So October (or Monstober, if you're into annoying nicknames) is the month of monsters, when we take an evening to support kids in dressing up like their favorite killing beast and threaten neighbors for candy, and adults in dressing like sexualized versions of traditional nightmares at parties. So it makes sense that our music would do the same: take monsters head-on and dismiss the darkness by wearing its shroud. Or, you know, making some quick cash on holiday tie-ins. Either way.
Of course, "Monster Mash" is the one that first pops to mind. So in the interest of fairness, and in not burying that earworm deep in your auditory canals, we'll start by stipulating that one and then focus on ten that aren't so obvious.
10. "Dracula's Wedding," OutKast
From the Grammy-winning double-solo Outkast effort Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (which also spawned "Hey Ya!" and "The Way You Move") comes this song celebrating everyone's favorite vampire, who becomes a rapper and is terrified when he finds his one true love. Or something like that. Really, it's best not to question most of the songs on this list.
9. "Frankenstein," New York Dolls
There's something fitting about the proto-punk New York Dolls singing about Frankenstein, who is basically a giant doll himself. So you'd think that David Johansen and company would have more to say about Frankie in this song from their 1973 album Seven Day Weekend. All the lyrics really refer to are his shoes being too big and his jacket too small. And that last question ("Did you think that you could make it with Frankenstein?") really makes you wonder if Mel Brooks listened to this when writing Young Frankenstein. Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you!
8. "Werewolves of London," Warren Zevon
From Zevon's most successful album, 1978's Excitable Boy, comes "Werewolves of London," which focuses on what must be the hippest werewolf that ever bayed at the moon. After all, this is a dude that drinks pina coladas at Trader Vic's...and his hair was perfect. Maybe not the scariest lycanthrope ever, but he'll still rip your lungs out, Jim.
7. "Scary Monsters," David Bowie
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David Bowie is something of a scary monster himself. It's just an act, of course, but he pulled it off for decades. This song, from his eponymous 1980 album, is ostensibly about a woman's descent into madness, but Bowie fans know that it's really just one more eyeshadow-and-blush opportunity for the Thin White Duke.
6. "Furry Happy Monsters," REM/Sesame Street
The original "Shiny Happy People," from REM's 1991 album Out of Time, was something of a mixed bag. It was a hit, but Michael Stipe is on record as disliking it. It was, at one time, slated to be the theme song for Friends, but was also named as one of Blender magazine's 50 Worst Songs Ever. Whatever you think of the original, though, you have to give props to the monster cover from Sesame Street. It's just genius. The scariest thing about this song is that I'm still seriously attracted to Kate Pierson, even as a Muppet.
5. "The Black Rider," Tom Waits
Tom Waits's voice is scary enough, but this song is killer. The music itself was written for Waits's collaboration with none other than William S. Burroughs, so any utter insanity that follows is completely unsurprising. Ditto for lines like "I'll drink your blood like wine," and "Take off your skin/and dance around your bones." (And just to be clear to all my fellow nerds out there: this song has nothing to do with the Nazgul from Lord of the Rings.)
4. "Zombie Dance," the Cramps
One of the classic psychobilly bands, the Cramps did a lot in the monster genre. "Zombie Dance" is only one of many in their oeuvre that would fit well on this list. But this one, from their 1979 debut Songs the Lord Taught Us, is characteristic of both their style and their substance -- and really, for a Halloween party, there's not much better than both zombies and dancing in the same song.
3. "Vampire Bat," Wesley Willis
If you don't know Wesley Willis, then you don't know what you're in for when you click on the link below. Just trust me: Listen with an open mind. Let the sublime ridiculousness wash over you like baptismal water. From the opening line, which contradicts the title by calling the bat a "vampire bird" to the fact that said bird "sucked him to deaf" and later "stabbed me in my ass"? That's a thing of beauty. Halloween isn't just about monsters; it's also about weirdness. And this song has both, and a non-sequitur reference to Folgers coffee besides
2. "I Put a Spell on You," Screamin' Jay Hawkins
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Much like Wesley Willis, Screamin' Jay Hawkins was a crazy man. In Hawkins's case, this is more an act, sure, but still it's the same shtick. The song "I Put a Spell on You" came out in 1956, which means that it's the oldest song on this list by a good margin -- and that proves its staying power, too. Granted, this song is less directly monster-related than some of the others, but given Hawkins's stage presence, it makes complete sense.
1. "Thriller," Michael Jackson
Given that this Grammy-winning song came out over a quarter-century ago, people underestimate just how much a phenomenon the King of Pop really created -- and this video was his crowning moment. Premiering on MTV on December 2, 1983, the fourteen-minute video was a landmark in any number of ways: duration, audience, sales, the director (John Landis), the cast (none other than horror legend Vincent Price). Michael Jackson's fall might be sad to many these days, but at his height? His popularity and influence were monstrous, indeed.