Tag Archives: holiday songs

Best Halloween Rock and Roll Songs

2 Oct

The best Halloween rock songs pay homage to the fun darkness of the holiday while creating an atmosphere that conjures elements of both traditional and modern interpretations of monsters, slashers, graveyards, and hitting your neighbors up for candy–whatever that may mean to you.  What you don’t want is Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s lame Monster Mash looping in endless auditory torture.   Instead, let the rollicking music and lyrics of the following songs provide an otherworldly backdrop for your Halloween festivities.

Pet SemataryThe Ramones
A song written for the movie version of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.”  No, you can’t live your life again, even if you’re just a dead dog or cat.  Bad things will happen.  You can trust horror master King and the Ramones on that one.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead: Bauhaus
This two-chord gem is heavy on atmosphere and plays like the electrified chant of a hopped-up vampire cult.  An homage to the silver screen’s finest Dracula, it is creepy and fast and rocks with a chorus of:  Undead, Undead, Undead.

Goo Goo MuckGreen FuzCan Your Pussy Do the Dog?The Cramps
The Cramps, the unofficial official band of Halloween, rate three tunes.  While multiple songs by one artist on a playlist generally indicates a lack of imagination, The Hangover must make an exception for The Cramps and their surf-punk-rockabilly sound.  With humor and horror, these tunes would get the zombies of the Walking Dead to do the pogo. 

Werewolves Of LondonWarren Zevon
A Halloween-perfect romp with werewolves, pina coladas at Trader Vic’s, perfect hair, and a little old lady getting mutilated late last night.  Gory fun.  Ah-wooooo!

Pretend We’re DeadL7
By tying a bit of straight-forward feminist populism to traditional Halloween elements, L7 has fun and makes a statement at the same time.  The dose of reality offered by the lyrics is bitter chocolate to the bouncing chorus.   

Season Of The WitchDonovan
A natural choice for the holiday, this early piece of psychedelia is spare and moody with haunting vocals and a chilling guitar that winds its way through the melody.  A feeling of unease permeates the song.

Midnight Rambler: The Rolling Stones
The Stones provide a blues backdrop to the traditional dark side of the holiday with a gritty piece that includes allusions to the Boston Strangler and images of Jack the Ripper.  (This epic 1969 live version provides maximum effect.)

The Killing MoonEcho and the Bunnymen
This is a masterpiece of atmosphere with themes of fate and loss.  The song is performed with grace and gravity.  The lyrics and vocals drip with hurt as the music churns on.

After DarkTito & the Tarantulas
From the stylized crime and vampire film “From Dusk Till Dawn,” Tito Larriva and his band provide a haunting Latin-influenced backdrop to the dangers of the night.  Halloween doesn’t get any hotter than the dance that Salma Hayek performs to this song in the film.

SpellboundSiouxsie and the Banshees
The psychedelic punk rocker is a roller coaster ride in both sound and meaning.  The lyrics have laughter cracking through the walls and the singer spinning out of control.   Fear abounds as the music swirls.  This song’s otherworldly credibility was substantiated when the song was chosen to play over the closing credits of HBO’s Trueblood (season four, episode four) “Spellbound” episode.

Spirit In The Night: Bruce Springsteen
An early Springsteen classic on letting go of our pedestrian existences, if only for a few hours of the night..  This all happens at Greasy Lake, on the “dark side of Route 88” with Crazy Janie, Hazy Davy, and Killer Joe, not to mention lonely and gypsy angels.  Sure sounds like Halloween.

FrankensteinThe Edgar Winter Group
One of rock’s most well-known instrumentals, it is big, powerful, and fun–somewhat like the monster itself.  But that’s not where its title comes from.  The song earned its name during production and editing, in which recording tape was pieced together with legendary difficulty in the studio.

Party Time45 Grave
This was the featured song on 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead” by one the first bands to combine punk rock and horror movie themes.  Lead singer Dinah Cancer’s screeching vocals and the band’s deep-throated guitars get this song up and going. 

God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II Kiss
Perhaps no other band has spawned as many Halloween costumes as Kiss.  For that reason alone, Kiss deserves a song on the list.  From children of the ’70’s to those walking the streets today, the signature back and white theatrical makeup has shaken down countless households for Milky Ways and Three Musketeers.  Bonus factor:  This arena rocker is bound to confuse any Christian zealots who have a problem with either Halloween itself or any of the “evil” traditions that it is based on.

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The Best Rock and Roll Christmas Songs

2 Dec

The best rock and roll Christmas songs can be gifts in themselves.  After all, how many times can one listen to a pack of dogs barking Jingle Bells or even the great Burl Ives crooning Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  And enough with the Fa-La-La-La-La’s.  Luckily, rock is a genre whose songs encompass all aspects of the holiday.  There’s the merriment, good cheer, hope, peace, goodwill towards fellow man, heartbreak, spirtiuality, and class warfare.   Before this holiday was co-opted by riot-inducing consumerism and Martha Stewart holiday perfection, Christmas was fun.  These songs will make it so again.

A Merry Jingle  by The Greedies (aka The Greedy Bastards)

A Merry Jingle is a 1978 punked-out mash up of Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  And it’s preformed by a legendary band:  Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, along with Phil Lynott, Brian Downy, and Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy.  This is the musical equivalent of a snow-cooled six pack delivered by a Victoria Secret model clad in a Santa’s Helper mini-dress.  (While the Greedies’ version is veritably unavailable, the Backstreet Girls worthy cover of the song is available here on Amazon.)


Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry

This is likely the first rock ‘n roll Christmas song, released by Berry in 1958.  It’s old school Chuck Berry, a holiday Sweet Little Sixteen that has Rudolph “whizzing like a saber jet” and Chuck “reelin’ like a merry-go-round.”  A fitting tribute to a great reindeer.

The Grinch by Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors

Mojo Nixon’s cover of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” isn’t one for the kids.  He lets the low-down, present-swiping creature have it in a Bad Santa, no-holds-barred, swear-filled rampage.  What else would one expect from the great Mojo, protector of virtue and wholesome Christian values?

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by John Mellancamp

This is straight-ahead holiday roots rocking where a real good time is being had by all.  You’ve got to love the accordion that gives the song a real jump.  Mellancamp’s cover songs never disappoint and just like Santa, he delivers here.

Christmas Wrapping  by the Waitresses

This is no-doubt the greatest of the new wave Christmas songs.  The 1981 song tells a story that is relevant today.  The over-worked, harried (sound familiar?) singer misses connection with a potential beau all year, only to have that Christmas magic work things out because of forgotten cranberry sauce.  A bouncy pace and excellent horns give this suburban rap a sweet bite.

Sleigh Ride by The Ventures

Instrumental greats The Ventures give their surf treatment to Sleigh Ride, and it is a beautiful thing.  No sappy lyrics. No over-emoting singer.   Just wave after wave of holiday surf.

Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon

John Lennon doesn’t go intellectual here.  There is nothing to decipher.  Gratitude, hope, and good will are up front and unabashed.  All Christmas music should have as much heart and as little pretension.    

Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys

Nothing says Christmas like the sun-drenched harmonies of the Beach Boys.  They give Santa’s sleigh the Little Duece Coupe/Shut Down car song treatment.  Christmas soars with the high notes of the vocals.

2000 Miles by The Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde’s voice has been described as snarky, sultry, smoky, and sexy.  But on this heartfelt song of longing, it’s simply pretty.  Heartache and hope never sounded so beautiful.

All I Want For Christmas Is A Rock n Roll Guitar by The Stompers

Boston club-goers will recognize this tilt by The Stompers.  Sal Baglio and the band plead for the one present that will make life complete.  And they do it in the all-out style that the band was known for.  They just don’t want the guitar, they need it. 

Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

The King puts his stamp on Christmas with several songs, but none have the depth of this one.  In an unplugged segment of his ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis lets his voice carry the song.   Elvis could do it all–and here he shows how it’s done: 

Father Christmas by The Kinks

Leave it to Ray Davies to bring a dose of economic reality to Christmas with typical Kinks crunch.  Davies points out that not everyone’s holiday is egg nog, over-sized Teddy Bears, and carols by the fire.  His character, a department store Santa, is accosted by a gang of kids.  As usual, Davies’ lyrics are humorous and poignant as the kids tell him: 

Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
Well beat you up if you dont hand it over
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

Have yourself a merry merry christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin
While youre drinkin down your wine

It’s a Christmas message for us all.