Good grief. As usual, the Great Pumpkin failed to show up in the most sincere pumpkin patch I could find. To keep the faith during my annual existential crisis, I compiled an impromptu playlist of Halloween favorites from the last six decades or so (clips and commentary follow). I did this while trying to decide from my short list of Halloween costumes for next year: hedge fund manager, claims adjuster, reorganization specialist, water baron, Feng Shui consultant, music critic.
Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
Frightened Rabbit, “Head Rolls Off”
Cramps, “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”
Austin TV, “Shiva”
Parliament, “Dr. Funkenstein”
Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”
Tom Waits, “Cemetery Polka”
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “I Put a Spell On You”
Sun Ra, “Space is the Place”
Dream Syndicate, “Halloween”
Philly Joe Jones, “Blues for Dracula”
Bauhaus: “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
Please be advised that Bela Lugosi has now been dead for 53 years. Time to move on with your lives.
Stuck Between Stations.
Frightened Rabbit: “Head Rolls Off”
Like the proper Scotsmen they are, Frightened Rabbit charms schoolchildren everywhere with this cheeky ode to decapitation.
Cramps: “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”
RIP Lux Interior, who lost his exterior this year. This one’s from the aptly titled Songs the Lord Taught Us, although the teacher may have been the other guy, the one with the horns. That is, Alex Chilton.
Austin TV: “Shiva”
From the video description, which may have lost something in translation from Spanish: Mario Lupo and his xoloscuincle dog, Kerdoc “accidentally fell in a hidden magic forest which at the end results in the DevilÂ´s cave.” Haven’t we all had that dream?
Parliament: “Dr. Funkenstein”
If you’re George Clinton, every day has been Halloween for the last 68 years.
Rolling Stones: “Sympathy for the Devil”
A children’s craft website thanks Tyrone for this fun idea for a Keith Richards Halloween costume: “Take brown hair (wig or your own if you have brown hair), rub balloon on head till hair stands up on top and if you want to tie wide cloth ribbon around your head. Next blot lots of makeup on face so it creases. Complete with an open button down dress skirt, straight leg jeans and a toy guitar.”
Tom Waits: “Cemetery Polka”
You always have to turn to Tom Waits for touching, sentimental family drama: “Uncle Phil can’t live without his pills/He has emphysema and he’s almost blind/And we must find out where the money is/Get it now before he loses his mind.”
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: “I Put a Spell On You”
Listen to Creedence’s version if you want true grit, or Nina Simone’s version if you want erotic mystery. But nothing beats the man himself for sheer theater, and a great excuse to put on a cape.
Sun Ra, “Space is the Place”
Don’t believe those “birthers” who try to claim Sun Ra really wasn’t from Saturn. He was the real deal.
Dream Syndicate: “Halloween”
Urban myth debunked: Steve Wynn, the singer/songwriter who ran the Velvet Underground-obsessed Dream Syndicate, is not also the billionaire hotel magnate who once put his elbow through a priceless Picasso he was about to sell. That would be the other Steve Wynn.
Philly Joe Jones: “Blues for Dracula”
Hard bop may not have been the scariest genre in music history, but Philly Joe was one of its best drummers (see the unrelated clip below). On the title track of the 1958 Blues for Dracula, you can hear him mugging like the Count before getting down to business with Nat Adderly and Johnny Griffin.