Music is all about emotions. The right song can feel like falling in love, falling apart, loving the moment, or losing it all.
That’s all very sweet! But once in a while its nice to let music take us to the deepest, darkest, low-down, creepy-crawly world of the weird, the wild, and the terrifying!
These 13 songs are guaranteed to get your pumpkin carved and your coffin quaking.
Scroll down, IF YOU DARE!
1. Halloween Theme – John Carpenter
John Carpenter redefined the horror genre with unsparing, socially conscious flicks like Halloween, They Live, and The Fog. But the unnerving suspense of those movies wouldn’t be nearly so bone chilling without their tense, synth-driven scores, composed by the director himself. Fans of Stranger Things will instantly recognize Carpenter’s profound influence on the sci-fi chiller’s iconic main theme.
2. Jack’s Lament – Danny Elfman
For Millennials, nothing says Halloween like Tim Burton’s 1993 animated masterpiece, The Nightmare Before Christmas. The award-winning soundtrack is chock-full of Halloween hits, but there’s nothing quite like this cabaret style lament, written and performed by the incomparable composer and surprise vocal talent, Danny Elfman. The raw, volatile emotion, romantic longing, and eccentric proto-goth imagery of this gorgeous ballad helped to reimagine Halloween as we know it.
3. The Twilight Zone Theme – Bernard Herrmann
With the advent of Black Mirror and Westworld, The Twilight Zone might feel hopelessly old fashioned. But what made the show so groundbreaking was creator, writer, and host – Rod Serling. He found a way to use fantastic scenarios as commentary on race, gender, and global politics at a time when those topics were verboten on national television. There was no more potent tool for establishing the cool remove needed to pull off such edgy ideas as the instantly recognizable theme by Hitchcock veteran composer Bernard Herrmann.
4. Thriller – Michael Jackson
It would be pure sacrilege to leave this song out of ANY Halloween mix. And while there’s not much left to say about Thriller, it’s an ideal time to revisit this unparalleled pop masterpiece. The curse of 2016 has claimed the lives of music titans like Bowie, Prince, and Lemmy. Lesser known, but no less influential, the disco savant and Thriller composer Rod Temperton joined their heavenly ranks earlier this month. So, when you find yourself doing your best zombie shuffle this Halloween (and – let’s be honest – you will), put a little extra hitch in your undead gitalong for the British boogie master.
5. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
Ghostbusters. GHOSTBUSTERS! We’ve been blessed this year with a funny, timely, well-crafted remake, but as a society we have the original Ghostbusters to thank for elevating comedy, pseudo-science, and unabashed nerdhood to the mainstream of American culture forever and for good. At the heart of that miraculous transition is Ray Parker Jr.’s consummate, if controversial, theme song. Possibly based on an equally danceable – if less cool – Huey Lewis song, the Ghostbusters theme helped to immortalize the wonky appeal of the brothers in slime with the immortal question: “who you gonna call?”
6. I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
This marvel of rock & roll macabre sounds as manic today as it did 1956, when it was banned from many record shops and radio stations for its undeniable… potency. A delirious mixture of obsessive love and voodoo kitsch, it has been covered by artists ranging from Nina Simone to Marylin Manson, and appeared in countless movies, TV shows, commercials, and Halloween dance parties.
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7. Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones
When the Rolling Stones released this demonic hit in 1969, they were unprepared for the prudish global reception. While the song helped establish their reputation as rock & roll’s dark messengers, the band was genuinely surprised at the critical response. The 6+ minute Satanic monologue was taken for an actual hymn to the unholy one, rather than an ironic indictment of the all-too-human power structures all around us.
8. Toccata in D Minor – J.S. Bach
It may be 300 years old, but it’s still the scariest piece of music in existence. For the vast majority of the under 70 crowd, our first exposure to Bach’s most infamous tune was probably the abstract first movement of Disney’s Fantasia. While the origin of the devastating ditty is shrouded in mystery, it has been used in countless movies and TV shows to cause maximum chills. You may not know it’s proper name, but you know it when you hear it.
9. Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf
Inspired by a combination of 1950s teen tragedy songs like Leader of the Pack, scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Peter Pan, Bat Out of Hell is the title track from one of the best selling albums of all time. Epic in scope, this motorcycle murder ballad shifts effortlessly from orchestral suite to metal infused rock mayhem, with plenty of blood, guts, and operatic melodrama in between.
10. Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
This tune follows the standard pop formula: jarring instrumentation, inscrutable passages spoken entirely in French, and the interior monologue of a serial murderer. Is it any wonder this taught meditation on contemporary excess launched the Talking Heads into superstardom and cemented New Wave as the dominant musical genre of the 80s? After all, a little homicidal mania never hurt anyone, right?
11. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Only a musical genius like Stevie Wonder could perfectly fuse elements as distinct as foreboding synthesizer hooks, danceable funk-fusion, crippling existential dread, and commonplace bad juju. Like Thriller, this is the rare Halloween standby that feels equally at home in a dentist’s office and an abandoned insane asylum. Don’t let the swaying horn section and seductive drum line fool you, there’s an underbelly of urban turmoil and paranormal activity bopping just below the surface.
12. Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saëns
Alright Pianu fam, let’s get classical. In Medieval times, when plague ran rampant and the most advanced medical treatments were leech-based, the Danse Macabre was its own multi-media artistic genre. In paintings, books, and songs, the uplifting message of death’s inevitability was ever-present to buoy the beleaguered spirit! Much later, as industrialism was on the rise and modernist ideas about art and life were blossoming, the visionary French composer Camille Saint-Saëns revitalized the genre, possibly as a commentary on the modern condition. Big ideas aside, it’s still one of the spookiest pieces of music around.
13. Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett
What, did you think we’d leave it out? It may be cheesy, but there’s simply no Halloween without Bobby Pickett’s unescapable 1962 novelty. Like a real life movie zombie, just when you thought it was dead and gone this song rises from the grave of good taste and demands attention! Seriously though, it’s pretty much the best novelty song ever made.
BONUS: Stranger Things Theme – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein
Whether you’ve binge-watched the show or not, this is hands down the most haunting new tune of the year. It’s a little tricky, but now you can learn how to play it.
Hopefully these classic chillers will get you in the ghoulish groove. If so…
We want to feature your playing on Pianu this Halloween
Record yourself playing a few bars of your favorite spooky tune on the piano, and send it our way!