As you may have noticed, yesterday was Halloween. I have played a set of tunes for this a couple of times previously, but felt that doing so again yesterday would have been overkill on my part – you really don’t need to see me every day, do you? Well, not until next month, anyway. But rather than miss out completely, I thought I could theme today’s tunes around it: after all, Halloween is the eve of All Hallows Day, isn’t it? And those witches, zombies, monsters, werewolves, spells, pagan rituals etc are still just as relevant for another day. So I’m playing some of the tunes I’ve given you before, mixed in with some new ones.
Halloween is a huge event in the US, less so here, though we have been gradually adopting its commercialism and I saw an estimate yesterday that Brits will be spending around £690m on it, which in a time of recession and cutbacks seems to me, frankly, ridiculous. The irony of the day’s popularity in the US isn’t lost on me, either: the origins of Halloween can be traced back to this side of the Atlantic, in a pagan festival mostly known (in Ireland and Scotland) as Samhain, though there are different names for similar festivals in other Celtic regions. The name has been in existence since the mid 18th century, and is given to the day before All Hallows Day, on which remembrance of the dead takes place – today, in fact. Present day Halloween costumes are a hand down from the days of mummers and their attire. Witches’ clothes are an obvious garb for the day, among others, while some others that you see are just plain weird! But none of this explains for me why the US goes so totally over the top for it!
It is a good excuse for some fun tunes, though. I’ve played this first one several times before, and having led with the same image I used last year it is probably the only place I could start, really. This animated video is brand new for this year, though, so you won’t have seen it here before:
There are some lovely touches in that to update it to this year: I especially liked him playing the ‘Weredle’ game, and the tribute to our late Queen was rather touching. Those of you who are familiar with my posts will know that I usually give some details of each of the songs I share – chart placings and the like – but today is all about enjoying the music without me getting in the way. Think of this as my attempt at not being the annoying radio DJ who talks over the intro of songs and then fades them out before they have finished, so that we can hear them waffle a bit more. Not my style! I’ve said before that I am a big fan of the late, great Warren Zevon, and featured him in a recent Listen To The Band post. This is probably one of his two best known songs – the other is Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, which gives you an idea of his sense of humour and why I like him so much! Both of those were in that other post, by the way, if you missed it.
Having heard how that werewolf is going to wreak his havoc, maybe it would be a good idea not to invite him along to the party? This is possibly the first time I’ve started one of these posts with two animations, but there is some good advice in this one:
The Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band is a trio, comprising Josh ‘The Rev’ Peyton, who plays guitar and writes most of their songs, his wife Breezy, who plays the meanest washboard you’ve ever seen, and Max Senteney on drums. They have been together as a band since 2006 (the Peytons married in 2003), have released ten albums and one EP, most of which have made Billboard and iTunes Charts, and apart from restricted times they have regularly played around 250 live shows a year, mostly in the US, Canada and Europe: they have played Glastonbury, amongst a whole string of major festivals. They are huge fun – just check out some of their many YouTube videos if you want to see more. This video was released a couple of weeks ago, and could, I hope, be the beginning of their next album: their most recent one, Dance Songs For Hard Times, came out in April 2021, and topped Billboard’s Blues Albums chart. It also got them a gig supporting a ZZ Top tour.
This next one is another that I’ve played before. It takes us into monster territory, away from werewolves. You know what I said about starting for the first time with two animations? Make it three:
That song was a novelty hit here in the UK during my teenage years, and I’ve always enjoyed it. In keeping with this week’s sub-theme of new animations, this is another that was recently released. It seems that record companies have worked out what a big money spinner Halloween can be!
I played this next one a couple of years ago. With its subject of witches, spells and the like it is ideal for today:
This choice is very left-field, although not specifically about Halloween. But it is very much of its time – late 60s/early 70s, when prog rock was taking shape and there was a renewed interest in the occult. I had this on one of those sampler albums that some of the record companies issued back then: Bumpers was the album, from Island Records. It always intrigued me, and there is something about the insistent rhythm and chanted chorus that attracts me to it. When I first played it I used a fan video of collected images, but this time I’ve opted for the band playing on the German tv show Beat Club – a good source of many videos from that time. Black Widow were an English rock band, formed in 1969, who used a lot of occult imagery in their songs. Come To The Sabbat is a track from their debut album, Sacrifice, which came out in March 1970 and made #32 in the UK chart (damn, I said I wasn’t going to do that!). The title track closes the album, and at over 11 minutes long it is epic!
I’ve played you music by The Hound + The Fox before – last Christmas – but I couldn’t resist this one for today. This was released ten days ago, just in time for Halloween:
Spooky Scary Skeletons is a song by Andrew Gold, originally on his album Halloween Howls: Fun & Scary Music, which came out in 1996, and he released the song as a single, reaching #93 in the US (done it again, sorry). The Hound + The Fox are a husband and wife duo, Reilly and Mackenzie Zamber, and I absolutely love their version of this. I think they had a lot of fun making this video, too: I follow them on Facebook and their trailer posts for it, and some behind the scenes videos, bore that out. Their most recent album, Haunted Folk, came out in September, and is a themed set for this time of year. Their beautiful harmonies deserve a wider audience, in my view.
I’ve played this next one before, but I really couldn’t do an All Hallows post without it, could I? Last year I remarked that this had been viewed 798m times on YouTube: it is now up to 856m! This is the full cinematic version – I don’t like short-changing you with the abbreviated cut:
It is probably just as well that I’m trying very hard not to give you details of sales and chart placings this week, as this one is off the scale. Suffice it to say that this was the title track on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, released in November 1982. You want a number? Oh, alright then. In topping the charts just about everywhere, the record has to date racked up sales of over 70m worldwide, and is still the best-selling album of all time. As a little bonus, those of you in the UK, especially, might like this reworking, which came out yesterday:
Possibly the scariest of today’s videos! I’m not counting that one among my regular quota of eight songs, by the way.
I wanted to find another that I hadn’t played before, and as this one is about ‘spells’ it seemed to fit the bill. A piece of inspired lunacy always goes down well, I think:
This song was written and originally recorded by Jalacy “Screaming’ Jay” Hawkins. It was released as a single in November 1956, and I think that video clip dates from around that time, when he would have been on tour over here in the UK. Heaven knows what tv audiences thought back then – it’s still pretty outlandish today! It would be a further decade before colour tv made its first appearance here in the UK, but I think this one probably works best in monochrome anyway: it all adds to the eerie, spooky feel that Hawkins conjured up. Not to mention being utterly bonkers! There have been many cover versions of the song which have been chart hits, among them Nina Simone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bryan Ferry, and Alan Price, but the original never made it at the time it was first released. That hasn’t stopped it going on to sell more than a million copies since then, and it has been awarded a silver disc in the UK for 200k of those.
I’m closing today with the same song I ended with last year. At that time this was a new release: it now has more than 1.3m views on YouTube. As they are one of my favourite bands it feels right to give them another airing:
Faun describe their style as ‘pagan folk music,’ which seems apt for this time of year. Other times I have featured them singing in German, but they have occasionally used English lyrics on their albums and this one follows that path. Their music is great, and the video is amazing: not least for what they have (so far) got away with on YouTube! The band have also shared a ‘making of’ video for this song, which is quite revealing – in more senses than one. This link should take you to it: it’s in German but has subtitles, and shows what goes into a video like this – it looks like hard work! I closed with this one as the first three verses of the song sum up what I think is the essence of Halloween – the Eve of today, All Hallows Day, on which we celebrate the departed, as I have said:
Spirits haunt these magic hours, Dwelling in the sylvan bowers; In the trees is a ghostly breeze.
Light a candle for the dead, With sprigs of fir do warm their bed; And in songs bless the ancient ones.
Halloween – in moonlight we gather; Halloween – to join with the unseen; Halloween – calling the spirits who come forth on Halloween
That seems a very appropriate note on which to leave you. Enjoy your day, however (or if) you celebrate it. Happy All Hallows Day! 👹🧙♀️