All Hallows Eve, as Halloween is officially known, falls on 31 October. Its origins are hotly debated, but whether it’s a Christian festival, inspired by a Roman feast or is another name for the Celtic festival of Samhain, it is a day few will be unaware of.
Around the world pumpkins are carved into lanterns and apples are floated in bowls of water for apple-bobbing. Most obvious of all are the scary costumes in which the children dress up for ‘trick or treating’, the American custom of knocking on doors for sweets or gifts. Witches, wizards and warlocks of all shapes and sizes abound.
The Halloween theme of ghoulies, ghosts and monsters is reflected in our choice of 50 spine-chillers, all designed to lend your evening a bit of a bite. Each of our discs kicks off with an all-time classic, from Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins respectively, that tops the lot as far as weird and wonderful goes.
Disc one opener ‘Monster Mash’ reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on 20 October 1962, just in time for Halloween, and has been a perennial holiday favourite ever since. In Britain, the BBC banned it from the airwaves on the grounds that the song was ‘too morbid’, but it peaked at Number 3 in early October 1973 on re-release. We also include the B-side, ‘Monster Mash Party’, plus two less successful but still fun efforts from Pickett and his fiendish friends.
‘I Put A Spell On You’, a love song laced with a strong dash of voodoo, not only starts our second disc but catapulted Jalacy ‘Screamin’ Jay’ Hawkins to international fame in 1956. He’d first cut the self-penned ditty two years earlier, but it was when producer Arnold Maxim matched him with some of the era’s greatest session musicians (and a case of whiskey) two years later that the ingredients fell into place. ‘…Spell…’ reputedly sold a million and remained Hawkins’ signature song until his death in 2000. It’s also been covered by artists as diverse as Nina Simone and cartoon family the Simpsons.
Sheb Wooley’s tale of ‘The Purple People Eater’ – a comedy song that parodied the newly popular horror-movie genre – made Number 1 in the US charts in 1958 and stayed there for six weeks. Wooley, a serious country musician, had to battle his record label to get the song released; he would not see another hit until 1962’s ‘That’s My Dad’. He continued to record well into the Eighties under both his own name and the pseudonym Ben Colder, but never surpassed this colourful smash.
The Big Bopper, alias JP Richardson, cashed in on Wooley’s success with ‘The Purple People Eater Meets The Witchdoctor’, the title of which also referenced a 1958 novelty song by David Seville. Richardson perished along with fellow stars Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens when the single-engined Beechcraft light aircraft in which they were travelling fell to earth in a snowstorm in February 1959.
The name of John Zacherle, the ‘Cool Ghoul’, looms large on this compilation. The Philadelphia-born actor will be remembered best by viewers of US television in the Fifties and Sixties when he presented horror movies. He cashed in on his fame as king of the late-night airwaves with the 1958 US Top 10 hit ‘Dinner With Drac’ and, though now in his nineties, has made various cameo appearances on screen in recent years.
Shock-rocker Screaming Lord Sutch was a UK version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins who moved from rock to politics as founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. Sutch ran for parliament 39 times, the first as the National Teenage party candidate in 1963. He was spotted two years earlier by independent record producer Joe Meek and briefly made records, but his stage act and, later, appearances at by-elections in his trademark top hat were the ingredients that boosted his profile.
Legendary twentieth-century film director Alfred Hitchcock was synonymous with suspense thrillers. He started making movies in the Twenties and, at the height of his celebrity three decades later, was featured on two long-playing albums. We feature the title track of ‘Music To Be Murdered By’, a collection of jazz standards released in 1958. Each of its track titles had a macabre double meaning; Hitchcock described the result as ‘Mood music in a jugular vein’.
Other offerings here come from names as familiar as Washington R&B vocal legends the Clovers and as obscure as Tarantula Goul, a host of horror shows on KPTV in Portland, Oregon, from 1957 to 1959. Real name Suzanne Waldron, fans affectionately referred to her as ‘Taranch’.
This collection of blood-curdling rock and pop is entertaining enough to grace your CD player for more than just one month of the year. So don’t miss a trick – treat yourself to some spooky, spine-chilling sounds right noooooowwww!