Spooky Scary Tunes
By Chantel Delulio
This weekend one can expect to encounter a plethora of things, includong trick or treaters, parties, copious amounts of candy, and novelty songs. Yes, Halloween’s just around the corner and though Christmas may have cornered the market on holiday-specific songs there’s no shortage of Halloween-related novelty songs.
You’ve got your “Monster Mashes” and your “Purple People Eaters,” but in case you’re looking for something a little different this Oct. 31, here are a few songs to add to your Halloween Playlist. Some of them are classic and some are, well …
“Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” by Tracy Jordan
Tracy’s Jordan (Tracy Morgan) ode to “boys becoming men, men becoming wolves” is one for the ages. “30 Rock” fans will recall that Jordan earned a gold record for this party song about what happens when a full moon comes out on the Sabbath.
Truly this is a novelty song for a new age as well as the ages.
“The Mariner’s Revenge Song” by The Decemberists
True to their old-timey form this The Decemberists song about a young mariner tracking down the man that betrayed his mother is done in the style of a traditional sea chanty complete with an accordion and Melleville-esque imagery. The narrative of the song climaxes with a giant whale devouring the crews of both ships leaving only the speaker and his quarry alive.
There are few things more bone-chilling than when the disembodied, ethereal voice of the speaker’s mother encourages her son to, “find him, bind him / tie him to a pole and break his fingers to splinters / drag him to a hole until he wakes up naked / clawing at the ceiling of his grave.”
“Insanity” by Oingo Boingo
You can’t swing a dead cat around Oingo Boingo’s discography without hitting a Halloween appropriate song. But that’s probably to be expected from a band fronted by Danny Elfman, now famous for composing the scores to just about every Tim Burton movie. Consequently choosing just one of their many dark, Halloween appropriate songs is no simple task. “Dead Man’s Party” is typically the one that shows up on lists of “Frank’s Halloween Party Songs.” It’s fun with a lot of lively brass riffs and offers the very upfront premise of being undead and going to a party.
But “Insanity” is the band’s most eerie venture. Spooky child singing the chorus? Check. Stalkery lyrics that make the average Law and Order: SVU perp look functional? Check. Sick bongo solo? Check.
“Pirate Jenny” by Kurt Weill
“Pirate Jenny” is one of the most popular songs from Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera.” The song, in the context of the operetta, is sung from the perspective of the demoralized Jenny, a maid who dreams of a great, black freighter attacking her harbor-side town. The pirates chain the townspeople and present them to Jenny who orders they all be killed before sailing away on the black freighter.
The song has been sung and recorded by many in the original German as well as French, Spanish, and English translations. But one of the most memorable has to be the one performed by Nina Simone. Simone’s low voice and distinctive vibrato suit the eerie lyrics impeccably. And the 1964 recording of her live performance is made all the more profound by the underlying current of the singer’s own Civil Rights activism.
“St. James Infirmary Blues”
This tragic, haunting staple of American folk music is considered anonymous but is often credited to Joe Primrose. The song has been covered by everyone from Louis Armstrong to The White Stripes.
But what is possibly the creepiest rendition of the song appears in a 1933 Betty Boop short entitled “Snow White.” The song, sung by none other than Cab Calloway, plays over a sequence wherein Koko the Clown (who Calloway sings the voice of) follows Betty Boop into a hellish underworld as only early animators can render it.
Good luck getting a good night of sleep after this one.