Monster Mixtape

Classic music with a twist

October is upon us yet again and what better way to set the mood than with the perfect soundtrack!

If you are like me, then you do not get the appeal of Halloween. However, I am always ready to talk about music. So I have compiled the goofiest, craziest, most gruesome songs, all in an attempt to expand what we consider Halloween music. Prepare for grim dystopian futures, revenge, and monsters to fill your mind with terror. (I am not kidding, some of these are really dark.)

“Ziggy Stardust” – David Bowie

From the breakthrough concept album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” you know it has to be a doozy. Stardust is an androgynous alien who, upon saving the Earth from its eventual demise in five years, decides to become a rock star. This song is his tipping point. When his band has finally had enough of his ego and showboating, they plot how to get him back, contemplating on whether to, “crush his sweet hands”. According to Bowie it is a song, “about the ultimate rock superstar destroyed by the fanaticism he creates.” Later, in the song “Rock ‘n Roll Suicide,” Stardust is torn to pieces on stage by Infinites (the people who sent him), ending his path of self destruction. What I thought was a simple song about hubris got dark incredibly fast. At least it has a catchy guitar riff, right?

“Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise)” – The Flying Burrito Brothers

The song is rumored by fans to have been written about a woman with a checkered reputation that was met at the Palomino Club in L.A. If this is true, then the inspiration died in a car crash. If not, then it is simply a song about a poisonous individual who named Christine who is constantly lying, denying, and prying her way into others lives. With lots of harmonies and a country-rock aesthetic, it sounds far happier than the lyrics imply. According to many, this is the Burrito Brothers’ greatest song. Sure it fits, but the main reason it is on this list however is for the band name.

“(Freakin’ at the) Freakers Ball” – Shel Silverstein

Better known for the cover by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, the original was written and performed by beloved poet Shel Silverstein. Mostly known now for his work in children’s literature, Silverstein actually won two Grammys for his work in music. All the freaks are gathering for one purpose: to party down. Despite many of them being polar opposites, they have put their differences aside in the name of fun. His signature wit is exemplified with expert wordplay, ultimately creating a truly memorable song that is unapologetically blunt with its intentions. Plus, Silverstein sounds like he is having so much fun singing, often laughing with each line delivery.

“Holy Diver” – Dio

In a way, this is the most spiritual song on the list, even being covered by gospel superstar Pat Boone.Title track to Ronnie James Dio’s all-time classic debut album, this track entails Satan’s fall from grace. Specifically from the book of Revelation which, I can vouch, is definitely the most metal book of the Bible. Dio himself says, “Holy Diver is a metal tune that will not die. For some reason, that album and the song really hit a cord with people.” Credited with “almost single-handedly reinventing gothic hard rock for the 80’s,” it is impossible to deny the impact of this song on the history of music. That being said, it is not my favorite song by Dio.

“The Love Cats” – The Cure

Featuring real meowing from lead singer Robert Smith, “The Love Cats” was the first hit for this British alternative band. Utterly ridiculous in every sense of the word, nothing about the song was ever thought out. The video was filmed in a mansion that was “borrowed,” when they said they would buy it the next day. The band dressed as cats, in a room full of cats and, (get this), according to Molly Ringwald, John Hughes wanted to create an entire movie based on it. Smith says, “‘The Love Cats’ is far from being my favorite song: composed drunk, video filmed drunk, promotion made drunk. It was a joke.” Cat is definitely one of the most popular costumes of all time and this song is indeed a joke, but a joke that does not deserve to end.

“In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins

Strangely menacing, “In the Air Tonight” is one of many songs Phil Collins wrote to vent about his divorce from Andrea Beterolli. It is steeped in symbolism that apparently went over a lot of heads. Urban legends have sprung up throughout the years on what Collin could possibly mean. One story is that Phil Collins watched a man who had raped his wife drown. Another is that he witnessed someone let another person drown and then wrote this song to call him out at a concert. In a similar story, Collins is a boy that witnessed the aforementioned man’s actions, tracked him down later, gave him free tickets, and then put him in the spotlight while singing. Some even include a suicide. Despite none of the theories being close to true, it still adds a morbid element to an otherwise, morose song.

“Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)” – Billy Joel

Billy Joel? That guy who did all those love songs? Yes, but this time he is the harbinger of the apocalyptic future. Set in a world where New York surcame to bankruptcy, murder, and looting, he envisioned a “Mad Max”-esque world. He is telling the generations of the future as a survivor who moved to Florida. Released in 1975 amid some real world issues involving the Big Apple’s crime rate, the government refused to support the troubled state and no one seemed to care. Disgusted, Joel wrote his grievances in song. It makes out to be one of Billy Joel’s weirdest songs, especially next to the rest of his catalog.

“Shout at the Devil” – Mӧtley Crüe

Real life is stranger than fiction. Bass player Nikki Sixx originally wrote this song as “Shout With the Devil.” As stated in the band’s biography, and explained by Tom Zutaut, Sixx was exploring Satanism at the time. Zutaut, who had signed the band with a record label, pleaded Sixx to stop but he thought nothing of it. “It just looks cool. It’s just meaningless symbols and [junk].” Two days later they both saw a knife and fork fly from the table and embed themselves in the ceiling. “I truly believe that Nikki had unknowingly tapped into something evil, something more dangerous than he could ever control that was on the verge of seriously hurting him. Nikki must have realized the same thing because he decided on his own to change the album title to “Shout at the Devil”,” said Zutaut. The story is definitely weird and all, but I will forever remember this as the song where Vince Vaughn forgot how to enunciate.

“Synchronicity II” – The Police

Synchronicity is the theory that seemingly coincidental events are connected through their meaning. In this upbeat song, the connection is between environmental protesters and the mutant monster emerging from sludge at the bottom of a lake. You know, normal things. Other highlights include “grandmother screaming at the wall,” and “Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration, but we all know her suicides are fake.” One theory supported by the writer, Sting, is that the monster and “daddy” are synchronous. Meaning as the monster is crawling toward a cottage, Daddy’s anger is boiling over. It cuts out before we get to see the result of Daddy’s or the monster’s advancements. The song to me has always been surreal. Now that I learn the meaning, I like it more than ever.

“Karn Evil 9” – Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

Often interpreted as a shortened history of the world told as a sci-fi tale, “Karn Evil 9” is a broken up into four parts. “1st Impression, Pt. 1,” “1st Impression Pt. 2,” “2nd Impression,”and “3rd Impression.” First, man’s greed begins to grow starting several wars, then certain aspects of life have been reduced to the level of a circus sideshow, belittling everything we have ever done. Next, life begins to become more and more artificial, all the while humanity is unaware of the growing computer threat; finally culminating in the computers waging war against humanity to become the dominant life on Earth. In the end, they chose to keep humanity around… to constantly rub in our faces how much better they are than us. Lasting over 30 min, it is a symphony worthy of all recognition it receives. Why nine though? “I have no [freaking] idea what 9 has to do with anything, to be honest with you,” said guitarist Greg Lake.

“The Mariner’s Revenge Song” – The Decemberists

Told in a campy, showy style, and recorded entirely in one take, this song is a ride. In it we follow a young man on his mission to avenge his mother’s death. As a young boy, she adopted a teenager who would go on to ruin both their lives. They were tossed to the streets where his mother would eventually die, but not before decreeing her wishes for vengeance. “Find him, find him, tie him to a pole and break his fingers, to splinters, drag him to a hole until he wakes up, naked, clawing at the ceiling of his grave.” Eventually he finds his target, but moments before he can fulfill his goal he is eaten by a whale. Luckily for him, the man lived with him. He is able to finish his life’s mission and avenge his mother. I accidentally found this one on YouTube one day and it has stuck with me. It is amazingly catchy.

“The Trial” – Pink Floyd

The last song on The Wall, it acts out the main character, Pink’s, descent into insanity. Throughout the entire album, he gets closer and closer to the edge but now we see the inside of his head. Multiple voices are used to convey his childhood bullies, parental issues, and even his inner conscience. In the end, Pink loses his trial “The Worm” and is condemned to suffer for the rest of his life without his wall to protect him. Completely off-style with the rest of the songs, it sounds more to me like something out of a Disney movie. In fact, it actually does have a movie and the segment where this song is animated. Maybe it is meant to symbolize how underdeveloped his mind is? My opinion, no matter the explanation, is that this son is a lot of fun. I love to sing along with all the silly voices.

Going into the story, I did not expect some of these songs to be so gruesome. It goes to show that sometimes there are disturbing backstories to the most mundane of songs. However, these are my jams. I find these songs infinitely more interesting than the loads of generic, derivative Halloween songs. “Karn Evil 9” especially stands out to me for its amazing complexity. Truly it is a unique song, with a complicated narrative. With that, I want to leave on a message: Halloween is a feeling, not a manufactured emo fest. So get out there and celebrate in your own way.