Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where's the great Halloween music of today?

Here I am, sitting at the computer later on a Saturday night, and it happens to be October 31st. As of this writing, at 10 pm, I have had the grand total of one child come to the door trick or treating. That was over four hours ago! I don't know about you and your neighbourhood, but it seems to me all the fun seems to have been drained from Halloween, and now the parents are so frightened by the event, it has almost become a non-event.

Oh sure, we can head out to organized Halloween parties at restaurants, clubs and sometimes even private homes. But for the kids, for whom the evening really should be for, it is almost a case now of 'let's get this over with' as quickly as possible. Too bad, as the kids will not be growing up with the memories we had as kids. I remember going out every year in my neighbourhood in Toronto, intent on covering the entire neighbourhood for goodies. I never made it, of course, but I always had at least one and often two full pillowcases full of great stuff. I also had a Unicef box to collect change for less fortunate children in places I had never heard of before. Now, even Unicef boxes at Halloween are a thing of the past. Sigh.

Other than parents still throwing away all the stuff you collected a couple of weeks after Halloween and not telling you about it, much of the old Halloween traditions are fading into obscurity. I was thinking of this over the evening, as I watched a so-called 'scary' movie that was only scary insofar as it was so boring I was falling asleep during the first hour. Give me Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a really cheesy horror movie and I will use my imagination to figure out just how scary the movie is, thank you very much.

This brings us to the subject of Halloween music. Or rather, the total lack of it in the last twenty years or so. Probably the last really big Halloween hit was the Theme from Ghostbusters, which effectively killed the career of singer Ray Parker Jr. But in the 50s and 60s, we enjoyed a steady supply of truly awful Halloween hits we simply could not do without. The granddaddy of them all, of course, is the Monster Mash with Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers. That song became a hit not once, not twice, but three times over a couple of decades and is still with us today. Pickett may not be remembered for anything else, but he'll aways be remembered for that song.

There were others, too, all of which I have been listening to this evening while the doorbell didn't ring: Haunted House with Jumpin' Gene Simmons; The Twilight Zone Theme by Bernard Hermann rather than the more familiar one by Marius Constant; The Purple People Eater with Sheb Wooley; the opening theme from The Addams Family TV Show; Martian Hop with The Ran-Dells; Lewis Lee and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes; Screamin' Jay Hawkins and I Put a Spell on You; and of course, The Blob with The Five Blobs.

Those last two bring back personal memories for me: The Blob, written incidentally by a young up and coming songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David back in 1958, accompanied one of the worst horror movies of its era, but one that I remember scared the pants off me when I first saw it, and starred a very young 'Steven' McQueen. Screamin' Jay Hawkins was still singing his one and only hit for years after it first appeared on the charts, and I remember interviewing him back in the 80s when he was still doing club dates, all due to that one song that featured him opening up a casket at the beginning, sitting up and singing the song. Ah, they don't write them like that anymore...

We can go back even further, of course, to Paul Dukas' famous The Sorcerer's Apprentice and even the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Bach everyone associates with Halloween and horror movies for great musical inspiration for the night. But today? Not much of anything. Where are the great writers and performers of cheesy songs we'll remember with our kids on Halloween for years to come? Not in our lifetime now, it seems.

Oh well, we can always revel in the hits of the past, as everyone does the rest of the year now anyway. Halloween is like any other day of the year now: remember the music we grew up with rather than make new memories today. What a legacy to leave to our kids!

Anyway, if you still long for some of those old hits from Halloween past or from any other memorable event from your past, I invite you to drop me a line at and through my music service, A Web of Fine Music ( I will do my very best to scare up a copy of it for you. Now, in the meantime, I have all these Halloween treats to get through myself. At least there is one advantage to only one kid coming to the door tonight...

October 31st, 2009.

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