a link to the season. That part of this column isn't a formal ranking. But I think these 20 other songs give you a fuller picture of the range and scope of Halloween music. (I'll bet you didn't realize you knew so many Halloween songs.)
1. Michael Jackson, "Thriller." Rod Temperton, who wrote two of Jackson's earlier top 10 hits, "Rock With You" and "Off The Wall," also wrote this smash, which climbed to #4 in March 1984. Veteran character actor Vincent Price provided the spoken rap—a day job that became his most famous and enduring work. In 1997, Jackson teamed with Teddy Riley to write another Halloween-themed song, "Ghosts."
3. Ray Parker Jr., "Ghostbusters." This song was a perfect fit for the Bill Murray/Dan Aykroyd comedy, which was the second highest grossing movie of 1984. Parker wrote the song, which was #1 for three weeks in August 1984. It brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Song. The video features quick cameos from such hot stars of the day as John Candy, Chevy Chase and Irene Cara. The movie soundtrack went top 10.
6. Blue Oyster Cult, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." This Byrds-influenced rock song reached #12 in November 1976. The group's guitarist Donald Roeser wrote the song, which was featured on Angels Of Fortune. Punk band Pierce The Veil and Goth-rock band HIM later covered it.
7. Van Halen, "Runnin' With The Devil." The founding members of Van Halen wrote this song, which reached #84 in May 1978. It was from the band's mega-selling eponymous debut album.
9. D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, "A Nightmare On My Street." This good-natured hip-hop hit played off the title of the 1984 movie A Nightmare On Elm Street. The duo co-wrote the song, which reached #15 in September 1988. It was from their top 10 album, He's The D.J., I'm The Rapper.
And don't forget about:
Gene Simmons, "Haunted House." This novelty song about a really bad home purchase reached #11 in September 1964. This is from Simmons' album jumpin' Gene Simmons. Note: Simmons is not the same person who later co-founded KISS.
Donovan, "Season Of The Witch." Donovan wrote this song, which he included on his 1966 album Sunshine Superman. Vanilla Fudge took a cover version to #65 in December 1968. It was also recorded by the high-powered collabo of Mike Bloomfield/Al Kooper/Steve Stills. Donovan's version was featured in the 2012 movie Dark Shadows.
Meat Loaf, "Bat Out Of Hell." This nearly 10 minute epic was the title track to Meat Loaf's 1977 debut album, which is one of the best-selling debut albums in music history. Jim Steinman, who wrote the hits "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" and "Paradise By The Dashboard Light," also wrote this song.
Sheb Wooley, "The Purple People Eater." Wooley wrote this novelty song, which raced to #1 in just two weeks in June 1958. It remained on top for six weeks. The song blends goofy sound effects with a light rock and roll beat.
David Seville, "Witch Doctor." Seville (real name: Ross Bagdasarian) wrote this novelty song, which was #1 for three weeks in April and May 1958. A new recording was featured in the 2007 movie Alvin & The Chipmunks. It reached #62 in January 2008.
Shakira, "She Wolf." Shakira co-wrote this frisky song, which hit #11 in September 2009. It's from her album of the same name. (I think it's the only pop song ever to contain to word "lycanthropy.")
Skrillex, "Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites." Skrillex wrote this song, which reached #69 in 2012. It won a Grammy as Best Dance Recording. It was the title track of his hit EP, which won a Grammy as Best Dance/Electronica Album.
Ministry, "(Every Day Is) Halloween." The industrial metal band recorded this song in 1984. The title and lyrics reference Goth subculture. Electro-pop duo Dangerous Muse covered the song in 2007.
Dead Kennedys, "Halloween." The group wrote this song, which appeared on its 1982 album, Plastic Surgery Disasters.
Thurl Ravenscroft and Disney Villains, "Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song)." This is the theme song for the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disney theme parks. Barenaked Ladies and "Weird" Al Yankovic have performed it.
North American Hallowe'en Prevention Initiative, "Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?" The title of this 2005 single was a send-up of Band Aid's earnest 1984 hit "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Both records featured all-star choirs (this one featured such stars as Beck and Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Arcade Fire). Both aided charities (here the proceeds went to UNICEF). So I guess you could say this is both a trick and a treat.
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