Back in the 70s, one of the Philadelphia UHF stations dedicated its Saturday afternoon airwaves to B-grade horror and science fiction movies. Horror Theater and Mad Theater (the show name varied according to the genre of movie being shown) were presided over by local personality Joseph Zawislak, aka Dr. Shock, an amiable vampire/mad scientist hybrid. Perhaps it is exposure to this program during my formative years that has always blurred the distinction between horror and sci-fi for me. In any case, it is with a tip of the cap to the good Doctor that I offer up a double bill of Halloween-ish playlists.
Some years ago—enough that don’t recall exactly when—I compiled an iTunes playlist of “Halloween” music. rather loosely defined. I assume my method was my typical one for creating thematic lists: start with a handful of songs I knew I wanted to include, and supplement by doing a bunch of title searches for likely keywords. In this case, I know I took a pretty broad approach, as the range of plausible Halloween content spans psychos to Satan, cemeteries to candy. Over the years, I added to the list irregularly by doing similar searches on new additions to my library.
Going into this year, “Scary Monsters”, as I called it, had just under 200 songs, but as I started updating it for the 2018 season, I became increasingly aware of a number of omissions, songs I knew fit the theme of the list but which had never made it on. So I did an even deeper dive into my library to look for these stragglers, and “Scary Monsters” ballooned out to over 250 entries, which got me thinking that maybe it could do with a little pruning.
“Allhallowtide” is the product of that pruning. I kicked out songs that were starting to feel like a reach thematically or that I just didn’t like very much. I also got it into compliance with 8tracks’ limit of only two songs from any single artist or album (a restriction that impacted some artists more than others: the Mekons, Tom Waits, and the Gothic Archies could each populate a modest Halloween soundtrack all on their own). By then, I had cut my list down by almost 50%, to 8 hours worth of reasonably spooky-sounding songs I feel like I can stand behind.
Because of the length, I'll forego a full track listing and offer up some demographics instead. Among the 131 songs, one can find: 16 ghosts, 15 devils/demons, 12 graves/burials/cemeteries, 10 deaths (personified and literal), 9 vampires, 8 dark nights, 8 miscellaneous monsters and beasts, 7 zombies, 7 corpses (or other remains), 6 killers, 5 acts of black magic, 4 hauntings, 4 damned souls, 3 cannibals, 3 werewolves, 3 Frankensteins, 3 generalized fears, 2 hangmen, 2 witches, 2 pieces of candy, and 2 mentions of Halloween itself.
Little Green Men
While trimming down the “Allhallowtide” playlist, I ran across a few songs referencing space creatures of various sorts. I opted to omit them from that list as being a little too far off-theme, but it got me thinking about alien creatures in music (Wussy’s excellent cover of the Twinkeyz’ Aliens in Our Midst from this year’s What Heaven Is Like being very much on my mind of late), which led me down yet another playlist-building rabbit-hole. I broadened criteria a bit to a more blanket “sci-fi” theme but tried to be more rigorous about songs actually being on theme rather than simply referencing it. After trimming for 8tracks-compliance (sorry Man or Astro-man?, whose entire discography could probably have qualified otherwise), I had what seemed like a fairly tight 42-song playlist, “Little Green Men”.
- Game Theory (with Donnie Jupiter), Aliens in Our Midst [live] (Blaze of Glory, 1984)
- Man or Astro-man?, Destination Venus (Destroy All Astromen!, 1994)
- Veronica Falls, Shooting Star (Waiting for Something to Happen, 2013)
- The B-52’s, Hallucinating Pluto (collected on Time Capsule: Songs For a Future Generation, 1998)
- Wussy, Asteroid (Strawberry, 2011)
- Yo La Tengo, Satellite (May I Sing With Me, 1992)
- Man or Astro-man?, Junk Satellite (Made From Technetium, 1997)
- Lou Reed, Satellite of Love (Transformer, 1972)
- Patti Smith Group, Space Monkey (Easter, 1978)
- Ass Ponys, Astronaut (Some Stupid with a Flare Gun, 2000)
- Mekons, Ghosts Of American Astronauts (So Good It Hurts, 1987)
- Sonic Youth, Silver Rocket (Daydream Nation, 1988)
- Shonen Knife, Riding on the Rocket (Pretty Little Baka Guy + Live in Japan, 1986)
- The Baseball Project, Ichiro Goes To the Moon (Volume 2: High and Inside, 2011)
- Sugar, Man on the Moon (Copper Blue, 1992)
- Yo La Tengo, Moonrock Mambo (Summer Sun, 2003)
- Jonathan Coulton, Redshirt (collected on Jonathan Coulton’s Greatest Hit (Plus 13 Other Songs), 2012)
- The Only Ones, Another Girl, Another Planet (Why Don’t You Kill Yourself?, 1978)
- The 220.127.116.11’s, My Boyfriend From Outer Space (collected on Bomb the Rocks (Early Days Singles 1989 to 1996), 2003)
- Lora Logic, Martian Man (Fanfare in the Garden, 1982)
- The Modern Lovers, Here Come the Martian Martians (Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, 1976)
- Chavez, Little Twelvetoes (Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks, 1996)
- The Byrds, Mr. Spaceman (collected on Greatest Hits, 1966)
- The B-52’s, Planet Claire (collected on Time Capsule: Songs For a Future Generation, 1979)
- The Magnetic Fields, Alien Being (The House of Tomorrow [EP], 1999)
- Le Tigre, Phanta (Le Tigre, 1999)
- The Pretenders, Space Invader (Pretenders, 1980)
- Blue Öyster Cult, Godzilla (Spectres, 1977)
- Sufjan Stevens, Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois (Illinois, 2005)
- Hüsker Dü, Books About UFOs (New Day Rising, 1985)
- The Rezillos, Flying Saucer Attack (collected on A Reference Of Female Fronted Punk Rock 1977-89, 1978)
- Creedence Clearwater Revival, It Came Out Of the Sky (Willy and the Poor Boys, 1969)
- Adam WarRock, I Will Do Science To It [kHill remix] (I Will Do Science To It [single], 2011)
- Thomas Dolby, She Blinded Me With Science (The Golden Age of Wireless, 1982)
- Parliament, Dr. Funkenstein (The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, 1976)
- Rhett Miller, Happy Birthday, Don’t Die (Rhett Miller, 2009)
- Jonathan Coulton, The Future Soon (collected on Jonathan Coulton's Greatest Hit (Plus 13 Other Songs), 2012)
- The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, 2002)
- Daft Punk, Robot Rock / Oh Yeah (Alive 2007, 2007)
- Gorillaz, Starshine (Gorillaz, 2001)
- Wooden Shjips, Other Stars (Back to Land, 2013)
- Wussy, Aliens in Our Midst (What Heaven Is Like, 2018)
Let there be fright!