Every so often, I go back and revisit some of my favorite songs during different seasons of the year. Halloween is always a great time for DJ’ing as well as listening and dancing to live music. So for this week’s Listen Up! column, here is a chance to broaden your listening when it comes to some traditional and not so traditional songs that I “Listen Up!” to this time of year. In no particular or peculiar order, here are a dozen songs for you to check out.
• "It’s Tricky" (1986) by Run-DMC — With Run-DMC coming into Atlantic City at the end of November, it is time to treat yourself to this gem from the group’s third album, “Raising Hell.” The song peaked at number 57 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and number 21 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Song
• "(Don’t Fear) The Reaper" (1976) by Blue Oyster Cult, Caesars or Mutton Birds — Off the BOC’s album “Agents of Fortune,” this classic has been remade a few times with both Caesars' and Mutton Bird’s versions worth adding to your playlist. Some South Jersey classic rockers will remember Blue Oyster Cult’s concert at Bader Field back in the day. Sometimes facing one’s mortality musically makes it a bit easier.
• "All You Zombies" (1982) by The Hooters — One of two zombie songs to make the list is Philly’s own Hooters, who released this haunting, bibically-themed song on their debut album “Amore,” but wisely included it on their second internationally successful LP “Nervous Night.”
• "Nightmare on My Street" (1988) by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince — With a total nod to the highly successful “Nightmare on Elm Street,” Fresh Prince Will Smith takes us inside his own nightmare off the duo’s classic album “He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper.”
• "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" (1978) by Warren Zevon — While you were all expecting “Werewolves of London” from Zevon, this song also off the LP “Excitable Boy,” is less listened to but an equally worthy addition to the list. War is scary enough, but when you add the elements of a headless horseman-like character to a song it makes it that much more frightening.
• "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" (1992) by XTC or Crash Test Dummies — This song works both from a Halloween perspective and also for the upcoming November elections. It has been said the song was inspired by a carved jack-o-lantern left to decay. An interesting motivation for the writer, resulting in an even more interesting lyrical, thought-provoking song.
• "The Blob" (1958) by The Five Blobs — A number of studio musicians were assembled in California with the express purpose of recording this well-crafted descriptive song for the Steve McQueen film “The Blob.” Be warned, this song like the blob will creep, leap, glide and slide into your head.
• "Re: Your Brains" (2006) by Jonathan Coulton — In what is the less known to the majority of “Listen Up!” readers, this song may be one of my all-time favorite Halloween Business Songs (trust me that list is short). Off Coulton’s “Thing a Week Two” album, this song perfectly captures the concept of post-zombie apocalypse planning or lack thereof, using business phrases and concepts to make the gruesome and amusing combination of lyrics an excellent listening choice.
• "I Want Candy" (1965) by The Strangeloves or Bow Wow Wow — This top-ten midsixties hit was covered multiple times, most notably by Bow Wow Wow. The cover captured the attention and vibe of the 1980s MTV Generation. Let’s face it, it is Halloween and we all want candy.
• "The Ghost in You" (1984) by the Psychedelic Furs or Counting Crows — This haunting and thoughtful song brings about memories of the past. Off the Furs' fourth album, “Mirror Moves,” one has to wonder how self-reflective is this unable-to-fade-from my-mind offering.
• "Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare" (2009) by Matt & Kim — Written by Matthew Wesley Johnson and Kimberly Ann Schifino, this simple song poetically captures the moments of the duo’s interpretation of life and, you guessed it, a good ol’ fashion nightmare.
• "A Night with the Jersey Devil" (2008) by Bruce Springsteen — Springsteen surprised his fans with "a little musical Halloween treat" via the internet. The music video for "A Night with the Jersey Devil," along with a free digital single of the track of the song and dropped it on Halloween back in 2008. With the local history and lore being center stage on this track, it is a must listen to for South Jersey fans of the Boss and Halloween. Remember, there is always room for a Springsteen song on any playlist!
So there you have it. Hope you enjoy checking out the songs and have a happy pre-Halloween weekend.