Music: For Halloween

By Bill Caraher

Halloween is one of those holidays that both brings out our inner child and offers up a space for some interesting and carnivalesque social critiques. For example, no Halloween passes without some discussion of the appropriateness of various costumes. Is it acceptable to dress as Trump? As Hillary? Halloween also exposes social and economic divisions in our communities as trick-or-treaters move from one neighborhood to the next in search of the elusive full-sized candy bar. The age of tricker-or-treaters also becomes a topic for conversation as we continue to negotiate the changing the boundaries of adulthood, and this has had an impact on traditions like “mischief night” which blurs the distinction between pranks and mischief and vandalism and violence against property.

This is heady stuff deserving a better sound track than the usual warmed-over playlists of “Thriller,” Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” and the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” So I offer you one here:

There is no better place to start a slightly more offbeat Halloween playlist than the Cramps, Psychedelic Jungle filled with goo goo muck, green fuz, and voodoo idols.

The Hooters, “All You Zombies,” reminds me of my youth in the Delaware Valley:

And Tom Petty’s, “Zombie Zoo” was a club in LA:

Peter Tosh, “Vampire” offers some serious social critique:

And it’s hard to think that Lucky Dube’s, “Dracula” didn’t take some inspiration from Tosh’s song:

Of course, you have fewer problems with vampires and other creature from the evening hours if you’re a “Duppy Conqueror”:

No list of Halloween hits is complete without Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You,” but Nina Simone’s cover is sexier:

And as a final coda on this little play list, we return to the Cramps who crashed and slid into public attention after their 1978 concert at the Napa State Mental Hospital: