By Dennis Hartley
Something tells me there will be more than a couple Halloween parties this weekend. If you’re short a DJ , may I offer a few frighteningly apropos suggestions for your playlist? Alphabetically:
1. The Ballad of Dwight Frye– Alice Cooper
“I’ve gotta get OUTTA here!” Alice Cooper’s highly theatrical paean to the screen actor who played a succession of loony characters, most notably “Renfield” in Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula. Just remember…”sleepin’ don’t come very easy, in a straight white vest.”
2. Bela Lugosi’s Dead- Bauhaus
This is the Goth anthem. “I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead.” We get it.
3. Black Sabbath– Black Sabbath
Album 1, side 1, cut 1: Howling wind, driving rain, the mournful peal of a bell, and the heaviest, scariest tritone power chord intro you’ve ever heard. “Please God help meee!!“Talk about a mission statement.
4. Careful With That Axe, Eugene- Pink Floyd
The Floyd’s most ominous dirge is basically an instrumental mood piece, but Roger Waters’ eerie shrieking is the stuff of nightmares.
5. Death Walks Behind You– Atomic Rooster
“Lock the door, switch the light…you’ll be so afraid tonight.” A truly unnerving track from one of my favorite 70s British prog-rock bands. Keyboardist Vincent Crane pulls double duty on this list; he had previously played with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (below).
6. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde– The Damned
You know what they say: You’re never alone with a schizophrenic! Choice cut from the U.K. pop-punk band’s finest LP, The Black Album.
7. Fire- The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Yes, that Arthur Brown…heir to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the forefather of Alice Cooper, and most importantly, the god of hell fire!
8. Goo Goo Muck– The Cramps
It would be sacrilege not to include the kings of Pyschobilly…
9. I Put a Spell on You– Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
This cat must have scared the living shit out of middle America, smack dab in the middle of the drab Eisenhower era. “Moohoohaha!”
10. Riders on the Storm– The Doors
In my review of the documentary When You’re Strange, I wrote:
I can still remember the first time I heard “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors. I was all of 14. It haunted me then and haunts me now. Even though it wasn’t a movie, it was my introduction to film noir. Distant thunder, the cascading shimmer of a Fender Rhodes and dangerous rhythms. “There’s a killer on the road. His brain is squirming like a toad.” Fuck oh dear, this definitely wasn’t the Archies. […] Morrison’s vocals really got under my skin. Years later, a friend explained why. If you listen carefully, there are three vocal tracks. Morrison is singing, chanting and whispering the lyrics. We smoked a bowl, cranked it up and concluded that it was a pretty neat trick.
11. Season of the Witch– Vanilla Fudge
Donovan’s original version doesn’t hold a candle to this marvelously histrionic psychedelic train wreck. Eat your heart out, Bill Shatner!
12. Sympathy for the Devil- The Rolling Stones
“Something always happens when we play this song.” Famous last words there from Mick Jagger in the 1970 rock doc Gimme Shelter, moments before the cameras (unknowingly, at time of filming) capture the stabbing death of an audience member. Now that’s scary.
13. 21st Century Schizoid Man– King Crimson
“Cat’s foot, iron claw, neuro-surgeons scream for more…at paranoia’s poison door...” And that’s the most optimistic part of this song!
(backwards) Stairway to Heaven– Led Zeppelin
Rumor has it there is a painting of Jimmy Page going all to hell. If you believe in that sort of thing (there are two paths you can go by).