Chart Watch Extra: Halloween’s Greatest Hits
Michael Jackson was a shrewd career strategist, but I doubt even he knew he was creating a Halloween perennial when he recorded the song "Thriller" in 1982. But every year at this time, that song returns to the airwaves and to the digital sales chart, along with such other fright-night perennials as Bobby Boris Pickett & the Crypt Kickers' "Monster Mash," Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" and Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London."
These songs are to Halloween what Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" and Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" are to Christmas—an unmistakable sign that a holiday is at hand.
Here are Halloween's biggest hits. In the words of a memorable TV theme song, "They're creepy and they're kooky/Mysterious and spooky..."
The first 10 songs were the most-played hits which fit the Halloween theme from Oct. 25-31, 2012. The ranking is based on total plays on all U.S. terrestrial and network stations and channels as monitored by Nielsen BDS. I took that top 10 list from Billboard.com.
I follow the top 10 with 20 other songs that have a link to the season. That part of this column isn't a formal ranking. But I think these 20 other songs give you a fuller picture of the range and scope of Halloween music. (I'll bet you didn't realize you knew so many Halloween songs.)
1. Michael Jackson, "Thriller." Rod Temperton, who wrote two of Jackson's earlier top 10 hits, "Rock With You" and "Off The Wall," also wrote this smash, which climbed to #4 in March 1984. Veteran character actor Vincent Price provided the spoken rap—a day job that became his most famous and enduring work. In 1997, Jackson teamed with Teddy Riley to write another Halloween-themed song, "Ghosts."
2. Bobby Boris Pickett & the Crypt Kickers, "Monster Mash." This novelty hit was #1 for two weeks in October 1962. It returned to the chart in 1970 and 1973—when it climbed all the way to the top 10. Pickett co-wrote the song, which was featured on his top 20 album, The Original Monster Mash. Hard rock band Misfits later covered it.
3. Ray Parker Jr., "Ghostbusters." This song was a perfect fit for the Bill Murray/Dan Aykroyd comedy, which was the second highest grossing movie of 1984. Parker wrote the song, which was #1 for three weeks in August 1984. It brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Song. The video features quick cameos from such hot stars of the day as John Candy, Chevy Chase and Irene Cara. The movie soundtrack went top 10.