Halloween is one of the most loved sessions of the year for many, and with good reason. You get to throw on as epic/weird/ridiculous a costume as you fancy, and if you hit the right place, you can dance the night away with similarly attired folks to music with a sinister flavour, or even slathered with a thick layer of tongue-in-cheek morbidity. When it comes to choosing the right soundtrack for the night though, it can be tricky. Unlike Christmas, the choices for All Hallows’ Eve themed music can prove to be fairly limited. Oh sure, there’s Michael Jackson’s still impeccable Halloween staple Thriller and 2 or 3 others that you’re naming of the top of your head right now, but after that, it’s a head scratching process to some degree. But fear not: We’ve done the work for you, by picking 40 of the finest tunes which you can tie to the night of Halloween. The rules are occasionally bent for certain great songs that merely suggest themes of the occult (i.e. they have words like “evil” or “ghost” in the title or lyrics), but in any case, this 3 hour playlist should provide you with the perfect soundtrack for your Halloween party.
01. Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters is iconic for many reasons. The logo, Bill Murray’s performance, the overall concept of the movie and of course the theme song. The fact that Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. doesn’t even matter: the song has taken on a life all of its own by this point. Expect to hear this one on Halloween night no matter what club or party you may end up going to.
02. Mr. Bungle – The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
Mr. Bungle are Mike Patton’s of Faith No More’s other band. If you don’t know them, it is literally impossible to describe their music style in one word. The Air-Coniditioned Nightmare is one of their least weird/most accessible songs, although it is still pretty berserk, being Mr. Bungle. It’s also one of their finest tunes, and perfect for Halloween.
03. Michael Jackson – Thriller
This one requires no explanation. Every Halloween you’re going to hear it at the club or party, and that’s a good thing. It’s absolutely essential, and still wonderful.
04. MC Hammer – Addams Groove
MC Hammer may have a reputation of being a sellout, with some people even hysterically ripping the piss out of his pop-rap style throughout the years. The lyrics in this hit may be occasionally a little naff, but nonetheless, it still hits all the right places that a pop song should: it’s catchy as hell, and it truly makes you want to dance and watch The Addams Family as soon as humanly possible.
05. Dead Kennedys – Halloween
Dead Kennedys took the theme of Halloween and made one of the best cuts from their Plastic Surgery Disasters album, and indeed their entire discography. The overall message of the song is simple: be yourself, and stop concerning yourself with what society thinks you should do, or how you should behave. Or, as lead singer Jello Biafra succinctly puts it, “Why don’t you take your social regulations and shove ’em. Up! Your! Ass!”
06. The Rocky Horror Picture Show Cast – Time Warp
Okay, I’ll level with you: I still haven’t seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s on my to do list, shamefully. That doesn’t take away from how recognisable the film’s music is though, particularly Time Warp. And who wouldn’t want to see a large group of grown adults in ludicrous costumes dancing to a song like this one?
07. The Book of Mormon Cast – Spooky Mormon Hell Dream
One of the least sweary and potentially offensive songs from The Book of Mormon, Spooky Mormon Hell Dream is an amusing tale from one of the principle characters of the play about how he stole a donut from his dad, blamed his brother, and had a nightmare afterwards from the guilt. Yep, seriously. It typical Book of Mormon fashion though, it is hilarious. It’s not often you manage to have Jesus call one of his followers “a dick” during a musical number, after all.
08. Queens of the Stone Age – A Song for the Deaf
It has haunting lyrics and music and is one of QOTSA’s finest offerings, as well as being the principle closing number for Songs for the Deaf. Enough said.
09. Eels – Fresh Blood
For the Hombre Lobo album, Mark Everett decided to revisit the Dog Faced Boy character from the song of the same name. The howling during the chorus and the keyboards throughout the song marked a darker track than ever before from Eels.
10. The Smashing Pumpkins – Where Boys Fear to Tread
The opener of the darker second disc to The Smashing Pumpkins 1995 masterpiece, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Where Boys Fear to Tread truly sets the tone, with the ominous lyrics and guitars beginning the second act of an already gargantuan musical journey.
11. Kanye West – Monster
For his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, Kanye West decided to go big, or even epic. The vastness of his ambition is perfectly exemplified on Monster. Incidentally, Nicki Minaj also has what is arguably the best verse on the song.
12. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
There may be several other Talking Heads songs which are superior to Psycho Killer, but even so, it’s an indie classic. David Byrne’s lyrics and their delivery are pitch perfect for the theme of this track.
13. Eels – Your Lucky Day In Hell
One of the more mellow numbers on this list, Your Lucky Day in Hell has a gorgeous, falsetto vocalised chorus. The “no one will know my name until it’s on a stone” lyric is also terrifying, quite frankly.
14. The White Stripes – Little Ghost
It’s the White Stripes, there’s a mandolin, there’s a ghost and it’s catchy and fast as fuck. Embrace the hoe-down.
15. Television – See No Evil
The opening track of Television’s seminal Marquee Moon album, See No Evil gives a pretty good indication of where some critics made comparisons to the band upon hearing The Strokes debut album.
16. Franz Ferdinand – Evil and a Heathen
It’s typically wonderful Franz Ferdinand fare, with Alex Kapranos crooning about how he’s both evil and, you’ve guessed it, a God damn heathen, to boot.
17. Interpol – Evil
Frankly, this one almost doesn’t belong here. It’s made the cut because
- it’s named Evil and
- Because it’s one of the best indie songs of the last 15 years.
18. Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows
The music of this classic Queens song as well as the dark tone to the unforgettable music video make it a superb addition to any Halloween playlist.
19. The Specials – Ghost Town
Ghost Town is one of the aforementioned 3 to 4 songs which people are likely to associate with Halloween. In recent years, it was used as the opening song for Shaun of the Dead, further embedding its association with Halloween culture.
20. Blur – Death of a Party
Damon Albarn’s ghostly organ and Graham Coxon’s nasty distorted guitars, coupled with the dark nature of the lyrics make this a striking segway into the second half of Blur’s excellent 1997 self-titled album.
21. The Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The mud in the video, the snarl of Billy Corgans voice, the fact that this single came out a week before Halloween…this song belongs in your life on All Hallows’ Eve, trust me.
22. The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster – Mister Mental
Another track used in Shaun of the Dead, Mister Mental is, well…pretty insane, much like the entire album it’s lifted from.
23. Slipknot – Wait and Bleed
Slipknot are one of those rare metal bands for me personally: I actually like them. Debut single Wait and Bleed proved so popular that it even broke into the top 30 on the UK charts. Plus they wear costumes themselves, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they’re all about Halloween.
24. Ash – Orpheus
Yet another song used in Shaun of the Dead, it’s pretty difficult to hear Orpheus without picturing Nick Frost driving a car at speed, doing handbrake turns, whilst the passengers in the car scream at the top of their lungs.
25. Television – Marquee Moon
Lyrically here’s graveyards and the moon. Musically, there’s one hell of a 10 minute epic 1970’s classic rock track.
26. Eagles of Death Metal – Speaking in Tongues
Speaking in tongues was, as I understood it, closely associated with all things occult. Well, apparently it isn’t, but I decided to leave the EODM track here because it’s excellent, and it still fits the overall theme, musically.
27. Blur – Ghost Ship
Lyrically, the beautiful images that are conjured up by Damon Albarn’s lyrics on Ghost Ship are pretty dark “I’m on a ghost ship drowning my heart in Hong Kong,” but this is countered with the gorgeous music that back the lyrics.
28. Echo & the Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
The chorus line of The KIlling Moon came to lead singer Ian McCulloch in a dream. The instrumentation on the songs introduction repeated throughout is very eerie indeed.
29. Eagles of Death Metal – Chase the Devil
There’s no misunderstanding on this EODM track. Jesse Hughes wants to find a woman who’ll help him chase the devil, the absolute bowsey.
30. Mannheim Steamroller – Monster Mash
It’s very silly, but it still remains lots of fun. Besides, when else do you tend to hear the song other than on October 31st? Embrace the Monster Mash.
31. Kavinsky – Nightcall (Robotaki Remix)
The vocoded Daft Punk-esque vocals in the verses cast a misty theme to the song, particularly “I’m gonna show you where it’s dark, but have no fear.”
32. TV On the Radio – Wolf Like Me
The title of this song says it all really. It’s one of TV On the Radio’s best known tracks, and one of the best offerings on their Return to Cookie Mountain album.
33. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
Never mind that fucking awful Kid Rock song that samples it, Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London is where it’s at. It even features Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac on bass and drums.
34. Queens of the Stone Age – Burn the Witch
In keeping with the overall folklorisitic theme of their Lullabies to Paralyze album, Burn the Witch was released as the final single from the LP in early 2006. It has its influences rooted in blues, with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons providing lead guitar and backing vocals.
35. Eels – My Beloved Monster
Usually I can’t hear this song without picturing that scene from Shrek, which is no bad thing. It’s the perfect use of the song, almost feeling as though it was written especially for the movie, even though it preceded it by 5 years.
36. The Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil
One of the most quintessential rock and roll bands of all time, one of their best known songs and it’s about the devil. Need I say more?
37. The Prodigy – Voodoo People
Voodoo People is one of the Prodigy’s finest and best known early singles (you know, back from when they weren’t fucking terrible, sounding like an even worse version of Hadouken). Fun fact: the guitar is sampled from Very Ape by Nirvana.
38. Super Furry Animals – Let the Wolves Howl at the Moon
The lyrics of this mellow SFA track seem to encourage the motion of moving on from past mistakes, particularly “Bring down these darkest of years. We’ll take you on at your game. Let the wolves howl at the moon.”
39. Royal Blood – Little Monster
Little Monster seems to be all about lust, with monsters and wolves as the metaphor of choice. “Heartache to Heartache, I’m your wolf- I’m your man. I say run little monster, before you know who I am.”
40. Queens of the Stone Age – A Song for the Dead
Mark Lanegan’s growl, Josh Homme’s guitars and Dave Grohl’s drumming in particular make this a favourite among QOTSA fans. Lyrically it’s also pretty unnerving: “Life’s the study of dying. How to do it right.” Fun fact for people with triskaidekaphobia: Dave Grohl hits and releases his hi-hat pedal exactly 13 times before the guitar starts on the song intro.