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31 Killer Halloween Rock Songs

Trick or treat...or rock n' roll? Why choose? If you need some of the best Halloween rock songs, we're your ghouls.

best spooky rock songs

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If you’re looking for the “Monster Mash” you may look elsewhere. Halloween is handily the most rock n’ roll friendly holiday, as the music that initially frightened parents and authority figures can always take particular inspiration from the vibes that are generally put forth on this most unholy of nights.

We’ve compiled 31 appropriate (or inappropriate) tunes for the holiday, focusing either specifically on horror movies , the supernatural, or that just have a spooky hook somewhere in there.

We’ve tried to arrange this like a double LP (four sides) of music for your listening pleasure. Crank ’em up, and make your own suggestions in the comments! You can also enjoy this as a Spotify playlist!

Burt Bacharach “Theme from The Blob”

For the record, this tune is credited to imaginary vocal group “The Five Blobs” which kinda speaks for itself. I’ve included the actual film’s opening credits for this, so you can get sucked into that acoustic guitar bit over the Paramount logo before the hypnotic spiral comes in to make you sufficiently stoned to get the most out of the rest of this list.

I defy you not to sing this to yourself for the rest of the day as the tune “creeps and leaps and glides and slides” its way into your brain. In fact, here’s a TEN HOUR LOOP of it for the more adventurous among you . Happy Halloween.

The Sonics “The Witch”

This may be blasphemy, but if not for this one song, The Sonics would probably be considered a fairly tame, forgettable early-’60s garage band. So thank god for this primitive, staccato wonderment which predated all those witch songs that would come along a decade later with it’s cautionary tale of the new girl in town, the one with the long black hair and long black car who may or may not be a witch.

Kristin Hersh “Your Ghost”

The Misfits “Night of the Living Dead” 

This list could literally be just a list of Misfits’ songs, so this was a hard choice. In the early days, these boys from New Jersey wrote almost exclusively about the horror business but this catchy gem sticks out as one of the best of their catalog.

Sprites “George Romero”

You probably have never heard of this indie rock tribute to the King of the Zombies, and that’s okay. Just knowing that it exists out there in the world is reason enough to celebrate. Name-checking horror greats like Romero cohort Tom Savini and Dario Argento, this track is a delightful sing-songy celebration of the horror movies that makes the season so unforgettably spooky.

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read more: George A. Romero and the Meaning of his Zombies

And the “attention all shoppers…” Dawn of the Dead sample that kicks off the tune is absolutely inspired.

The Arctic Monkeys “Pretty Visitors”

The Arctic Monkey’s finally reached US superstardom with last year’s slinky, sexy album  AM , but the bands back catalog features much more snarly, hard-rocking fare. No song gets much more viciously plodding then the ferocious “Pretty Visitors,” from the band’s dark, psychedelic third record,  Humbug .

“Pretty Visitors,” has a sinister Hammond organ and lead singer Alex Turner almost rapping scathing lyrics and talking about the titular visitors waving their arms, projecting “the shadow of a snake pit on the wall.”

Joy Division “Dead Souls”

The poster boys for Post-Punk existentialism, Joy Division practically invented the goth subculture thanks to their gloomy lyrics and disconnected, often otherworldly melodies. That you could dance to their music too is something of a minor miracle. The 1980 hanging suicide of Ian Curtis is still a subject so raw that the group’s enduring legions of fans continue to mourn him, yet the music he left behind — richly textured and filled with the genuine pain that hopefully few of us will have to endure in our lives — has actually brought considerable light to the world.

read more: The Best Modern Horror Movies

We wish that Curtis stayed with us longer, but are also thankful that he shared his considerable gifts while he was here. “Dead Souls” is a typically extraordinary tune from the group that examines the sublime discontent that Joy Division made their calling card.

“A duel of personalities that stretch all true realities” indeed.

Goblin “Zombi”

Tim Curry “Sweet Transvestite”

Regardless of your thoughts on The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its attendant subculture , we are certain of one thing: if you don’t like “Sweet Transvestite” you don’t like rock n’ roll.

That guitar kicks in at 52 seconds into this clip, and what follows is one of the most perfectly arranged, muscular tunes of its kind, capped off by Tim Curry’s raised eyebrow “zero fucks given” vocal.

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Honorable mention goes to the similary perfect “Science Fiction Double Feature” which we wrote about in detail right here.

Lon Chaney Jr. “Spider Baby Theme”

It’s one of the top five Greatest Movie Theme Songs of All Time. The credits sequence of Jack Hill’s low-budget 1967 cannibal comedy are accompanied by star Lon Chaney Jr. himself growling and cackling his way through a musical Halloween poem that calls up all the usual suspects, vampires, mummies, spiders, ghouls, werewolves, and Frankensteins, and invites them all to a “cannibal orgy.”

read more: The Best Horror Movies on Netflix

While the song is intentionally goofy and sets the perfect tone for the film to come, it’s also (unintentionally) a stand-alone Halloween novelty song that could give Bobby “Boris” Pickett a run for his money.

Luna “Season of the Witch”

For their remake of 1960s Donovan freakout favorite “Season of the Witch,” Luna decided to heighten the already pretty damn greatness factor of the original. How? By having the vocalization’s of lead singer Dean Wareham (the cooler among you may remember his previous band, Galaxie 500) walk a tightrope between cool detachment and soaring enthusiasm. And with that, your Halloween bash just turned into a rad makeout party.

Franz Ferdinand “Evil Eye”

Franz Ferdinand roared back to life last year with new album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action , with all their stomp, sass, and grooves still punching with full-force. “Evil Eye,” a campy, organ laced, dance-punk standout from the record is the band’s “Take Me Out,” by the way of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” with singer Alex Kapranos delivering paranoid freak-outs, desperately trying to be the coolest cat on your Halloween playlist, and mostly succeeding. 

Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Bauhaus were just so damnably if unintentionally silly in their deadly serious Goth kings pose, and their big Goth disco hit so over the top in its hamfisted obviousness, how could it not make everyone’s Halloween song top 10 (or worm it’s way onto The Hunger soundtrack for that matter)? It was a song ready-made and pre-packaged for the teen vampire renaissance that would come along 25 years after it was released.

read more: The Best Horror Movies on Amazon Prime

Gotta admit, for all it’s cartoon imagery, it’s still pretty catchy.

Morrissey “Satan Rejected My Soul”

The joke here being that Morrissey is so evil that even Satan wants nothing to do with his shenanigans. Given his recent behavior, we can believe it.

read more: The Best Horror Movies

For more Morrissey/Smiths potential Halloween playlist jams, check out “Handsome Devil,” “Suffer Little Children,” “Cemetery Gates,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “Oujia Board, Ouija Board,” whose music video is an occult-packed laugh fest.

Siouxsie and the Banshees “Halloween”

The Magnetic Fields’ “No One Will Ever Love You” is the band’s attempt to sum up the listening experience of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album in one three minute and thirteen second pop song. If someone tried a similiar experiment to condense the entire goth scene into a song, the resulting melody would almost certainly sound like Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Halloween.”

read more: The Best Horror Movies on Hulu

This one has everything. Evocative imagery? Uh huh. “The carefree days are distant now, I wear my emotions like a shroud” croons Siouxsie Sioux like a precious snowflake left to melt away to nothingness in the sunlight. Provocative/pretentious imagery? Check! (I want to get the lyric “I wander through your sadness” tattooed across my forehead). Put this one on at your Halloween party this year and dance. Dance like it’s already too late. Dance like there’s no tomorrow. Dance like you are already dead.

Larry and the Blue Notes “Night of the Sadist”

Re-recorded as “Night of the Phantom” and released wide, Texas’ Larry and the Blue Notes created a chilling and controversial tale of a serial killer coming for his teenage victims. The original “Sadist” became somewhat of a legend amongst garage rock aficionados and was eventually released.

Ministry “Everyday is Halloween”

Ministry is one of the most respected industrial acts ever. But before they achieved acclaim from the 120 Minutes set, the group released some music that could conceivably be mistaken for acts like Celebrate the Nun (at best) or Anything Box (at worst). It is silly and stupid and is absolutely wonderful.

Case in point, “Everyday Is Halloween.” Opening with the words “well I live with lizards” and just getting more absurd from there, this dance floor favorite lets listeners get in touch with their inner Jack Skellington by envisioning a world where each moment is full of witches and darkness and other Hot Topic-approved nonsense that melts away once you realize that life is actually about paying rent, maintaining your crappy relationship and making a slow trek towards oblivion.

Fact: Every day is not Halloween. 

The Cramps “What’s Behind the Mask?”

If you’re born into this world looking like zombie Elvis, what choice do you have but to perform psychobilly inspired by B horror films? Still, of all those great, great Cramps songs to choose from, “What’s Behind the Mask?,” a question a lot of people will be asking at drunken Halloween parties the world over, seemed the most appropriate.

And Lux Interior’s closing line (“Sorry I ever asked”) is probably the same response all those people will be feeling when they find out.

Phantom Planet “The Living Dead”

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse was an Xbox game, using the Halo Engine, which allowed players to play as a zombie hell-bent on devouring some of those delicious brains. The game featured a killer soundtrack of modern alternative bands covering ‘50s and ‘60s pop songs, but Phantom Planet supplied an original track, “The Living Dead,” that starts slow and menacing, with singer Alex Greenwald setting the post-apocalyptic scene before the band bursts out into jangly-guitar driven verses and a big shout-sing chorus.

The Woggles “Dracula’s Daughter”

A fairly self-explanatory title masks a surefire party starter and some thoroughly primal rock n’ roll. Sure, it shares a name with a kinda lifeless 1936 Universal flick, but if this tune doesn’t get the blood flowing, someone needs to check your pulse.

Also, if The Woggles ever come to your town, do not miss them. 

Roky Erickson “If You Have Ghosts” 

Though a touch more psychedelic than horrific, the legendary Erickson has often dabbled in songs about the unseen. Here, his haunted mind is let loose, perhaps literally.

The Ramones “Pet Sematary”

Aside from the obvious tie in to the Stephen King novel and film of the same name, “Pet Sematary” is just one of the countless examples of why The Ramones should have been the biggest band in the world. A perfectly crafted pop song with more layered guitar and production than some of their more familiar tunes, and those lyrics…nothing is more perfect for Halloween night.

The moon is full, the air is still, All of a sudden I feel a chill, Victor is grinning, flesh rotting away, Skeletons dance, I curse this day, And the night when the wolves cry out, Listen close and you can hear me shout.

.45 Grave “Partytime” (Zombie Version)

The anthem of Return of the Living Dead and its many followers plays in minds on loop for most of October. In case you were wondering, there is a non-zombie verison, and its quite terrifying in its own right. 

Pink Floyd “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”                                                                       

Before there was a Texas Chainsaw Massacre , Pink Floyd plumbed the dark side of British psychedelics with this atmospheric almost instrumental. A voice soars along with the guitars as the song reaches its climax. The simple rhythmic bass and echoed drum fills bring as much tension as Joan Crawford did when she played an axe-murderer. But it’s that one line of lyric. Breathtaking in its simplicity. Maybe the best lyrics written by Pink Floyd and they are great lyricists. The whispered “careful with that axe, Eugene” is followed by screams and an explosion of chords.

read more: The Doctor Strange and Pink Floyd Connection

I was driving with my daughters listening to this and one said, “I don’t know who’s screaming, Eugene or the guy who told him to be careful,” but either way. Nothing and everything is left to the imagination. A very cinematic song.

The New York Dolls “Frankenstein”

“Frankenstein” isn’t the best New York Dolls song. It’s a little monotonous and, at six minutes, it’s longer than most of their output. But one of the biggest names in horror is underrepresented on this list, and this still has plenty of actual vampire Johnny Thunders blazing lead guitar licks on it.

read more: 13 Forgotten Frankenstein Films

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But the lyrics are really what mark this for inclusion, which touch on the loneliness of the monter (recently played to perfection on Penny Dreadful ), and some perfectly David Johansen observations like “Oh, who’s shoes are too big? And oh, who’s jacket’s too small?” It’s right on the money.

The Nomads “Where the Wolf Bane Blooms” 

This one has all the hallmarks of the genre, from the loud-ass drums to the swirling organ in the background. The guitar solo that starts howling at 1:02 is an appropriately lupine touch.

read more: 13 Essential Werewolf Movies

But it’s the lyrics here that really stand out, all about “the pale light of the moon” and “ancient voices” capped off with a reworking of The Wolf Man ’s famous poem about lycanthropy to suit the tune, “you may be pure of heart, and pure of soul, but you’ll become a wolf when the moon is full.” 

213 “Nightmare”

Never let anyone tell you its just a dream. 213 existed only to bring us this song, thank you 213.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “Little Demon”

Screamin’ Jay has a way of making it onto Halloween-themed compilation albums, usually with tired old standards like “I Put a Spell on You” or “Feast of the Mau-Mau,” but this wild-eyed early rock’n’roll screamer puts them both to shame. What nakes this story of a demon trapped on earth trying to find his way home so perfect is that in the song’s chorus (if you could call it that) Screamin’ Jay, swear to god, is literally channeling a demon’s voice.

It’s hilarious and scary as hell all at the same time.

Mick Smiley “Magic”

Don’t get confused by the first two minutes of this song, which sounds like any other overproduced ’80s ballad. The fun starts at 2:19 when you realize this actually transitions into that haunting Peter Murphy-sounding tune from  Ghostbusters …the one from the scene where all the supernatural shit has just hit the fan.

read more: The Scariest Episodes of The Real Ghostbusters Animated Series

There’s something sinister about how this song simply transitions into something else entirely, and while it’s a little off-putting out of context, just remind yourself  it comes from this scene , and everything will be alright.

David Bowie “We Are the Dead”

What could be more horrifying than anti-sex goons coming up the stairs while you’re in your best fuck me pumps? This is the probably the only song ever written about federal performus interruptus. The menacing guitar lines go down before they ascend.

read more: Exploring David Bowie’s Sci-Fi Fascination

Bowie’s imagery is frightening, sexy and touching. His delivery is controlled mania, fearful and rebellious and so vulnerable.

Lou Reed “Halloween Parade”

Taken from his 1989 album  New York , “Halloween Parade” is a thoughtful reflection on how the world loses a bit of its magic each time a loved one dies. While viewing NYC’s annual Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, Reed points out that “you’ll never see those faces again” of such colorful Chelsea staples as Andy Warhol’s Factory staple Rotten Rita. “The past keeps knock, knock, knocking on my door, and I don’t want to hear it anymore” he sings, illustrating how a once joyous celebration has lost some of its shine and transformed itself into a funeral procession of memories of colorful figures from his life who aren’t there anymore.

read more: 31 Best Streaming Horror Movies

Although originally written about the AIDS crisis, the song has taken on an added layer of sadness following Reed’s own death (just try not to get emotional when he says “See you next year at the Halloween parade” at the end of the song). This is a downer to be sure, but perfect to put at the end of your Halloween playlist as a subtle reminder that the party ends for all of us sooner or later. 

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best spooky rock songs

Happy Halloween: Top 20 Scariest Rock Songs

Happy Halloween: Top 20 Scariest Rock Songs: the creepiest tracks of all time-from metal, goth, and more.

Whether you’re trying to plan a Halloween Party , or just enjoy being creeped out all on your lonesome, music can be just as terrifying as a horror film.

Even in its early days, rock music has always enjoyed a good scare, be it Monster Mash or I Put A Spell On You . And as it evolved, artists of various sub-genres have crafted gloriously dark tunes with the power to induce chills or unnerve completely.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled the ultimate collection of creepy songs from metal, goth, industrial, and more. I’ve tried to focused on songs that truly unsettle, so if you’re looking for “fun” scary songs, be sure to check out my Halloween Party Playlist .

So turn off the lights (candlelight and strobe lights excluded of course) and crank it up. At the conclusion of the countdown I’ll have a Spotify playlist of available tracks listed for your purchasing pleasure.

Without further ado, the scariest songs of all time…

[box]20. ‘The Killing Game’-Skinny Puppy (1992)[/box]

This unsettling dark wave track from 1992’s Last Rights , recounts frontman Nivek Ogre’s state of hallucinatory drug induced paranoia  during an isolated weekend in his apartment. It’s the musical equivalent of Roman Polanski’s The Tenant.

[box]19. ‘Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)’ -Ween (1994) [/box]

Ween’s stock in trade involved eclectic bizarre songs filled with hilariously tasteless lyrics. But even by their tacky standards, Spinal Meningitis  (off 94 masterpiece Chocolate and Cheese ) was pushing it.

The pitch-shifted vocals recounting a child’s grave illness (a m I gonna see God, Mommy? Am I gonna die) would   be unbearable if taken too seriously , but even as a joke it’s still deeply disquieting. The result is uncomfortable laughter (while hating yourself in the process), surely damning you to a hellish afterlife or eternal bad karma (depending on your views on spiritual matters). Sick bastards!

[box]18. ‘Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)’-Swans (2014)[/box]

Noise rock icons Swans have always had a knack for fashioning harrowing tunes, and Just A Little Boy from 2014’s To Be Kind is no exception.

Titled after the birth name of blues legend Howling Wolf, the 12 minute song starts off soothing, with vocalist Michael Gira  recounting being an infant- Now I sleep in the belly of a woman- but things take a weird turn at the 4:50 mark where he shrieks I’M JUST A LITTLE BOY!! followed by condescending adult laughter…later Gira grows even more frantic, uttering  I’m NOT HUMAN! I Need love!

It’ll keep you up at night.

[box]17. ‘Daddy’-Korn (1994) [/box]

Sure Korn have long since lapsed into self-parody, but their original self-titled album still packs a punch. They saved their most disturbing song for last, where vocalist Jonathan Davis gives an unsparing first hand account of sexual abuse. The song ends with his actual sobbing from reliving his experience. Uneasy listening to be sure.

[box]16.’It Took The Night To Believe’-Sunn O)))(2005) [/box]

Fusing eerie drone metal with ambient soundscapes makes Sunn O)))’s work an intimidating listen, and It Took The Night  (from 2005 release Black One ) is one of their most spine-tingling tracks.

Scything riffs cut the path for undead guttural vocals commanding you to Defile and vibrate , whatever the hell that means.

Click here for my list of Darkest Rock Albums 

[box]15. ‘eraser’-nine inch nails (1994)[/box].

Being the darkest track on  The Downward Spiral is a crowning achievement, and I nominate this bleak tune. Building slowly from skeletal percussion, it adds layers of sonic decay until it becomes a deafening roar, supporting Reznor’s nihilistic lyrics to perfection.

Click here for NIN’s ‘The Downward Spiral’ Turns 20

[box]14. ‘invocation’-danzig (1994)[/box].

Ole Danzig got cheeky on his 4th album , saving this Satanic ditty for a hidden track (#66 of course). Employing backwards keyboards and vocals with a funereal tone, he sets the scene with lyrics like The Demon comes but must be called/Comes to all the sleeping homes…

It’s a perfect capper to this underrated dark gem of an album, adding an unexpected jolt for the unsuspecting listener.

Click here for my 2014 interview with Glenn Danzig

[box]13. ‘prelude (the family trip)’-marilyn manson (1994)[/box].

Given his more controversial material, it might seem odd I chose his take on Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka monologue as their spookiest tune, but it’s the context that sells it.

For Gen-X kids, it made us realize just how creepy that movie was in the first place, and set us on edge as the opening track into the fun house haunts of their major label début  Portrait of An American Family   (Our fifth and final entry from 1994-the grandaddy of dark musical years, apparently).

Editors note: this piece was originally published in 2015, before the extremely disturbing allegations against Manson emerged. We realize that separating the art from the artist can be difficult for some, but that’s where we tend to land when assessing these cases.

[box]12. TIE: ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ (1979)/’Stigmata Martyr’ (1980)-Bauhaus[/box]

Simply by its lyrical content (and the band’s song performance in cult vampire flick  The Hunger) , Bauhaus’ Goth masterpiece  Bela Lugosi’s Dead is the preeminent Halloween anthem.

But Martyr is also worth a nod, featuring Peter Murphy’s witch-finder vocals, screaming the Lord’s Prayer backwards. This act of blasphemy reportedly freaked him out so much that he avoided performing it live for years (even after ditching Christianity for Islam).

[box]11. ‘Country Death Song’-The Violent Femmes (1984)[/box]

The Femmes are known for being delightfully wacky. But Country Death Song is one bleak country folk tune, describing a crazed rube killing his own daughter in chilling detail:  I gave her a push, I gave her a shove/I pushed with all my might, I pushed with all my love/I threw my child into a bottomless pit/She was screaming as she fell, but I never heard her hit. 

At least the narrator gets his comeuppance, when guilt proves too much to bear:  I’m going out to the barn, will I never stop in pain? I’m going out to the barn, to hang myself in shame.

Cue up Blister In The Sun please …time to lighten the mood!

[box]10. ‘Tonight We Murder’-Ministry (1988)[/box]

Before I realized Al Jourgensen was a sarcastic huckster, I thought he was downright frightening upon purchasing the ‘ Stigmata ‘ 12-inch single in high school But this B-side was even more unnerving, with its tale of psychotic inmates literally taking over the asylum, and breaking out to engage in a killing spree.

[box]9. ‘Welcome Home’-King Diamond (1987)[/box]

It’s not a proper scary song list without King Diamond right? And Welcome Home takes the bloody cake. Taken from his concept album  Them,  it concerns the helium voiced hellion caring for his mentally ill grandmother.

But with lyrics like:  Let me help you out of the chair  Grandma Let me touch you, let me feel  and  Now that you are stuck with me / You better be my friend , it’s clear being batshit crazy runs in the family.

[box]8. ‘Disgustipated’-Tool (1993)[/box]

Disgustipated  (from Tool’s breakthrough album Undertow ) is another notably chilling hidden track. Lasting nearly 16 minutes, it features Maynard James Keenan’s bizarre evangelical dietary rant about The cries of the carrots!  and life feeds on life!  But it’s the phone message at the end that goes full horror show.

In a Zodiac Killer style hallucinatory ramble, a man describes the activities of a deranged person who climbs out of a ditch, grabs a knife, and sees: two tiny people walking by your woods. You began to walk towards them. Now red was your color and, of course, those little people out there were yours too. 

Although never stated, it’s clear the nutjob is detailing his own murderous deeds, while distancing himself from his crimes. Creepy as hell.

[box]7. ‘Curtain’-Portal (2013)[/box]

I had the pleasure (?) of seeing this Australian band at last year’s Housecore Horror Festival , and goodnight nurse were they a frightshow. Conjuring hell-scapes with spasmodic riffs, occult vocals and hooded outfits, they’re pretty much the most gloriously evil thing I’ve seen live.

I have no idea what this song is about, but combined with the horrific video it makes for absolute nightmare fuel. In an interview, the lead guitarist says that the group tries  to capture a cinematic horror scope. Mission Accomplished.

[box]6. ‘Dead Skin Mask’-Slayer (1990)[/box]

One of the most iconic songs from the thrash metal titans, features a grisly first-person account of dead flesh-wearing serial killer Ed Gein. Vocalist Tom Araya’s lyrics hones in on what’s so disturbing about the futility of a victim reasoning with a sociopath:   In the depths of a mind insane/Fantasy and reality are the same.

Hearing the terrified vocals of the killer’s victims at the end of the track just ramps up the disquieting nature of the song.

[box]5. ‘Come To Daddy’-Aphex Twin (1997)[/box]

The creepiest song in electronica, Come To Daddy features Aphex Twin mastermind Richard D. James shrieking I WANT YOUR SOUL atop skittering drum beats and haunted house sonic textures. The Chris Cunningham video, which shows an army of murderous children (all bearing a caricatured version of James’ visage) is a horror film in its own right.

Click here for my list of Top 10 Creepiest Music Videos

[box]4. ‘jizzlobber’-faith no more (1992)[/box].

Easily Faith No More’s heaviest and haunting song to date, Jizzlobber features ex-guitarist Jim Martin at his finest, forging a sludgy riff that congeals perfectly with keyboardist Roddy Bottom’s Psycho jabs, and vocalist Mile Patton at his most unhinged.

Click here for Faith No More albums Ranked Worst to Best

Given the song title, we know we’re in for something gross. And Patton doesn’t disappoint.

I hide the dirty minutes under my dirty mattress and they are making me itch My time Is split milk/My skin is a layer of soot / I’m spending my days scrubbing!

Ewwww. Anybody ready for a shower?

[box]Honorable Mention: ‘Quote/Unquote’-Mr. Bungle (1991)[/box]

Had to give a shout out to yet another unsettling Mike Patton project. Mr. Bungle’s début album is a carnival and clown filled nightmare, perfectly captured by its opening track. It’s the only album I’ve ever listened to that made me feel high even while stone cold sober.

[box]3. ‘Black Sabbath’-Black Sabbath (1970)[/box]

The original metal chiller, Black Sabbath’s self-titled classic starts off appropriately with drizzling rain and church bells before lurching into Tony Iommi’s evil riff (featuring a dissonant tritone, known as “the Devil’s interval” in the middle ages)

Adding in Ozzy’s lyrics  What is this that stands before me?/Figure in black which points at me, this iconic track is ground zero for the perfect  synergy of horror movies and heavy metal .

Click here for my list of Top 20 Horror Movie Scores

[box]2. ‘frankie teardrop’-suicide (1977)[/box].

Electronic music progenitors Suicide always had a knack for creating jittery soundscapes. But  Frankie Teardrop  is their white-knuckle pièce de résistance. Vocalist Alan Vega’s trembling delivery ratchets up the tension with his tale of a stressed-out factory worker pulling a murder/suicide on his family.

After grimly detailing: Frankie is so desperate/He’s gonna kill his wife and  kids… Frankie picked up a gun, Vega lets loose one of many chill-inducing shrieks, before revealing that:  We’re all Frankie’s /We’re all lying in hell! ( shudder ).

[box]1.’Hamburger Lady’-Throbbing Gristle (1978)[/box]

Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle makes sounds as disquieting and upsetting as their name. But Hamburger Lady will give you the creeps like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

A nauseating and disorienting listen, it uses dread inducing oscillating textures and Genesis P-Orridge’s gurgling vocals to describe a nurse caring for an extreme burn victim:

She’s dying, She is burned from the waist up, On her arm, Her ear is burned, Her eyelashes are burned, She can’t hold things up, And even with medical advances, There’s no end in sight.

Most unsettling is that the song’s tempo and mood never changes, stuck in the same hellish limbo as its suffering victim. If ever there’s a song that could drive you to vomit and leave you in a cold sweat, Hamburger Lady is it!

So that wraps up my list of the scariest horror songs in rock. Of course some tracks had to get the axe (pun intended), so honorable mentions go to the following:

Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare , Fields of The Nephilim’s Vet For The Insane , Metallica’s One,  Nick Cave’s The Mercy Seat , Eagles of Death Metal’s Midnight Creeper , and Siouxsie and The Banshees Rawhead and Bloodybones .

Now it’s your turn. What other scary rock songs would you add to the list? Tell me in the comments.

 I’ve also included the songs in a Spotify playlist below:

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15 Of The Best Halloween Rock Songs

  • Alice Cooper
  • Black Sabbath
  • Warren Zevon
  • talking heads
  • The Cranberries
  • Motley Crue

As the spookiest night of the year descends on us this week, and given that we’re way too old to be out trick or treating, we’ve compiled a list of great Halloween themed rock songs for you to indulge instead.

Whilst Halloween is traditionally a big deal in the USA, we’ve seen it building up in Australia over the last few years with fancy dress parties, kids out collecting candy door to door, and lots of houses covered in cobwebs. All just a bit of fun believed to be an extension of the pagan tradition of celebrating the dead.

Here are our Top 15 rock tracks for you to carve pumpkins to this Halloween…

Welcome To My Nightmare – Alice Cooper

A concept album when played in sequence, the songs form a journey through the nightmares of a child named Steven. According to Alice Cooper, he used the Steven character on four or five albums. He got the idea of using a recurring character through his albums from Kurt Vonnegut using Kilgore Trout through his novels. Alice believes that Steven is a seven-year-old boy that lives in all of us and keeps us young.

Werewolves Of London – Warren Zevon

Probably Warren Zevon's best-known song, co-written with guitarist Waddy Wachtel and recorded with Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.

Read more : 10 Of The Best From Warren Zevon

Duran Duran - Hungry Like The Wolf

It was the music video – filmed in the Sri Lankan jungle -  getting played on MTV that propelled the single and album into the charts. Andy Taylor, who contracted a stomach virus serious enough to require hospitalisation from accidentally drinking water in the lagoon during the shoot, describes the storyline as "Indiana Jones is horny and wants to get laid."

Runnin' With The Devil – Van Halen

The song's lyrics have often been misinterpreted as being satanic, yet the members on Van Halen have never revealed the full meaning of the song. It is most commonly interpreted as being about the life of a touring young band, the lyrics "Runnin' with the devil" being a reference to freedom. 

Pet Sematary - Ramones

The song was originally written upon request by Stephen King for his 1989 film adaption of the same name, to soundtrack the end credits. It became one of the band’s most successful radio hits and was a staple of their concerts during the 90s.

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) - David Bowie

This is the title track and third single from David Bowie’s 1980 album. Robert Fripp of King Crimson played the lead guitar on the track, over distinctive synthesized percussion. “There are an awful lot of mistakes on that album that I went with, rather than cut them out. One tries as much as possible to put oneself on the line artistically.” said Bowie.

Psycho Killer – Talking Heads

Psycho Killer, rumoured to have been written about Son of Sam, but couldn’t be cos David Byrne said he wrote it two years earlier.

Zombie – The Cranberries

This song, obviously, is not about the dead coming back to life, but was written as a political response to the death of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry, who had been killed in the IRA bombing in Warrington earlier that year.

Shout At The Devil – Motley Crue

One of several songs by Motley Crue which conservative groups alleged encouraged devil worship. The song was re-recorded by the for their 1997 album, Generation Swine, and got a music video at the same time. This live version is great.

Feed My Frankenstein – Alice Cooper

Featured in the 1992 film Wayne's World , in which Cooper performs the song at a concert. Guest appearances on the track include Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Nikki Sixx, and Elvira (Cassandra Peterson).

The Number Of The Beast – Iron Maiden

This song was influenced by the 1978 movie Damien: Omen II , which is about a 13-year-old Antichrist. It was written by Iron Maiden bass player Steve Harris, who explained: "Basically, this song is about a dream. It's not about devil worship."

Enter Sandman – Metallica

The plot of the music video directly relates to the theme of the song, combining images of a child having nightmares and images of an old man (R. G. Armstrong). The child dreams that he is drowning, falling from the top of a building, covered in snakes, being chased by a truck and finally falling from a mountain while escaping the truck. During the part of the song in which the child recites a prayer, he is being watched by the Sandman, flickering continuously. The video won Best Hard Rock Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.

Children Of The Grave – Black Sabbath

From their 1971 album Master of Reality . This song lyrically continues with the same anti-war themes brought on by "War Pigs" and "Electric Funeral" from Paranoid .

Monster Mash – Bobby Pickett

A novelty song that everyone knows and is included on pretty much every Halloween collection since it's release in the early 60s. 

Hells Bells – AC/DC

From Back in Black , released on 31 October 1980 (Halloween). The song also appears on Who Made Who , AC/DC's 1986 soundtrack to the Stephen King movie Maximum Overdrive.

These songs and more can be found on  Halloween  playlists below...

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Best Halloween songs – Nick Cave

The 36 best Halloween songs of all time

Don't let your Halloween party flop with our list of the top spooky scary songs of all time

Ella Doyle

Picture this: your cat-eye contacts are turning you half blind, you’re trying not to accidentally spit out your fake fangs, and you’re on your third double vodka and coke of the night. It’s Halloween, baby, and that means it’s time for a serious party. A spooky party. A Halloween party to remember. 

And d'you know what you’ll need for that (other than the fake fangs, the witch hats and the vodka, that is)? It’s a properly banging Halloween playlist. And fear not, friends, we’ve got the playlist for you. From The Cramps (of ‘Wednesday’ fame) to Olivia Rodrigo’s ex-boyfriend bleeding her dry, we’ve got the ultimate Halloween soundtrack right here. Time to get freaky, people. 

Written by   Brent DiCrescenzo,  Christopher Tarantino, Andy Kryza,  Adam Feldman,  Kate Wertheimer,  Andrew Frisicano,  Sophie Harri s,  Carla Sosenko, Nick Leftly,  Ella Doyle, India Lawrence, Chiara Wilkinson and Georgia Evans.

RECOMMENDED: 🎉 The best party songs ever made 🎸 The best classic rock songs 🎤 The best karaoke songs 🎶 The best ’80s songs

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Best Halloween songs of all time, ranked

‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials

1.  ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials

Okay, so technically this song is about unemployment, inner-city violence and urban decay, not decaying flesh. But the 1981 hit, released at the height of the UK’s recession riots, still creeps us out in the very best way, with eerie flute solos, ominous lyrics and maniacal, childlike la-la-las – plus some pretty spooky synth fades.

‘Monster Mash’ by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers

2.  ‘Monster Mash’ by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers

The perennial holiday favorite (or Halloween party-atmosphere-killer) was released in 1962, and has been clawing its way out of the grave every year since. It’s been covered by maybe the most eclectic group of bands of any song ever (the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Vincent Price, Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Smashing Pumpkins and The Misfits, to name but a few), but the moldy old original is still the preferred classic.

‘She Wolf’ by Shakira

3.  ‘She Wolf’ by Shakira

Lord, did Shakira bless us with this song in 2009. A timeless classic, ‘She Wolf’ is sexy, spooky and danceable all at once – and it’s giving Halloween in every way. The ultimate scary banger for your Hazza Party Playlist, ‘She Wolf’ will have the dancefloor filled with people screaming ‘there’s a she-wolf in the closet’ at the top of their lungs and your mates necking off with each other in no time. Forget the party planning, Shakira’s got you covered. 

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4.  ‘I Put a Spell On You’ (Remix) by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Arguably one of the original Halloween songs. Inarguably one of the greatest. Hawkins’s tune – which he claims to not remember recording – permanently added the Screamin’ to his God-given name. ‘Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins, (but) I found out I could do more destroying to a song by screaming it to death.’ He found out he could also do more if he appeared out of a coffin on stage in a black cape, tusks coming out of his nose, accompanied by a cigarette smoking skull sidekick named Henry. A rare remix by KCRW’s Jeremy Sole.

‘Disturbia’ by Rihanna

5.  ‘Disturbia’ by Rihanna

Rihanna’s 2008 classic still holds up as a Halloween banger. There’s even a horror movie-like scream in the first few opening seconds for maximum impact. Made famous by the earworm hook of ‘bum-bum-be-dum’, the song has an eeriness to it thanks to the twisting melodies and Rihanna’s verses of ‘It's a thief in the night to come and grab you / It can creep up inside you and consume you’. What she’s actually singing about is a mystery. But it’ll get you riled up and ready for a night of spookiness.

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6.  ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads

David Byrne’s feral yowl alone makes this hypnotic, eerie early Talking Heads classic a Halloween essential, but it's just the blood-red bow that ties ‘Psycho Killer’ together. The song – mathematically precise until it goes jaggedly out of rhythm – feels like it was wrested from the mind of a particularly melodious murderer, one with with a tendancy to slip unexpectedly into French or a huge suit depending on the mood. 

‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ by Rockwell

7.  ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ by Rockwell

If Rockwell (real name Kenneth Gordy, son of Motown founder Berry) shivered at Big Brother's glare in 1984, one can only imagine what he'd make of the Internet age, where the government, news media and rogue hackers are all equally likely to be keeping tabs on you. The ‘Thriller’-esque hook comes courtesy of Rockwell’s buddy Michael Jackson, a good dude to have on speed-dial, though I’m not sure how much help he’d be if you're looking for someone to check for monsters in the closet.

‘Goo Goo Muck’ by The Cramps

8.  ‘Goo Goo Muck’ by The Cramps

‘Goo Goo Muck’ has always been a Halloween banger, but it’s had a massive resurgence in the last year as the backtrack to Jenna Ortega’s iconic dance (which she apparently made up herself) as Wednesday Addams in the Netflix horror series ‘Wednesday’. Whether or not The Cramps planned for this rock ’n’ roll banger to be a Halloween go-to, it’s long-since been considered one, with its lyrics of turning into a Goo Goo Muck (whatever that is) when the sun goes down and hunting out people to eat. And Wednesday Addams? She’s cemented it, we’re afraid.

‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker Jr.

9.  ‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker Jr.

There are at least two Time Out New York editors who believe that the part of this 1984 classic where Parker ecstatically croons, ‘Bustin’ makes me feel good!’ is the single-greatest piece of music ever recorded (and they will fight you over this opinion). Huey Lewis actually sued Parker over the song’s similarity to his ‘I Want a New Drug,’ probably because he was jealous of how much better “Ghostbusters” is.

‘Pet Sematary’ by The Ramones

10.  ‘Pet Sematary’ by The Ramones

Hard to believe the original Ramones are all dead. By 1989, the punks’ career was nearly six feet under. But this toe-tapping title track from a hit horror film, a bite-size Snickers with a metal shard inside, put the New Yawkers back on MTV, introducing a new generation to the leather-wrapped Phil Spector fanatics who looked like motorcycle zombies. If only Stephen King’s resurrecting graveyard were real – we miss these buffoons.

‘Demons’ by Doja Cat

11.  ‘Demons’ by Doja Cat

Doja Cat has always been a bit of a spooky bitch – in the best way possible, of course. But probably no track sums up the star’s knack for artistic uneasiness than her 2023 song ‘Demons’: which waved goodbye to the sickly pink pop of ‘Say So’ and said hello to reverberating bass, shrieky vocals and jagged synths. This is a choppy rap track which juxtaposes child-like lyrics with shouty rasps in a way that’s catchy and sinister all at once.  It’s the perfect song for a Halloween party with sass: turn the bass up on your speakers and get freaky.

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12.  ‘Season of the Witch’ by Donovan

Donovan never explains quite what he means by a ‘season of the witch’ in this five-minute foray into ominous psychedelia, from the British singer-songwriter’s 1966 album,  Sunshine Superman.  But a shiver of paranoia runs through the song’s depiction of identity flux (‘So many different people to be’) in a world gone topsy-turvy (‘Beatniks are out to make it rich’), and the guitar part – played by a pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page – adds welcome notes of acid.

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13.  ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush

Is there really a better song to slip into a blood-red dress and waft around like a ghoulish waif to? Not only is it one of the greatest tracks of all time, but ‘Wuthering Heights’ is also the perfect tune to soundtrack any spooky evening. Telling the tale of Cathy’s ghost scratching at Heathcliffe’s window, this track is mournful, melancholy and the literary references are just the cherry on the perfectly constructed cake. The tinkling piano might be more suggestive of fairies than witches, but Kate Bush’s ghostly wailing is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine.

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14.  ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson

‘I’m not like other guys,’ Michael tells his girl at the beginning of the greatest video ever made, from arguably the greatest album ever made. Did we realize how prescient that statement would be in 1982? So much of ‘Thriller’ shouldn’t work – MJ is a doll, 71-year-old Vincent Price raps, and it’s six minutes long. But together, it’s ballsy genius, riding on an insistent, funky Minimoog bass line. ‘I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult,’ Jackson wrote concerning the video. No, but the Elephant Man bones and chimp did.

‘Boris the Spider’ by The Who

15.  ‘Boris the Spider’ by The Who

On this deep cut from 1966’s A Quick One , John Entwhistle leads the bass-heavy charge in a song precision-calibrated to get under arachnophobes' skins. Roger Daltrey performs some signature vocal acrobatics, too, growling the song’s title at the chorus before pulling off a manic falsetto to repeat the words ‘creepy crawly” over and over again in a whirling dervish of playful menace… just in case the lyrics had somehow been construed as subtle. 

‘Supernature’ by Cerrone

16.  ‘Supernature’ by Cerrone

French 1970s musical icon Marc Cerrone created this frightening (for then at least) vision of a not-too-distant sci-fi future where escaped mutant creatures created in a lab to end human starvation have rebelled against their makers to disastrous effect for all. Basically sci-fi disco for the Studio 54 set, this track is the greatest statement on that brief genre. Period. The video (and album artwork) are also stone-cold classics. Ask your parents.

‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ by Alice Cooper

17.  ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ by Alice Cooper

Shock-rock pioneer Alice Cooper could single-handedly populate this list with tracks like ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ and ‘Billion Dollar Babies,’ but ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ is in a class all its own thanks to its stabbing horn accompaniment and Cooper's skin-crawling delivery. The original’s a horror-rock masterpiece, but seek out the version Cooper performed with a chorus of Muppets, a combination of pop-culture misfits that’s too delicious to skip. 

‘Halloween’ by The Misfits

18.  ‘Halloween’ by The Misfits

Funny how time tames horror. In 1981, the Misfits seemed genuinely scary. In hindsight, they’re as dangerous as a Scooby Doo mystery. But, great Beelzebub, what fun! ‘Candy apples and razor blades! / Little dead are soon in graves!’ croons Glen Danzig, somewhere between an Elvis impersonator and an amateur MMA fighter. ‘Skulls’ might better spook the kids today, but this noir pop is on-point – like Jerry Only’s hair.

‘Dracula’ by Gorillaz

19.  ‘Dracula’ by Gorillaz

This cartoon troupe remains the greatest evidence of Damon Albarn's spliff habit. A bonus cut from the band's 2001 debut, ‘Dracula’ conjures voodoo vibes with a deep dub groove. ‘Everybody, party time. Some of us will never sleep again,’ Albarn sings, staring down the dawn with bloodshot eyes. An all-night bender is the closest thing we have to feeling undead.

‘Vampire’ by Olivia Rodrigo

20.  ‘Vampire’ by Olivia Rodrigo

Calling someone (ahem, Zack Bia?) a blood sucker and a fame fucker is pretty inspired. And that’s not even the best part of Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Vampire’. An epic pop song split into three parts – making it Gen Z’s equivalent to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – this is an explosive exploration into heartbreak, failure and full-on rage. The girlies are all set to be screaming ‘you sold me for parts’ and ‘you sunk your teeth into me’ this year, and while we aren’t all rich, famous and conventionally beautiful ex-Disney stars, we can relate to this experience.

‘Red Right Hand’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

21.  ‘Red Right Hand’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Of course, we could’ve put together an entire list of Nick Cave songs to score your Halloween shindig, but instead we're choosing Cave’s singularly most creepy cut. A smoldering slow-burner, ‘Red Right Hand’ appears on 1994’s  Murder Ballads  album and lifts its title from John Milton’s  Paradise Lost  epic poem – which refers to the supposedly vengeful hand of God. It’s been used in all three  Scream  movies, such is its spook-factor. Show off your vampiest moves on the dance floor as you shimmy along to its rumbling drums, clanging bells and Cave’s sinister lyrics.

‘Vampires’ by DJ Touche

22.  ‘Vampires’ by DJ Touche

Theo Keating a.k.a. DJ Touché a.k.a. Fake Blood a.k.a. formerly the Wiseguys a.k.a. half of the Black Ghosts a.k.a. a guy who knows his horror. This cut is just one in a long list for someone who's had more than 20 years to rack up quite a few proverbial ‘kills.’ It’s the title track of his EP (alongside other funky frighteners ‘Zombies’ and ‘Spectres’) on Fatboy Slim’s Southern Fried Records.

‘Monster’ by Kanye West

23.  ‘Monster’ by Kanye West

’Ye may be a bit of monster himself these days, but this 2010 track still thrills thanks to its roster of immense guests: Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross  and  Bon Iver (because why not?). The gang name-checks nightmarish images at every turn – blood suckers, goblins, the Bride of Chucky – and dishes out a healthy helping of Haterade to critics and skeptics, but it’s the funky groove and sick rhymes that’ll raise the goosebumps (in a good way). Some of us ( not  naming names) may even like to pretend we’re Nicki Minaj sometimes and spit the Harajuku Barbie’s verse (the best one of the bunch) in the privacy of our apartment.

‘This is Halloween’ by Danny Elfman

24.  ‘This is Halloween’ by Danny Elfman

Elfman honed his signature horror-tinged musicality with Oingo Boingo, but unleashed it full force on this banger that leads off The Nightmare Before Christmas with jingle-jangle lunacy as a chorus of ghouls pulls a roll-call for the playful horrors to come. It’s a kids' song full of bloodthirsty clowns and whispery vampires, all of whom come together for a chant of the song’s title, all but cementing it in the Halloween canon. 

‘Country Death Song’ by Violent Femmes

25.  ‘Country Death Song’ by Violent Femmes

The Femmes took a break from their stripped-down folk-punk bubblegum mania and teenage angst for this truly spooky country number in which a deranged farmer confesses to drowning his daughter in a well. Chipper stuff from the ‘Blister in the Sun’ tri! But the combination of Gordon Gano’s nasal wailing, the Southern gothic vibes, and the doomy baseline make for an unlikely bone-chiller. 

‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ by Bauhaus

26.  ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ by Bauhaus

Bela Lugosi died in 1956. Informing people of his demise in 1979 was strictly the concern of the most archetypal of goth bands, Bauhaus. Goth is a cocktail best served as equal parts glamor and nihilism. Singing about Dracula is metal. Singing about the Hungarian star of the silver screen who played him is goth. The ticking dirge was used fabulously in  The Hunger , in the coolest opening sequence of ’80s cinema, a montage of sex, jump cuts, drugs and Bowie. At last, frontman Peter Murphy was a vampire in the movies. —

‘Surfin’ Dead’ by The Cramps

27.  ‘Surfin’ Dead’ by The Cramps

Another from The Cramps on our list, these rockabilly goths were always a B-movie for your ears, so it was inevitable that Lux Interior and Poison Ivy would end up on the soundtrack to a campy slasher flick. In 1985,  Return of the Living Dead  popularized the notion of zombies chomping brains. In the movie, a bunch of punks battle the undead—but the Cramps have a hard time choosing a side. When Interior sings ‘Run run run run!’ it sounds just like a chain saw itching to rip through necrobiotic flesh. But in the end, he makes it seem more fun to be one of the rotting.

‘People are Strange’ by Echo and the Bunnymen

28.  ‘People are Strange’ by Echo and the Bunnymen

If you can’t commit a bit of sacrilege at Halloween, then when can you? We're choosing Echo and the Bunnymen’s 1987 version of this song over the Doors’ original, partly because this cover soundtracked cult ’80s vampire movie  The Lost Boys  (a Halloween must-see), but also because it kicks ass with its dramatic pauses, spooky piano flourishes and – oh! – that ending.

‘Hell’s Bells’ by AC/DC

29.  ‘Hell’s Bells’ by AC/DC

Long before Metallica’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ brought the menacing sound of church bells to metal, AC/DC used them to announce the arrival of this sinister little number. Does it sound exactly like every other AC/DC song? Of course it does. But with church bells, so you know it’s spooky. 

‘Vampire Nightclub’ by Art Department

30.  ‘Vampire Nightclub’ by Art Department

Art Department, which is now just No. 19 boss Jonny White going solo – but at the time also included Canadian house legend Kenny Glasgow – linked up with the ghost of Seth Troxler–past on ‘vocals.’ It's not until halfway through this face melter that it dawns on you that the title may be a double entendre that you’re not sure you completely get.

‘Tubular Bells Part 1’ Mike Oldfield

31.  ‘Tubular Bells Part 1’ Mike Oldfield

If you’re looking for something to set the mood, throw on this 1973 track and watch everyone’s hair stand on end. At least, everyone who’s seen  The Exorcist . What could have been a beautiful orchestral piece is instead insidiously and inextricably tied to images of projectile vomit and bloody crucifix masturbation. Oh well, happy Halloween!

‘Suspiria’ by Goblin

32.  ‘Suspiria’ by Goblin

A lovely (re: horrifying) companion to ‘Tubular Bells,’ Italian avant-garde/prog-rock/jazz outfit Goblin’s score for Dario Argento’s fever-dream horror Suspiria is the stuff of musical nightmares and a hell of a mood setter… especially if you want to mood to veer closer to ’Seventh Circle of Hell’ than ‘Monster Mash.’ With creepy whispers of ‘witch’ and its never-ending loop of bells undulating between hypnotic and chaotic, it’s a dreamlike plunge into darkness. So, um, who wants to bob for apples?

‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zevon

33.  ‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zevon

Somewhere between Brecht and Weill’s ‘Mack the Knife’ and Bret Easton Ellis’s  American Psycho  lies Warren Zevon’s silly-witty 1978 novelty hit about everyday monsters. Over an irresistible three-chord piano riff, Zevon’s gift for dark comedy expresses itself in lyrics that swipe their claws slyly at the banality of horror – ‘I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s / And his hair was perfect ’ – but the droll wolf-call refrain (‘a-hooooooooo!’) makes you want to give up and join the pack.

‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ by Blue Öyster Cult,

34.  ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ by Blue Öyster Cult,

Blue Öyster Cult's death song, a creepily seductive exhortation to go gently into that dark night, became an instant rock classic when it came out in 1976, and has been a staple of horror culture ever since, notably in Halloween and Scream . (Its unconventional percussion also inspired a beloved Saturday Night Live sketch, with a shaggy Will Ferrell cavorting in an undersize tee and Christopher Walken barking ‘I gotta have more cowbell, baby!’) BOC’s lead singer and guitarist, the colorfully named Buck Dharma, insisted that the song was not about a romantic suicide pact, but it’s hard to know how else to read lines like ‘Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity... We can be like they are.’ The velvet sheath of Dharma’s mellow vocals doesn’t cover the scythe.

“A Nightmare on My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

35.  “A Nightmare on My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

According to Will Smith, Freddy Krueger is a David Letterman fan who's ‘burnt up like a weenie’ and weirdly wears the same hat and sweater every day, even when it's hot out. The 1988 track stacks Smith's story of his encounter with ‘Fred’ over a hip-hopified mix of A Nightmare on Elm Street's theme song, making for a party-friendly (if rather long-winded) ghost story.

‘Living Dead Girl’ by Rob Zombie

36.  ‘Living Dead Girl’ by Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie’s full-throated embrace of souped-up hot rods, dead bodies and classic monsters came to a head with this shredding classic of the ’90s horror-core revival, a cheesy, rollicking slice of post-industrial rock that somehow found its way onto mainstream radio stations and into the hearts of mall goths everywhere. Yeeeeah.

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68 Halloween songs to get the party started

What's not to love about Halloween ?

It's a holiday chock full of spooky delights like crafting a fabulous costume to impress your friends, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns and listening to spooky music.

Make no mistake, curating the perfect Halloween playlist is serious business. After all, having just the right soundtrack playing in the background of all your Halloween activities is nothing short of essential.

To ensure you've got all the creepy classics you need to keep the party going, we've conjured up a list of the best Halloween songs of all time.

Naturally, you'll find standards like "Monster Mash," "Somebody's Watching Me" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller," because no respectable Halloween playlist is complete without any of those chart-toppers.

But there are plenty of other favorites to add to your mix like songs from popular Halloween movies including "Ghostbusters" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas," along with TV shows like " The Addams Family " and "What We Do in the Shadows."

We’ve even tossed in a few kids’ Halloween songs to entertain the youngest trick-or-treaters in your crew. And, dare we say, all of them are frighteningly good.

Read on to see what Halloween tunes we've unearthed — and get ready to rock out, because these songs are totally wicked .

‘Monster Mash’ by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett

Released in 1962, “Monster Mash” is the “hit of the land,” which means that no Halloween party playlist is complete without it.

‘This is Halloween’ by The Citizens of Halloween

The theme song from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is the essential Halloween song by which all others should be measured for the rest of all time. Period.

‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson

Probably the most popular Halloween song of all time, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” starts off with a creepy coffin opening and finishes with poetic prose by the late, great master of horror films, Vincent Price.

‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker, Jr.

If there’s something strange going on in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Throw the “Ghostbusters” theme song on your playlist to scare away the ghosts — or at least try to.

“I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

This tune by Jay Hawkins is a total Halloween staple, which is why it’s listed here. It’s been covered by dozens of singers since its release, but the most famous version is by the Sanderson sisters in the Disney classic, “Hocus Pocus.” And, dare we say, their version even spookier than the original.

‘Spooky, Scary Skeletons’ by Andrew Gold

This catchy (and mildly unsettling) earworm was released in 1996 by Andrew Gold before going on to become a viral sensation on TikTok .

‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder

The writing’s on the wall: Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” is a favorite on Halloween and beyond.

‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ by Rockwell

Are the neighbors watching? The mailman? The IRS? Rockwell certainly thinks so.

‘A Nightmare on My Street’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Released in 1988 by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “A Nightmare on My Street’s” lyrics are a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the classic slasher film, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zevon

Beware! Werewolves are taking over London. Warren Zevon sets the scene with this tune, which describes all the mischief that these fictional creatures are getting into — with the Queen, no less.

'Spooky' by the Classics IV

We’ll just come right out and say it: It’s not officially Halloween until you hear this song. And if you’re planning to propose on October 31, then you’ll definitely want to put this song on repeat.

‘Disturbia’ by Rihanna

This popular song Rihanna is not only a total chart-topper, but it’s spooky dance beat makes it perfect for Halloween costume parties. Also, it’s Rihanna. Enough said.

‘Dead Man’s Party’ by Oingo Boingo

This hit by ‘80s band, Oingo Boingo is about “goin’ to a party where no one’s still alive,” or, in other words, a funeral. Grim stuff, but it’s a fan-favorite when it comes to Halloween songs.

Fun fact: The band’s frontman Danny Elfman went on to write the songs and score for “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” as well as sing Jack Skellington’s songs in the film.

'Haunted' by Beyoncé

Queen Bey slays in this tune from her eponymous 2013 album. With lyrics like "What goes up, ghost around," this Beyoncé song is guaranteed to deliver chills.

‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials

The Specials totally capture the Halloween vibe with this reggae-inspired song that'll make you think of tumbleweeds and haunted houses.

'Zombie' by The Cranberries

With more than one billion views on YouTube (that’s right,  billion ), the ‘90s classic is a timeless favorite.

‘Red Right Hand’ by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

“Peaky Blinders” fans, this one’s for you. But don’t worry, you don’t need to watch the British drama to appreciate the dark, sinister tone of “Red Right Hand,” a song about blood vengeance.

'Bones' by Imagine Dragons

We've got this feeling, you know, that we're losing all control when listening to "Bones" by Imagine Dragons. This earworm is guaranteed to haunt you long after it's been played.

'She Wolf' by Shakira

No need to believe that werewolves are real to enjoy Shakira's upbeat homage to the she-wolf who, naturally, comes out by the light of a full moon.

'Hells Bells' by AC/DC

"Hells Bells" pays homage to all things dark and evil, making this classic rock song a Halloween playlist essential.

'Frankenstein' by Edgar Winter

This one needs no explanation. The instrumental rock jam was a monster to edit — hence its name. Drummer Chuck Ruff compared it to Frankenstein and the rest, as they say, is rock 'n' roll history.

'Stranger Things' by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein

If you’ve got your “Stranger Things” Halloween costume all picked out and ready to go (and let’s be honest, who isn’t ?) you might as well add the show’s theme song to your party playlist.

'Goo Goo Much' by The Cramps

The Cramps totally give off surfer vibes in this 1981 tune which, thanks to Jenna Ortega (who performed the now-legendary Wednesday Addams dance on the hit Netflix show "Wednesday "), is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

'Don’t Fear the Reaper' by Blue Öyster Cult

This '70s rock tune gets new life every year — and makes us all question if Romeo and Juliet are actually together for all of eternity. So, thoughts?

'Highway to Hell' by AC/DC

AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” is sure to take you a wild ride. Although it'll make a great addition to your Halloween playlist, it's also fitting for your next family road trip — totally your call!

'The Purple People Eater' by Sheb Wooley

This one's for the kids (and the kids at heart). In case you need a reminder, this 1950's hit by Sheb Wooley tells the tale of a one-eyed, one-horned, purple-people-eating alien that comes to Earth to join a rock band.

'Season of the Witch' by Donovan

Although it appeared in "Season of the Witch," the 1972 movie about housewives that get mixed up in witchcraft, this song was actually recorded by Donovan a few years prior. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page even played guitar on the original recording, according to Billboard .

'Clap for the Wolfman' by The Guess Who

This super-catchy song by The Guess Who is guaranteed to get everyone singing and clapping along. It's actually a tribute to radio DJ Wolfman Jack, and you'll even hear his voice several times throughout the tune.

'Hedwig’s Theme' by John Williams

Calling all "Harry Potter" fans! This classic from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" will transform your house into Hogwarts — for a few minutes, at least.

'You Can Do Magic' by America

This infectious ‘80s pop record is all about casting spells, getting hypnotized and seeing things that aren’t really there — all ingredients for an awesome Halloween song.

'Bark at the Moon' by Ozzy Osbourne

The one-time singer of Black Sabbath is the self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness," and this song is all the proof we need. With lyrics about waking the dead and finding heaven in the mouth of hell (yikes!), this one might be the scariest song on the list.

'The Blob' by The Five Blobs

Beware of the blob — it creeps, leaps, glides and slides. This completely silly (but undeniably singable) song is from the 1950’s movie by the same name.

'People Are Strange' by Echo and The Bunnymen

If you haven’t seen “The Lost Boys,” this Doors cover will give you a sense of what the cult classic vampire film is all about. Press play and prepare to be transported to Santa Carla, the "Murder Capital of the World."

'The Phantom of the Opera Overture' by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Sounding like a spooky carnival (clowns = scary), this instrumental overture from “Phantom of Opera” is heavy-handed on the organ and the drama.

'Witchy Woman' by the Eagles

Rumor has it that this vintage Eagles song was inspired by Stevie Nicks, but, according to the Eagles’ Don Henley , it’s actually about women in the ‘70s practicing white witchcraft. Either way, this tune will have you spellbound.

'Abracadabra' by Steve Miller Band

Play this song to cast a spell on your Halloween party guests. Just be sure to have your magician hat ready!

'Materia Primoris (The X-Files Theme)' by Mark Snow

The truth is out there — and it's that this song is loved by all people, even those who've never seen the hit ‘90s TV show, “The X-Files.”

'Witchcraft' by Frank Sinatra

It’s all about witchcraft, wicked witchcraft! Though it wasn’t originally intended to be a Halloween song, this Frank Sinatra smash has grown to become a favorite during the spookiest time of year.

'Theme From Halloween' by John Carpenter

More than 30 years after its release, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” remains the gold standard for slasher films. Crank up the movie's theme ahead of the newest release in the franchise, slated for October 2022.

'Bad Moon Rising' by Creedence Clearwater Revival

This classic by Creedence Clearwater Revival strikes the perfect ominous tone, aka it won't bring down the mood of everyone at the party.

'I Want Candy' by Bow Wow Wow

The chorus sums up the whole point of Halloween: You want candy — and lots of it.

'Time Warp' by Richard O'Brien

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has firmly established itself as a madcap movie for the ages, and its breakout song, “Time Warp,” is vital to any Halloween playlist.

'O Fortuna' by Carl Orff (London Philharmonic Orchestra)

This intense, operatic piece of classical music is sure to bring the drama. Play it on loop to make your trick-or-treaters feel like they stepped into a movie scene.

'Psycho Killer' by Talking Heads

Looking for a Halloween movie to watch? Add “Psycho” to the cue, then add "Psycho Killer" to your Halloween playlist to stay in the spooky spirit.

'Halloween Spooks' by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

This jazzy trio sums up the spooks that Halloween brings. Oooh-wah!

'Myer’s House' by John Carpenter

Nothing says “Help! I’m being stalked by a lunatic serial killer on Halloween," like this song from the original "Halloween" soundtrack. This one will have you checking under the bed before you go to sleep.

'Good Vibrations' by The Beach Boys

"Good Vibrations" is everyone's favorite beach song — unless, of course, you've watched "Us." Then it scares the daylights out of you.

'Heffalumps and Woozles' by The Disney Studio Chorus

How can a song from “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” be scary? Give it a listen and you'll understand.

'In the Midnight Hour' by Wilson Pickett

Everyone knows that ghosts and goblins come out when the clock strikes midnight. This song celebrates witching hour — and will get everyone dancing.

'Full Moon' by The Black Ghosts

If you’re hosting a “Twilight” movie marathon for Halloween, then this automatically goes on the list. Whether you’re Team Edward or Jacob (duh, the winner is obvious), we can all agree that “Full Moon” is as spooky as it gets.

'Toccata & Fugue in D Minor' by Johann Sebastian Bach (Academy of St. Christopher Orchestra)

Yet another classical song associated with Halloween, this centuries-old masterpiece is literally the musical version of a Transylvanian castle during a thunderstorm.

'Friends on the Other Side' by Randy Newman

With lyrics about voodoo and spooky premonitions, this song from Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" is deliciously dark and kid-friendly.

'Duel of the Fates' by John Williams

Set this high-octane piece of classical music to your Halloween show for an epic night of "Star Wars"-inspired fun.

'You’re Dead' by Norma Tanega

Fans of “What We Do in the Shadows,” already know this macabre song by Norma Tanega. Even if you haven't seen the movie or TV show, "You're Dead" is sure to get your toes tapping even though the lyrics are all about — you guessed it — being dead.

'Double Trouble' by John Williams

Something wicked this way comes in John Williams’ short, but oh-so-thrilling track off the “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” soundtrack.

'Cry Little Sister' by Gerard McMann

The theme song from the popular vampire movie, “The Lost Boys,” is dark, menacing and just right for when you come across a gang of bloodsucking vampires.

'Tales From the Crypt' by Danny Elfman

HBO’s "Tales from the Crypt" may have ended in 1996, but its spooky theme song lives on.

'Midnight, The Stars and You' by Al Bowlly

Recorded way back in the 1930s, this song sounds innocent enough — unless you’ve seen “The Shining.” In which case, it’ll send chills right down your spine.

'Magic' by Pilot

This classic Pilot song, which was remastered in 2003, is total Halloween magic — even if you never believe it’s not so.

'Tubular Bells (Pt. 1)' by Mike Oldfield

"The Exorcist" is definitely not for the faint-of-heart. Even if you're not a fan of scary movies, it’s eerie instrumental theme will pair well with any of your Halloween activities.

'Day- O (Banana Boat Song)' by Harry Belafonte

This folk song from the "King of Calypso" will forever be associated with the iconic dinner scene in the 1988 movie, “Beetlejuice.” Watch and see why.

'Grim Grinning Ghosts' by The Melomen

Happy haunts will materialize when you listen to "Grim Grinning Ghosts," perhaps better known as the music from The Haunted Mansion ride at Disney theme parks.

‘Every Day is Halloween’ by Ministry

The Ministry perfectly captures the ‘80s synth vibe in this submersive song. Crank it up at your vintage-inspired Halloween party to really play into the theme.

'Rhiannon' by Fleetwood Mac

Stevie Nicks' witchy-sounding vocals on "Rhiannon" make this Fleetwood Mac classic a must on your Halloween rundown.

'Addams Family' by Vic Mizzy

Nothing says "Halloween" like Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday and Pugsley Addams. The most ghoulish family on the block remain eternally popular along with the TV show's enduring theme song.

'Heads Will Roll' by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

You'll lose your head over this one (pun totally intended). This creepy song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is essentially an ode to the guillotine and encourages everyone to dance until they're ... dead.

'Bury a friend' by Billie Eilish

Where do we go when we fall asleep? Who knows, but this Billie Eilish tune (and accompanying video) are spooky enough to make you go to bed with the lights on.

'Evil Woman' by Electric Light Orchestra

Nothing scarier than an evil woman bent on making your life miserable. ELO's classic from 1975 makes the perfect addition to your Halloween playlist.

More Halloween fun right here

  • Best Halloween movies for kids and familie s
  • The best witch movies of all time
  • Ghost stories that'll send shivers down your spine

best spooky rock songs

Sarah is a lifestyle and entertainment reporter for TODAY who covers holidays, celebrities and everything in between.

30 best Halloween songs, from Alice Cooper to AC/DC, Michael Jackson and Black Sabbath

Need a spooky soundtrack to set off your Halloween party this year?

Here's a look at 30 classics guaranteed to put you in the mood for the ultimate rock 'n' roll holiday weekend — Devil's Night Saturday, Halloween Sunday and feeling like a zombie all day Monday.

A few of these choices are painfully obvious Halloween staples.

"Monster Mash," for instance.

But that song is child's play compared to a lot of these choices. And I don't mean "Child's Play," the movie with Chucky, the murdering doll. That was actually scary. I mean child's play as in sticky kids' stuff, as opposed to Alice Cooper staring longingly into cadaver eyes or Bauhaus paying tribute to film legend Bela Lugosi of "Dracula" fame.

We're just doing our part to keep Halloween frightfully on point here.

Alice Cooper, 'I Love the Dead'

I could have filled the list with Alice Cooper songs. In fact, I did a separate list called the Ultimate Alice Cooper Halloween playlist if you want to dig a little deeper. It seemed more fair for the sake of this list to limit each artist to a single track. And this one is a ghoul-tide gem, from the opening verse, "I love the dead before they're cold. Their bluing flesh for me to hold. Cadaver eyes upon me see ... " Pause. "Nothing." Other lines that make this song the greatest Halloween track ever? "I never even knew your now-rotting face." "While friends and lovers mourn your silly grave, I have other uses for you, darling." And the sing-along chorus is genius. The only thing missing is a children's choir. Ahh, restraint ....

What was Alice Cooper like in high school? Friends and bandmates share stories

The Who, 'Boris the Spider'

John Entwistle's demented genius fueled a number of the Who's most offbeat early tracks, including this — a creepy, creepy, crawly, crawly ode to a spider named Boris. The dark, descending bass line makes it sound like horror-movie soundtrack fare, and Entwistle's voice on the chorus is particularly creepy. By the final verse, he's gone from merely observing the spider to fearing the spider to beating the spider to death with a book. As the late, great bassist puts it, "He's come to a sticky end."

Same as the old boss? Not exactly. But The Who did their legacy proud in Phoenix 

Bauhaus, 'Bela Lugosi's Dead'

A Hungarian film star best remembered for his starring role in "Dracula," Lugosi made an ideal subject for a Bauhaus single. And these goth-rock pioneers delivered with a haunting post-punk tapestry of strange guitar effects, a dark, descending bass line and lead singer Peter Murphy eventually making his way to the mike to deliver the eulogy several minutes in: "The bats have left the bell tower. The victims have been bled. Red velvet lines the black box. Bela Lugosi's dead."

David Bowie, 'Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)'

The title track to David Bowie's 1980 classic "Scary Monsters" finds the former Ziggy Stardust observing a woman's descent into madness and, as such, those super creeps and scary monsters may be nothing more than figments of a mind gone mad. Or are they?

Playlist: 20 best David Bowie songs of all time

Screamin' Jay Hawkins, 'I Put a Spell on You'

Long before Alice had met his untimely demise in a guillotine, Screamin' Jay Hawkins was making the world safe for spooky rock-and roll-theatrics in the '50s. Carried onstage in a flaming coffin, Hawkins would rise from the box wearing a black satin vampire cape and serenade a skull named Henry, which Hawkins would carry around on a stick, with songs like this. Hawkins has said he was drunk the day he cut "I Put a Spell on You" and that explains a lot, but his performance still brings chills with maniacal laughter punctuating what sounds like the ranting of a half-mad stalker. "I put a spell on you because you're mine," Hawkins sneers in the opening verse. And it gets creepier from there.

AC/DC, 'Highway to Hell'

From AC/DC's final album with Bon Scott on vocals, "Highway to Hell" finds Scott romanticizing hell as the ultimate rock-and-roll promised land. "My friends are gonna be there, too," the singer gleefully proclaims. Or course, he didn't know he was about to die. But chances are, he would've sung that bit about a "season ticket on a one-way ride" regardless. The guitar riff is among the finest AC/DC ever hammered home, while the solo does more with the raunchier side of the Chuck Berry template than any lead guitar break since the early Kinks.

Roky Erickson, 'I Walked With a Zombie'

The former leader of psychedelic garage-rock legends the 13th Floor Elevators, Roky Erickson recorded this wholly believable account of his walk with a zombie at the helm of a new band, the Aliens, in 1981. It shares a title with a classic zombie film from 1943, and lyrically there's not much too it, with Erickson repeating "I walked with a zombie, I walked with a zombie, I walked with a zombie last night" until it's clear the zombies hypnotized his fractured mind and sent him back to share his haunted visions with the world.

More: Shania Twain is coming to Phoenix. What to know about her 2023 concert at Ak-Chin Pavilion

The Minus 5, 'Lies of the Living Dead'

This garage-punk classic from the desk of Scott McCaughey finds the Minus 5 leaning into yet another less-than-subtle variation on the three-chord stomp of "Gloria" as McCaughey calls the living dead out on the lies they've been feeding him, all that talk of elevator clouds and bugs that braid your hair. The singalong chorus is priceless (the "lie, lie, lies of the living dead"), and thankfully someone thought to add an organ sound straight out of 1966. It's one of three songs on this list you can find on a CD called "Little Steven's Underground Garage Presents Halloween a Go-Go."

Black Sabbath, 'Black Sabbath'

Church bells tolling in a thunderstorm? They've got the horror-movie vibe established long before the band itself emerges from the sludge with the scariest, most devilicious riff the world had ever known. And this is all before the singing kicks in. "What is this that stands before me," Ozzy Osbourne wonders. "Figure in black, which points at me?" Turns out it's Satan, and despite his unearned reputation as a longhaired friend of Satan, Ozzy's running scared and begging God for help before the track is out. A truly terrifying epic.

Ozzy Osbourne, 'Bark at the Moon'

In which the voice that wondered "What is this that stands before me?" years earlier regales us with the tale of an unspecified yet clearly undead creature barking at the moon. "Years spent in torment buried in a nameless grave," he sings. "Now he has risen / Miracles would have to save / Those that the beast is looking for / Listen in awe and you'll hear him." Guitar enthusiasts, of course, were just as likely to listen in awe to Jake E. Lee tearing it up on the neck of his guitar.

Motley Crue, 'Shout at the Devil'

In which the men of Motley Crue tell you to shout at the devil, portrayed here variously as "the wolf screaming lonely in the nigh," "the blood stain on the stage," "the tear in your eye," "the knife in your back" and "rage." And that's just the opening verse. It takes a damn sight more than that to scare Vince Neil, though. "We'll stand and deliver, be strong and laugh," he sings going into the chorus. "And shout at the devil."

Donovan, 'Season of the Witch'

It's hard to say what witches have to do with knitting, really, but it's Donovan. You'll have that. If he thinks "You've got to pick up every stitch" is a perfectly natural lead-in to "Must be the season of the witch," well, chances are, he had his reasons. And this is the Season of the Witch, you know. What better time to re-explore this underrated folk-rock gem from one of rock's great unsung heroes?

Talking Heads, 'Psycho Killer'

An agitated David Byrne twitches his way through a fairly convincing portrait of a psycho killer, backed by an ominous bass groove and jittery funk guitar. "I can't seem to face up to the facts," he sings. "I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax / I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire / Don't touch me I'm a real live wire." In the liner notes to "Once in a Lifetime," Byrne notes, "When I started writing this (I got help later), I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad. Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies."

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The Dead Weather, 'Hang You From the Heavens'

That may be Jack White on the beat, but Alison Mosshart of the Kills takes center stage on this first-album highlight, following "I like to grab you up by the hair and hang you up from the heavens" with "I like to grab you by the hair and drag you to the devil" in one of her sexier vocal performances yet, which is saying a lot. The groove is a monster, but Alison's scarier.

The Rolling Stones, 'Sympathy for the Devil'

Most grown-ups at the time were already positioning Mick Jagger as the devil anyway. So why not play him in the greatest Rolling Stones song ever? The lyrics are genius, placing Jagger's Satan at the scene of several key historical events. He's there when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain. He's in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution, killing the Czar and his ministers. He's in a tank with a general's rank when the Blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank. He's even there to shout "Who killed the Kennedys?" which sets up Jagger's finest hour as a lyricist: "when after all, it was you and me." There is no Satan, Jagger's saying, only people doing truly evil things and then blaming a sinister god they created.

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Michael Jackson, 'Thriller'

Vincent Price was put to better use by Alice Cooper in a very similar scenario on "Welcome to My Nightmare." But Price is really good here, too. And while it may work better as a soundtrack to a classic music video than an actual song, it's still a good song. And the beat is undeniable. I know a lot of people like this single more than I do. But what can I say? I'm not like other guys. I mean, I'm different.

Blue Oyster Cult, '(Don't Fear) The Reaper'

But wait, isn't Halloween all about fearing the reaper? Yes, it is. But what could be more chilling than coming to terms with the thought of our own impending doom? In the opening verse, Blue Oyster Cult reminds us that "seasons don't fear the reaper, nor do the wind, the sun or the rain." Cut to the backing vocals chiming in with "We can be like they are." It's a beautiful sentiment, really. The scariest beautiful sentiment I've ever heard.

The Misfits, 'Skulls'

The Misfits are, without a doubt, the greatest Halloween band in the history of punk. They even have a song called "Halloween." But "Skulls" remains their morbid masterpiece. In the opening verse, Glenn Danzig sets the scene with corpses hanging limp and headless on his wall, blood draining down like devil's rain. And it somehow gets sicker from there, like a really good "Criminal Minds" as written by Ramones fans with a twisted sense of humor.

Danny Elfman, 'This is Halloween'

You can't go wrong with Danny Elfman's "This is Halloween" as performed by the citizens of Halloween Town in Tim Burton's yuletide classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas," but it's creepier when Marilyn Manson does it. And his vocal treatment is, surprisingly, the more cartoonish of the two.

Siouxsie and the Banshees, 'Halloween'

Halloween is something of a metaphor is this shadowy post-punk treat from Siouxsie and the Banshees. She wears her silence like a mask and her memories like a shroud and murmurs like a ghost as guitar accents stab at the darkness like a member of the Manson Family, or maybe the Jam. She does sing "trick or treat," though, so it sounds like a straight Halloween song to anyone half-listening.

The Ramones, 'Pet Sematary'

The Ramones cut this song for the soundtrack to the Stephen King film of the same name. And Joey Ramone's puts a bittersweet spin on the thought of being brought back to life. "I don't want to be buried in a Pet Sematary," he sings over chugging guitars on the wistful chorus hook. "I don't want to live my life again."

The New York Dolls, 'Frankenstein'

It's clear where the New York Dolls' sympathies lie in the Frankenstein story. With the monster. As well they should (although they call the monster Frankenstein rather than Frankenstein's monster). "Is it a crime for you to fall in love with Frankenstein?" David Johansen snarls while the Dolls make a racket that sounds more like the birth of punk than the birth of a Frankenstein monster, going on to wonder, "Who's the one you're loving / Misunderstood like a Frankenstein?" And he signs off with one final question, posed over ringing, distorted guitar chords. "Do you think that you could make it with Frankenstein?" Well, do you?

The Mummies, '(You Must Fight to Live) On the Planet of the Apes'

Garage punks wrapped as mummies paying tribute to the greatest science-fiction movie ever made? What could possibly be more Halloween? The fact that it's a faithful reading of the plot as retold over trashy guitar chords only makes it that much better. Consider the opening verse: "I landed on a planet not unlike my own / The men were caged like beasts, monkeys free to roam / Soldier apes on horseback, soldier apes on foot / Learned apes with orange hair, give you dirty looks." I've only seen that movie maybe 40 times, but that seems pretty spot-on.

Rob Zombie, 'Living Dead Girl'

The man makes horror films AND haunted houses. How could we ignore him? Zombie sets the tone by sampling the trailer for Italian horror film "La Figlia di Frankenstein" (or "Lady Frankenstein") and follows through with samples of or references to Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left," "Daughters of Darkness," Vincent Price's "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine" and "Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS." That's some ghoul-tide pedigree right there.

The Birthday Party, 'Release the Bats'

This shockabilly classic boasts an unhinged Nick Cave vocal yelping, "Bite! and " "Release the bats!" before sharing the tale of his baby, a cool machine who doesn't mind a bit of dirt and says things like "Damn that damn that horror bat sex vampire." She's a wild one, as is Cave, who seems to take particular demented glee in the repeating of the line, "Sex vampire."

The Cramps, 'Goo Goo Muck'

Lux Interior sets the scene on this swaggering cover of a Ronnie Cook song with "Oh when the sun goes down and the moon comes up / I turn into a teenage goo-goo muck / Yeah I cruise through the city and I roam the streets / Lookin for something that is nice to eat / You better duck, when I show up / The Goo Goo Muck." What is a Goo Goo Muck? The only thing we know for sure is it will eat your head.

The Sonics, 'The Witch'

Among the wildest names in '60s garage, the Sonics bring their A-game on this raucous warning to avoid the title character, setting the scene with "Say there's a girl who's new in town / Well, you better watch out now or she´ll put you down / 'Cause she's an evil chick / Say she's the witch." It's hard to say if they mean to imply she's an actual witch but in the second verse, they do point out that she has long black hair and that she'll make you itch, which some sort of spell and not as STD.

The Kinks, 'Wicked Annabella'

An uncharacteristically spooky highlight of the greatest album in the history of rock and roll ("The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society"), it tells the story of a witch named Annabella who's mixing a brew that no one's ever seen n a dark and misty house where no Christian man has been." Her relatives won't even say, "Hello." That's how scary she is. And it only gets better when it turns into a cautionary tale for children. "Little children who are good should always go to sleep at night," Dave Davies warns, "'Cause wicked Annabella is up in the sky / Hopin' they will open their eyes."

Interview:  Dave Davies reflects on classic 'Village Green Preservation Society' album 

The Horrors, 'Jack the Ripper'

Well, they are called the Horrors. And Jack the Ripper is a notorious serial killer. Plus, there's lots of tortured screams and a bassline that sounds like the B-52s' "Planet Claire" (or possible the "Peter Gunn" theme) as played by someone fleeing down deserted alleys for his or her life. And it helps that the vocal just gets more demented as it goes along, especially the second time he says he's "walking down the streets of London late at night."

Bobby 'Boris' Pickett, 'Monster Mash'

This Halloween novelty song by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett topped the Billboard Hot 100 heading into Halloween in 1962. And like Jason, it keeps coming back for more. 

According to legend, Pickett wrote the song after slipping a Boris Karloff imitation into a cover of the Diamonds' "Little Darlin,'" and the audience ate it up. So he and his bandmate Lenny Capizzi decided to write a song around that imitation. 

The record begins with the sound of a coffin lid opening before Pickett sets the tone in character, as a mad scientist. "I was working in the lab, late one night," he begins, "when my eyes beheld an eerie sight/ For my monster from his slab, began to rise/ And suddenly to my surprise, he did the Mash, he did the Monster Mash."

The Monster Mash is a fictitious dance craze inspired by the Mashed Potato dance craze of the early '60s. 

Reach the reporter at [email protected]. Twitter.com/EdMasley

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Ultimate Classic Rock

Rock’s Scariest Songs

There are plenty of classic rock songs out there about all kinds of scary things: ghosts, monsters, crazy exes. But very few of them are soil-your-pants scary. Whether it's their music, lyrics or an overriding sense of dread, the tracks on our list of Rock’s Scariest Songs will have you looking over your shoulder in fear.

"Dead Babies"

From: ‘Killer’ (1971)

Everyone knows that behind the ghoulish makeup and morbid subjects, Alice Cooper is really a sweet guy putting on a show. But this truly disturbing song from 1971’s Killer  album may make you think twice, especially after you hear the baby's spine-chilling wail.

"Fear of the Dark"

From: ‘Fear of the Dark’ (1992)

Iron Maiden tackled one of the most common and fundamental terrors known to man with the sinister title track from their ninth album . Even scarier, singer Bruce Dickinson would soon exit for a solo career.

"Ghost Song"

From: ‘An American Prayer’ (1978)

On the surface, "Ghost Song" probably doesn't come off as all that frightening. But when you consider its release came seven years after Jim Morrison ’s death, that crooning from the grave can be pretty unnerving to say the least.

"The Ripper"

From: ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ (1976)

Judas Priest weren’t messing around when they penned this dread-inducing ditty about Jack the Ripper, which cleverly utilizes Rob Halford ’s piercing screech and violent staccato guitar strums that replicate a stabbing knife. Mercifully, it’s all over in less than three minutes, and the victim can, hopefully, rest in peace (or is that pieces ?).

"Mr. Crowley"

From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

As with Alice Cooper, mainstream notoriety has largely softened Ozzy Osbourne ’s one-time boogeyman reputation, but his songs are still kinda spooky -- particularly this ode to English occultist Aleister Crowley, thanks in large part to Don Airey’s evocative, and classically inspired, organ introduction.

"Hotel California"

From: ‘Hotel California’ (1976)

With its sparkling acoustic melody, gentle swing and welcoming title, "Hotel California" inevitably lulls listeners into a false sense of security. Eventually you're drawn to the song's lyrics -- specifically some troubling rituals that take place at the hotel that's located in the far corners of the Twilight Zone. Enter at your own risk.

From: ‘Bloodrock 2’

If the Texan proto-metal sextet Bloodrock are remembered for anything, it’s this astonishingly vivid first-person narrative (based on true events!) about a pilot involved in an airplane crash, and his imagined final observations on the way to a hospital ... where he's pronounced “dead on arrival.” So scary, "D.O.A." was widely banned by radio stations but still managed to climb to No. 36.

"Careful With That Axe, Eugene’"

From: ‘Ummagumma’ (1969)

Pink Floyd deserve some kind of award for their career-spanning dedication to freaking people out, but of all their scary songs, Ummagumma ’s positively petrifying "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" tops them all. Think a song needs frightening lyrics to terrify? Just turn off the lights and listen to this atmospheric masterpiece until it climaxes with Roger Waters ’ blood-curdling screams.

From: ‘ … And Justice for All’ (1988)

Leave it to Metallica to camouflage the most infectious ballad in thrash-metal history in a mortifying song about a war casualty who can no longer see, hear, move or speak. "One" is a soul-crushing, claustrophobic trip to the abyss ... and it gives us the jitters just thinking about it.

"Black Sabbath"

From: ‘Black Sabbath’ (1970)

No band has done more than Black Sabbath to make rock 'n' roll a scary proposition for fans, their parents and self-proclaimed moral-authority figures. And it all begins with their eponymous debut ’s terrifying title track. "Black Sabbath" plays like a haunted-house thrill ride, and you just know you’ll go back ... again and again and again.

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These are the songs that you DON'T want to listen to on a dark night when you're all alone (especially if it's raining, which tends to heighten the effect, at least in the movies). In fact, these classic rock songs are perfect for Halloween.

"Ghost Song" - The Doors

Rhino/Elektra Records

Jim Morrison's lyrics often reflected his fascination with the spirit world of ancient Native Americans.

The music and voices are all around us. Choose, they croon, the ancient ones. The time has come again. Choose now, they croon, Beneath the moon, Beside an ancient lake

"The Battle of Evermore" - Led Zeppelin

Given Jimmy Page's well-known interest in the occult, it isn't unusual that a Led Zep song would make it onto this list.

The drums will shake the castle wall, the ringwraiths ride in black, Ride on ... Oh dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light. The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back.

"Sympathy For The Devil" - Rolling Stones

 Bert Verhoeff / Anefo / Wikimedia Commons

The devil is in Mick Jagger's lyric, written from Lucifer's own perspective. The opening track on 1968's Beggars Banquet has since been covered often, notably by Blood Sweat & Tears (my personal favorite version,) Ozzy Osbourne and Guns N' Roses.

But what's confusing you Is just the nature of my game. Just as every cop is a criminal, And all the sinners saints, As heads is tails, Just call me Lucifer 'cause I'm in need of some restraint. So if you meet me Have some courtesy Have some sympathy, and some taste. Use all your well-learned politesse Or I'll lay your soul to waste

"This House Is Haunted" - Alice Cooper

Sven Mandel/Wikimedia Commons

I don't know about you, but, metaphorical though it may be, I think I can actually feel that cold wind, especially when I close my eyes and remember what ol' Coop looks like without his makeup on ...

I was sitting in my room, dark and gray and crying Someone in my life, I fear, was at the point of dying A cold wind blew right up my spine, it was the break of dawn A little voice way deep inside told me she was gone

"Wicked Annabella" - The Kinks

Klaus Hiltscher/Wikimedia Commons 

Credit for this one goes to one of our readers, who says, "the one which scared me most was the dark hints behind the lyrics of 'Wicked Annabella'" which is on The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society . No kidding!

In a dark and misty house, Where no Christian man has been, Wicked Annabella mixes a brew That no one's ever seen. Don't go into woods tonight, 'Cause underneath the sticks and stones Are lots of little demons enslaved by Annabella Waiting just to carry you home

Hey, did anybody else feel that cold chill just now ...?

"Black Sabbath" - Black Sabbath

Rhino/Warner Bros. Records

The group, the song, and the album all have the same name. That alone should signify something evil, don't you think?

Big black shape with eyes of fire Telling people their desire Satan's sitting there, he's smiling Watch those flames get higher and higher ... Child cries out for his mother Mother's screaming in the fire Satan points at me again Opens the door to push me in

"Swamp Witch" - Jim Stafford

When The Cowboy Sings/Hee Haw/YouTube 

The fact that the lyrics are spoken rather than sung makes for an especially eerie effect. 

Blackwater Hattie lived back in the swamp where the strange green reptiles crawl. Snakes hang thick from the cypress trees like sausage on a smokehouse wall; Where the swamp is alive with a thousand eyes and all of 'em watchin' you; Stay off the track of Hattie's shack in the back of the Black Bayou.

"Legend Of Wooley Swamp" - Charlie Daniels Band

Another swamp, another haunting scenario, another cautionary tale. 

There's things out there in the middle of them woods That make a strong man die from fright. Things that crawl and things that fly And things that creep around on the ground. And they say the ghost of Lucius Clay gets up and he walks around.

The moral of this story: be careful who you rob and kill when you're near a swamp in a place with a name like Booger Woods.

"Werewolves of London" - Warren Zevon

In typical Zevon fashion, while the music is relatively light, the lyrics are decidedly dark.

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain ... Better stay away from him He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
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Readers’ Poll: 10 Scariest Songs of All Time

By Brittany Spanos

Brittany Spanos

With Halloween spirit in the air, it's important to remember that spooky, demonic tunes that can perfectly soundtrack the holiday can be found throughout rock & roll. Whether fear and evil is an artist's schtick, like Alice Cooper or Black Sabbath, or its usage or interpretation in pop culture causes the music to take on a new meaning, numerous sounds throughout rock, pop and rap history have elicited fear from listeners. In preparation for the spooky fall season, we asked our readers to vote for the scariest songs of all time. Here are the results.

The Doors, “The End”

best spooky rock songs

Jim Morrison turned Greek tragedy into a bad psychedelic trip with his lengthy, wild and spontaneous "The End." The song has the band falling down an Oedipal rabbit hole with some spoken word from the mysterious singer in its second half where a narrator threatens to kill his father and "fuck" his mother. The song was workshopped over the short period when the Doors were the house band at legendary venue Whisky a Go Go and it eventually got them fired.

Pink Floyd, “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”

best spooky rock songs

Pink Floyd's famous 1968 B-side is a perfect example of how delivery can incite more fear than the actual subject matter. In the song, David Gilmour whispers the song's title and only a few other lines between Roger Waters' maniacal, blood-curdling screams above the droning, hypnotic music. 

Black Sabbath, “War Pigs”

best spooky rock songs

"War Pigs" is easily one of Black Sabbath's most recognizable songs and guitar riffs. On the track, the band contemplates evil and war with imagery of witchcraft and sorcery. The song was originally titled "Walpurgis," which is the name of the witches' sabbath. 

Alice Cooper, “Ballad of Dwight Fry”

best spooky rock songs

Disturbing and depressing, "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" is a masterpiece of Alice Cooper's abilities to combine glam theatrics with hard rock to make something truly terrifying. "Dwight Fry" is told from the perspective of a man trapped in a mental asylum, and the listener only hears from him after a young girl asks her mother when her father will be coming home. Cooper's desperate screams of, "I gotta get out of here!" halfway through the song make the track all the more haunting.

Suicide, “Frankie Teardrop”

best spooky rock songs

Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop" follows the 20-year-old title character from his job in the factory to his home where he kills his wife, kid and self in the middle of a mental breakdown from his impoverished life. The sparse, claustrophobic song is a nightmarish narrative made horrifying by Alan Vega's screams during the murderous climax. The song served as a significant inspiration for Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska .

Alice Cooper, “Steven”

best spooky rock songs

The character Steven is at the center of Cooper's 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare . He's either a child or a man with a child's mentality whose nightmares are explored over the songs. He appears over the course of several Cooper releases but the song "Steven" is the eeriest exploration of the voices in his head.

Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells”

best spooky rock songs

The 1973 prog rock classic is a simple, moving piece of piano-driven music made terrifying by its usage. The opening piano notes of "Tubular Bells" was used in the iconic horror film The Exorcist , giving the song a spooky new life within the same year of its release.

The Beatles, “Revolution 9”

best spooky rock songs

The avant-garde sound collage "Revolution 9" was the Beatles' most experimental track and also, at over eight minutes, their longest song to ever be officially released. It's had a dark place in history, having been deemed a source of inspiration for murderous cult leader Charles Manson who interpreted many of the Beatles' songs on The White Album  as a prediction of an upcoming race war between black and white Americans. 

Bloodrock, “D.O.A.”

best spooky rock songs

Washed in gloom, Bloodrock's "D.O.A." is told from the perspective of someone who has just endured a plane crash. Sirens play in the background as the narrator takes in the bloody scene around him. 

Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”

best spooky rock songs

Once described as metal's "most evil track" by Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Black Sabbath's eponymous song launched heavy metal as a sinister new subgenre of hard rock. The spooky, terrifying song about Satan ending humanity was inspired by an ominous event experienced by Geezer Butler, who saw a shadowy figure lurking in his room after Ozzy Osbourne gave him a book on witchcraft. The book was gone the next day.

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20 Biggest Halloween Songs of All Time on the Hot 100

Undying classics from the Killboard Rot 100.

By Joe Lynch

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Disco Ball  With Pumpkins Face In Nightclub With Fog And Light Effect

Halloween songs might not be as celebrated — or profitable — as Christmas music (though that’s changing a bit), but there’s no denying the grave reality that people go batty for spooky songs as Oct. 31 approaches.

Simply put, folks who want to avoid spooky songs around All Hollows’ Eve don’t have a ghost of a chance. And while we all have our favorites, there are some seasonally appropriate songs that loom larger in Billboard Hot 100 history than others.

We decided to round up the 20 Biggest Halloween Songs based on their Hot 100 chart achievements (see below for a detailed explanation). No bones about it — the results might leave some people howling mad. Frightening as it may be to fans of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” doesn’t actually make the top 20 of this list. (“Thriller” peaked at No. 4 in 1984 and spent 22 weeks on the chart.) Although it’s inarguably become a perennial staple – one as essential to the season as those holding Frankenstein’s monster together — it doesn’t quite make the list.

So what did? No need for us to be cryptic – read on and find out.

Billboard’s Biggest Halloween Songs ranking is based on weekly performance on the Hot 100 (through the Oct. 14, 2023-dated charts), and includes Halloween-themed hits or songs with a seasonal word in its title (“spooky,” “devil,” “monster,” “witch,” etc.) Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates during various periods.

Additional research by Xander Zellner.

Roy Orbison, “Running Scared”

Hot 100 Peak : No. 1

Peak date : 6/5/1961

The vibe: Haunted, histrionic

A favorite of: Easily spooked marathoners

Listen here .

The Charlie Daniels Band, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia”

Hot 100 Peak: No. 3

Peak date: 9/15/79

The vibe: Rollicking, unstoppable  

A favorite of: Cowboys from hell

Listen here.

Santana, “Black Magic Woman”

Hot 100 Peak : No. 4

Peak Date: 1/9/71

The Vibe : Witchy, libidinous   

A Favorite of : Catherine Monvoisin

Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”

Hot 100 Peak: No. 2

Peak Date : 6/28/69

The Vibe: Rootsy, easy-going   

A Favorite of: Wolf men, wolf women and wolf they/thems

Cliff Richard, "Devil Woman” 

Hot 100 Peak: No 6

Peak Date: 9/25/76

The Vibe: Rockin’, swingin’  

A Favorite of: Helen DEADy

Kodak Black, “Super Gremlin”

Peak Date: 3/19/22

The Vibe: Creepy, taunting

A Favorite of: Gizmo

Classics IV, “Spooky”

Peak Date: 2/10/68

The Vibe: Sultry, groovy

A Favorite of: Casper the Horny Ghost

Imagine Dragons, “Demons”

Hot 100 Peak: No. 6

Peak Date: 12/7/13

The Vibe: Fist-pumping, fist-bumping

A Favorite of: Frat Boy Beelzebub

INXS, “Devil Inside”

Hot 100 Peak: No 2

Peak Date: 4/16/88

The Vibe: Seductive, playful

A Favorite of : Indoor demons

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, “Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly”

Hot 100 Peak: No. 4

Peak Date: 11/26/66

The Vibe: Raucous, devil-may-care

A Favorite of: Sartorial Satan

Janet Jackson, “Black Cat”

Hot 100 Peak: No 1

Peak Date: 10/27/90

The Vibe : Hard-rocking, ferocious

A Favorite of : Edgar Allan Poe; Salem from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake, “Dead and Gone”

Peak Date : 2/28/09

The Vibe: World-weary, pessimistic   

A Favorite of: The Invisible Man

Cher, “Dark Lady”

Hot 100 Peak: No. 1

Peak Date : 3/23/74

The Vibe: Eerie, sly

A Favorite of: Home-wrecking fortune tellers

Rockwell, “Somebody’s Watching Me”

Hot 100 Peak: No. 2

Peak Date: 3/24/84

The Vibe: Paranoid, spooky

A Favorite of : Nepo babies

Bobby Brown, “On Our Own (From ‘Ghostbusters II’)”

Peak Date: 8/5/89

The Vibe: Boisterous, fresh  

A Favorite of: Vigo the Carpathian

Eminem feat. Rihanna, “The Monster”

Peak Date: 12/21/13

The Vibe: Harrowing, haunted

A Favorite of: Sulley and Mike

The Edgar Winter Group, “Frankenstein”

Peak Date: 5/26/73

The Vibe: Head-banging, swaggery  

A Favorite of: Frankensteins young and old

Post Malone feat. Ty Dolla $ign, “Psycho”

Peak Date: 6/16/18

The Vibe: Vibey. Just vibey, man…

A Favorite of: Norman Bates

Ray Parker Jr., “Ghostbusters”

Peak Date: 8/11/84

The Vibe: Party-starting, campy

A Favorite of: The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man  

Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, “Monster Mash”

Peak Date: 10/20/1962

The Vibe: Goofy, endearing

A Favorite of: Monsters of easy virtue

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Rock Songs That Will Creep the Hell Out of You

Chris Lane October 1, 2014 4:00AM

There have been popular songs with creepy or spooky lyrics since the beginning of rock music. Sure, entire subgenres are intentionally dark and scary, but when you filter out songs by shock-rockers, heavy metal bands and gothic groups, we are still left with plenty of songs that seem a little "off" in disturbing ways.

8. "Wildfire,"Michael Martin Murphy (1975) This gentle-sounding '70s soft-rock tune is a weird one for sure. The lyrics:

She comes down from Yellow Mountain On a dark, flat land she ride On a pony she named Wildfire With a whirlwind by her side On a cold Nebraska night

Oh, they say she died one winter When there came a killing frost And the pony she named Wildfire Busted down its stall In a blizzard he was lost

She ran calling 'Wildfire!' [x3] By the dark of the moon I planted But there came an early snow There's been a hoot-owl howling by my window now For six nights in a row She's coming for me, I know And on Wildfire we're both gonna go The rest of the lyrics

If I read this right, "Wildfire" is about some spooky ghost and her undead pony, coming down off a mountain in Nebraska to claim the soul of a hard-working farmer. The farmer appears to long for the sweet embrace of death, so it seems as if the spectral killer is something he's welcoming. That's pretty scary subject matter for a lilting '70s tune. Great song to listen to right before bed.

7. "D.O.A.," Bloodrock (1971) This is one example of a song that was written by a band that was probably trying to be spooky. I include it here because as far as I know, it was Bloodrock's only truly scary song, and the band itself is still a relatively obscure one that scored a hit with this creepy oddity. They were a Texas band from the Dallas area, so a lot of radio stations will play this tune around Halloween in our neck of the woods.

I remember, we were flying low, And hit something in the air

Laying here, looking at the ceiling, Someone lays a sheet across my chest. Something warm is flowing down my fingers Pain is flowing all through my back.

I try to move my arm and there's no feeling And when I look, I see there's nothing there. A face beside me stopped the totally bleeding The girl I knew has such a distant stare. The rest of the lyrics

Cool, I'll remember that stuff about flying low and hitting something in the air the next time I board a plane. Thanks, Bloodrock!

6. "Obsession," Siouxsie and the Banshees (1982) This is another case where some people might cry foul and say that Siouxsie and the Banshees were a gothic band and it makes sense that their songs are creepy. However, they carved out their own identity and were never really cookie-cutter "spooky" goths. They don't have a lot of songs specifically about death or vampires, or any of the cornier themes that many gothic bands seemed to gravitate towards.

No, what makes this song creepy is that it describes a person obsessed with another. Anyone who used to date within his or her local gothic scene would probably find a lot to relate to and to be creeped out by in this song.

Do you hear this, breath it's an obsessive breath Can you feel this beat? It's an obsessive heart beat Waiting to be joined with its obsession

I close my eyes but I can't sleep The thin membrane can't veil The branded picture of you

The signs and signals show, the traffic lights say, go Again you baffle me, pretending not to see, oh, me

I broke into your room, I broke down in my room Touched your belongings there and left a lock of my hair Another sign for you

You screamed into my face, get the hell out of my place Another sign for me, can you forgive me? For not understanding your ways The rest of the lyrics

Yeah... shiver.

5. "Can't Stand Losing You," the Police (1978) The Police started out as a relatively edgy band, but there's something incongruous about the generally nonthreatening and happy image of the band and this dark song about some guy about to kill himself to guilt-trip his recent ex.

I've called you so many times today And I guess it's all true what your girl-friends say That you don't ever want to see me again And your brother's gonna kill me and he's six feet ten

I guess you'd call it cowardice But I'm not prepared to go on like this

I can't, I can't, I can't stand losing I can't, I can't, I can't stand losing I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't stand losing you

I can't stand losing you I can't stand losing you I can't stand losing you

I see you sent my letters back And my L.P. records and they're all scratched I can't see the point in another day When nobody listens to a word I say

You can call it lack of confidence But to carry on living doesn't make no sense The rest of the lyrics

Yep, that's some pretty dark subject matter, and particularly dark delivered in the context of a catchy pop song.

Story continues on the next page.

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The best Halloween songs are frightfully good, horribly catchy, and a right old monster mash-up of floor-filling classics. Listen… if you dare…

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The best Halloween songs are frightfully good, horribly catchy, and a right old monster mash-up of floor-filling classics. Listen to these scary songs if you dare, because All Hallows’ Eve is upon us once again. Does the Devil really have all the best tunes? Our rundown of the best Halloween songs of all time seems to confirm that he does…

Listen to our Spooky Season playlist here.

​​64: The Clovers – Love Potion #9

​​Whatever other Halloween treats you may decide to consume, it would seem prudent to avoid imbibing the potentially fatal “Love Potion #9.” Prescribed as a cure-all by the mysterious palm-reading Madam Ruth in The Clovers’ take on the Lieber and Stoller-penned smash, this deadly elixir (“It smelled like turpentine/it looked like Indian ink”) acts as an aphrodisiac for the song’s hapless protagonist who then falls in love with everyone he meets – with disastrous results.

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Love Potion No. 9

63: The Eagles: Witchy Woman

A scary song of a different sort. The Eagles’ second hit single (and first Top Ten) was about as far from “Take It Easy” as it gets; there’s plenty more sexual paranoia here as Don Henley flashes back to an encounter that left his skin turning red. Apparently, he was reading about Zelda Fitzgerald at the time; he also does some vocal channeling of Stephen Stills.

62: ELO: Evil Woman

With its soaring strings, pop hooks, and disco rhythms, 1975’s “Evil Woman” is pure dark magic. Looking to take a more radio-friendly direction with his fifth studio album, ELO founder and creative force Jeff Lynne pulled out all of the stops – scoring himself a Platinum album and his first major hit with “Evil Woman.” Fun fact: in his lyric “There’s a hole in my head where the rain comes in” Lynne was referencing The Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole.”

61: The Ramones: Pet Sematary

Stephen King was a major Ramones fan and they loved him right back, name-checking him on the Pleasant Dreams album and then writing one of their last truly great songs for King’s film Pet Sematary . Though it’s a lot more jovial than the movie itself, Dee Dee’s lyric gives away some of the shivers in the plot, with a classic Ramones “I don’t wanna” in the chorus.

60: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand

Perhaps best known for its use in various films (like the Scream series) and TV ( Peaky Blinders ), this Nick Cave tune evokes the spooky season better than just about anyone. Despite its easy-going bass line and relative lack of dissonance, listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll understand why some regard it as one of the scariest songs of all time.

59: Pink Floyd – Sheep

Pink Floyd are often marked out as psychedelic stoners, but they had a few scary songs to their name. (“Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” anyone?) The guitar riffs on “Sheep” are the thing that makes this tune so frightening, with the instrument mimicking frightened sheep at various points.

58: Throbbing Gristle – Hamburger Lady

Want to see demons in your sleep? This magnum opus from Throbbing Gristle has barely-there vocals with only a crying synth for accompaniment. Good luck getting to sleep after listening to this truly scary song.

57: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Put a Spell On You

No Halloween songs playlist would be complete without Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You” It’s been covered countless times, but nothing beats the original, with Jay’s incredible vocal delivery.

56: Eminem feat. Rihanna – The Monster

Rihanna’s chorus makes this Eminem hip-hop chart-topper an excellent addition to any Halloween song playlist: “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed/Get along with the voices inside of my head/You’re tryin’ to save me, stop holding your breath/And you think I’m crazy, yeah, you think I’m crazy.”

Eminem ft. Rihanna - The Monster (Explicit) [Official Video]

55: David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

The distinctive guitar on David Bowie’s tune is performed by none other than Robert Fripp, who is known for making a guitar sound like just about anything. Paired with metallic percussion and this one is clearly one of David Bowie’s scariest songs, perfect for Halloween.

54: The Black Keys – Howlin’ for You

There are few sounds scarier than a howling wolf. But that’s not exactly what’s going on in this Black Keys song. Instead, the duo is professing their love with a stomping blues-y number that has a great sing-along chorus.

53: Andrew Gold – Spooky, Scary Skeletons

This goofy-sounding tune is an easy enough song to learn and, the longer it goes on, the creepier it gets. All of which makes it a perfect addition to any Halloween song playlist.

Spooky Scary Skeletons by Andrew Gold from Halloween Howls: Fun & Scary Music

52: Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

If you have a reaper running around your Halloween party, this scary song will be a perfect addition to the playlist. If anyone is dressed up as the guy ready to play the cowbell though, you may want to cover your ears for its duration.

51: Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Theme

One of the great horror themes of the 21st century, the ominous synths of the Stranger Things theme perfectly capture the vibe of the Netflix series.

50: Selena Gomez and Marshmello – Wolves

Despite its scary title and lyrics about running through various dark places, “Wolves” is essentially a love song. (All of that running is to “get to you.”) Even so, this perfect pop song is an excellent end-of-night cathartic love song for any Halloween party.

Selena Gomez, Marshmello - Wolves

49: Shakira: She Wolf

Not all Halloween songs are on the spooky end of the spectrum, as Shakira can attest with her sexy hit single “She Wolf.” One of the more creative pop hits of 2009, Shakira’s song is a celebration of female strength, a daring pop/EDM crossover, and the source of a provocative video

48: Rihanna: Disturbia

No ghosts or aliens here; this 2008 classic is about the real-life monsters known as anxiety and depression. An edgy hit single by any standard, “Disturbia” was a bit of therapy that you could dance to. Its production was also sleek and powerful, with Rihanna proving that you can incorporate autotune into a great vocal.

Rihanna - Disturbia

47: Lana Del Rey: Season of the Witch

Lana Del Rey ’s bewitching rendition of Donovan’s psychedelic pop track is sure to put a spell on anyone who hears it. The charmingly haunting cover, which features vintage touches and plenty of spooky reverb, was commissioned by Guillermo Del Toro for his 2019 film, Scary Stories to be Told in the Dark , and can be heard during the end credits.

46: Sheb Wooley: The Purple People Eater

It didn’t seem like anybody was taking anything too seriously in the summer of 1958, when this eternal bit of outer-space silliness hit No.1. The sped-up vocals of Sheb Wooley’s hit were a new thing at the time (the Chipmunks also debuted that year), as was rock’n’roll itself. Fun fact: Sheb Wooley was also an actor who starred in the TV series Rawhide and the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Sheb Wooley "The Purple People Eater" (Official Video)

45: Outkast feat. Kelis: Dracula’s Wedding

Here’s a good-natured update of the sexual paranoia theme: Andre 3000 plays a vampire who isn’t scared of anything, except a cute female vampire played by Kelis. Will true love win the day? Probably, since she claims she makes great peanut butter sandwiches. This surprisingly wasn’t ever a single, probably because “Hey Ya” was too hard an act to follow.

44: Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells Theme

What better way is there to spend Halloween than with a classic horror movie such as 1973’s The Exorcist ? This terrifying tale of demonic possession is still cited as one of the greatest examples of its genre, and it’s synonymous with Mike Oldfield’s eerie “Tubular Bells Theme.”

43: Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett: Monster Mash

Novelty songs don’t get any better than “ Monster Mash .” With its rattling chains, bubbling cauldrons, and Boris Karloff-mimicking vocal, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 in time for 1962’s Halloween. A perennial favorite, “Monster Mash” still persuades the dead to cut some rug, especially now with a new remix.

Bobby “Boris” Pickett - Monster Mash (Next Habit Remix) (Official Music Video)

42: Oingo Boingo: Dead Man’s Party

Oingo Boingo’s quirky mid-80s cult hit, “Dead Man’s Party” featured in the hit 1986 film, Back To School and it still brings the funk to Halloween. The band will always be synonymous with this time of year as their frontman Danny Elfman also famously scored Tim Burton’s much-acclaimed The Nightmare Before Christmas .

41: The Rolling Stones: Sympathy For The Devil

The Rolling Stones’ legendary Beggars Banquet album is just turning 50, and its most imperious track famously big ups Beelzebub himself. We defy you not to lift a cloven hoof and get down to this demonic rock classic.

40: Queens Of The Stone Age: Burn The Witch

Looking for the ideal macabre rock anthem to make your Halloween go with a bang? Then stop right here, for this spooky, glam-infused stomper with lyrics drawing upon the notorious 17th Century Witch Trials is just the accelerant you need to ignite that all-important hellfire and damnation.

Queens Of The Stone Age - Burn The Witch

39: Rob Zombie: Dragula

Film buff Rob Zombie’s biggest hit is a mash-up of stomping beats, metal madness, and horror movies. The song’s title is a derivation of the drag racer “DRAG-U-LA” from legendary horror sitcom The Munsters, and it’s introduced by the silver screen’s Prince Of Darkness, Christopher Lee. Monstrous fun all round.

38: No Doubt: Spiderwebs

In this bouncy, ska-infused track, No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani sings about screening her phone calls to avoid an overly persistent romantic admirer. The infectious single opened No Doubt’s breakthrough 1995 album, Tragic Kingdom , and offered the perfect introduction to the band’s signature poppy, punky sass.

No Doubt - Spiderwebs (Official Music Video)

37: Siouxsie And The Banshees: Halloween

Whether Siouxsie And The Banshees ’ Juju invented goth or not, it’s a fabulous record full of sonic tricks and anthemic treats. One of its many highlights is the self-explanatory “Halloween,” which recreates an especially dark night of the soul.

36: Metallica: Devil’s Dance

A prowling, bass-heavy classic from 1997’s Reload , in which James Hetfield seemingly attempts to conjure the great beast himself. Then again, Old Nick always was a sucker for a monstrous downtuned guitar riff, so Metallica was always onto a winner with this one.

Devil's Dance

35: Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bad Moon Rising

John Fogerty comes on like a plaid-clad Nostramadus on CCR ’s signature hit, ‘Bad Moon Rising’: a rockabilly-influenced end-of-days classic inspired by the suitably spooky 1941 noir-esque flick The Devil And Daniel Webster.

34: Nine Inch Nails: Dead Souls

One could easily make an entire 24-hour playlist of Halloween songs by just playing all of Trent Reznor’s catalog back to back. He is the master of danceable industrial rock and his chilling rendition of the Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” is no exception. The song originally appeared on the soundtrack to the cult horror classic The Crow , and quickly became a fan-favorite after Reznor gave an unforgettable, mud-soaked performance of it at Woodstock 94.

Dead Souls

33: Derek And The Dominoes: Crossroads

Lucifer looms large over “Crossroads”: an ode to the place where blues legend Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to receive the devil’s best tunes and give us rock’n’roll. Eric Clapton reckoned Johnson got a bloody good deal and duly recorded this smokin’ blues with both Cream and Derek And The Dominoes.

32: Smashing Pumpkins: We Only Come Out At Night

From The Smashing Pumpkins’ blockbuster third, Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness , this deceptively gentle, piano-framed ditty provides the perfect soundtrack for all would-be creatures of the night for whom “the days are much too bright”.

We Only Come Out At Night (Remastered 2012)

31: The Cure: Lullaby

The Cure’s catalog contains no end of morose, goth-inspired pop brilliance, but perhaps their perfect Halloween song is Disintegration -era smash, “Lullaby”: a nightmare before Christmas if ever there was, wherein frontman Robert Smith dreams “the Spiderman is having me for dinner tonight.”

30: The Cranberries: Zombie

Though actually an era-defining protest song with a hard-hitting anti-violence lyric, The Cranberries’ signature hit “ Zombie ” is nonetheless a rousing rock anthem for all seasons and it certainly doesn’t sound out of place on the eve of All Souls Day.

The Cranberries - Zombie (Official Music Video)

29: Dead Kennedys: Halloween

Seminal punks the Dead Kennedys hailed from San Francisco, a city synonymous with celebrating Halloween and they zoned in on it with fervor on this livid diatribe with lyrics calling for people to break free of social mores in their everyday lives, not just on the titular holiday. Fast, furious, and embroidered with freaky, surf-inspired lead guitar.

28: The Charlie Daniels Band: The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Charlie Daniels could be a terrific storyteller, as witnessed by his early hit “Uneasy Rider” and this number about a boy named Johnny who beats the Devil in a fiddling contest. Unless they played the censored version, this was one of the first songs to get “son of a bitch” on the radio.

27: Dusty Springfield: Spooky

It really is spooky how some songs come back time and again with their haunting refrains. This tune, originally an instrumental by saxophonist Mike Sharpe, became a huge U.S. hit for Classics IV in 1968. Members of that group arose from the chart grave to revive it with Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1979. Our Halloween treatment is from the unearthly talent of Dusty Springfield .

Spooky

26: Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Buried Alive

With a voice that can easily oscillate from bluesy croon to frenzied shriek, Karen O could have easily fronted a more goth-leaning outfit. Armed with a scathing guitar riff, O’s hypnotic chanting, and a James Murphy-produced moody groove, “Buried Alive” remains one of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ’ most haunting tracks. It also boasts a special cameo from rapper Kool Keith’s homicidal alter-ego, Dr. Octagon.

25: Johnny Cash: Ain’t No Grave

You never did mess with The Man In Black, but when he says “There ain’t no grave can hold my body down,” you’d better believe it. He meant it, too: Johnny recorded this traditional gospel song shortly before his passing in 2003, and it came back from the dead as the title track of his posthumous American VI album in 2010.

Ain't No Grave

24: XTC: The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead

“Let’s begin!”, yells Andy Partridge, launching a song from XTC’s splendid Nonsuch album that was inspired by a Jack O’Lantern he’d made and stuck on the fence post in his back garden. Andy saw it rotting away every day, going down the garden path to his home studio. But what happened to poor old Peter is a scary story.

23: Redbone: The Witch Queen of New Orleans

Welcome to the voodoo lounge of the early 70s and the wonderful, unearthly sound of Native American rockers Redbone. This scary song is based on a true story, too, about 19th century Creole healer, herbalist, and voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau. She’ll stir her witch’s brew and put a spell on you.

The Witch Queen of New Orleans

22: John Zacherle: Dinner With Drac

John Zacherle was a TV horror show host that gave Boris Karloff a run for his mummy. (Sorry, money.) Like Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” John’s 1958 tune “Dinner With Drac” was a fabulously ghoulish rock’n’roll spoof. Dish up a plate of batwing confetti and listen to Drac reminding Igor that the scalpels go on the left with the pitchforks.

21: Vic Mizzy and His Orchestra: The Addams Family Theme

“The Addams Family” theme is mid-60s TV camp at its finest, and perfectly captures the exuberant goofiness of the show, and the era in general: Can’t come up with a rhyme for “kooky” and “spooky?” No problem, just go with “ooky.” Vic Mizzy’s arrangement is silly and hip at the same time, nobody could hear this without snapping their fingers along.

20: Alice Cooper: Feed My Frankenstein

You could put Alice Coopers ’s entire catalog on a Halloween list, but we had to include one of his relatively few scary songs that was really about sexual relations. “Feed My Frankenstein” was one of the songs that fuelled his early 90s comeback on the Hey Stoopid album, which successfully harnessed the Alice persona to the AOR sound of the time.

Alice Cooper - Feed My Frankenstein (Official Video)

19: Talking Heads: Psycho Killer

Only in David Byrne’s world would a psycho killer be a moody introvert much like himself, and prone to speaking French as well. The barbed humor of Byrne’s lyric was complemented by Tina Weymouth’s indelible bassline. For Talking Heads it was both the concert-opener on the Stop Making Sense tour, and the big finale of tours beforehand.

18: Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters

“Ghostbusters” is one of those theme songs that perfectly matches the anarchic humor of the movie, and this hit featured an indelible guitar lick and sent the phrase “Who ya gonna call?” into the vernacular. The only sad part is that Ray Parker Jr. seems to be remembered mainly for this song when he plenty of other good ones, like the raunchy hit “The Other Woman.”

17: Santana: Black Magic Woman

Songs about mysterious women are a definite subtext of Halloween songs. And if you look too closely at this one – originally written by Peter Green for Fleetwood Mac – you’ve either got one unhealthy relationship or one paranoid guy. But Santana gave it the spookiest groove they could manage, and of course medleyed it with Gabor Szabo’s “Gypsy Queen,” a piece more celebratory of womanhood.

​​16: Billy Idol – White Wedding

​​ While not written with Halloween specifically in mind, Billy Idol’s smoldering signature hit certainly lends itself to this spooky annual celebration. The music is suitably moody and ominous, but it’s the song’s darkly iconic video – depicting Idol attending a Goth wedding where the bride is portrayed by the singer’s then-girlfriend, Perri Lister – which definitively seals the deal here.

15: The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Time Warp

If you were part of the Rocky Horror Picture Show cult, this song was your cue to jump up and go wild in the aisles. Though it’s only marginally connected to the plot, this was writer Richard O’Brien’s most loving homage to glam rock. The song’s secret weapon is the absolutely killer drumming by Procol Harum’s B.J. Wilson.

14: Vince Guaraldi Sextet: Great Pumpkin Waltz

Vince Guaraldi’s evocative theme to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown stood as the centerpiece to his sophisticated-yet-offbeat score for the 1966 PEANUTS Halloween special. Guaraldi fleshed out his standard, piano-led trio with additional instrumentation, including woodwinds and guitar, which added additional warmth to the tracks. The instrumental track instantly brings to mind a chilly, autumnal day, and adds a jazzy upgrade to any Halloween playlist.

"The Great Pumpkin Waltz" - It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

13: MC Hammer: Addams Groove

In the fall of 1991, ghoulish comedy The Addams Family was one of the biggest films of the year, and its theme song – the ridiculously catchy ‘Addams Groove’ by MC Hammer – was equally as popular – hitting the Top Ten in the U.S. and also appeared on Hammer’s album, Too Legit To Quit . As a bonus, the accompanying music video was essentially a short film, starring Hammer alongside the Addams Family cast (including Christina Ricci and Angelica Houston).

​​12: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)

​​ Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Victorian-era children’s fantasy novel Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland , Yeah Yeah Yeah’s 2009 hit “Heads Will Roll” opens with a sinister lyric (“Off with your head/Dance ‘til you’re dead”) tailor-made for All Souls’ Night soirees. In its original form, the song’s a shimmering electro-pop floor filler, but A-Trak’s sleek, yet minimal remix transforms it into an acid house-flavored, Halloween-friendly highlight.

Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix Radio Edit)

11: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince: A Nightmare On My Street

Now this is a story all about how, Will Smith’s and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s lives got flipped turned upside down. The hip-hip duo wrote the undeniably catchy, “Nightmare On My Street” for the fourth Freddy Kruger movie, only to have producers shelve the song, pull the plug on the finished music video, and New Line Cinema sue the group. But unlike Nightmare on Elm Street , the story has a happy ending. The scary song remains a sleeper Halloween hit, and the video finally saw the light of day in recent years.

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - A Nightmare On My Street

10: Stevie Wonder: Superstition

Who says ghosts’n’ghouls ain’t got the funk? This supernatural belter from Stevie Wonder topped the U.S. charts in 1973 and remains a touchstone for those spooked by bad luck – or else no luck at all.

​​9: The Cramps – Goo Goo Muck

​​ Though originally recorded by Ronnie Cook & The Gaylads in 1962, The Cramps surely captured the definitive version of “Goo Goo Muck” for their second album, Psychedelic Jungle , in 1981. Accentuated by Lux Interior’s suitably predatory vocal (“You better duck when I show up!”), this low-riding ghoul-rock classic has since reached a whole new generation following its iconic sync in Netflix’s Addams Family-related series Wednesday .

The Cramps - Goo Goo Muck (Official Audio)

8: Whodini: Freaks Come Out At Night

To be fair, Brooklyn in the 80s could be a scary place to be at night, but the “freaks” in question were more of the hedonistic variety than the supernatural. An old-rap classic and proto-New Jack Swing essential, Whodini’s 1984 hit is perfect for when the Halloween party punch starts to kick in.

7: John Carpenter: Halloween Theme

This is one of the few times that an established director has successfully produced the theme for his own movie Halloween . John Carpenter came up with a truly scary song that puts a sinister spin on the synth sound of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. You can feel Michael Myers creeping up on you just by listening.

6: Rockwell: Somebody’s Watching Me

Rockwell’s paranoid pop hit is a staple of any Halloween playlist, but it was never intended to be a seasonal smash. Motown progeny and songwriter Kennedy Gordy (a.k.a. Rockwell) wanted to prove he could make a hit on his own, so he enlisted his family friend Michael Jackson to sing on the hook, added some spooky New Wave synths and a drum machine and the ultimate 80s Halloween party anthem was born.

Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me (Official Music Video)

5: Warren Zevon: Werewolves of London

Warren Zevon’s perennial monster hit remains of the most quintessential Halloween songs and proudly carries the torch of comedy-horror novelty tracks. Part jaunty piano jam and part blues-rock number (thanks to backing fretwork by Fleetwood Mac members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie), “Werewolves of London” was a complete pop anomaly, scoring Zevon his first and only Top 40 hit that still gets people to howl along.

4: Michael Jackson: Thriller

Creaking doors, footsteps, and blood-curdling howls lead into one of the 80s’ truly great (and scary) pop songs. Listen to it during the witching hour on Halloween and you might just turn into a pumpkin.

Michael Jackson - Thriller (Official 4K Video)

3: Roky Erickson: Night of the Vampire

With its fuzzed-out and foreboding intro and Roky Erickson’s hair-raising howl, “Night of the Vampire” is one of those scary songs that hits a little too close to home. The late 13th Floor Elevators’ vocalist fuses his love of psychedelic rock and pulp horror to chilling results.

2: AC/DC: Highway to Hell

AC/DC have flirted with the horror genre a couple of times, most notably on “Who Made Who” (which they did for the Stephen King soundtrack Maximum Overdrive ). But “Highway to Hell” had to make our list of best Halloween songs because it’s about being on the highway to hell and about taking the most irresponsible things you did at the Halloween party, and doing them all year long.

1: Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi’s Dead

A Halloween mixtape staple, Bauhaus’ goth classic is the personification of a haunted house. Its stuttering drums are a stand-in for squeaking doors and scratching nails. For nine-and-a-half minutes, the band builds a thick fog of doom, with spare, skeletal guitars, echo effects, and a chilling, descending bassline. You’re already three minutes in before Peter Murphy’s enigmatic vocals come in, and your fate is sealed when he starts chanting, “undead, undead, undead.” One of the scariest songs you’ll ever hear.

Check out more chilling classics on vinyl in our Halloween store.

26 Comments

November 1, 2015 at 3:36 am

Can’t believe you omitted “Werewolf” by Five Man Electrical Band! It’s a spooky, eerie song that perfectly epitomizes the Halloween spirit. (pun intended)

Jason Draper

October 31, 2016 at 1:01 pm

It’s a great choice, but, sadly, not available on Spotify where we are!

Rob Bancroft

October 31, 2016 at 10:50 pm

Edgar Winter – Frankenstein. Bruce Springsteen – A night with the Jersey Devil

November 1, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Without Oingo Boingo, this Playlist is worthless.

October 31, 2017 at 3:21 pm

November 1, 2016 at 5:15 pm

#1 is dead mans party by Oingo Boingo because it is fun and danceable

Brian Mundy

November 6, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Edgar Winter “Frankenstein” Blue Oyster Cult “Godzilla”,”Don’t Fear the Reaper'”

October 31, 2017 at 5:19 pm

Yeah, excellent choices!

November 6, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Halloween by Dead Kennedys

October 31, 2017 at 11:18 am

i’m happy that you open with Queen. BUT (ofcourse) i’m missing “Halloween” from Helloween ( the band with the pumkinheads)

October 31, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Roky Erickson – Night of the vampire

October 31, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Pretty much anything by the Misfits and Samhain. Halloween by Siouxsie and the Banshees!

October 31, 2017 at 3:56 pm

The Necromancer! Can Rush get some love?

October 31, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Welcome to my nightmare. Alice Cooper, who or what else?

October 31, 2017 at 5:41 pm

I put together a whole playlist of Rolling Stones songs for Halloween – Dancing with Mr. D., Midnight Rambler, Dead Flowers, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow, Paint It Black. Gimme Shelter, Too Much Blood, and many others. The Stones recorded a lot of songs with dark subjects.

October 31, 2017 at 11:12 pm

King Diamond – Halloween

November 1, 2017 at 7:45 pm

What about “Halloween” by Rick Parfitt/Status Quo!!

[email protected]

October 31, 2019 at 3:20 pm

Wheres Boris the Spider?

October 31, 2019 at 6:26 pm

Werewolves of London, a Warren Zevon masterpiece

November 1, 2019 at 4:21 am

AC/DC – Hell’s Bells should have been on this list.

October 19, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Steeleye Spann’s ALLISON GROSS

October 21, 2020 at 2:40 pm

Dead of Night – Depeche Mode

October 29, 2022 at 5:59 pm

Mick Farren’s “Bela Lugosi”, from his classic Vampires Stole My Lunch Money album.

October 31, 2022 at 7:22 pm

How abouth this extremely controversial song “I Love The Dead” by Alice Cooper.

June 5, 2023 at 6:42 am

I thought Halloween was suppose to be sick, twisted, and scary? Should not these songs break down the various elements of fear, and amplify them to induce greater depths of fear in which to submerge the listener??? Either way, the list should have contained “Code Blue” by T.S.O.L., you can do your own research and check the lyrical content of that little ditty!

October 31, 2023 at 6:10 pm

…. has no one heard of Screaming Lord Sutch ????

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The 21 spookiest rock songs for the halloween season.

Xaque Gruber

As October's days grow shorter and the air chillier, the anticipation of Halloween builds -- and for a proper celebration, there needs to be a soundtrack. The fiendishly fabulous treats on this (alphabetical) list comprise my personal hit parade for October. Nothing against the obvious Halloween hits ( Thriller , Ghostbusters , Monster Mash , The Time Warp ) but I prefer the haunted corridor less traveled...

Bela Lugosi's Dead - Bauhaus (1979)

Black Celebration - Depeche Mode (1986)

Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970)

Bloodletting (French version) - Concrete Blonde (1990)

Carnival of Souls - Combustible Edison (1994)

Dragula - Rob Zombie (1998)

Everyday Is Halloween - Ministry (1984)

Ghost On A Highway - Mazzy Star (1990)

Ghost Town - The Specials (1981)

Halloween - Siouxsie & The Banshees (1981)

I Put A Spell On You - Screamin Jay Hawkins (1956)

Love - Skinny Puppy (1986)

Marian - Sisters of Mercy (1985)

Nemesis - Shriekback (1985)

Other Voices - The Cure (1981)

People Are Strange - The Doors (1967)

Persephone (The Gathering of Flowers) - Dead Can Dance (1987)

Pet Semetary - The Ramones (1988)

Room 101 - Eurythmics (1984)

Scary Monsters & Super Creeps - David Bowie (1980)

This House Is Haunted - Alice Cooper (1972)

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best spooky rock songs

53 Best Halloween Songs to Play During Your Costume Party

Get the karaoke going with these classics.

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For those who like to sing or live for any opportunity to perform karaoke, we have listed classics like Michael Jackson’s Thriller and This is Halloween , which is from the soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Other essential dance songs we’ve included span pop, rock and rap, and can even be found in some of your favorite horror movies . We’re talking Monster Mash , A Nightmare on Elm Street and, of course, I Put a Spell On You.

While most of these jams can easily be pulled up on YouTube, you can also add them to your Amazon playlist for easy streaming on October 31. And if you’re planning on including kids in on the night, check out this curated list of kid-friendly Halloween songs created just for them.

1. "Monster Mash" — Bobby (Boris) Pickett

Yes, you've heard it all before. No, it has not gotten any less catchy — or less of an absolute essential Halloween classic!

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2. "anthem" — michael ables.

From the psychological thriller Us , composer Michael Ables said he wanted the opening song to sound like an "evil march."

ADD TO YOUR PLAYLIST

3. "Bury a Friend" — Billie Eilish

Looking for something more modern for your playlist? This hit from Billie Eilish is the perfect dark pop track that's simultaneously catchy and bone-chilling.

4. "The Phantom of the Opera" Overture — Andrew Lloyd Webber

This one's obviously a must-play for all musical theater fans, but there's no doubt that anyone and everyone will appreciate that epic, instantly-recognizable organ intro.

5. "Stranger Things" Theme — Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein

I mean, is there anything more perfect for Halloween than the spooky Stranger Things theme song?

6. "Haunted" — Beyonce

Leave it to Queen Bey to slay with a scary-good track that's also accompanied by an equally eerie music video.

7. "Haunted" — Taylor Swift

Speaking of great songs named "Haunted," this one from Taylor Swift is everything you want in a dark, dramatic break-up anthem (and more!).

8. "Creep" — Radiohead

This one's an essential for celebrating the creepiest night of the year — especially for all the weirdos and misfits out there.

9. "A Nightmare on My Street" — DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Who knew '80s hip hop and Halloween could go so well together?

10. "Monster" — Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver

Not only does this hip-hop track feature the ultimate collab of musicians, it also features a horror-filled theme perfect for Halloween.

11. "I Put a Spell On You" — Bette Midler

Disney's wicked '90s hit Hocus Pocus and it's sequel, Hocus Pocus 2 , feature the quirky Sanderson sisters, who wreak havoc on a small town. Bette Midler's rendition of "I Put a Spell On You" always puts us in the holiday spirit.

12. "Thriller" — Michael Jackson

There's nothing quite like a posse of zombie back-up dancers. You just can't resist mimicking all their iconic moves.

13. "Ghostbusters" Theme — Ray Parker Jr.

Who you gonna call? You won't be afraid of no ghosts when you're jamming to this classic.

14. "This Is Halloween" — The Citizens of Halloween

Jack Skellington's passion for this fright-filled holiday is pretty contagious.

15. "Superstition" — Stevie Wonder

We agree with Stevie Wonder — it doesn't always pay to be superstitious — but we can still be a little apprehensive about breaking mirrors and crossing black cats on Halloween.

16. "Somebody's Watching Me" — Rockwell

A couple of eerie lyrics about being followed, punched up with a little '80s pizzaz, make for one spooky song.

17. "Time Warp" — Little Nell, Patricia Quinn, & Richard O'Brien

A jump to the left and step to the right are the heart and soul behind the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

18. "The Addams Family" Theme — Vic Mizzy

A dismembered hand, a cousin who's literally hidden by hair — of course we had to include the spookiest family of all time on this list.

19. "Wolves" — Selena Gomez & Marshmello

Selena Gomez starred in the Hotel Transylvania franchises so it's safe to consider her a Halloween expert.

20. "Dark Horse" — Katy Perry ft. Juicy J

Katy Perry told MTV she wanted this song to have a "witchy, spell-y kind of black magic-y" vibe, and she totally nailed it.

21. "I'm in Love with a Monster" — Fifth Harmony

Grab your other half for this funk-influenced hit. That's why you dressed up in a couples costume, after all.

22. "Zombie" — The Cranberries

The year: 1995. Your obsession: This Dolores O'Riordan song.

23. "Monster" — Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga's breakthrough album includes a very appropriately titled track for Halloween.

24. "Get Ur Freak On" — Missy Elliot

Crazy story: Missy Elliot was actually in the hospital the night before she performed this song at the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show. She still killed it of course.

25. "Freaks Come Out at Night" — Whodini

This little '80s earworm will stay in your head long into November.

26. "She Wolf" — Shakira

It's impossible not to dance to Shakira — just try.

27. "The Monster" — Eminem ft. Rihanna

Pop singer Bebe Rexha actually wrote the hook for this song that later won a Grammy Award.

28. "Werewolves of London" — Warren Zevon

Place your bets now that someone will start howling along to Warren Zevon's 1978 rock track.

29. "I Want Candy" — Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow's cover of the Strangeloves' single describes your trick-or-treating sugar rush to a T.

30. "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" — David Bowie

The 1980 album's title track gets eerie real fast with lyrics about a woman's descent into madness.

31. "Disturbia" — Rihanna

Right from the opening scream, Rihanna's number one hit will get people dancing — and singing along to that crazy catchy hook. Bum-bum-be-dum-bum-bum-be-dum-bum ...

32. "Season of the Witch" — Donovan

The hippie vibes of this psychedelic rock may not seem scary, but the song's appeared in everything from Halloween III to American Horror Story .

33. "Heads Will Roll" — Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs somehow turned the creepy topic of decapitation into insanely-danceable anthem.

34. "Halloween" Theme — John Carpenter

The slasher movie franchise may include a whopping 11 flicks, but the original soundtrack is undeniably the best. Just cross your fingers that Michael Myers doesn't show up to the party.

35. "Hungry Like the Wolf" — Duran Duran

This Duran Duran classic is a straight shot to the '80s, back when MTV played the jungle-themed music video non-stop.

36. "Ghost" — Ella Henderson

You might have caught this recent hit by X Factor contestant Ella Henderson on the radio.

37. "Witchy Woman" — The Eagles

Sure, it's a classic Eagles track, but the witch-themed lyrics fit the holiday theme.

38. "Midnight City" — M83

This lead single hit it big back in 2011 yet the synth pop track is still the perfect afterdark groove over a decade later.

39. "Black Magic Woman" — Fleetwood Mac

This blues-rock hit from 1969 will definitely be replayed all night, but if your friends start acting strange, you should probably switch the song.

40. "True Blood" — Justin Timberlake

Not the HBO series of the same name, but this Justin Timberlake song sounds like someone's a blood-thirsty vampire.

41. "Spooky" — Dusty Springfield

The name of this song is literally spooky — and it's all about love. You might remember it from the 2008 romcom How to Lose Friends and Alienate People .

42. "Demons" — Imagine Dragons

Okay, so you might hear this one year-round, but that doesn't mean a song about demons hiding isn't perfect for Halloween.

43. "Boogie Monster" — Gnarls Barkley

Is the boogie monster real? Just listen to this creepy song and maybe you'll find out.

44. "Skeleton in the Closet" — Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is telling the terrifying story of a haunted mansion that's filled with ghosts and goblins — eek!

45. "Super Freak" — Rick James

Change the mood a bit with this classic, which will have everyone in the room bopping along.

46. "Blinding Lights" — The Weeknd

Get some strobe lights out and start blaring this song. If you really want to set the mood, play the video for everyone to watch.

47. "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" — Ella Fitzgerald

The famous tune from The Wizard of Oz is an obvious classic, but Ella Fitzgerald's cover version puts on a jazzy twist that's perfect for any party.

48. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" — The Beatles

Don't get confused by the upbeat tempo in this song. It's about a student named Maxwell Edison who commits murders with a hammer.

49. "Ghost" — Halsey

Okay, this is a love song. But every party needs a few mixed in, and this track does the trick with the haunting music and the line: "My ghost, where'd you go?"

50. "Look What You Made Do" — Taylor Swift

Even if you're not a fan of Taylor Swift, you can't deny how amazing this song is, especially around Halloween.

51. "Don't Fear the Reaper" — Blue Oyster Cult

The song deals with death and how it's inevitable and isn't something that should be feared. And yes, there's cowbell.

52. "Who Can It Be Now?" — Men at Work

Once you really dig into the song, it's not too scary. But during a Halloween party, the sentiment of feeling a little on edge rings truer than ever.

53. "Run" — Michael Abels

There are no lyrics in this song from the classic psychological thriller , Us. And no lyrics are needed as the instruments and sounds are terrifying.

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The Best Rock Songs for Halloween

best spooky rock songs

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane , Fred Lerdahl ,

The best rock songs for Halloween

The best halloween songs for kids, the best halloween songs for adults, the best halloween songs for parties, the best halloween songs for trick-or-treaters, the best halloween songs for halloween night, the best halloween songs for halloween decorations, the best halloween songs for halloween costumes, the best halloween songs for halloween makeup, the best halloween songs for halloween food.

It’s Halloween time, and that means it’s time to rock out! Here are the best rock songs for Halloween, perfect for getting you in the spooky spirit!

best spooky rock songs

As Halloween approaches, we thought it would be fun to compile a list of the best rock songs for the holiday. From creepy classics to spooky modern tunes, these tracks will get you in the Halloween spirit. So crank up the volume and get ready to headbang your way into October!

– “Bark at the Moon” by Ozzy Osbourne – “Evil” by Mercyful Fate – “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow – “A Nightmare on My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – “Thriller” by Michael Jackson – “Monster” by Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj – “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell ft. Michael Jackson – “Hells Bells” by AC/DC – “Welcome to My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper – “Dragula” by Rob Zombie

Halloween is a fun time for kids, and what better way to get them in the mood than with some spooky songs? Here are some of the best Halloween songs for kids, perfect for getting them excited for trick-or-treating or a Halloween party.

-“A Haunted House on Halloween Night” by The monsters -“I Want a Witch for a Wife” by Witch Hazel -“The Skeleton Dance” by Skeloton Joe -“The Ghost of John” by John’s spectral children -“There Was an Old Witch” by Dorothea the Wicked Witch -“Halloween Is Coming” by The ghouls and goblins -“I’m Bringing Halloween Back” by The Frankenstein Monster -“This Is Halloween” by The citizens of the town of Halloween

The best Halloween songs for adults are ones that are spooky, haunting, and make you feel like you’re in a horror movie. This playlist is filled with rock songs that fit that description perfectly. From Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson, these songs will get you in the Halloween spirit.

Halloween is a great time to break out the best rock songs and have a great time. Here is a list of the best Halloween songs for parties.

-“Boys Are Back in Town” by thin lizzy -“Don’t Fear the Reaper” by blue oyster cult -“I Want Candy” by the strangeloves -“Monster Mash” by bobby boris pickett & the cryptkickers -“Purple People Eater” by sheb wooley -“Werewolves of London” by warren zevon -“Devil Went Down to Georgia” by charlie daniels band

Halloween is a great time to listen to rock music. If you are looking for the best Halloween songs for Trick-or-Treaters, look no further. Here are some great Halloween songs that will get you in the spooky spirit.

“Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett is a classic Halloween song that has been covered by many artists over the years. This upbeat tune is perfect for Trick-or-Treaters of all ages.

“This Is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas is a spooky, but catchy tune that is perfect for Halloween. It is sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson is another classic Halloween song that is perfect for Trick-or-Treaters of all ages. This song has a catchy beat that is sure to get you dancing.

“A Night On Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky is a classical piece that has been used in many horror movies over the years. This piece is sure to send a chill down your spine and get you in the Halloween spirit.

Halloween is a fun and festive time of year, and what better way to celebrate than by listening to some spooky tunes? Here is a list of the best rock songs for Halloween, perfect for setting the mood on Halloween night.

-“Thriller” by Michael Jackson: This classic Halloween song is sure to get you in the mood for some fun and scares. -“This Is Halloween” by The Nightmare Before Christmas: This catchy tune is perfect for getting you in the Halloween spirit. -“Dragula” by Rob Zombie: This heavy metal song is sure to get your adrenaline pumping on Halloween night. -“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon: This song is a Halloween classic, and perfect for howling at the moon on a dark night. -“I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: This eerie song is sure to send chills down your spine on Halloween night.

Halloween is a great time to get into the Halloween spirit by listening to some spooky tunes. But what are the best songs for Halloween? Here are our top picks for the best Halloween songs to set the tone for your Halloween celebrations.

-“Boris the Spider” by The Who -“I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins -“The Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show -“Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult -“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon -“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder -“Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell -“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. -“Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers

Rockin’ around the clock may be more appropriate for New Year’s Eve, but Halloween is all about playing dress-up and being someone (or something) else for a night. And what better way to get into character than by listening to songs that perfectly capture the essence of your costume?

Whether you’re going as a classic horror movie villain, a pop culture icon, or something completely unique, there’s a rock song out there that will help you get into the Halloween spirit. Here are just a few of our favorites:

– “The Time Warp” by Rocky Horror Picture Show: If you’re dressing up as Frank N. Furter, Janet, or any other character from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this is the perfect song to get you in the mood. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and it will have you doing the “Time Warp” all night long.

– “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix: This song is perfect for anyone dressing up as The Joker, Harley Quinn, or any other characters from DC Comics’Batman universe. The song’s eerie opening lines (“I’m caught in a purple haze”) set the perfect tone for a night of mischief and mayhem.

– “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett: No Halloween playlist would be complete without this classic Halloween song. It’s perfect for anyone dressing up as amonster, ghosts, zombies, or anything else that goes bump in the night.

This year, why not get into the spirit of Halloween with some spooky tunes? Here are the best Halloween songs to get you into the Halloween makeup mood!

-“This Is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson -“Thriller” by Michael Jackson -“Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs -“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder -“People Are Strange” by The Doors -“Spooky” by Classics IV -“Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult -“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon -“I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Food and music are two of the best things about Halloween. Why not combine them with these great rock songs about food? From sweet to scary, these tunes are sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.

-“I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow: This 1980s new wave hit is the perfect song for anyone with a sweet tooth. The upbeat tune is about a boy who will do anything for some candy, and the candy he craves is never specified. So whether you like chocolate, candy corn, or anything in between, this song is for you.

-“Feed My Frankenstein” by Alice Cooper: This 1992 hard rock tune was written by Alice Cooper and Bernie Taupin as a sequel to Cooper’s classic 1971 song “Feed My Frankenstein.” The new song keeps the original’s theme of a mad scientist creating a monster, but adds in references to modern pop culture, including Michael Jackson and Frankenstein movies.

-“Halloween” by Siouxsie and the Banshees: This 1981 gothic rock classic is one of the most popular Halloween songs of all time. The slow, atmospheric tune is perfect for any Halloween party or gathering.

-“This Is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson: This cover of Danny Elfman’s original song from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is perfect for any Marilyn Manson fan who wants to add a little darkness to their Halloween celebration. Featuring Manson’s signature growl, thesong is sure to get your guests moving.

-“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon: This 1978 pop rock tune was co-written by Warren Zevon andwerewolf movie expert Jack Levin. The catchy tune is about a group of werewolves who prowl the streets of London looking for victims.

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It's A Dead Man's Party: The ultimate Halloween playlist

It's a dead man's party: the ultimate halloween playlist, from ac/dc's "highway to hell" to warren zevon's "werewolves of london," these 40 tracks would make killer additions to your spooky shindig playlist.

From left to right: David Bowie (Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage); Michael Jackson (Screenshot: Official “Thriller” music video/YouTube); The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Photo: 20th Century Fox); Siouxsie Sioux (Photo: Peter Noble/Redferns); Bauhaus (Photo: Fin Costello/Redferns)

They called rock and roll the Devil’s music when it first hit the scene in the 1950s. Ever since, all popular music—whether it’s metal, hip-hop, or techno—has occasionally been seen through that spectrum, often because musicians have danced with the devil himself. Sometimes, it’s done as a lark, sometimes it’s deadly serious, but in either case the end result is the same: killer music for a Halloween playlist.

Halloween songs roughly fall into two camps, both equally appealing: they’re either songs that sound frightening, or they’re ridiculous romps. Blending the terrifying with the campy is part of the appeal of the season, of course. The novelties take the edge off the terror, while the truly frightening songs offer a reminder that evil can lurk in the heart of man. For your Halloween party playlist consideration, The A.V. Club has rounded up 40 songs that touch upon both of these emotions: choose whatever flavor you like for your own outrageous, spooky bash.

This article originally published on October 20, 2022.

1. AC/DC, “Highway to Hell”

If Halloween is a celebration of dionysian decadence, “Highway To Hell” is the season’s rallying call: Bon Scott sounds absolutely delighted to be indulging in every excess he can imagine, along with a few he has yet to conjure. Satan himself doesn’t surface in “Highway To Hell,” at least not in the biblical sense. This is all about sins of the flesh, transgressions manifested by an irresistible Angus Young riff. Eternal damnation never sounded so good.

2. Aphex Twin, “Come To Daddy”

“Come To Daddy” is hardly the apotheosis of the work of Richard D. James, the electronic composer and DJ who pioneered IDM under his stage name the Aphex Twin. It’s almost the flipside of his quietly thoughtful records, a grotesque, gnarled near-parody of big beat delivered at a breakneck speed. The Chris Cunningham video containing a cavalcade of children wearing James’ face emphasizes the unease that lurks underneath the cacophony, but even as an audio track “Come To Daddy” sounds unhinged: it’s uncut paranoia.

3. Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

The cornerstone of goth, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” manages to sound as vampiric as the song’s namesake: it’s a song that’s difficult to imagine being played at dawn. Much of this is due to the ominous rumble of Peter Murphy, whose voice gets swallowed with its own reverb, yet the skeletal guitar of Daniel Ash creates its own graveyard chill, while the rhythm section of David J and Kevin Haskins maintain a dramatic tension that remains unresolved over the length of nearly 10 minutes.

4. Burt Bacharach/The Five Blobs, “Theme from The Blob”

Jaunty and insouciant, Burt Bacharach’s theme to the cheapo drive-in staple The Blob —a 1958 sci-fi flick about space invaders starring a young Steve McQueen—reduces the existential extraterrestrial threat to something as dangerous as a temporary interruption to a frat party. The wailing sax, bossa nova beat, handclaps, collegiate harmonies, and flamenco guitar place this firmly within the late 1950s. But all those period signifiers are also why it’s such a good time: it’s the sound of a B-movie incarnate.

5. Bobby Bare, “Marie Laveau”

Shel Silverstein updated the legend of the New Orleans voodoo priestess to suit the 1970s, maintaining the witchery and adding a good dose of hippie freak humor. It was an ideal combination for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, but country maverick Bobby Bare bettered their version in his loose-limbed, swampy take. Recorded live in the studio, this is funny and funky, highlighted by the banshee wail of Marie Laveau performed by none other than Silverstein himself.

6. Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”

Black Sabbath, the fathers of heavy metal, essentially invented the genre with this eponymous early song. Drenched in occult imagery, the song is filled with blackness and fire, all presided over by a smiling Satan. Ozzy Osbourne wails like he’s been damned to hell but it’s the slow, heavy sludge of Sabbath that conveys a sense of overwhelming, suffocating gloom.

7. Blue Oyster Cult, “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”

The message Blue Oyster Cult intends to deliver with “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is an acceptance of mortality, a coming of terms with the idea that death comes to all living things. What they wound up with is a record that conveys an enormous sense of dread. Maybe it’s because “Buck Dharma” Roeser is a chillingly impassive singer, maybe it’s because their minor-key 12-string guitars chime like the bells at the gateway to hell, but “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” creeps like death itself at your doorway.

8. David Bowie, “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)“

Many of his peers delivered monster songs that verged on the fringe of camp. Not David Bowie. “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” is a cacophonic rush of cloistered energy brought down to Earth by a heavy, ominous backbeat. Bowie sings of frights and horrors, spooky images turned truly nightmarish by the careening guitar of Robert Fripp, whose atonal squalls sound like a killer on a rampage.

9. Alice Cooper, “I Love the Dead”

Alice Cooper—aka Vincent Furnier—presented himself as a refugee from old horror movies, a stance which allowed him to create something as absurdly grotesque as “I Love The Dead.” He’s not singing about zombies, he’s not singing in the abstract: he’s created an anthem for necrophiliacs. Thanks to the pomp of Bob Ezrin’s production, it becomes clear that Alice intends “I Love The Dead” as a joke but thanks to his ghoulish delivery, it still sounds plenty creepy.

10. The Cramps, “I Was A Teenage Werewolf”

Raised on the dregs of junk culture, spending as much time listening to trashy rockabilly records as they did flipping through old EC comic books, the Cramps personified rock and roll sleaze. In other words, they were fated to cut a record like “I Was A Teenage Werewolf,” a scuzzy 45 that seems to stem from the idea of “what if Elvis howled at the moon?” The primitive thud dressed in fuzz and echo has a kinetic kick, the kind of record that only seems to come alive at the stroke of midnight.

11. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”

On the surface level, “Bad Moon Rising” appears buoyant, thanks in large part to the rockabilly swing Creedence Clearwater Revival effortlessly achieves. The bright sound disguises the dread John Fogerty places at the heart of the song. Fogerty lists all manners of ominous bad weather—hurricanes, earthquakes, floods—all suggesting the end is coming soon. That apocalyptic note is what lingers long after all the chicken-picking guitars have been plucked.

12. Bo Diddley, “Bo Meets The Monster”

Never one to pass up clever ideas, Bo Diddley heard Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” and decided to recast it as some kind of Abbott & Costello meeting of the stars. Here, Bo encounters the Purple People Eater and gives chase, eventually getting spooked by the monster so he heads back home only to find the creatures took his baby. It’s a riotous tale delivered as an easy-rolling blues-shuffle, grabbing all its energy from Bo’s vigorous delivery.

13. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, “A Nightmare On My Street”

Will Smith always manages to avoid rapping either the name Freddy Krueger or the title A Nightmare On Elm Street in “A Nightmare On My Street,” but there’s no denying that the 1988 track is a send-up of the horror film series. New Line Cinema certainly thought so, suing DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince in a matter that was settled out of court. Set that unpleasantness aside and “A Nightmare On My Street” is an unabashedly goofy time capsule capturing the brightly-colored pop-rap of the late ’80s and the gloomier horror that functioned as a counterpoint.

14. Donovan, “Season Of The Witch”

Perched at the precipice of psychedelia, “Season Of The Witch” is a slow-burning folk-rock masterpiece, one that may or may not feature instrumental contributions from Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, musicians who would later indulge in the occult during their time in Led Zeppelin. Certainly, this deliberate, creeping song conveys a feeling of impending doom, one that’s drifting like a mist over the hillside. As Donovan piles up bad omens, the song’s swirl encompasses circular guitars, howling organs and galloping bass, all creating a spookiness that doesn’t quickly dissipate once the song is finished playing.

15. Duran Duran, “Night Boat”

An early example of Duran Duran’s mastery of mood (not to mention evidence of their debt to Roxy Music), “Night Boat” creeps into focus slowly. Once it takes shape, it’s hazy and ominous. Nick Rhodes’ synthesizers tangle Simon Le Bon’s keening loneliness, tension cascading as the wait for the conclusion stretches out. It’s a tense, cinematic affair, qualities that are emphasized in its accompanying video, which capitalizes on that sense of dread by effectively turning it into a zombie movie.

16. Roky Erickson, “I Walked With A Zombie”

Ever since he fronted the psychedelic legends the 13th Floor Elevators, Roky Erickson sounded otherworldly. He either sounded possessed or seemed to exist on another astral plane, one that suggested that it wasn’t beyond the realm of reason that he could wander with the undead. On “I Walked With A Zombie,” Erickson sounds neither frenzied nor contemplative: he presents the unknown as a matter of fact, which winds up as unnerving as a more impassioned treatment.

17. Golden Earring, “Twilight Zone”

Dutch hard rockers with a penchant for the tasteless, Golden Earring delivered something truly garish with “Twilight Zone”: a midnight ride through the heart of darkness, all set to a thumping Eurodisco beat and dressed in tacky arena-rock guitar. The minor-key riff meshes with the overwrought delivery, each emphasizing the ugliness of the other, a combination that should be repulsive but winds up intoxicating. It indeed is a passport to another dimension of sorts.

18. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “I Put A Spell On You”

“I Put A Spell On You” is the cornerstone of horror rock and roll, although Screamin’ Jay Hawkins didn’t initially intend it to be a goth classic. Hawkins wanted to make a ballad but in a drunken session, he and the band turned it into a guttural, spooky epic. Soon afterward, he tailored his image to suit the record, becoming famous for popping out of a coffin in concerts, and others flocked to the song, turning it into a modern standard. Still, this original reigns supreme, as it captures Screamin’ Jay Hawkins sounding utterly possessed, as if he’s in the midst of conducting a voodoo ceremony.

19. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”

Michael Jackson designed “Thriller” as a lightweight epic, a song designed to turn nightmares into dreams, or at least an appealing diversion. “Thriller” spins familiar horror movie tropes—it’s midnight, filled with evil monsters lurking in the dark—into floor-filling fun, its campy aspects highlighted by a knowing monologue from Vincent Prince. If familiarity has somewhat dampened its appeal, there’s no denying that it’s the blockbuster among Halloween songs, the one designed to crush all the other creatures.

20. Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells”

Mike Oldfield created the musical themes for “Tubular Bells” independent of William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist . The filmmakers distilled refrains that kept circling through Oldfield’s 1973 debut album, narrowing on the essence of the music: it’s inherently unsettling and spooky, a spectral melody to haunt your very bones. That quality is evident on either side of Oldfield’s album yet it becomes almost unbearable when edited to a tight four-minute single.

21. Ministry, “Every Day Is Halloween”

The apex of early Ministry, “Every Day Is Halloween” found Al Jourgensen turning to Wax Trax! to deliver a track pitched halfway between synth-pop and goth. Jourgensen sings about all manners of goth life—wherever he goes, people ask him “Why are you dressed like it’s Halloween?”—but the sound of the record is unexpectedly buoyant, the drum machines and synthesizers battling the minor key hooks and ultimately winning.

21. “ The Munsters Theme”

Through the kind of serendipity that only happens in show business, The Munsters and The Addams Family both somehow debuted within a week of each other in September 1964, so it’s difficult to view one without the other. Where the Addams Family was steeped in the gothic sensibility of Charles Addams, The Munsters was a very Hollywood creation, a deliberate satire of family sitcoms that played to conventional beats. It also had a theme song that rocked, capturing the hot rod energy of Southern California in a way that still resonates today.

23. New York Dolls, “Frankenstein”

David Johansen sings “something must’ve happened/over Manhattan” at the start of “Frankenstein,” the heaviest and scariest song on the eponymous debut from New York Dolls. The wall of noise and sleaze doesn’t suggest the titular monster. In the hands of the New York Dolls, “Frankenstein” sounds like Godzilla: big menacing sludge ready to consume the east coast.

24. Oingo Boingo, “Dead Man’s Party”

A New Wave staple, “Dead Man’s Party” is bright and garish, the clattering percussion vying for attention with blares of horns and chicken-scratch guitar. As the record stretches out over six minutes, Oingo Boingo introduces new freakish elements to the mix, each exaggerated vocal or synth accentuating the strangeness of the zombie bash. “Dead Man’s Party” can be intense but its length is also part of the point: you’re trapped in a party and can’t get out.

25. Ozzy Osbourne, “Mr. Crowley”

Ozzy Osbourne may not have been as immersed in the occult as his Black Sabbath bandmate Tony Iommi, yet he had a flair for bringing the dark arts to life. “Mr. Crowley,” an ode to notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley, isn’t as mired in murk as Sabbath; it opens with a synthesized fanfare straight out of a slasher film. That comic book flair, ratcheted up by a ripping Randy Rhoads guitar solo, is the key to its appeal: he’s embracing the outlandish aspects of the occult, turning into something of an oversized legend himself in the process.

26. Ray Parker Jr., “Ghostbusters”

Writing a theme song to a movie as silly as Ghostbusters is a tricky assignment, so no wonder rockers Lindsey Buckingham and Huey Lewis passed on the task. Enter Ray Parker Jr. The slick funkster came up with the ingenious idea of crafting the song as an advertisement for the Ghostbusters business, devising the indelible hook of “Who you gonna call.” The chorus is a clever callback to the film but, more importantly, it’s a joyously goofy rallying cry ideal for parties.

27. Bobby “Boris” Pickett, “Monster Mash”

The granddaddy of all rock and roll Halloween records, “Monster Mash” wasn’t the first ghoulish rock novelty, nor was it the last, yet it was the quintessential entry in this subgenre. Credit should go not to Bobby “Boris” Pickett—an actor who also could do a killer Boris Karloff impression—but to producer Gary S. Paxton, who gave this silly song a crack studio band featuring pianist Leon Russell and slathered it with spooky sound effects that make it not just an enduring seasonal classic but the record that defines its own realm.

28. Pink Floyd, “Careful with That Axe, Eugene”

Originally released as a B-side in 1968, “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” came to life when Pink Floyd played it in concert, which allowed the group to stretch out its ominous soundscape. The version they released on the appealingly indulgent Ummagumma double-LP eclipses the original version by building up the drama slowly, then shifting in intensity after the titular is whispered then followed by a blood-curdling scream, all leading to a shape-shifting swirl that’s among the most nightmarish music they made.

29. Ramones, “Pet Sematary”

Raised on trash, the Ramones were destined to create a B-level tune for a B-movie, so we have “Pet Sematary,” a goofy song for a goofy movie. It’s a bit too heavy, slow and clean to be prime Ramones, but in this context the overproduction is kind of endearing. The big sound highlights how silly a song built upon the line “I don’t want to be buried/In a pet sematary” is and also showcases Joey Ramone doing his best ghoulish oversinging on the long fade, a piece of flair well-suited to a film based on a pulpy Stephen King book.

30. The Rocky Horror Picture Show , “Time Warp”

Arriving early on in The Rocky Horror Picture Show , Time Warp essentially serves as the song that gives away Richard O’Brien’s game. He’s created a rock opera out of detritus of pre-British Invasion pop culture, marrying sci-fi fantasies with dance crazes. The step-by-step instructions on how to dance the “Time Warp” make it ideal for parties but it’s the parade of creatures embracing their inner freakiness that still makes the record sound so potent.

31. The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy For The Devil”

Cut at the peak of the Rolling Stones’ fascination with the occult and Satanism, “Sympathy For The Devil ‘’ does the impossible: it manages to avoid descending into silliness or caricature. Some of that is certainly due to the bustling rhythms and busy piano from Nicky Hopkins, an arrangement that builds tension that’s released by a razor-like solo from Keith Richards. Much of the credit belongs to Mick Jagger, who lists a cavalcade of evil across the years in his lyrics in a way that creates a sense of foreboding. This isn’t a celebration, it’s a bubbling cauldron of paranoia.

32. Jumpin’ Gene Simmons, “Haunted House”

Jumpin Gene Simmons—not to be confused with the Gene Simmons from Kiss, who indeed took his stage name from this Mississippi singer—delivered something of a marvel with “Haunted House”: a novelty song with an R&B swing so big that the lyrics about aliens and ghouls could almost seem incidental. The fact that “Haunted House” works as its own jumping little number doesn’t erase that it’s the best of the post-”Monster Mash” creature rockers: it’s as funny as it is infectious.

33. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “Halloween”

There’s a manic, unnerving energy to “Halloween,” an early masterwork from Siouxsie & the Banshees. The nervy, relentless beat tangles with live-wire guitar, a sound that’s infectious and spooky enough even without Siouxsie’s spirited wail commanding all the attention. The Banshees create such a visceral rush that it’s easy to excuse the perhaps overly literal “Trick or Treat” chorus: the group has wound up conjuring the darkest elements of the holiday.

34. The Sonics, “The Witch”

Proto-punk garage rockers from the Pacific Northwest, the Sonics were rougher and tougher than such peers as the Kingsmen. Everything about them sounded wilder: the rhythms were manic, Gerry Roslie shredded his vocals, guitarist Larry Parypa seemed on the verge of breaking his strings, and saxophonist Rob Lind added another level of nervous energy. All of this is captured on “The Witch,” their 1964 debut single that sounds so frenzied, it seems dangerous. This isn’t a cartoon witch, it’s one that sounds like it’s ready to cast a spell to wreck your life.

35. Sonic Youth, “Death Valley 69"

All the more frightening due to its cloistered incoherence, “Death Valley 69" is an early Sonic Youth cut—they’d yet to be anchored by their rock, drummer Steve Shelley—showcasing Lydia Lunch, one of the linchpins of No Wave. Together, the pair sketch a horrifying, messy and electrifying impressionistic portrait of Southern Californian nihlism, pegging the treacherous landscape to the year of the Charles Manson murders. It’s a high concept but it scars because it hits the gut, not the head.

36. The Specials, “Ghost Town”

Jerry Dammers wrote “Ghost Town” as the Specials’ protest song against Thatcherite policies: it conveys the doomy wasteland of Britain in the early 1980s. “Ghost Town” may be inextricably tied to its era but its gloom floats outside of time, suggesting an eternal sense of dread and decay. All these years later, it still sounds haunted and spectral, as scary a record as ever produced in the rock and roll era.

37. Screaming Lord Sutch, “Til the Following Night”

Something of a proto-goth, British rocker Screaming Lord Sutch was an oddity in the time before the Beatles. Styling himself as Jack the Ripper and often performing after rising out of a coffin onstage, Sutch embraced horror movie tropes way before Alice Cooper. Thanks to troubled genius Joe Meek, he also created one of the great horror rock and roll records with “Til The Following Night,” a single filled with burbling beakers, howling winds, screams and creaking doors—all setting the stage for Sutch’s vampiric routine. It’s a scream, as it were.

38. Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer”

David Byrne doesn’t need to sing that he’s tense and nervous. The itch guitar of Jerry Harrison and Byrne’s vocals play off of the tight funk created by Chris Frantz’s drums and Tina Weymouth’s roaming bass to convey a sense of internal anxiety, suggesting that this early Talking Heads number is peek into an unsettled mind. Years later, the combination has lost none of its potency.

39. John Zacherle, “Dinner With Drac”

A precursor to “Monster Mash,” “Dinner With Drac” rocketed into the Top 10 in 1958. A rock and roll novelty in a time rife with them, “Dinner With Drac” played upon the “Cool Ghoul” persona John Zacherle adopted as a DJ and television host of Shock Theater. All that, along with a friendship with Dick Clark, explains why Zacherle got a shot at having a record on Cameo Records, but “Dinner With Drac” is a hoot on its own terms: an over-the-top collection of corny, gory jokes that still can earn a ghoulish chuckle.

40. Warren Zevon, “Werewolves Of London”

Phil Everly planted the idea of a dance craze called the “Werewolves Of London” inside the head of his bandleader Warren Zevon, who let the notion simmer until it became this gloriously absurd shuffle. Here, the changelings aren’t scruffy beasts: they’re smooth swingers enjoying a pina colada at Trader Vic’s, flaunting their perfect hair at the classic Los Angeles watering hole. This sense of humor gives the slick L.A. groove an enduring kick.

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To read Jarrett Nolan’s Commentary for this week’s chart, click  here !

This Week’s Top 40 – JANUARY 13, 2024

  • LOVIN ON ME by Jack Harlow (Generation Now/ Atlantic)
  • CRUEL SUMMER by Taylor Swift (Republic)
  • GREEDY by Tate McRae (RCA)
  • PAINT THE TOWN RED by Doja Cat (Kemosabe/ RCA)
  • I REMEMBER EVERYTHING by Zach Bryan featuring Kacey Musgraves (Belting Bronco/ Warner)
  • SNOOZE by SZA (Top Dawg/ RCA)
  • WATER by Tyla (Fax/ Epic)
  • LAST NIGHT by Morgan Wallen (Big Loud/ Mercury/ Republic)
  • FAST CAR by Luke Combs (River House/ Columbia)
  • AGORA HILLS by Doja Cat (Kemosabe/ RCA)
  • THINKIN’ BOUT ME by Morgan Wallen (Big Loud/ Mercury/ Republic)
  • LOSE CONTROL by Teddy Swims (Warner)
  • IS IT OVER NOW? (TAYLOR’S VERSION) [FROM THE VAULT] by Taylor Swift (Republic)
  • LIL BOO THANG by Paul Russell (Arista)
  • FLOWERS by Miley Cyrus (Smiley Miley/ Columbia)
  • RICH BABY DADDY by Drake featuring Sexyy Red & SZA (OVO/ Republic)
  • FTCU by Nicki Minaj (Young Money/ Republic)
  • WHITE HORSE by Chris Stapleton (Mercury Nashville)
  • STICK SEASON by Noah Kahan (Mercury/ Republic)
  • WHAT WAS I MADE FOR? by Billie Eilish (Atlantic/ Darkroom/ Interscope)
  • VAMPIRE by Olivia Rodrigo (Geffen)
  • NEED A FAVOR by Jelly Roll (BBR Music Group)
  • DANCE THE NIGHT by Dua Lipa (Atlantic/ Warner)
  • FUKUMEAN by Gunna (YSL/ 300)
  • WORLD ON FIRE by Nate Smith (Arista Nashville)
  • HOUDINI by Dua Lipa (Warner)
  • EVERYBODY by Nicki Minaj featuring Lil Uzi Vert (Young Money/ Republic)
  • SAVE ME by Jelly Roll with Lainey Wilson (BBR)
  • FIRST PERSON SHOOTER by Drake featuring J. Cole (OVO/ Republic)
  • USED TO BE YOUNG by Miley Cyrus (Smiley Miley/ Columbia)
  • KILL BILL by SZA (Top Dawg/ RCA)
  • GOOD GOOD by Usher, Summer Walker & 21 Savage (mega/ gamma)
  • PRETTY LITTLE POISON by Warren Zeiders (Warner Music Nashville)
  • LA DIABLA by Xavi (Interscope)
  • ON MY MAMA by Victoria Monet (Lovett Music/ RCA)
  • TRUCK BED by HARDY (Big Loud)
  • MY LOVE MINE ALL MINE by Mitski (Dead Oceans)
  • SAVE ME THE TROUBLE by Dan + Shay (Warner Bros. Nashville)
  • EXES by Tate McRae (RCA)
  • I KNOW? by Travis Scott (Cactus Jack/ Epic)

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best spooky rock songs

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The greatest Yacht Rock songs of all time

How does one describe yacht rock? The folks at MasterClass did a pretty good job. Essentially, it's a component of soft rock, adult contemporary, and Album-oriented rock (AOR) all rolled into one. Popular in the late 1970s and into the '80s, there are some notable tunes of the ilk (smooth rhythms, light or "breezy" vocals, well-polished and produced) from earlier in the '70s that fall into this category.

In the spirit of easy listening fare, here is our ranking of 22 great yacht rock tunes.

20. "Lonely Boy" (1977), Andrew Gold

The Southern Californian's biggest hit, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Yacht rock tracks often tell stories, and "Lonely Boy" is one of the great story songs. Whether it's autobiographical in nature has always been ripe for a casual argument. Though Gold, who passed away in 2011 at age 59, repeatedly claimed this song about a boy who felt left out following the birth of his sister was not depicting his life. The 1970s were ripe for one-hit wonders in the United States, and Gold is not still forgotten. 

19. "I Love You" (1981), Climax Blues Band

"I Love You"  is a sweet, endearing ballad. The kind of song that probably sounded great via that portable 8-track cassette player on a catamaran during an early '80s' summer. From England, Climax Blues Band scored a top-15 hit with "I Love You." Love was a dependable and generally successful topic for artists within the soft/yacht rock genre. In fact, the song is still quite popular on lite rock and adult contemporary radio stations on your FM dial for those who still like to hear their music that way. 

18. "Rosanna" (1982), Toto

Toto rightfully has a place in the yacht rock world, but the band also broke into the top-40, FM radio, and MTV mainstream with the release of 1982's Toto IV . "Rosanna" was a big reason for the album's success, peaking at No. 2 on Billboard 's Hot 100 and winning the Record of the Year Grammy Award. Sure, it's not typical yacht rock fare, per se. It's certainly heavier than other popular tracks on this list, but it's certainly a product of AOR and still routinely played in dentist offices throughout America. 

17. "Love Will Keep Us Together" (1975), Captain & Tennille

There are those historians who believe the first true example of yacht rock came with this popular '70s staple from the "Captain"   Daryl Dragon  and his wife Toni Tennille. Now, Neil Sedaka  wrote "Love Will Keep Us Together" and originally recorded the song two years earlier. Still, the duo's version was  more poppy, with a carefree vibe  that's ideal for FM radio. While Captain & Tennille's cover won a Record of the Year Grammy Award, Sedaka has noted that the Beach Boys were one of the inspirations for the tune. This makes sense since many music critics, professionals, historians, etc.. have credited the yacht rock genre as somewhat of an offshoot from the Beach Boys' collective sound. 

16. "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" (1979), Rupert Holmes

This No.1 Billboard Hot 100 hit for England's Rupert Holmes has achieved a steady cult following over the years. Perhaps, because of the unique title and conjured images of some warm, beach-laden paradise. Yacht rock's association with summer, water, and care-free living, as a backdrop to a romantic story, is one of its appealing aspects. This song is about a couple who ultimately patch up a rough relationship through personal ads . Any time somebody of a certain age sips one of these drinks, ideally at some Caribbean resort with the warm winds off the ocean blowing, "The Pina Colada Song" should come to mind.

15. "Reminiscing" (1978), Little River Band

Formed in Australia, the soft/pop rock and often yacht rock stylings of LRB were a hit in the United States. " Reminiscing " was the band's biggest hit in America, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Like many songs of this genre, "Reminiscing" is paced by the electric piano. Which also happened to be a staple of the Little River Band. Sure, it's not "breezy" like other yacht rock tunes, but Will Ferrell's Det. Allen Gamble is a big fan in The Other Guys (2010).

14. "Africa" (1982), Toto

Yes, more from Toto. If there's one popular Toto hit that whole-heartedly falls under the yacht rock moniker, it's " Africa ." The group's only song to top the Billboard Hot 100, and made a resurgence with Weezer's popular cover in recent years , "Africa," is the proper combination of mellow and poppy. It continues the Toto tradition of shared vocals, while the consistent synthesizer and keyboard presence, though more pronounced than the typical soft rock/adult contemporary vibe. 

13. "How Much I Feel" (1978), Ambrosia

L.A.'s Ambrosia, co-founded by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter David Pack and bassist Joe Puerta was all about the soft rock sound that surfaced in Southern California during the early 1970s. "How Much I Feel," from the group's third album Life Beyond L.A. , might have more of an adult contemporary vibe but certainly falls into the yacht rock category. It was one of the band's biggest hits, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's remained popular over the years, even being sampled by Kanye West.

12. "Peg" (1977), Steely Dan

Steely Dan was, in its prime, under the direction of celebrated songwriters Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, many things regarding a collective sound. Rock, pop, jazz, blues. Usually melodic, well within the soft-rock category. Songs like "Peg," from the 1977 masterpiece Aja , certainly has a yacht rock vibe, too. Perhaps most notably is that the great Michael McDonald, longtime frontman of the Doobie Brothers and driving singer-songwriter in the soft/yacht rock circles, provides backing vocals on the track. 

11. "Biggest Part of Me" (1980), Ambrosia

It really does get more yacht rock than this—smooth , with a flowing rhythm, precise, but not overbearing, harmonies . Not to mention the subtly stellar keyboard work from David C. Lewis. Throw in sessionist Ernie Watts' sax solo, and we have one great soft/yacht offering. It was the second of Ambrosia's two top-5 hits, reaching No. 3 on Billboard 's Hot 100. The version from the 1980s One Eighty  album runs about 5 1/2 minutes long. Talk about pure easy-listening joy.

10. "Summer Breeze" (1972), Seals & Crofts"

Long considered one of the great "summer songs" ever recorded. And summer-themed tunes from the 1970s tend to lend themselves to the yacht rock moniker. That said, Seals & Crofts were definitely a soft rock outfit, but with elements of folk and pop. "Summer Breeze" peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1970s and, again, is notable for being one of the earliest yacht rock offerings. Several other prominent artists, such as Ray Conniff, the Isley Brothers, and a stellar metal version from Type O Negative. 

9. "Ride Like the Wind" (1979), Christopher Cross

It's safe to say that Christopher Cross is the king of yacht rock. A brilliant songwriter and above-average guitar player, Cross could rock, but it's his definitive soft rock numbers that made him a star with lite-FM, adult contemporary and yacht rock fans. "Ride Like the Wind"  is the first single from Cross' stellar five-time Grammy-Award-winning self-titled debut from 1979. A more upbeat number about an outlaw running from the authorities, the track is less uplifting than other yacht rock tunes, but the vibe is the same. Of note, Michael McDonald provided backing vocals.

8. "Baby Come Back" (1977), Player

From John Friesen's steady drum intro to that durably underlaid bass line via Ron Moss to J.C. Crowley's keyboard presence begins the soft-rock brilliance of "Baby Come Back." With lyrics describing the yearning to reacquire a lost love and full-band harmonies, "Baby Come Back" just might be the quintessential offering of the yacht rock genre. It was the biggest hit for Player , the L.A.-based group that featured vocalist and song co-writer Peter Beckett, who was born in England. The tune topped the Billboard Hot 100 and still has a presence with its inclusion in films such as Transformers and  Black Adam.  Plus, various versions in popular TV shows like The Simpsons. American Dad  and King of the Hill.

7. "What a Fool Believes" (1979), The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers were a rather hard-rocking outfit before Michael McDonald joined up in the mid-1970s. The band was in need of an established songwriter, and McDonald delivered. However, with a more mellow, synthesizer/electric piano-driven sound that produced soft-rock gems like this one. Co-written by Kenny Loggins, who put out a version for himself, "What a Fool Believes" hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in April 1979. Several critics have cited this as the best song in the vast Doobie Brothers catalog. 

6. "Steal Away" (1980), Robbie Dupree

If you're going to be a one-hit wonder, why not make it count? More than 30 years since its release, " Steal Away " can still be heard in elevators and office buildings throughout the United States -- or in the third season of Better Call Saul . Undeniably yacht rock, Dupree, born in Brooklyn, enjoyed success with the song during the summer of 1980 -- always a perfect time to enjoy the smooth, soothing sounds of a piece within this genre that peaked at No. 6 on Billboar d's Hot 100.

5. "Moonlight Feels Right" (1975), Starbuck

Here's a case where middle-aged and baby-boomer music fans probably remember the song but perhaps not the group who performed the track. That's OK. Atlanta's Starbuck is essentially a one-hit wonder thanks to "Moonlight Feels Right," which topped out at No. 3 on Billboard 's Hot 100. For those who remember this track for its lite-flowing beat, with lyrical references to the ocean, "Baltimore," and 'Ole Miss," and band member Bo Wagner marimba   solo, it might take them back to a simpler, more laidback time in their lives.

4. "Heart to Heart" (1982), Kenny Loggins

Perhaps more so than the previously mentioned "This Is It," "Heart to Heart" truly has all the requirements of a great yacht rock/soft rock tune. It was co-written by Michael McDonald, who also played the electric piano and provided backing vocals. David Foster, of Chicago songwriting and '80s ballad fame, also helped compose the tune, which features David Sanborn on saxophone. The track is one of Loggins' best-known hits, cracking the top 20 of the Hot 100.

3. "Lowdown" (1976), Boz Scaggs

Co-written by David Paich and featuring Jeff Porcaro on drums -- both of whom who go on to form the aforementioned Toto. One of Scaggs most well-known hits, "Lowdown"  has a bluesy and almost disco vibe. And a number we can imagine being played at some swanky yacht club party where the dance floor is filled, and more than a few people are sporting captain's hats. The song reached No. 3 on Billboard 's Hot 100 and also topped the Billboard Cash Box chart in the United States.

2. "Key Largo" (1981), Bertie Higgins

Yacht rock and one-hit wonders seem to go hand-in-hand. Higgins scored one in the early 1980s with this number that reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Florida native was inspired to write this song about trying to avoid a romantic breakup by the 1948 movie of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart   and Lauren Bacall, who are referenced in the tune. Though Higgins never enjoyed the same individual success as a musician, the song has had a solid shelf life and remains a definitive moment in the yacht rock genre.

1. "Sailing" (1979), Christopher Cross

Sure, "Ride Like the Wind" is a gem, but the undisputed star of Cross' aforementioned debut album is the Hot 100-chart-topper "Sailing." It might be the definitive yacht rock song, capturing what Cross described, at the time, the "West Coast sound," which was long being composed, produced and performed, but maybe didn't have an appropriate moniker. The song won Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Arrangement of the Year, and was a big reason Cross earned the same award for Best New Artist.

A Chicago native, Jeff Mezydlo has professionally written about sports, entertainment and pop culture for nearly 30 years. If he could do it again, he'd attend Degrassi Junior High, Ampipe High and Grand Lakes University.

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4 Classic Rock Songs That Are Far More Popular Now Than When Released

T he term “classic” gets thrown around more than it should, especially in regard to rock music. Even our most revered rock songs have a way to go before standing the same test of time that the best-known works of classical music, blues, folk, or jazz have. That said, it’s impressive that, all these decades later, we’re still listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

We’ve gotten used to the idea that “Hey Jude,” “Paint It Black,” and “Stairway to Heaven” are part of popular culture and likely will be for decades to come. These and other staples of album-oriented rock radio were already deeply ingrained in the culture by the ‘70s and ‘80s, so it wouldn’t have been hard to imagine people still listening to these songs in the 2020s. Yet there are other songs from classic rock artists that didn’t receive nearly as much notice when they came out as they are receiving now, in an era far removed from rock’s golden years.

Here are four songs that–believe it or not–are far more popular today than they were when they were new, along with some background on how they finally got their due.

1. Queen , “ Don’t Stop Me Now “

To rock fans listening to radio in the ‘80s, the idea that “Don’t Stop Me Now” would someday rival or exceed “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Under Pressure,” or “We Will Rock You” in popularity would have seemed preposterous. Yet, “Don’t Stop Me Now” has been streamed on Spotify more than any of those Queen classics. (Also, radio listeners in the ‘80s would have been mystified by a discussion of popularity based on “streams,” but that’s another matter entirely.) Queen released “Don’t Stop Me Now” as the second single from their 1978 album, Jazz , and it spent just four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 86.

The peculiar rise of the song from obscurity to ubiquity was noted in a 2019 article in Billboard , and that piece traces “Don’t Stop Me Now”’s growing popularity back to its inclusion in the 2004 movie Shaun of the Dead . Then, gradually, the song started appearing in more places, from automobile and cosmetics ads to the television series Glee . It didn’t hurt that a reworked version of the song was included on the soundtrack for the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic. As of this writing, the only thing stopping “Don’t Stop Me Now” from being Queen’s most popular song on Spotify is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is the service’s most-streamed song from before 2000.

[AS OF THIS WRITING: Queen Tickets Are Available! – Get ‘Em Right Here]

2. Journey , “ Don’t Stop Believin’ “

Unlike “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Don’t Stop Believin’” was a big hit upon its 1981 release, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was, however, a long way from being Journey’s signature song. Heck, it was only the third-highest charting single from the Escape album, trailing “Open Arms” (No. 2) and “Who’s Crying Now” (No. 4). While it was overshadowed by those two singles in the early ‘80s, “Don’t Stop Believin’” has become far more popular than any other Journey song, both on Spotify and YouTube. It also became Journey’s first Platinum single in 2009.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” owes much of its increased stature in the 21st century to its use in the final scene of the finale for The Sopranos , which aired in 2007. Since then, it has dwarfed every other Journey song in popularity. With more than 1.7 million downloads on Spotify, it has more than four times the downloads of the next most-popular Journey song on the platform, “Any Way You Want It.”

[AS OF THIS WRITING: Journey Tickets Are Available! – Get ‘Em Right Here]

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd , “ Simple Man ”

This track from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1973 debut album, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) , was not released as a single, so it didn’t achieve the crossover success of “Free Bird,” which went to No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Free Bird” enjoyed frequent airplay on AOR stations for years, while “Simple Man” was closer to being a deep cut, but in the digital era, the two tracks enjoy a similar level of popularity. “Simple Man” is still far behind “Sweet Home Alabama”–Lynyrd Skynyrd’s highest-charting hit (No. 8)–in Spotify streams, but it has more than 10 times the streams of “What’s Your Name?” and “Saturday Night Special,” which were both Top 40 hits.

In April 2021, “Simple Man” became the second Lynyrd Skynyrd song–following “Sweet Home Alabama”–to enter Billboard ’s Digital Song Sales chart, peaking at No. 24. It also made an appearance on Billboard ’s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart that same month, an achievement that Forbes chalked up to discounts on iTunes. Music fans may have also become familiar with “Simple Man” over the years, thanks to placements in The Sopranos and the 2000 film Almost Famous . “Simple Man” returned to both charts in 2023 after Colin Stough covered the tune on American Idol .

[AS OF THIS WRITING: Skynyrd Tickets Are Available! – Get ‘Em Right Here]

4. Styx , “ Renegade “

“Renegade” has always punched above its weight. The Tommy Shaw-penned song was the third and final single released from Styx’s 1978 album Pieces of Eight , but it was the album’s only single to crack the Top 20, peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Babe” may have gone to No. 1, and “Mr. Roboto” likely takes the prize for Styx’s most culturally-referenced song, but “Renegade” is the band’s Spotify champion. Among all of Styx’s songs, only “Babe” and “Come Sail Away”–two of Styx’s eight Top 10 hits–have at least half of the 170 million-plus downloads that “Renegade” has earned.

[RELATED: Behind the Band Name: Styx]

The presence of “Renegade” in other media has likely helped it to leapfrog several Styx songs in popularity. It was used in the Adam Sandler vehicle, Billy Madison , as well as in the NBC series, Freaks and Geeks . “Renegade” was also included in Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned .

[AS OF THIS WRITING: Styx Tix Are Available! – Get ‘Em Right Here]

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4 Classic Rock Songs That Are Far More Popular Now Than When Released

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