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Shake Your Bones With My Ultimate Spooky Playlist

For the non-believer, this was scarily easy to do.

By Jessica BaileyPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 18 min read
Patrick Bateman from 'American Psycho'-Much More Scary Than A Bump In The Attic...

So here in the UK, we kinda 'try' to Halloween, but it ends up a very lukewarm milky thing, hey, like our tea. Over in 'Murica you guys have it down pat - so much so that I kinda don't want to be there when it happens? Like y'all *get into it* into it, and I've never been good with gore. So when I saw this Challenge I honestly scrolled past, keen not even attempt to take the crown of our Amercian cousins.

But then I thought: Jess. When have you ever been one of the crowd? You read the first page of Harry Potter and The Philospher's Stone when you were seven and threw it away in disgust, kicked the boys shins when you insisted to play football with the boys, shouting 'Girl Power' as you ran away and could not be arsed to look after a real pet, let alone a Tamagotchi.

Hey Jess, I continued, why don't you explain through your playlist picks what Halloween and Horror means to you? And by george she got it. Feast your eyes below, mwahaha etc...

Oh and this is in no particular order - I started off imagining I'd be structuring a playlist for a small shindig on that last day of October but it really just fed into my brief foray into horror pop culture, and the way *I* like to unsettle my audiences when I write, so yeah. Boo, etc.

Nina Simone, Pirate Jenny, Live At Carnegie Hall

Taken from Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's evergreen 'Threepenny Opera' - a stalwart of musical theatre from my favourite playwright/musician duo, this musical has born many a talent. In 1954, when this live recording was released it had been performed many times since 1928 when it premiered, but no one, not ever or since had imbued it with such darkness ominousness and rage as Nina Simone. It is full of simplicity and Weill's familiar 'off' triplets of chords, with very basic but foreboding percussion underneath but the message comes through - Nina was and still is to many a leading and remaining voice of the civil rights movement, not fond of the 'go slow' message even when her blood wasn't up, and she seamlessly and effectively moves this song from it's original context to that of segregated America. The accusation in her voice is unmistakable, and so it the threat - Carnegie Hall is no small venue, and yet in her many odd, uncomforting pauses where she trails off you could hear a pin drop. She has them in the palm of her hand. This is horror and halloween to me - far from the masks and the ghouls and the werewolf - its what we could be to eachother.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer - The Beatles

Ah yes, the murder song. I remember learning this with an especially epic primary school (elementary to y'all) choir teacher, Kerry. She taught us this, Aretha's 'I Say A Little Prayer', and 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion' trailblazer in teaching children slightly too mature songs for their age as she was. Anyway, comes the day she hands out the lyric sheet to this. And I swear to this day I can still feel my back slowly going cold and my stomach drooping with dread as I read it. Sorry - 'bang bang Maxwell's Silver Hammer Made Sure That She was Dead' what...what is this? I'm Six. So begins a life of taking everything too seriously and letting myself getting creeped out and any small thing, painfully aware of my mortality as I have been from a young age- though I still can't quite believe Maxy boy just goes for the judge in the courtroom, just like that. 'Caught a dirty one' indeed. It's so bloody jolly too. Getting the hang of the vibes yet? Effed up. That's right.

Old Gregg And The Mighty Boosh, Love Games

It doesn't all have to be unsettling, guys. Sometimes it can be about love, pure, unchained, obsessive, with-an-abduction-involved kinda love. Courtesy of our favourite Merman (part merwoman? jury's out about that, but Old Gregg does have what he likes to call a 'downstairs mix up' and we are in the 21st century come on, team) we have this charming ode to that first flush of attraction, that blinding lash of lust all in a catchy 70's funk style package. And it's all thanks to the epic duo and musical and lyrical talent of Julian Baratt, the here wooed jazz fiend Howard Moon, and Noel Fielding, who with his Little Richard inspired makeup, seweed hair and pink tutu is playing this week's monster in the epic culture shock acid trip masterpiece 'The Mighty Boosh' - if you have't checked it out yet, this is your sign to do so, by the way. Wink. There are too many genuinely good songs to choose from, but this, with its actually quite touching story of yearning from the monster's POV has inspired many a trendy Shoreditch-ian to dress up to the nines in their tutu and blazer complete with seaweed hair having a casual ciggy break on a London street corner. Make sure you shout "Do you love me!?' at them. They'll love that.

Thriller - The Reflex Revision

Ah haaa you didn't think I'd fall into that trap so easily do you? Suffice to say, whenever this music video came up when I was a child I would find any means to escape. But of course, its a classic. My motive here though is to introduce you to French DJ Reflex who's had some play here in the UK with his 'Revisions' of tracks from everyone such as The Clash to The BeeGees to Earth Wind and Fire. He's on YouTube, iTunes and soundcloud, and he's a genius. His way of remixing is to change the architecture of the song, not adding any beat, not even a whisper, rather turn the song inside out, and make new melodies out of the original, turning up the instruments you never heard in the original mix, as well as just generally casting music spells, and it is always serotin city. This by far is his best work as he intervenes the most he ever has when, at the 3:03 mark, he works some true dark magic, as you stand on the dance floor, waiting for the drop you know and love that will never come...*insert Charlton Heston evil laugh here* How's that for a horror story, betches!

Standing In The Way Of Control, Gossip, Soulwax Remix

Ooh gang make sure the sound's not too high when this starts cos Holy Drums, Batman. I've loved Soulwax since I was given 2manydjs 2002 compilation which is the most blood and flesh album I yet own, by which I mean my heart beats faster every time I listen to those enigmatic, clever and witty remixes. Beth Ditto and Gossip, when this came out early in the 2000s was just such a powerful anthem , Beth reaching though the speakers to shake you by the shoulders for just over three minutes. Put these two together's a slasher movie. That's the only way I can describe the violence of the drums, the punch of Ditto's unbeatable vocal, man. It sounds like madness, like pure insanity, lightning in a bottle and I love it. With it's forceful repititions and pulling back for the punch it's like an ordeal, but the kind that leaves you sweaty in some Soho basement club, having just lived your face off.

Welcome To Nola, The New Mastersounds, feat. Papa Mali

Vibe changes nearly violently here, but I, as a naturally unmoving, stiff, suspicious Brit feel simultaneously soothed as well as disquieted by this emcee style jam, extolling the virtues of New Orleans. I've never been, and sure...I may go one day, but there's something too bright about this track, and I keep questioning poor Papa Mali's intentions with lyrics/beat poetry such as 'and you're cellphone's dead but you don't care/all you hear is this brass band playing in your hair/but you look around, and there ain't nobody there'....I mean, just me? Or does that make you feel a little creeped out? I come here if I want to feel that odd bubblegum mix of feeling truly relaxed as Papa Mali cajoles you to visit this town riding those funky waves, caught in the candy floss of it all but awake too, y'know? Like, it feels a little cultish, like the start of Midsommar. Guys? You hear that brass band too, right?

Spooky, Dusty Springfield

I dig this as much as I'm a little wary of it - it's like the siren's anthem, if those mermaids had one. Those little dropping out moments before the chorus with the finger clicks are a bit like...being surrounded. If this song were any horror trope it would be the murderous femme fatale, all gold beaded, corseted fish tail dress, undulating, watching you through lowered kohl lined eyes, with a honking great knife behind her back. The slight minor-ness to those simple chords too are a little hazy, unfocused and entrancing. Like you're being carefully, peacefully dragged is the new horror. See you on the other side of the beaded curtain, my friend. It was nice knowing you.

I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Don't get me wrong, I love Marvin Gaye's version, so very much - but this is a spooky playlist, and this version is the one gives me shivers. Unlike Marvin, who seems so heartbroken, so maimed and hurt by his lover's rejection that he may never recover, Creedance Clearwater Revival's version by comparison is all ominousness, with its walking-to-the-scaffold drums and brooding baseline. This protagonist seems less likely to take this betrayal lying down and there is a sense of foreboding inbetween every chorus that is...for a lack of a better word, worrying. Foreboding. It doesn't stay in major, or at least upper register major for long, and the guitar solo, whilst a great wail, is more lazy, more bitter somehow, like you can imagine the jilted lover with a glass of whiskey in hand, eyes unseeing and narrowed. Eeep I freaked myself out. I know I have an overactive imagination, I mentioned this, right? But this simmers with male anger and while I love it, did I mention the shivers?

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, Eurythmics, (Steve Angello Remix)

I know, another remix, and coming from an original stan for life - I love love love Annie Lennox in that boardroom with a red buzzcut...and a cow...but where the OG is slow, purposeful and musical, this cold, mechanical take on the original really takes that famous base line and makes it spooky, manic, even. This version screams hedonism and no consequences and it feels a little unleashed and head-banger-y. It doesn't help that a dance routine in our annual show at my stage school secondary school (High School for y'all) featured a particularly vivid concept of a troupe of undead ballet dancers dancing amazingly detailed and on point (ha, geddit, en pointe) choreography that made them look amazing but reanimated and mad in a memory that got to my eleven year old brain. Still a banger though, it will definitely get the crowd jumping.

The Celebration Song, Brock Berrigan

With a sample from another innocent little ditty by Som Tres' 'Take It Easy My Brother Charles' remix artist Brock Berrigan repeats the same two bars with amped up base that drags it into warped territory where the once cheery sample now sounds sinister. And, may I remind you, we are no clearer on who Charlie is, and why he needs to take it easy. Is he okay? What aren't you telling us? Our worry is interrupted by an ingenious insertion of the famous '"ouch, Charlie bit me!" audio sample (which must have cost a fortune in itself) but it's its lurching, repetitive one-two step of the repeated bars in question that make you feel a little uneasy, like the march of something not quite stable coming towards you. Or is that just me? Also, dude is dressed up as a rooster *all the time* not just Halloween, so there is that, too.

Macarena, Los Del Rios

Come on. Who doesn't want to see the guy in the werewolf head accidentally hit the Ghostbuster in the face because they can't see out their mask? Where even were you in the 90s?

The Heavy - Relaxed Muscle

Bet you've never heard Jarvis like this, eh? The former Pulp frontman rasping over this horror pop vibe was an experience when I first heard it as part of a fantastic Michael Clark recital. It nearly dislodged me from my seat in the theatre and nearly drowned out amazing dancing, which is hard to do. With a percussive start that sounds like someone being repeatedly punched, you's a bit unsettling. Exerimental, filled with warning and a surprising amount of social comment (it is Jarvis, after all) and, kinda cursed? Could we say that? In a good way. I can't tell if it wants to be eerie or threatening but it absolutely nails both. 'There's something happenin' and it's not right' indeed.

Sandwitches - OddFuture

Oh man, what to say about this one. Well, leaving aside its controversial lyrics a moment, the intrumental is pure haunted house, complete with disembodied drums that shuffle along with a zombie like walk, its immediately intimidating. I frown often when I hear it, but I understand that Tyler The Creator is playing a role here, and as a writer of character I understand the need to personify certain scarier and violent sides of humanity that we all know exist. It's also a masterful riding of the beat and packed full of information, and soundbites. Yes, its right out there, but without it, and especially Tyler, it'd be very boring indeed. Scare-O-Meter at a sold 8.5 for making me think I'd not want to accidentally spill a drink on Odd Future-era Tyler.

Come Alive, (War Of The Roses), Janelle Monae

It is my belief that Monae attempts and succeeds to set a brief psychotic break to music. Fantastic, Motown, Metal, alt music. Her percussive breaths at the start are the beginning of the episode right through to the screaming at the end just scream psychosis and hallucinations, an effect only hastened with her elastic, miraculous voice. She encourages us to 'just dance inside your mind' - and it seems to be it is also a love letter to metal with its anarchy. Indeed, whenever she's performed it live she goes way off the rails, and more particularly, off the stage and into the crowd with a kind of manic energy that is catching. This track, from her amazing Archandroid album, is a concept trip that is partly inside of a sentient cyborg of the future that rebels against a hierarchical society where the machines finally turn on the humans. I know. And some people sing about breaking up with their high school sweetheart. She, as ever is an overachiever, putting crazy to music with effortless style.

Stress - Justice

I dare you not to listen to this and not feel your pulse quicken. Your neart rate rise. I'm listening to it right now as I write this, and my WPM has just jumped up to 200pm. The French electronic collective outdo themselves with the pressure they pile onto the listener, to the point where you feel you literally have to disarm the bomb, or outrun a killer, or suffocate. It's not called 'Stress' for no reason when there are alarms thorughout that become melodic, and a constant scrape of violin in a modern age nod to the Psycho violin strikes that so effortlessly say murder. It's 4:58 of a near heart attack, like running through the house, trying to get to the door in time, and it does not let up, until it ends with you falling of the edge of the cliff. Stern stuff, but amazing in it's use of no lyric or threat, only music, oppressive in its heaviness.

Wondering - Does It Offend You Yeah?

'I just saw Bill Hicks' ghost/he said World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones' - indeed, Does It Offend You Yeah, indeed. For all its machismo, this track is a powerful beat poem about all the wrong steps we've taken as a civilisation, and how its kinda too late. Whilst this epic poem evokes Allen-Poe style imagery with traditional spooky tropes, it also imagines a grim future inbetween pulsing beats after every line that give impact and weight to the canny, unoptimistic and furious lyrics that have you headbutting the air on beat, simultaneously and savagely agreeing with every blow the rapper lands in terms of the certain creek we are up without a paddle. I don't know about you, but knowing we can't go back, scary.

Cry Me A River - Julie London

Changing gears yet again, is it just me, or can you imagine being tied to a chair while Julie London sings this to you from the shadows, the only glimpses of her being her pearly whites and the flash of blade in her hand? (remember - imagination) well, I don't care if you agree if not, because there are layers to this spurned woman ballad. She's flipping angry, you can tell, but keeping a tremulous lid on it, instead eerily calm as she remembers how badly you treated her and aims it levelly at your head. It, to me, is a fantastic take on the 'helpless woman' trope of the era, as she accuses, accuses and accuses in that cold, detached tone. I know, I know, all tracks of that era had fadeout, but can't you imagine that as her vocal gets further and further away, you are slipping away too - like she's had her revenge somehow? It's chilling, and badass and I want to be her when I grow up.

Voodoo Juju, The Voodoo Trombone Quartet

This elcectic British outfit present a great number of catchy tunes from this album, but my rule of choosing only one track from an album brought forth this as the only option. It's a fantastic little story told through toe-tapping musicality and terribly upbeat for what amounts to a story about posession through the 'voodoo juju'. And erm, trombone. There's even a Twilight zone litle guitar riff to remind you of the tongue in cheek-ness of this fun track but the chorus makes their intention 'We're In Your City/We're In Your Home' vibes that has you dancing along before you realise that you too, are a slave to the JuJu. I did try to warn you...

Hip To Be Square, Huey Lewis And The News

Yes, I know, I know you can tell why. *That* scene from *that* film - but I'm going to explain my sudden foray into the mainstream Halloween-ness of it all in a way only I can do - with faux psychoanalysis. So strap in, folks. Obviously, this track, whilst a genuine 80s success, had something of a rebrith in the millennium in American Psycho as Halloween dress up favourite Patrick Bateman utters the immortal line ' Hey, you like Huey Lewis And The News?' before painting his NY pentouse with poor Jared Leto's brains. I think that scene and this song in particular has had such an afterlife because of the jarring nature of an innocent song as the backdrop to awful things: Steeler's Wheel to Reservoir Dogs, you follow my lead, (ha, lead, Dogs, geddit...I'm tired, ok?) Anyway, there's a certain mawkishness and macabre reaction to this song that you now share with your fellow cinema goers where you were truly shocked for once in your life. You went through it together. Also, returning to my original point of not getting into Halloween-ness. Why be scared of ghosts and ghouls when there are real Patrick Bateman's all over the shop? Scream's orginal shtick is based on that very premise. We needn't look to the next realm for the villians, but hey, I'm not a party pooper, so sure, put on Time Warp again.

Just kidding. I LOVE Rocky Horror Show, and I will not tolerate its slander in this house.

That's Life - Frank Sinatra

Last but not least, we have Ol' Blue Eyes. And finally this song has been wrenched from the cold hands of a men of a Certain Age and gifted back to audiences as the denouement of Todd Phillip's documentary, erm sorry, take on the eponymous cosplay favourite, the Joker, with an extraordinary take on the role with Joaquin Phoenix just flying and earning his plaudits. This song, as it played you out of the cinema gains a certain hopelessness, a chaplin style shug of why bother? Nothing matters, I don't care, so what a man gets murdered on television, society made me do it-ness of it all. Joaqin's Joker only wishes to make his mark on the world, and make people happy, but when the world lets him down he pays it back in kind, a monster made flesh. And now do you get me about the difference between Frankenstein's Creature and this version of the Joker - they were both made and formed by someone or something, a doctor, a society - but one is definitely more of a monster than the other.

But hey, that's life.

I hope you enjoyed my little psyco-analytic playlist there, happy listening. And remember, don't let the bed bugs bite....

Here's my It's Halloween, Pumpkins, playlist:

J x


About the Creator

Jessica Bailey

I am a freelance writer, playwright, director and lecturer from London. Self professed nerd, art lover and Neurodivergent, vegan since '16, piano player since 7 - let's see...oh and music, lots and lots of music

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