I grew up in the "classic rock" era, but I love music of every genre. I love sharing my old favorites while still discovering new artists.
This Halloween playlist focuses on music from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, since those are the decades I know best. Some of the songs are fairly obvious choices, but I have also tried to include some songs that would not immediately spring to mind. Give it a listen and see if it doesn't get you into that Halloween spirit.
Creepy Classic Rock Songs for Halloween
- Michael Jackson — "Thriller"
- Warren Zevon — "Werewolves of London"
- Charlie Daniels — "Legend of Wooley Swamp"
- Creedence Clearwater — "I Put a Spell on You"
- Led Zeppelin — "The Gallows Pole"
- The Doors — "The End"
- Alice Cooper — "Feed My Frankenstein"
- The Rolling Stones — "Midnight Rambler"
- Donovan — "Season of the Witch"
1. Michael Jackson — "Thriller"
This song seems like such an obvious choice to me. What Halloween playlist would be complete without it? Still, the world has moved on, and for people born after 1983, it might not be such a shoo-in.
Thriller is the sixth studio album by Michael Jackson. It was released on November 30, 1982. For decades, it has been the world's bestselling album of all time. In addition to the title track, it also includes the hit singles "Billie Jean" and "Beat It."
I remember well when this video first came out. It was quite a sensation. That was when Michael Jackson's star was really on the rise.
It's close to midnight
Something evil's lurking from the dark
Under the moonlight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream
But terror takes the sound before you make it
— Michael Jackson, "Thriller"
2. Warren Zevon — "Werewolves of London"
Legend has it that "Werewolves of London" got its start when Phil Everly challenged Warren Zevon to write it. Everly had watched the 1935 movie Werewolf of London, and he joked that maybe they could make a song and start a dance craze with it. Zevon wrote the song with help from LeRoy Marinell and Waddy Wachtel. It was included on his third studio album, Excitable Boy, in 1978. The song was a hit, staying in the top 40 for over a month.
It is a funny kind of a song. The song does not sound scary, but the guy is scary. I mean, he eats Chinese food and has a piña colada at Trader Vic's. His hair is perfect. However, he does mutilate old ladies.
"You better stay away from him
He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
I'd like to meet his tailor"
— Warren Zevon, "Werewolves of London"
3. Charlie Daniels — "Legend of Wooley Swamp"
Charlie Daniels wrote and recorded “The Legend Of Wooley Swamp." It was the second single from the album Full Moon and was released in August 1980. In the '80s, the lines were often blurred between genres. The song made it to number 80 on the Billboard country charts. It did better on the pop charts peaking at number 31. I think, if I had to give it a designation, I'd call this a southern rock song. It is one of Charlie Daniels' signature songs.
The song tells the tale of three young men who are up to no good. They conspire to murder an old man who lives in the swamp and steal his money. After they do the dirty deed, they meet their own doom (much to the amusement of the ghost of the old man).
Of course, if you go out to that swamp at night, sometimes you can still hear the ghosts of the young men screaming and the old man laughing.
Anyone up for a field trip?
If you ever go back into Wooly Swamp son you better not go at night
There's things out there in the middle of them woods
That'd make a strong man die from fright
— Charlie Daniels, "Legend of Wooley Swamp"
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival — "I Put a Spell on You"
"Screamin' Jay" Hawkins, wrote and recorded "I Put a Spell on You" in 1956. It was his greatest commercial success and a cult classic, covered by many artists.
The version I am most familiar with is the one by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was the second 45-rpm single recorded by the band and the opening song of their self-titled debut album, which was released July 5, 1968. The Creedence version reached No. 58 on the "U.S. Hot 100" that year.
I put a spell on you, because you're mine
You better stop, the thing that you're doin'
I said, "Watch out, I ain't lyin'", yeah
I ain't gonna take none of your, foolin' around
I ain't gonna take none of your, puttin' me down
I put a spell on you because you're mine, all right and I took it down
— Creedence Clearwater, "I Put a Spell on You"
5. Led Zeppelin — "The Gallows Pole"
The Led Zeppelin song “The Gallows Pole” is one of many adaptations of a centuries-old folk song called "The Maid Freed from the Gallows." It is about a condemned woman begging for someone to buy her freedom from the hangman's noose. Jimmy Page has credited Fred Gerlach's version of the song with inspiring his own band's version.
The song is included on Led Zeppelin III, the band's third studio album, which was released in October 1970.
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while
Think I see my friends coming
Riding a many mile
Friends did you get some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me my dear friends
To keep me from the gallows pole?
— Led Zeppelin, "The Gallows Pole"
6. The Doors — "The End"
This is not standard Halloween fare. The lyrics have no ghosts, monsters, or zombies. Still, it can send chills down your spine. Both the words and the music seem disturbing and sinister.
Jim Morrison wrote the lyrics of “The End.” Morrison saw himself as a poet, and the lyrics are a complex reflection of that. The part where he says, “Father, I want to kill you,” is a reference to the Oedipus complex.
Morrison has said that every time he heard the song it meant something different to him. Of the lyric “My only friend, the end,” he said, “Sometimes the pain is too much to examine, or even tolerate... That doesn't make it evil, though–or necessarily dangerous. But, people fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah–I guess it is a friend..."
The music was a collaborative effort by the band. It evolved over time, through many live performances, before it was released in January of 1967 on their first album, “The Doors.”
Francis Ford Coppola used "The End" in his 1979 film Apocalypse Now. It plays both in the opening sequence and at the film's climax. I think the images of war make the song seem even spookier.
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah
— The Doors, "The End"
7. Alice Cooper — "Feed My Frankenstein"
This is a bit too new to be a real classic, but Alice Cooper is a classic rocker, so I hope you will let me slide on this one. "Feed My Frankenstein" is on his 19th album, Hey Stoopid, released in 1991. The song was released as a single in 1992. It appeared in the 1992 film, Wayne's World, in which Cooper performs the song at a concert.
Feed my Frankenstein
Meet my libido
He's a psycho
Feed my Frankenstein
Hungry for love
And it's feeding time
— Alice Cooper, "Feed My Frankenstein"
8. The Rolling Stones — "Midnight Rambler"
Keith Richards and Mick Jagger co-wrote "Midnight Rambler." It is on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. The song is based loosely on the biography of Albert DeSalvo, who confessed to murdering 13 women in the Boston area in the early 1960s. He came to be known as The Boston Strangler.
Talkin' 'bout the midnight gambler
The one you never seen before
I'm talkin' 'bout the midnight rambler
Did you see me jump the garden wall
I don't give you a hoot of warning
A-dressed up in my black cat cloak
I don't see the light of the morning
I'll split the time the cock'rel crows
— The Rolling Stones, "Midnight Rambler"
9. Donovan — "Season of the Witch"
Donovan and Shawn Phillips wrote “Season of the Witch." It was released in September 1966 on Donovan's album, Sunshine Superman.
"Season of the Witch" is one of the earliest examples of psychedelic rock or acid rock.
It is not really about witches; although it is not really clear what it is about. The lyrics mostly just play with words and rhymes. However, it is also about the changing times. Maybe there is a feeling of impending danger, and the sense that one must be cautious, or, as Donovan puts it, "you've got to pick up every stitch."
You've got to pick up every stitch
Mmm, must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch, yeah
— Donovan, "Season of the Witch"
I hope you got a few goosebumps listening to my playlist. It's always fun tracking down the songs and finding the right video for each one. Now, you should all be ready for those trick or treaters.
If you like this spooky play list, you should check out one of my other favorites. "Murder Ballads: Ten Killer Songs About Homicide."
© 2018 Sherry Hewins
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 29, 2018:
I love these, Sherry! I've spent the last few lunch hours listening to and watching the videos.
Sherry Hewins (author) from Sierra Foothills, CA on October 24, 2018:
It's a classic for sure Pat Mills
Pat Mills from East Chicago, Indiana on October 24, 2018:
Another one that I like is "Witchy Woman" by the Eagles.