Halloween Music

Here are ten of my all-time favorite Halloween songs. I tried to list the songs that a lot of people don’t usually think of listening to during the Halloween season, but will definitely be heard, if you watch scary shows and movies.

One song that won’t be seen on this list is Michael Jackson’s Thriller, because that is sort of the official song of Halloween, and it’s a given that it would be everyone’s favorite at every party. No, this list is for the not quite so well known songs, or songs that aren’t frequently thought of as being for Halloween. Some of these songs are actually pretty scary, so probably aren’t suitable for parties, as it would immediately kill the mood, but there is at least one party style song on this list.

Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett

This is the classic Halloween novelty song, released in 1962. The first time I heard this song, I was just a kid, and naturally, I was immediately charmed by it, and this song has never lost the ability to make me sing along and smile.

This Is Halloween – The Nightmare Before Xmas – Danny Elfman

This was yet another charming little song that, when I first heard it, immediately made me laugh, and sing along. Every year, I never miss an opportunity to loudly sing this in my car. The visuals are actually scary, managing to capture all of those little childhood terrors that pop up in the middle of the night, except for the vampires, though.

They’re brothers, according to the game based on the film, and I thought they were some of the cutest, little, tiny-head, vampire-bat people I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I would love to have one of those as a doll!

*Sigh* I’ll probably have to make it myself.

The Exorcist – Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield

Now, I have told y’all the story of how my mother would not allow me to watch this movie, saying it was too much for me, but when I reached a certain age, (I think maybe 13 or 14), she allowed me to watch the adult supervised, edited for television, version. (My mom loved Horror movies, and I often watched them with her, but she didn’t just let me watch whatever I wanted willy-nilly. She was often present, and we almost always watched the edited for TV versions of some of the scariest ones.)

Well, anyway, even watching it with adult supervision was a mistake, because a couple of weeks after I saw it, the city experienced an earthquake. This happened after my bedtime, so the timing on this was simply incredible!!! I’m not gonna go into details, but you can imagine what happened after that, for yourselves. (Like the little girl in the movie, I crawled into Mom’s bed whenever I had a nightmare.)

All ofthis to say, I didnt think this was an actual song. I thought, like most of the music I heard in movies, that it was made up for the film. Imagine my surprise several years later, when I came across the Mike Oldfield album in the library, called Tubular Bells! I only stumbled across it because I was heavily into Electronic music, and listening to some of the early stuff, and the album was just in that section. Even without the film’s visuals, the music is deeply creepy, and guaranteed to kill any kind of partying mood.

Halloween – Main Title Theme – John Carpenter

You can play this at a party, and it probably wouldn’t even kill the mood, because Michael Myer’s theme song slaps! This is the iconic theme from the 1978 version of Halloween, which was also written by the film’s director, John Carpenter. I didn’t see this movie until I was nearly an adult, and I was not particularly impressed at the time, but I’ve since grown to like it a lot. Some things you can’t truly appreciate until you reach a certain level of maturity, perhaps.

Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saens

Its amazing to me the kinds of influences a teacher can have on a child. My greatest memories of this song come from my elementary school music teacher, Ms. Blaylock. I loved this teacher so much, and even though she passed many years ago, I love her still, and hope to meet her in any afterlife that exists.

I learned to read music from her, and when she formed an all girl band of tambourine players, I joined that, I learned to play the piano from her, and she even introduced me to The Bee Gees, but one of the most interesting things she taught me was that even devout Christian women like her could find scary things (including Halloween) fun.

Ms. Blaylock would play this song in class every year, and I always looked forward to the quiet times we spent in class just listening to the kinds of music that a bunch of inner city kids would otherwise have never been exposed to, outside of Looney Tunes. She had wide ranging tastes, and I credit her with having adopted at least some of that, as my own musical tastes are all over the place.

No One Believes Me – Kid Cudi – Fright Night 2017

I absolutely love this video. I would rather watch an entire series based on the premise of this song and video, than the mediocre movie it was made for. There’s this quiet suburban neighborhood being slowly taken over by vampires, and this guy is anguished about what he is, the things he’s done, and what’s happening to the world he used to live in, as he walks the streets at night. Movies about Black vampires are pretty rare, and I would love to see a film with vampires and people of color, in a suburban setting, and not done as a comedy.

This is very much a song for Halloween, but is also one of those party-killers I mentioned. Its hard to dance to this level of angst and depression.

In the Hall of the Mountain King – Grieg (Peer Gynt Suite No.1) (From the movie Needful Things)

I first heard this song in a Stephen King film called Needful Things. Here, the Town Selectman, named Buster, who has a beef with one of the officers in the Sheriff’s department, comes home to find derogatory notes placed all over his house, by Nettie, who was put up to it by the devil, disguised as an antiques store owner.

This is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite scenes in a Stephen King film, and makes the entire movie worth watching, even if you don’t like King’s films. Its fun, suspenseful, and there’s a great payoff, later in the film.

Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell

I heard this song as a teenager, and from what I remember, it took some time for people to figure out that it was Michael Jackson singing the background vocals, and then everyone’s next question was, why? Who is Rockwell that he can get one of the most famous men in America, who was nearly at the height of his career, to do the background vocals ( since Michael Jackson almost never featured on other people’s songs). It turns out that Rockwell was related to Michael by marriage, because his sister, also the daughter of Motown’s Berry Gordy, was married to Michael’s brother Jermaine.

The video for the song is mostly funny, but the lyrics themselves are pretty creepy, and are a precursor to some of Michael’s later paranoid themes about being so incredibly famous.

Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon

The first time I heard this song I was a teenager. My first question was, wtf?!!! There’s a song about werewolves? I couldn’t believe that someone would write a song like this. This is one of my favorite, year round, Halloween ditties. I love the beat, and the lyrics, how even though its about werewolves, its not at all scary, because the visuals are deeply funny to me, and just the whole aesthetic is enough to immediately put me in great mood for the rest of the day.

I Got Five On It – Luniz

This song is not at all scary as far as the lyrics. Its your typical gangsta rap drama about drugs and moneymaking from the 90s. However, I have never liked this song because the beat always creeped me the hell out. This song gained its official Halloween status, thanks to Jordan Peele heavily featuring it in his last directorial role, US, and now, well I kinda like it. It suit the movie so well ,and it was really nice to know I wasn’t the only person who heard it, and thought it would sound great in a Horror movie.

Honorable Mentions:

Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

A song about death ought to be considered a Halloween song.

Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper

The first time I’d ever even heard of Alice Cooper, I was a very little kid, and he featured this song in an episode of The Muppets, and I distinctly remember thinking, that’s not a real singer. I thought he was a made up character for the show. It took several years for me to figure out that he was an actual Rock performer, with a career and everything, and this scary, monstery, stuff was his schtick!

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus

I heard this song in the 1980s vampire movie, The Hunger, which I wasn’t supposed to be watching, I don’t think, and my thoughts at the time was, “Hey! I know who Bela Lugosi is!”, and “They got songs about vampires, now?!!!” I don’t want to say that I found the song charming…because I didn’t. Personally, I found the song terrifying, and to this day, I’m not entirely sure why.

Note: Tomorrow is Friday Oct. 22nd, which means that Dune will finally be released on HBOMax. I’ll have more to discuss next week, and the week after that I hope to have seen the movies, Antlers and Last Night in Soho.

My Top Ten Favorite Musicals

Music is a huge part of my life, but I don’t ever talk much about musical film. We have the kind of household where me, or my Mom, and siblings would just start singing around the house. So really, I kind of lived in a musical already, where singing would just spontaneously occur! We grew up listening to the music our Mom liked, which was Blues, Country, and R&B. We all grew up listening to the Opera, and Classical music, that was in the Looney Toons cartoons. Later, I started getting more adventurous and branching out into different kinds of music, to Punk, Rock, and Club jams, and then even later, Metal, and Indie.

I have always been fearless, when it comes to expanding my musical tastes, and I have never allowed other people’s tastes to dictate what I would and would not like, or listen to. (Trust me, when I say that used to be a fucking thing!) It always baffled me, how people could go through their entire lives, and only ever listen to the one genre of music, that made them feel comfortable. Music is like food. It would be like eating macaroni and cheese your whole life. (I mean, I love mac and cheese, but even I would get tired of eating that, even in its many different versions, after about a week.)

Some songs speak to me on a foundational level, and I am always in search of those types of songs, and i thought everybody did this. You memorize all the words, and walk around singing it in your head, and sometimes, they make you feel so strongly, (sad or happy, makes no difference) that you just burst into tears, or chills, whenever you hear it! Now couple that with a moving image, and Wow!!

Here are ten of my absolutely favorite Musical films, and the one song in that movie that just works for me every single time. These are movies that just happened to show up in a particular stage of my mental and emotional development (yes, even as a adult) that had an out sized influence on me, whose songs resonated with me in some way, or changed my thinking on some issue I was going through, at the time. Or… just made me really, really happy!

Yentl

I think this movie hit me at just the right time in my formative years, for every single one of the songs to resonate with me, and now for whatever reason, it’s largely forgotten, except by Streisand fans. I suppose, there will come a day when Streisand herself will be largely forgotten, and that will be a sad day, indeed.

This particular song spoke so directly to my teenage self because I lived in an environment not unlike Yentl’s, where I had a loving parent, who indulged my interests, only to be constantly told by the people outside our house, that I couldn’t do certain things (drawing), listen to certain types of music (Rock), watch certain kinds of movies (Horror), and yes, even read certain types of books (Science Fiction). Why? Because I was a Black girl, and Black girls didn’t do any of those things…

…and “where is it written” is, of course, the question I always asked myself! The first time I heard this song, I think I bawled my way through the rest of the movie. I watched the movie multiple times, went out and bought the album, memorized all the songs, and then I backtracked to watch all of Barbra’s movies from the past. Later, I heard a story about how someone in Hollywood told her she’d never be a star, because she was lacking in the looks department. So Barbra, considering that a challenge, started creating her own musical vehicles, and producing and starring in her own movies, to prove them wrong.

That’s my girl!

The Wiz

I have to admit, this is not my favorite musical, but it does have great appeal, and three of my favorite songs, Michael Jackson’s You Can’t Win, Diana Ross’ Ease On Down the Road, and Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News. I first saw this movie when I was a kid, and a couple of years before I saw Wizard of Oz. I remember this movie was a huge event in the Black community. It’s really funny how I didn’t realize that Black people lived in an entirely different entertainment eco-sphere than white people, until I got to college. None of the white people I met were remotely aware of any of the movies and music I grew up with, and it took me a minute to figure out why… didn’t they have radios and TVs? Yeah, they did, but white people only paid attention to things that involved white people. I met white people who were as limited in their idea of entertainment, as some of the Black people I met growing up, and I never understood that.

A few years ago there was a televised reboot of this movie, and white people were deeply puzzled, saying the reboot was a ripoff of The Wizard of Oz, and Black people had to take time out of our busy schedules, to explain to them on Twitter, that this reboot is based on the Black version of the Wizard of Oz, and that making Black versions of white movies was a perfectly normal occurrence, because mostly we were not allowed in white theaters to see those films. So a Black version got made, with all the stars we knew and loved, like Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, and Diana Ross (some of the hottest Black entertainers of the 70’s), with the type of music we enjoyed.

I’m kind of glad that people are becoming a little more adventurous though, and looking at different entertainments that are not geared towards them as the audience, and I’m especially glad that a lot of people get that some entertainments are not made with them in mind, but are still entertaining regardless. If you have not watched this movie, you should check it out, because it’s a lot of fun.

The Nightmare Before Xmas

Of all the Tim Burton movies he ever made, this one is my all-time favorite, and I was charmed right from the opening scene. Honestly, these are some of the cutest vampires I’ve ever seen. Y’all know I’m a huge fan of Halloween, which is the first time I saw this, of course. I watched this movie multiple times, and memorized this song, and several others in the film, (Sally’s Song, and Oogie Boogie Man) just for the sheer fun of it.

What’s really funny is that this movie features a classic case pf cultural appropriation. It’s a perfect definition. In fact, if anyone argues with you about exactly what cultural appropriation actually is, I would point them in the direction of this movie (and the cheerleading movie, Bring It On). Jack Skellington, who is the King of Halloweenland, accidentally ends up in Christmasland, and loves it so much, that he decides to do his own version of it. Unfortunately, these two holidays do not mix well, as one is a time for fear and gloom, and the other is supposed to be a time for hope and joy, so Jack has a fundamental misunderstanding of what Christmas is. He kidnaps Santa Claws, tries to take his place, and puts the future of Christmas in jeopardy, when Santa’s life is threatened by his rival, the Oogie Boogie Man. Yeah, Jack is kind of stupid, but I did like Oogie Boogie.

The Little Shop Of Horrors

I’m going to admit, I was sort of low key rooting for the plant in this movie, because he got the best songs. This movie held such resonance for me, because of the voice of Audrey II, Levi Stubbs, who was a baritone in the singing group, The Four Tops, which was a very popular group in our house. All that, and Audrey II’s (Twoey) final song is just bad ass, Audrey is scary as Hell, and the song is also deeply funny because the imagery is hilarious, and the lyrics contain phrases my mother used to regularly say around the house (ie. tough titty, walking on thin ice).

I have no idea how or when I encountered this movie. It was probably on late at night, when I wasn’t supposed to be up, since so many of the movies that had influence over me, were shown at that time.

My Fair Lady

This is not my favorite musical of all time, but this song, along with Eliza Doolittle’s, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, And Ascot Gavotte, are three of my favorite songs. There’s nothing wrong with the movie, it just doesn’t reach Yentl levels, as far as the characters and plot. But I have watched this movie multiple times, the singing is divine, the costumes are extraordinary, and I know all the songs, so it makes this list!

The first time I heard this song though, was when it was sung by Harry Conniff Jr. ,and I liked it right away. Yeah, the song sounds just a little stalkery today, but the idea that some guy is so smitten with your charm, that he just likes hanging around your street is deeply funny to me. C’mon, how many teenage boys you know did that kinda thing? On the other hand, this is really creepy from a grown ass man, so…stop that!

Beauty and the Beast

I grew up watching all these Disney movies, especially during the 2-D era, and Beauty and the Beast sits at the top of my list of faves. I am not a particularly romantic person, but I do indulge, from time to time, and I love this movie just for the fun of it. It didn’t especially resonate with me, or have some deep meaning, although as a bookworm myself, I did heavily identify with Belle. I imagine that if I was younger when I saw it, it would have had a major effect on my emotional development, but I was an adult, and while it did have an effect, it was largely an emotional one.

I just love this song because its fun!

Its Always Fair Weather

There are some movies that I’m just ho-hum about ,except for that one very awesome scene, that makes the entire movie worth watching. I first saw this particular scene in another movie, The Professional, which starred Natalie Portman and Jean Reno. The lead character is in a theater, watching this scene with a gleeful, child like expression, and I was curious about the movie this scene came from. It turns out it was one of the few Gene Kelly movies that I missed, It’s Always Fair Weather, about a group of guys who promise to meet back at a favorite bar, in a few years, after they all come back from military enlistment, only to find that their characters have changed so much, they don’t even like each other anymore.

This has since become one of my favorite Gene Kelly scenes, and this is one of my favorite songs. I can’t do anything on skates, so the sheer talent this took, makes this an incredible scene for me. And the song is about the joy of finding out how much you love yourself, just because someone else finds you worthy of being loved.

Toy Story 2

My criteria for this list was any movie that had some prominent songs or music in them. I think Toy Story qualifies, because not only is this a Pixar film, but these films are known for having the primary “I want…” song. That is a song where the lead character (usually female, but not always) sings about her most fervent desire, the one thing in the world she really wants. Here, Jessie the Cowgirl laments her old life, when she was loved by the little girl she was given to as a toy. She just wants that kind of love again, and is cynical enough to believe it will never happen.

I don’t know how anyone in the theater could have listened to this song, and not been brought to tears. Jessie’s’ song speaks to anyone who has ever had love, and then lost it in some manner. In Jessie’s case it was simply love outgrown.

The Blues Brothers

For me, this is one of the best scenes in the entire movie, not just becasue it stars The Queen of Soul, but because of all the tiny, funny details, once you look for them. From watching The Queen get down, to the girlfriend’s chorus, to the food stains on her clothes, to Jake and Elmo’s embarrassed expressions, at witnessing their friend’s public “domestics”, this scene is a pure delight, and Think is one of my favorite songs!

The rest of the movie isn’t too bad either, and well worth watching!

Sister Act

To be honest, this was never I movie I had any plans to watch. I remember the trailers for it, and have the distinct memory of saying to myself, naw, I’ll pass, only to watch it on TV a couple of years, later because my little sisters insisted. It was a very enjoyable experience. I really liked the music, although I simply could not get pass the idea of dancing nuns, which seemed sacrilegious, which is ironic, considering I’m not at all religious. I think Whoopi Goldberg turned in a great performance, (even if she has no voice to speak of), but my favorite character would be Sister Mary Patrick, played by Kathy Najimy, whose acting I’ve loved ever since.

I chose this scene because of Dame Maggie Smith’s long suffering, dagger shooting, facial expressions, because that’s what had me laughing the hardest. If looks could kill.

Honorable Mentions:

Ray

Purple Rain

My Favorite Michael Jackson Videos

The King of Pop’s Birthday is coming on August 29th, and I just wanna celebrate it with a list of my favorite videos. There’s no argument that Michael Jackson revolutionized the music video genre, in a way no one else had before him, when he released Thriller, waaay back in 1982.

In 1982, I was 12 years old. I had been listening to, and watching Michael dancing in videos, since I was a tot. My Mom loved the Jacksons. She named my baby brother after two of them. (I received a more normal sounding name becasue I was born before the Jackson craze.) So yeah, because Mom loved The Jacksons, we grew up loving them too, although I can’t think of anyone in my neighborhood who didn’t.

When Thriller was released, Black people collectively lost the entirety of their shit. The videos released from that album were such major events, that there were specially televised.  There was no thing such as social media at the time. It was all word of mouth, and Michael was all anybody talked about. People dressed like Michael, tried to dance like him, he popularized the Jheri Curl…

 

Image result for the jheri curl

And all this was before cosplay was really a thing.

And when he released the video to Billie Jean… well, lets face it! There was no more cooler person on Earth than the King of Pop. Genius is a word that gets bandied around so much these days, but really it should only be reserved for people who changed the world so much while they lived, that all others will be compared to them long after their deaths. Michael was a dancing, singing genius.

Anyway, all of that is to say I have a long list of favorite Michael Jackson songs, but only a few videos really make the  cut. Here they are in no particular order:

 

Billie Jean

There was nothing cooler at the time then those flooding pants, white socks,  that everybody starting rocking after this video came out. I was more impressed by the light-up sidewalk. There’s a great deal of mystery happening in this one. The beat and dancing are prefect, as always.

 

 

Thriller

I think everybody knows the dance from this video. I remember watching this with my family, as it was a major television event at the time, and all anybody talked about at my school  for about a month.

https://youtu.be/sOnqjkJTMaA

Stranger in Moscow

I think the cinematography is just beautiful here. its one of the few music videos that can bring on tears. Its simply gorgeous.

https://youtu.be/pEEMi2j6lYE

Smooth Criminal

I love the dancing in this video. And of course I love to watch Michael dressed up as a gangster anytime. The spats and the silhouette suit him very well here.

https://youtu.be/h_D3VFfhvs4

Earth Song

This is one of my Mom’s favorite songs, and one of my favorite videos. This is another one of those videos that made me cry when I first saw it. The power of Michael’s voice, his message, and the imagery, are all literally breathtaking.

https://youtu.be/XAi3VTSdTxU

Who Is It

There’s so much mystery going on in this video, and the homage to Blue Velvet wasn’t lost on those who watched this.

 

Remember the Time

This is one of my all-time favorite videos ever. This is very possibly one of the Blackest music videos ever made. Of course I wasnt going to miss The Supreme Goddess, Iman. She just looks stunning.

https://youtu.be/LeiFF0gvqcc

Scream

This is the only video, in which both  Janet and Michael starred,  at the height of their careers. I liked the playfulness and pseudo-attitude. Its just fun to watch, even if the plot is  completely baffling.

 

 

10 Worst 80’s Videos

There were a lot of really dumb videos in the 80s, and I watched plenty of them. There wasn’t a whole lot else to do on hose long nights of babysitting because there wasn’t any internet. There was however plenty of cable, and MTV

1. Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Of all the dumb videos released in that era, this is one of the absolute dumbest. Our opinions may vary on which video should be in the number one slot but I think we can all agree, that this particular one is deeply stupid, with images completely unrelated to the song, horrible acting and lip syncing, and even the song sucked. I think Safety Dance qualifies on all criteria  of stupid.

 

2. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco

The song is stupid, but at least kind of fun. The video is equally asinine, but also kind of fun. This makes number two, on the list, because this artist was a total one hit wonder and I kinda like the remixes. I never saw, or heard from this singer again, after this song completely took over the airwaves for one whole-ass Summer.

3. Rock Me Tonight – Billy Squier

Oh, boy! This video is bad, bad, bad. I mean laughably bad. You may not be able to sit through this, because I had to stop and catch my breath, about halfway through it. I’ve never been a Billy Squier fan, but this song isnt really all that bad, nevertheless, I’m glad I didn’t have to subject myself to this video beyond the first time I saw it, and this week. I make these big, mental, sacrifices, so I can bring you the quality entertainment, y’all are asking for…

 

4. 99 Luft Balloons – Nena

I just realized this heading looks like “Luft balloons for 4.99”, which  makes just about as much sense as this song. But at least balloons are in the video, I guess. No, it makes no sense,and is basically a bad concert video. Its also  possible it’s some type of German thing that doesn’t translate well to English, so it kinda gets a pass, but not too much, because I still hate it. I know it must be puzzling to millennials, the types of videos and songs, we were willing to sit through, in the 80s.

 

5. All Cried Out – Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam

I am one of those people who’s a sucker for a sad song, and the reason this is so far down on this list is because I actually like this one. The reason it’s on the list  is because the video is just as trite and maudlin as you could imagine, with all of the emotions carefully displayed for the viewer. I think the only thing the director left out was the singer pointing at the viewer, and then herself.

 

6. Wild Boys – Duran Duran

I am total trash for this Duran Duran, (and The Police), and I liked some of the other videos they made, like Rio, and Hungry Like the Wolf, but this one is both ugly and stupid. The song is alright, but whoever made this video needed to stop watching those Mad Max movies. Now that I think about it, every post-apocalyptic anything after Mad Max, was basically riffing off that movie.

 

7.Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

You may remember this as Dean Winchester’s favorite song, the one we saw him lip syncing to, at the end of the episode Yellow Fever. That particular scene is about a million times better than this video. I actually like this song, and love to sing it in my car especially, but  I just can’t, with this video.

 

 

8. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

I got no problem with the song, but this video is both creepy and stupid, and  is the fulfillment of every 80s music video (and movie) cliche ever invented. Creepy singing kids ? Check! Wind blowing everything? Check! Gauzy nightgowns?Check!  Running through the dark  in a gauzy, windblown, nightgown? Check! Whatever you do, do not listen to this song first thing in the morning, because it’s totally extra.

 

9. Come on Eileen  – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

This song was recently featured in an episode of Preacher, where both Tulip and Cassidy both admitedt that this song is deeply stupid. They are not wrong. I actually like the song, but this makes the list, because yeah, the song is stupid, and I hate the band name, and there is waay too much use of overalls in this video.

 

10. Cherry Pie – Warrant

Oh boy! I hate everything about this song, the video, the band, the lyrics…all of it. It’s a nasty, dumb video, and song, made by nasty, dumb men.