At the end of each October, after a month of playing hundreds of different tracks on the Halloween Listening Party — I often have musical ghosts hanging around. I’ll have returned to my normal job (after taking some time off to run the show) and then all of a sudden, I will notice a few bars playing over in my head, and I stop and listen to work out what they are. In a way, it’s how I discover what my real favourites are: the one’s that have left the deepest impression.
1) Earthquake (1974) — John Williams
This year, I had many highlights in the actual broadcast: having my nephew Chris help me out the day before Halloween night was a great moment. I thought that he would just help me with cueing up the vinyl records – but he was full-on back announcing with me.
This was the album he picked out to open the hour with; and we played the whole first side (which starts off with a low rumble sound effect of an earthquake!) and it gave me a chance to set up all the other songs for the rest of the hour.
What I didn’t realize was that this was by John Williams. I had never really listened to it properly, despite having it in my record collection! And as I was doing the show, I thought about it a bit more, and thought, hey, didn’t he do the Harry Potter theme? Which of course, is music that Chris already knew and loved. So, we then ended the show with Hedwig’s theme.
2) My Heart’s on Fire (1985) — Machinations
This year I tried to get more Australian music. My friend Missy El had partly inspired me, by using a song by Australian Crawl in her mix last year. I already had a handful of Australian songs, but not many. And for some reason, Dead End Drive-In (1986) by director Brian Trenchard-Smith was on my mind. This was an Australian film that I watched on TV with my little brother in the late 80s, the two of us both liking horror films; but this one was a little bit close to home, as it dealt with themes of youth unemployment and Anti-Asian racism in Australia; but with a massive post-apocalyptic Mad Max vibe to it, which was still really popular in movies at that time.
But what I had liked when I watched some of it again years later on Youtube, was the opening sequence, set to this song by the Machinations, as the main hero travels around the streets of Matraville at night, which is in the industrial Eastern suburbs of Sydney where some of the oil refineries are. The cinematography and the editing to this song are fantastic, and I was really impressed by this, and actually quite proud to see familiar scenes of Sydney in this light. You can find the movie on youtube, but it has also been re-released by Arrow Video.
3) Halloween’s the One Day (2021) – Where’s Jonny (feat. D. Wolf)
One of the most important things about the Halloween Listening Party are the songs that musicians and composers send in to be played. Every year, I get at least 2 or 3 original songs that have been written specifically for the Halloween season. And so from this point of view, it makes me feel like the Halloween Listening Party is a worthwhile project, acting as a focal point for Halloween music.
This one came from a songwriter/composer from the UK, Where’s Jonny. According to his Instagram page: “I like to write songs for fun, but am a bad singer. But had a song I wrote in 2017 that I just couldn’t put away. So I used fiver.”
4) Sisters of the Wind (2019) — Europaweite Aussichten (feat. Full Eclipse)
On Halloween night, I somehow managed to squeeze in an off-the-cuff, on-air spiel about the treatment of witches during the 1600s, connecting it up with the little ice age in Europe – when the Thames froze over about 17 times in an 80 year period, and a cloud of ash from the eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia was believed to create a greater darkness and the failure of crops. Witches were inadvertently scapegoated for this, and it gave rise to people like Mathew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, who galloped on horseback around England, interrogating and testing out harmless regional herbalists in nasty ways.
In this segment, I played the music of Henry Purcell, who was an English composer who lived through this era and actually captured the freezing conditions in his Cold Song – as well as the rolling and romantic soundtrack by Paul Ferris to the 1966 film Witchfinder General.
I like it because it is a positive portrayal of witches by male composers, capturing their mythical experience in a nice title. But also, the music is excellent. Often, I upload music into the stream, and then forget what is there — and when I am listening to the automatic stream, even a year or two later, I think, “wow, what is that playing?” and I have to stop what I am doing to check. This was one of those tracks.
5) Trioxin Theme (2020 ) — Soylent Chiba
As I mentioned, I was trying to get more Australian tracks this year – and I can’t remember how I came across this particular track, but I was amazed when I realized that Soylent Chiba is from Western Australia.
The ‘Trioxin Theme’ is a cover of a cue by Frances Haine from the Return of the Living Dead (1986) soundtrack. The soundtrack was a compilation of punk rock songs, including Roky Erickson, but this one is purely instrumental — and it has all the hallmarks of a great Halloween song: a throbbing sinister bassline, a downward progression of notes; an FM synth bell chime; an enduring sense of mystery and suspense, and an explosive ending.
6) Chariot of Pumpkins (2021) — Keith McCoy
Quite by coincidence, I was sent an email by Keith McCoy, a drummer and composer from Limerick Ireland, who it turned out was a friend and collaborator of Soylent Chiba.
With a background playing in prog metal bands, Keith had just had a track included on the newly released The Way of Darkness: A Tribute to John Carpenter from Rustblade Records. His track was a cover of a brilliant cue from Halloween III: Season of the Witch, composed by Carpenter and his musical offsider, Alan Howarth.
This release seemed timely, as there had been a lot of talk on Twitter about Season of the Witch, as it had been played on The Last Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs, acknowledging that it is a much-championed film by the horror community; and part of its attraction is the amazing synthesizer soundtrack.
This cover really works, especially for fans of the film, because of something that McCoy has included towards the end! And it’s part his fuller tribute album Tribute to the Witch.
7) The Devil with the Devil (1938) — Larry Clinton Orchestra
One of the stand out discoveries for me this year was a handful of compilations put out by Document Records, a blues and jazz specialist located in the UK.
This track is from their Swingin’ at the Seance vol 1. : Jazz for a Halloween’s night, Ghostly Selections 1919-1953.
But the whole album is good, with many tracks that will induce anything from a minor foot tap – to a leaping out of your chair, and grabbing the nearest living thing to dance with.
There are two other very good compilations: Blues, Blues, Hoodoo Halloween: Scary Blues & Jazz 1925 to 1961, which has some real salt-of-the-earth blues artists like Muddy Waters, Hop Wilson and Louis Armstrong. The other compilation was Apple Bobbing Mix Vol. 2, which had an even stranger assortment of vintage songs that completely fit the occasion.
8) Bogey Wail (1929) — Jack Hylton
I’ve added this one extra from that Swingin’ at the Seance compilation, because not only is the song haunting and wonderful, but I also found a brilliant youtube video that was made for the song, an animated story made from old vintage Halloween postcards by Mathew Kirscht (aka Noctunaloner). It’s worth watching when you have a peaceful moment.
Interestingly, this song came out the same year as Silly Symphonies Skeleton Dance, and the two songs share a similar atmosphere.
9) All You Zombies (1982) — The Hooters
My friend Missy El who has the Cassettes & Chocolate Milk blog is an important part of the Halloween Listening Party for me, as for about six years, she has sent me song suggestions, and for the last two years, she has made up a special 1 hour program for me to play. She is a musician and writer from Melbourne with a background in community radio; but for the last five years, she has been residing in London, which has given her a chance to travel around Europe and research many of her musical interests.
‘All You Zombies’ was one of the songs from this year’s C&CM Halloween mix, to which she gave a good backstory. I had never heard this song before, despite being a kid in the 80s. An when I first heard it in her mix, for some strange reason, I thought that it was a song that had been written recently – maybe in the last ten years or so – but that had skillfully captured an eighties sound
Then when I watched this clip, I realized there was a reason why it had an eighties sound – it was the real deal from that fabled decade!
You can listen to Missy El’s full mix here.
10) Halloween Tournament of Horrors – Computerized Wrestling Corner
Anyway, part of the Halloween Listening Party is making many new discoveries in an emotionally heightened state!
But it’s also about having some fun, too.
My friend Shawn Parke (who composes music with his partner Kimberly Henninger) also runs the Hidden Histories Youtube Channel, which is a mix of offbeat documentaries like this one about The Real Reason John Carpenter’s The Thing Failed at the Box Office, as well as a comedy wrestling series called Computerized Wrestling Corner, which is first recorded as a live show on spaceshiptrucker’s Twitch channel.
This year, they had the Halloween Tournament of Horrors, which featured 36 wrestling matches between almost any horror villain you can think of: the Bride of Frankenstein, Nosferatu, Count Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jason (and his mum Pamela) from Friday the 13th, the Tall Man from It Follows, Pinhead, Stephan ‘Flyboy’ Andrews from Dawn of the Dead, Bub from Day of the Dead. The whole thing was mental! Seeing Old Nate from the Father’s Day episode of Creepshow actually pin down his ‘creative’ Father, Stephen King in the role of hayseed Jordy Verrill, in a wrestling ring, was a kind of meta experience I’ve never had before, and don’t expect to ever again!
Final Words for 2021
Before I go, I’d like to thank some people.
Simon Pittman in Aberdeen, Scotland, who helped me with his Pittman music database and developed a special app for me to get my music reporting in order. Belinda Hoare and Atlas Adams – two Australian actors who have given life to my show promos. Mark Rees for letting me play his Ghosts & Folklore of Wales podcast. My friends Shawn and Kim in Portland Oregon, who always give me support and encouragement with this, along with Missy El in London. Rajish Aryal a friend and broadcaster from SBS Radio who always tunes in; Kathleen Harty for encouraging me to talk more; Mike Little (aka Full Eclipse) for the kind words and support; and Sam Freissler (aka Europaweite Aussichten) for always getting in touch; also Dr Snik and Joe Natta, Halloween friends; and Cooper Silk from RadioHub for giving me the time off to focus on this. I’d also like to thank all of my family for putting up with my Halloween obsession, and always listening to me when I need help in some way.
See you all again next year!