It’s almost spooky season—a.k.a. the best time of the year. Halloween is coming up and there’s nothing better than watching scary movies, going on hayrides, or even baking a ton of pies. As you decorate your place with ghoulish ghosts and skeletons, you need the perfect playlist to match the season. It’s time to put on your boogie shoes and do the Time Warp before we're overwhelmed with nonstop Christmas music. Here’s a list of songs for your spooktacular Halloween playlist that will put a spell on you and your guests.
1. "Monster Mash"
This 1962 hit, performed by Bobby Pickett and The Crypt Keepers, has been a staple at Halloween parties for decades. Despite being a rip-off of Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato," this song became so iconic that the Beach Boys were known to play it, even backing Pickett up sometimes. In 2009, Brian Wilson revisited the song, performing it during a soundcheck.
2. "Pet Sematary"
Written for the 1989 film based on Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary, this Ramones song did well on the Billboard charts. Despite its popularity, it was also nominated for a Razzie for worst original song in 1989. It would ultimately lose to "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter" by Bruce Dickinson from the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
3. "Highway to Hell"
AC/DC's 1979 hit "Highway to Hell" still rocks more than 40 years after its release, and there's no doubt people at your Halloween party will sing along. When they do, you can tell them the song may be a reference to the Canning Highway in the band founders' native Australia, which goes by the nickname "Highway to Hell."
4. "This Is Halloween"
When people aren’t arguing about whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie, they're happily singing the opening number from the 1993 film. “This Is Halloween” is the perfect balance of spooky but fun. Composer and writer Danny Elfman later wrote “Remains of the Day” from 2005's Corpse Bride, because you can never have enough catchy Halloween songs.
5. "Somebody’s Watching Me"
Rockwell wrote his debut single, 1984's “Somebody’s Watching Me,” in just two days, drawing on nosy neighbors from his childhood and the pranks he played on his girlfriend as an adult for inspiration. (The lyrics “When I’m in the shower/I’m afraid to wash my hair/’Cause I might open my eyes/And find someone standing there” were inspired by a prank the musician player on her.) Although originally uncredited, Rockwell's childhood friends Michael and Jermaine Jackson provided backup vocals for the song.
6. "Halloween Theme"
The main theme to John Carpenter’s Halloween series has left fear in many people’s hearts throughout the years, yet it was written relatively quickly: Carpenter explained to NPR that the film's budget was so small he didn't have enough money to hire an orchestra or famous composer, so he wrote the music himself in three days.
This iconic 1982 Michael Jackson song has been a staple of Halloween playlists for decades—but did you know that its music video was played in movie theaters? Thriller ran for one week in a single movie theater in Los Angeles, as an opener for the Disney movie Fantasia (an odd choice for sure) in the hopes that it would nab an Oscar nomination. It didn't, but when your iconic dance moves live on in pop culture and viral videos, who needs an Oscar?
8. "I Put A Spell On You"
Originally released by Jalacy "Screamin' Jay" Hawkins in 1956, "I Put A Spell On You" is a frequently covered tune: Bette Midler's take on it, which appeared in the 1993 film Hocus Pocus, may be the version in the hearts of many millennials, but it's also been sung by the likes of Nina Simone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nick Cave and the Cavemen, Bonnie Tyler, and more, most recently by Brandi Carlile and Renée Elise Goldsberry for the documentary The Social Dilemma. So it's not surprising that the song was selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
9. "Time Warp"
When The Rocky Horror Show (that’s the theatrical show, not the movie) started rehearsals, they only had a handful of songs—none of which were the iconic "Time Warp." Composer Richard Hartley, who created the score for the show (and later worked on the film), told Broadway World that “[The show] was just meant to be on for three weeks, and it was a manic process—songs were chucked in overnight whenever we discovered a gap. We realized late on we didn't have a dance number, so Richard [O’Brien] went away and came up with an idea for 'Time Warp.'" (There was another consideration, too—the musical was only 40 minutes long, and they needed to pad it out.)
O'Brien later told Entertainment Weekly that he was trying to create a song that would parody famous dances like The Twist and The Locomotion: "I had no idea that it would actually become the dance to play at weddings and bar mitzvahs," he said. "It’s a bit weird!"
10. "Sympathy for the Devil"
This 1968 Rolling Stones song was ranked no. 32 on the 2004 list of Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song was inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master And Margarita, which is about the devil visiting Russia. It's rumored that while recording the song, a fire started that destroyed most of the instruments but luckily not the tapes.
11. "Spooky Scary Skeleton"
You know it’s close to Halloween when this song starts being used nonstop in TikTok videos. But before it was a TikTok meme, it was a novelty song released in 1996 by Andrew Gold, who got to see the beginning of the song’s meme takeoff just before he died in 2011. Gold also performed the theme song for the sitcom Mad About You, and he wrote "Thank You For Being A Friend," the theme song for The Golden Girls.
This instant classic, written for the 1984 film of the same name, did not come easily to Ray Parker Jr., in part because director Ivan Reitman wanted the song to include the word ghostbusters. "It sounds stupid when you just sing it. I mean, there’s no way you can say this word," Parker told ProfessorofRock.com. But then, on a sleepless night at 4 a.m., he had a breakthrough:
"So four in the morning, I’m sleepy. All the music’s done. I got no words. None. And then there’s a commercial that comes on TV. ... the guys had their bug machines or whatever it was. The pesticide spray thing. And it had a phone number and it said call this number if you wanna get rid of pests. ... Well, I realized I had to say 'Who ya gonna call?' If I do that, it allows me to never say the word Ghostbusters. Then I’m gonna have the crowd answer 'Ghostbusters.' It’s who you call."
He was later sued by Huey Lewis, who felt that "Ghostbusters" was a rip-off of his song "I Want a New Drug"; Parker ended up settling out of court. Years later, he would sue Lewis in turn for violating the confidentiality terms of the settlement on an episode of VH1's Behind the Music.
This 2008 song by Rihanna made history being the first song from a Barbadian singer to get on the top half of the Hot 100 charts. It was written by and for Chris Brown, but he gave it to Rihanna because he felt like it wasn't a good fit for him.
This iconic Stevie Wonder song was written in the studio with musician Jeff Beck, who was working with Wonder on what would become the album Talking Book. Beck wrote the drum line of "Superstition," and the song was originally intended to be for one of his own albums: "The original agreement was that he'd write me a song, and in return, I'd play on his album, and that's where 'Superstition' came in," Beck once said. Unfortunately, Beck's album was delayed, and when Wonder played "Superstition" for his label, "they said, 'No way is Beck getting this song, it's too good,'" Beck recalled, "and, as they had the right to say what Stevie released at that time, I lost the song as an original.'" Beck did eventually release his version, but it wasn't as well-received as Wonder's.
15. "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah"
Influenced by novelty holiday songs and the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” Tracy Jordan's Halloween song became an unexpected hit when a verse aired on 30 Rock—so much so that producers decided to record an extended version. Tracy Morgan wasn’t available to do the vocals, though, so they got Donald Glover to do his impression of the actor instead.