Listen Here: Spooky Halloween

It was always Halloween for Bauhaus

It was always Halloween for Bauhaus

Listen Here is a monthly playlist picked and curated by members of the Deadshirt staff around a certain theme. This month’s theme is “Spooky Songs For Halloween,” with a playlist selected by several Deadshirt staffers and curated by music editor Julian Ames.

Here at Deadshirt we like to celebrate Halloween for the entire month of October, so it goes without saying that we’d get together and do a Halloween playlist. So Sam Paxton, Max Robinson, Mike Duquette, Christina Harrington, Joe Stando, David Lebovitz, Mike Pfeiffer, Steph Salo, and Julian Ames brought some of their favorite dark, scary, twisted, Halloween-appropriate songs into the playlist below. We hope this playlist keeps you shaking (both from fright and from dancing) from now, through Halloween, and all the way to Día de los Muertos.

“Can’t Play Dead” – The Heavy
When not providing the music to every single movie trailer and car commercial ever, The Heavy’s whole aesthetic is soul music meets old school horror and western movies. This song encapsulates all of that and is perfect for a Halloween playlist: it opens with audio from the trailer to the 1966 horror movie The She Beast, it name checks zombies, rigor mortis, and has constant mentions of graves and graveyards, plus its got cool western-sounding strings that turn into a horror movie melody. – Julian Ames

“This Place Hotel” – The Jacksons
Known as “Heartbreak Hotel” but re-titled to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley tune, this single off The Jackson’s 1980 album Triumph is pretty notable for die-hard Michael Jackson fans. The future King of Pop would find great success mining the depths of paranoia and despair, from “Billie Jean” to “Ghosts,” for much of his adult solo career. But before Rod Temperton handed off the lyrics to the titular spookfest of Thriller, Michael himself wrote this jittery funk track about the ghosts of ex-lovers conspiring to sabotage a seemingly perfect relationship. Both Triumph and its predecessor Destiny, released on either side of Michael’s adult solo debut Off the Wall in 1979, brilliantly anticipate Michael’s rise as a world-dominating pop wizard and master of finding chills and thrills on the dance floor. – Mike Duquette

“We Don’t Want Your Body” – Stars
Okay, so maybe Stars only namecheck vampires once throughout the course of the track, but “We Don’t Want Your Body,” the standout track from 2010’s The Five Ghosts, is a dark, gothic dance pop gem clearly influenced more by Interview with the Vampire than Twilight. Backed by thundering pipe organ and classic horror film-evoking harpsichord lines, lead singer Torquil Campbell’s urgent, faux-English delivery evokes rain-soaked cobblestone and smoky discotheques packed with posh bloodsuckers. This shimmying cut will compel you to grab your gaudiest cravat, pop in your fake vamp fangs, and hit the town. – Sam Paxton

“A Nightmare On My Street” – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
What’s great about 1988’s “A Nightmare On My Street” is that not only is it a weird artifact from Will Smith’s all but forgotten music career, it’s also an unlicensed novelty song about Will Smith and his real-life rapper friends being stalked by Freddy Fucking Krueger. I’m not going to try and say this is a good song, because it isn’t. Play this at your Halloween party and you and your friends can marvel at the future star of Seven Pounds hip-hoplaining about how the murdered ghost of a child murderer tried to possess his body to kill Ready Rock C and co. – Max Robinson

“Cat People [Single Version]” – David Bowie
“Cat People” was originally composed with the help of synth legend Giorgio Moroder for a sleazy kinda-werewolf movie of the same name in 1982 and then re-recorded for Let’s Dance with Stevie Ray Vaughn and blah blah you know how to use Google if you’re really curious. This song’s gothic vocal, sinister lyrics (Those who feel me near / Pull the blinds and change their minds) and deceptive danceability make it an obvious pick from the catalog of an artist who’s always pulling from the occult. – Mike Pfeiffer

“Once Upon A Daydream” – The Police
Released on the flipside of “Synchronicity II” in 1983, “Daydream” was a far cry from the sort of urgent, muscular pop-rock The Police offered on their final album, Synchronicity (the record that gave us “Every Breath You Take” and “King Of Pain”). Over a hypnotic guitar groove by Andy Summers and insistent, deceptively simple Stewart Copeland backbeat, Sting sings a song of young lovers who lose their unborn child to the lady’s disapproving, abusive father…leading the suitor to murder the man and condemn himself to prison. The haunting, interlocking melody and mournful chorus shows Sting at the top of his songwriting game, but the moody tone and casual violence all but proves why The Police weren’t much longer for this world. – Mike Duquette

“Shankill Butchers” – The Decemberists
Everything about this song is creepy, from the slow and lilting, chain-rattling melody, to the story the song tells–the story of the Shankill Butchers, sharpening their knives and hunting children who disobey their parents. The Decemberists tell this story in their typical theatrical fashion, creating a bedtime story that’ll send a shiver down the spines of anyone listening: “Everybody moan / everybody shake / the Shankill Butchers want to catch you awake.” What a delightfully eerie song. – Christina Harrington

“A Formidable Marinade” – Mikelangelo and The Black Sea Gentlemen
This song is GROSS. It’s essentially about doin’ it with a little bit of Satanism thrown in. You’ve got nods to sodomy, cannibalism, and Turkish baths. I’ll let you figure out what the marinade is made of. This is another dark cabaret style song. Wikipedia tells me they were inspired by “Balkan gypsy bands of the 20th century.” This song is sexy in a “gives you the heebie jeebies” way. It’s written to sound like a romantic waltz, though it is very dark and the goth lyrics sound like every parent’s worst nightmare. I imagine this is the last song you hear before you sell your soul to the Devil and start turning tricks in Hell. What more could you ask for? – Steph Salo

“Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song)” – Buddy Baker, with lyrics by X Atencio
Okay, this one is corny as hell, I admit it. The feature song for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, it’s an old-fashioned showtune-style number about various ghosts in the house. But it’s an undeniably catchy melody, complemented by impressive lyricism (“When you hear the knell of a requiem bell / Weird glows gleam where spirits dwell” is particularly strong). My other favorite part is how insistent the song is that the ghosts are silly and fun, and not actually dangerous. The whole thing has the tone of a big-budget production number, rather than anything horrifying, and I like it as a change of pace. – Joe Stando

“Rivolta Silenziosa” – HUMANWINE
First of all, HUMANWINE is actually an acronym for “Humans Underground Making Anagrams Nightly While Imperialistic Not-Mes Enslave,” which is amazing. They sound like what would happen if Jessie and James from Team Rocket decided to start a goth steampunk band. The duo (Holly Brewer and Matthew McNiss) formed in 2001 and has had some success in the Boston area, but that’s about it. “Rivolta Silenziosa” is about some weird torture chamber, with spooky cries of “We’ll never get out of this place alive!” Yet it’s oddly jaunty! They certainly sound like they’re having a grand ol’ time with their bones being crushed. This song has been the cornerstone of my Halloween playlists since I discovered it back in 2007. It’s way spooky and never fails to set the Halloweenie tone. – Steph Salo

“I Put a Spell on You” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
“I Put a Spell on You” is my Halloween pick for two reasons. First, it touches on the spookiness and showmanship that defined most of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ career (this is a guy who dressed up as a witch doctor and rose out of a coffin on stage), without being too on-the-nose. It’s the right level of character and kayfabe. But more importantly, it’s one of Hawkins’ most raw, violent recordings, with an intensity that’s honestly a little frightening. The end descending into yelling is a level of passion even Hawkins doesn’t reach often. I had a friend who used to play it into his mic while playing video games online, as an intimidation tactic. It’s fun song with an edge, perfect for the season. – Joe Stando

“Up Jumped The Devil” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
It’s hard not to include something by Nick Cave on a list of spooky songs, and since it would be impolite to put “the entirety of Murder Ballads” as an entry on this playlist, I decided to sidestep it and go with “Up Jumped The Devil” off of Tender Prey. Behind the delighftully sinister hamfisted metaphors and evil-even-by-Cave-standards musicianship is the story of a man damned by the Devil himself to “play the villain’s part.” It’s got crime, death, damnation, metaphorical and possibly literal demons, and the Devil. I have no proof of this, but I like to imagine that the xylophone bits towards the end were played on an actual skeleton’s ribcage. – David Lebovitz

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – Bauhaus
I don’t hold it against you if you want to skip a few minutes into Bauhaus’ seminal work “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” the song is nearly the length of an episode of that Adult Swim show–you know the one, with the purposefully crappy animation and the horrifying gore? That one. Anyway, it’s a long damn song and the insanely over-the-top lyrics don’t even start until almost three minutes into it. But do you skip to the end of horror movies, too? No! Being scared is about prolonged tension and building a damn moment. Turn out the lights and lay back and hear a song so good that eyeliner sales to men are marked as “Pre-” and “Post-BLD.” – Mike Pfeiffer

“Jack The Ripper” – The Horrors
A cover of the song originally by Screaming Lord Sutch, The Horrors’ version turns it from novelty to appropriately ghastly yet exciting gothic garage rock song. Lead singer Faris Badwan’s low voice and gruesome wails coupled with the trudging, bass-heavy nature of the music give the song a more odious nature, as a song about a famous serial killer should have. – Julian Ames

“Haunted House” – Jumpin’ Gene Simmons
Former Sun records rockabilly musician Jumpin’ Gene Simmons is remembered for exactly two things: 1) Having his name borrowed by some guy named Chaim Witz, and 2) this Top 40 cover of bluesman Johnny Fuller’s “Haunted House.” A cute little ditty about a man’s stubborn refusal to leave his newly purchased house, despite the threats of the various ghosts and ghouls that haunt it, “Haunted House” is a fun song for any and all Halloween-related occasions. Even grim occasions, if you listen to the lyrics a little too closely. – David Lebovitz

That’s Deadshirt’s hand-picked Halloween playlist – now, you tell us what spooky songs you like to listen to on Halloween. Comment below or hit us up on Facebook!

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