Between now and Sunday night, expect to hear a lot of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers. Those Halloween perennials have been the top two songs of the holiday in each of the last five years. They returned to the Hot Digital Songs chart this week, as fans gear up for Halloween parties.
Sadly, the artists responsible for both of those hits have passed away in recent years. Jackson died last year at age 50. Pickett died in 2007 at 69. Two other artists who gave us memorable Halloween songs passed away in 2003. Warren Zevon, who sang "Werewolves Of London," was 56. Sheb Wooley, who had the novelty smash "The Purple People Eater," was 82.
"Thriller," which features a spooky spoken part by the late actor Vincent Price, has sold nearly 2.5 million digital copies. Remarkably, that's more than the best-selling Christmas song in the digital era: Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You, which has sold 1,591,000 digital copies.
Here's a list of the Halloween perennials, ranked by their total digital sales to date, as calculated by Nielsen/SoundScan. Following this list, I have a second list of 10 other songs that are less directly tied to the holiday, but are sometimes heard at this time of year.
First, the top 10 Halloween perennials.
1. Michael Jackson, "Thriller," 2,473,000. Jackson's fright-night opus first appeared on Thriller in December 1982. The single reached #4 in March 1984.
2. Warren Zevon, "Werewolves Of London," 490,000. Jackson Browne co-produced this song, which appeared on Zevon's top 10 album Excitable Boy. The single hit #21 in May 1978.
3. Rockwell, "Somebody's Watching Me," 386,000. Michael Jackson sings the background vocal on this hit, which logged three weeks at #2 in March and April 1984. Rockwell is the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.
4. Ray Parker Jr., "Ghostbusters," 366,000. This pop and R&B smash logged three weeks at #1 in August 1984 and later received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. It appeared on the Ghostbusters soundtrack and on Parker's cleverly-titled greatest hits album, Chartbusters.
5. Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, "Monster Mash," 352,000. This novelty smash made the top 10 twice, more than a decade apart. It hit #1 in October 1962 and returned to the top 10 in August 1973.
6. Oingo Boingo, "Dead Man's Party," 208,000. This was the title song to the group's 1985 album. A decade later, the group bowed out with a live album recorded on Halloween 1995.
7. Danny Elfman, "This Is Halloween," 190,000. This song was from the 1993 animated movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. Elfman rose to fame with Oingo Boingo.
8. John Carpenter, "Halloween Theme (Main Title)," 181,000. This classic theme first appeared in the 1978 movie, Halloween, which starred Jamie Lee Curtis.
9. Sheb Wooley, "The Purple People Eater," 107,000. This smash logged six weeks at #1 in June and July 1958. Wooley had a costarring role on the TV series Rawhide.
10. Marilyn Manson, "This Is Halloween," 105,000. The gothic shock-rocker covered Danny Elfman's song on the 2008 compilation album Nightmare Revisited.
As a bonus, here are other Halloween-related songs that sometimes get play at this time of year. This is by no means a complete list of all fright-night favorites, but it gives you an idea of what's out there.
1. Charlie Daniels Band, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," 1,328,000. The country classic hit #3 in September 1979. It was from the band's album Million Mile Reflections. It has returned to Hot Digital Songs in each of the last three Halloween seasons.
2. Blue Oyster Cult, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," 922,000. The song reached #12 in November 1976. It was from the album Agents Of Fortune.
5. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising," 438,000. The song hit #2 in June 1969. This was from the band's album Green River.
6. Bow Wow Wow, "I Want Candy," 254,000. This new-wave group was assembled by Malcolm McLaren, the former manager of the Sex Pistols. The song hit #62 in July 1982. It was from their album The Last Of The Mohicans.
7. Edgar Winter Group, "Frankenstein," 226,000. The hard-rock instrumental hit #1 in May 1973. It was from the group's album They Only Come Out At Night, a great Halloween title if there ever was one.
8. Eagles, "Witchy Woman," 228,000. The song reached #9 in November 1972. It was from the band's debut album, Eagles.
9. Meat Loaf, "Bat Out Of Hell," 92,000. This was the title song of Meat Loaf's mega-hit 1977 debut album.
The list of top-selling Halloween albums includes John St. John's Sounds Of Horror, which has sold 220,000 copies since its release in 2001, and Kidz Bop Kids' Kidz Bop Halloween, which has sold 207,000 copies since its release in 2007.
Happy Halloween, everybody.