The Stories Behind The Best Halloween Songs

The Stories Behind The Best Halloween Songs

While there are plenty of songs around for Halloween, let’s check out the scariest ones. You know, the ones that set the scene to make even grown men squeal like a little girl.

#6 Highway to Hell

You know that opening riff, don’t you? That well-known sound tells us immediately what the next destination is.

In creating the introduction to Highway to Hell - AC/DC’s Angus Young came up with a basic guitar riff, which became one of the most recognizable in rock music.

‘Highway to Hell’ is the opening track of AC/DC's album of the same name. Released in 1979, it soon entered the top 40 charts around the world, and has shown up in charts several times since then.

The reason for the title of the song (and the album), was brought about during an interview in which the journalist asked the group about their tour life. Guitarist Angus Young described it as a "road to hell".

In a later interview Angus said: “All we’d done is describe what it’s like to be on the road for four years. A lot of it was bus and car touring, with no real break. When you’re sleeping with the singer’s socks two inches from your nose, that’s pretty close to hell.”

Sadly, lead vocalist and complete rock legend, Bon Scott was found dead in the back of a friend's car on the 19th of February 1980, after a night of partying. The actual cause of his death remains a mystery to this day. We love you Bon.

#5 I Put a Spell on You – Credence

Witches and wizards and their ability to cast spells has always been a key element of the spookiness of Halloween.

Credence Clearwater Revival's rocky and spooky ‘I Put a Spell on You’ is a cover version of the 1956 classic, written and composed by Jalacy ‘Screamin' Jay’ Hawkins, whose own recording of it was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's ‘500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll’.

Hawkins had originally intended to record ‘I Put a Spell on You’ as "a refined love song, a blues ballad". However, Hawkins recalls “the producer got everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death”.

‘I Put a Spell on You’ has been covered by other artists extensively; there are several hundred versions of the song. Nina Simone's truly memorable version reached No. 23 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart in 1965

Credence Clearwater Revival's version reached No. 58 on the U.S. Hot 100 in 1968. The band later performed it at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Combining an awesomely haunting guitar solo with John Fogerty’s scary vocals, Credence’s version of this spooky classic is an important part of any Halloween playlist.

One of the most spell-binding versions of the song was Bette Midler’s performance in the 1993 film Hocus Pocus.

#4 Werewolves of London

‘Werewolves of London’ by the late great American singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, was a surprise hit in 1978. Zevon’s howling throughout the song, mixed with lyrics about a rather classy monster, painted a picture where it was easy for listeners to like the character and the funky song.

The song actually began as a joke by Phil Everly (of The Everly Brothers) in 1975. Everly had just seen the 1935 film Werewolf of London on UK TV, and suggested Zevon adapt the title for a song.

Written in 15 minutes with LeRoy Marinell, and Waddy Wachtel - it was 3 years before it was considered for inclusion on an album. However, after hearing the novelty song the day after it was written, friend Jackson Browne started performing it live in 1975.

For any of us not living in London, when Zevon sings that the werewolf was “looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook”, it would’ve meant nothing. However, the significance changes when you find out that it’s actually a real Chinese restaurant in London.

“Werewolves of London” became an overnight hit. BBC Radio listeners rated it as having the best opening line in a song. Zevon later said of the song, "I don't know why that became such a hit. We didn't think it was suitable to be played on the radio” describing ‘Werewolves of London’ as a novelty song. He also referred to the song as “a dumb song for smart people,”

The folklore tale of a man that can shapeshift to a wolf has fascinated people since the time of the Roman Empire – becoming more widely known after the middle ages when witchcraft also became widely feared – continuing until now.

The song had a brief resurgence in popularity in 1986, due to its use in a scene in The Color of Money, where Tom Cruise dances and lip-synchs to the song.

#3 Don’t Fear the Reaper

The best song about another dude who has become a favourite at any serious Halloween party.

Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 classic, ‘(Don't Fear) The Reaper’ was written and sung by lead guitarist Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser, who says the song deals with eternal love and the inevitability of death. He wrote the song while picturing an early death for himself - fun guy.

The song was Blue Öyster Cult's highest chart success, reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1976. It is listed at number 405 on Rolling Stone's list of the top 500 Songs of all Time.

With lines like "Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity", many listeners thought the song was about a murder-suicide pact, but Dharma insists that the song is about eternal love, rather than suicide, using Romeo and Juliet to describe a couple who wanted to be together in the afterlife.

The line "40,000 men and women" every day, which is used several times in the song, was actually just a guess at the statistic at the number of global deaths per day, and turned out to be 100,000 less than the real figure.

In the four decades since its release - the song has been used in more than two dozen times in film, television and video games. In the original Halloween movie, the song plays in the car when Jamie Lee Curtis' character is being stalked by serial killer Michael Myers.

In April 2000, Saturday Night Live aired the now famous comedy sketch ‘More Cowbell’. Written by Will Ferrell, the sketch has a fictionalized version of the recording of ‘(Don't Fear) The Reaper’ on an episode of VH1's Behind the Music. The sketch soon took on its own identity as ‘More Cowbell’, and became one of the first super-memes of the 21st century.

#2 Psycho Killer

 If there was ever a song that could send shivers up your spine as soon as it starts, this is it.

 The 1977 hit ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads first appeared on their debut album ‘Talking Heads: 77’. However, they had been playing the song since 1974, when they were known as the Artistics.

The unnerving lyrics are sung like they are the thoughts of a serial killer, and were inspired by the character Norman Bates in the movie Psycho.

Due to the timing of its release as a single in December 1977, many people instantly associated ‘Psycho Killer’ with Son of Sam serial killings that had been happening around that time. Although the band always insisted that the song had no inspiration from the notorious events, some people have still insisted that the single's release date was “eerily timely" and marked by a "macabre synchronicity".

Lead singer and songwriter David Byrne never thought this would be a hit calling it a "silly song" at the time, and was surprised when it took off. He also said that he believed that both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys, suggesting that everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies.

Massachusetts-based band The Fools parodied the song in 1980, calling it ‘Psycho Chicken’.

#1 Welcome to My Nightmare

Who else, but rock music’s king of scariness and horror would be number one on this list?

Welcome to My Nightmare is the title track to Alice Cooper's first solo album, released in March 1975. This was a concept album. Played in sequence, the songs form a journey through the nightmares of a boy named Steven.

In an interview, Alice said he has always loved horror movies, and also loves theatre and musicals. He claims that he always had the grand idea that he could take the basic album and create a stage show from it, which is what he eventually did.

The album inspired the Alice Cooper Nightmare TV special, then a worldwide concert tour in 1975, plus the Welcome to My Nightmare concert film in 1976. The album tour was noted as one of the most over-the-top rock shows of the late 70’s.

Not satisfied with scaring rock music fans – Alice took his freakiness into family living rooms when he appeared on the Muppet Show


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Check out Cranky’s video ‘Best Halloween Rock Songs’ on YouTube



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