[portions of this column originally appeared on Seven With Devyn]
The Halloween Playlist is a little more elusive, the pool of songs a little more shallow, than almost any other seasonal or situational playlist. Do you go all atmospheric musically? Do you go Goth? Do you go the familiar horror movie music? Do you go the “scare the children” route? Do you get all high concept? Do you go with all "Thriller" cover songs? Do you use songs only about Hell and the Devil? HERC’s done it all and he’s been everywhere, man, and now he’s gonna share a few lesser known tracks from throughout all time with you.
"Planet Claire" - The B-52's 
This song is indelibly etched in HERC's hard head as the song that played as the lights went out at a Frankie Goes To Hollywood concert as the band took the stage. It seemingly lasted forever but at it's conclusion, Frankie roared into Springsteen's "Born To Run". The creepy organ and quirky cool vocals make it a no-brainer for Halloween Hodowns.
“In the Shadows” - The Rasmus 
A rousing, bass heavy anthem that rocks hard, this track from 2003 will kick your party up a notch or three. The lyrics (“I’ve been watching/I’ve been waiting”) paint a darker picture, abstract enough to hint at vampirism ("They say/That I must learn to kill before I can feel safe”). There are two other official videos for this song by the Finnish band so check them out the next time you're on the interwebtube thingy.
“Lil Red Riding Hood” -
Sam The Sham & the Pharaohs 
The band that brought us “Wooly Bully” was no one-hit wonder - they followed up that massive hit with this 1966 gem which also made it all the way to #2 on the charts. It’s been featured in more than a few TV shows and movies and has been covered by several artists including Amanda Seyfried and those crazy nut rockers from Texas, Bowling for Soup. (Yes, the video above features barely a minute of the song before they stop and then start their follow-up single "The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin".)
“Heartbreak Hotel” - The Jacksons 
Essentially a Michael Jackson solo effort, his brothers are credited with “percussion” while Tito lays down the tasty guitar solo. It predates the paranoid pathos that later blossomed full blown in songs like “Billie Jean” and “In The Closet” and features a creaky rhythm making it sound like a haunted house. Without explanation, the song’s official title was amended to “This Place Hotel” sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s when the CD version of the 1980 album was released.
“Cat People (Puttin’ Out Fire)” - David Bowie 
The original version of this song was written for and featured in 1982 movie Cat People. It is longer and more atmospheric, with a simmering slowness and features one of Bowie’s most haunted vocal performances. (It was used with surprising effect in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds as well.) Due to contractual conflicts, Bowie was unable to use the same recording for his 1983 album Let’s Dance so he re-recorded it with producer Nile Rodgers laying back on guitar, Tony Thompson pounding the drums and Carmine Rojas anchoring the bottom with his bass as a faster, sturdier rocker. The icing on this musical cake is then relatively unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan bringing the wicked solos - his debut solo album wouldn’t be released until a few months later.
"Fire On High" - Electric Light Orchestra 
Besides being the opening track on the group's Face The Music album, the song was also the b-side on singles for "Livin' Thing" [UK 1976] and "Sweet Talkin' Woman" [in an edited version without the intro, US 1978]. The ominous sounding backward masking at the beginning of the track turned out to be harmless but the track has enough stops, starts and sound effects to make it a hit at parties. Despite being used as the theme song on Saturday afternoon's CBS Sports Spectacular way back in the Seventies, the song's title is still a mystery to most listeners.
“Strong As I Am” - The Prime Movers 
Sounding eerily like a young U2 both lyrically and musically, The Prime Movers released this song on their self-titled EP. Director Michael Mann, hot off his hitch on Miami Vice, heard it, loved it and snagged it for the soundtrack of his 1986 film Manhunter. Mann personally financed the video for the song and had his trusted Director Of Photography oversee the production. Gregory Markel, the lead singer, left shortly after but the band regrouped without him as Dread Zeppelin and released several reggae infused Led Zeppelin hybrids with Elvis-sounding vocals. Just like U2. Markel later formed another band, Altered State, and covered the song on their 1993 album, dos.
"The Boogie Man" - Jackson 5 
Built around a haunted laugh, creepy guitar riff and harmonized vocals on the chorus, "The Boogie Man" is arguably Michael Jackson's first Halloween inspired song. The song's writer, Deke Richards, also co-wrote the Jackson 5 hits "I Want You Back", "ABC" and "The Love You Save".
“Wicked Game” - Stone Sour 
A live, acoustic cover of Chris Isaak’s impossibly high-voiced 1989 love lament by the lead singer of the bands Slipknot (and Stone Sour), Corey Taylor. His reading adds a little more muscle and testosterone to the song while retaining the sadness and heartbreak.
"Buenos Noches From A Lonely Room
(She Wore Red Dresses)" - Dwight Yoakam 
Hillbilly music, both country and western, is littered with the bodies of unfaithful lovers. The title track from Señor Yoakm's third album, this is one of those tragic love songs (with a bit of a Mexican musical motif from Flaco Jiménez and his accordian), a haunting tale of a beautiful black-haired woman who wore red dresses and told such sweet lies.
"Bo Meets The Monster" - Bo Diddley 
A typically self-referential song by Mr. Diddley, this one about Bo and "a purple people eater". It also features his house, his mama, his baby and his plane. And his guitar. And yes, that is Bo doing the slobbering monster sounds, too.
"Elegia" - New Order 
Written as an elegy ("elegia" is Latin for elegy) to their former lead singer, Ian Curtis, by the surviving members of Joy Division, who had regrouped after his passing as New Order, the track as it was originally recorded was almost eighteen minutes long. An edited, five minute portion was released on the their album Low Life while the full length version didn't officially appear until 2002 on the career spanning box set Retro. It also appeared on the 2008 Collector's Edition double disc of Low Life. The song is similar in sound and vibe to Michael Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (aka "Theme from The Exorcist").
“Used To Love Her” - Guns N Roses 
Axl and his original Guns snuck this darkly funny acoustic yet metallic ballad out on the stop-gap EP, GNR Lies. It catches you off-guard lyrically and makes a delightful addition to any spooky set. Who knew those bad, bad boys had such a good, good sense of humor?