“I think about this stuff a lot,” musician and author Jesse Sublett said last week in an email. The subject? Halloween music, or at least music that matches the mood of the holiday.
“The truly scary songs are the ones that are very ambiguous,” he said. “They’re not necessarily overt about the actual event, the violence, or whatever, but the combination of words and melody truly haunt the listener. Johnny Cash, for example, will use lyrics that sketch in just a few details, but the sparse instrumentation and knowing voice combine for a knock-out punch. ‘Cocaine Blues’ and ‘Delia’s Gone’ are good examples.”
As for what might be among the scariest songs of all time, Sublett named the “The Cannon Song” from “The Threepenny Opera” — a gang of underworld characters singing about chopping up their enemies for steak tartare. Mmmm.
Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg also named “Threepenny Opera.” He chose “Pirate Jenny,” specifically the version from legendary singer Nina Simone. “Then one night there’s a scream in the night and you wonder who could that have been?” Simone sings. “And you see me kind of grinnin’ while I’m scrubbing, and you say, what’s she got to grin?”
I’ll add the “Ballad of Mack the Knife” and later versions by Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin.
KUT assistant music director and DJ Matt Reilly offers a couple of classics: “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris Pickett” and Roky Erickson’s “I Walked With a Zombie.” Reilly also recommended another song from an Austin group, “To All the Trick-or-Treaters” from Li’l Cap’n Travis.
Below, the full spooky Halloween playlist from people in Austin’s music world. Click here to listen to it on Spotify.
- “Pirate Jenny,” sung by Nina Simone — Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater
- “Devil’s Juicebox” by Some Say Leland — Dana Falconberry
- “It’s Halloween” by the Shaggs and “Halloween” by Sonic Youth — Lauren Hess of Agent Ribbons
- “Concubine Rice” by Lone Pigeon — Natalie Gordon of Agent Ribbons
- “I Walked with a Zombie” by Roky Erickson; “Monster Mash” by Bobby ” Boris” Pickett; “To All The Trick-or-Treaters” by Li’l Cap’n Travis — Matt Reilly, KUT
- “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins; “Black No. 1” by Type O Negative — Aaron Behrens of Ghostland Observatory
- “Under the House” by Public Image Ltd. — Shawn Carpetbagger of Love Collector and Lola Cola
- “Jack The Ripper” by Screaming Lord Sutch; “You Should Have Never Opened That Door,” Ramones — Jon Chamberlain of Rubberneck magazine
- “Haunted House” by Jumpin’ Gene Simmons; “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus — Thor Harris of Swans
- “Black Box” by Jon Dee Graham; “Death Letter” by Son House; anything by the Cramps — Jesse Sublett
The Scoot carries on. Doug Geller, who owns the Parish, Bikinis and Pelons, among other things, announced his ATX Brands purchased the Scoot Inn a few weeks ago; now the eastside club will throw a “Scootenanny” on Nov. 10 to celebrate the reopening. Wild Child, Whiskey Shivers, Hello Wheels and Acre Yawn will perform. Food will be available at the new Scoot from Geller’s Zorro food trailer.