Tag Archives: punk rock

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.


The Hangover’s Best Cover Songs of the Modern Era

14 Feb

A good cover song pays homage to the original while the band doing the ‘cover’ puts their own distinct stamp on it.  The tao of the band should tryst lustily with the soul of the original.  A great cover  manages that while taking the song to a different place.  The following are the five best since 1970.

1)  Sid Vicious, My Way  

While Sid might not have been the anti-Christ, he can certainly be termed the anti-Sinatra. He takes Frank’s signature tune and turns it into a snarling, spitting anthem that defines him just as it did ‘ol Blue Eyes.  That this song could also serve as Sid’s epitaph adds to its gravity, while at the same time making it somewhat pathetic.

2) Devo, (I can’t get no) Satisfaction

First, it is a fun, totally Devo-ed, herky-jerky version of the Stones’ classic.  It’ll make you laugh and groove at the same time, great for a mixed tape when you actually want everyone to stop and listen.  On the other hand, one can analyze it with an egg-headed approach.  The song itself describes one’s inability to connect with society and its expectations (Are your shirts white enough and are you smoking the right cigarettes?).  The disjointedness of Devo’s signature vocals and music indicate a relationship between the individual and society that has further deteriorated.  The overall oeurve of Devo’s version reveals the anomie suffered by modern man.  Either way, it’s a great party song.   

3)  Barrence Whitfield and Tom Russell, Cleaning Windows

Boston strongman Barrence Whitfield and Texas legend Tom Russell take a contemplative, steady Van Morrison song and rave it up into a workingman’s Friday night.  Roots rocking at full force, the back-and-forth vocals bring out the heart of the lyrics.  This is the version you’d want to hear playing in your local “down joint” after a hard week at anywhere but the office. 

4)  John Mellencamp, Jailhouse Rock

Mellancamp takes Elvis’s romp and slows it down, letting spare vocals emerge from behind a haunting, restrained backbeat.  This is what would play in your head at light’s out if the cell to your left contained Pam Smart and the one on the right held Maynard, Zed, and The Gimp.

5)  The Clash, Brand New Cadillac

The original version, done by Vince Taylor and the Playboys, is plaintive rythym and blues, in which the singer laments the loss of his girl, who laughingly drives away in a brand new Caddy.  One imagines the singer is down and out, both emotionally and economically.    The Clash don’t lament, however.  They turn the amps up to eleven and roar.  Their girl is certainly tougher and the Clash don’t take it so well.  The guitars and vocals are electric and reeling.  The song is imbued with an urgency that reveals a band at its full-throttle best with a song they could have written themselves.

Lifetime Achievement Award>>>The Blues Brothers, Soul Man

John Belushi is not a great vocalist, but he puts his heart into it here, backed by an excellent band.  This version doesn’t stray far from the original, but it does employ a bit more wattage.  What makes this version so great is what it accomplished:  A revitalization of the blues.  This song, the album it came from, and the subsequent movie brought a back-burnered style of music to white, suburban America.  And give people credit for knowing what to do when they heard it.  Blues music has never been more popular than it is now, and we’ve got the Blues Brothers to thank for it.

Songs that made the discussion:

X, “Soul Kitchen” (The Doors)

The Bangles, “Hazy Shade of Winter”  (Simon and Garfunkel)

The English Beat, “Tears of a Clown” (Smokey Robinson)

David Bowie, “Waterloo Sunset” (The Kinks)

The Bouncing Souls, “Better Things” (The Kinks)

Kd Lang, “Crying” (Roy Orbison)

Cheap Trick, “Ain’t that a Shame” (Fats Domino)

Van Halen, “Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison)