Your Halloween Soundtrack, From A Candy Frenzy To The Dance Of Death Music writer Colin Fleming exhumes some new Halloween music essentials.

Your Halloween Soundtrack, From A Candy Frenzy To The Dance Of Death

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We're now going to turn our attention to holiday music. No, don't worry. We're not going to play Christmas carols quite yet, but Halloween is approaching. And it got us thinking about the sound track to this particular holiday. Is there one? Sure, there's Michael Jackson's "Thriller" with that eerie Vincent Price voice-over.


VINCENT PRICE: Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawling...

MARTIN: But after that, your left in a musical abyss of sorts. So we turn to music writer Colin Fleming for some recommendations. We caught up with him recently, and I asked him to suggest some music to launch us on a night of trick-or-treating.

COLIN FLEMING: It's a big, ambulatory holiday if you think about it. It's like, if you watch, like...

MARTIN: Yeah. There's a lot of movement in Halloween.

FLEMING: Yeah. And I think, you know, that's a jazz score. And along those same lines, you have Artie Shaw's "Nightmare" from 1938. And his clarinet just sort of, like, beckons you out into the night's revels. And it's almost like this benign necromancer that you sort of follow outside.


MARTIN: I like that. It's mysterious. Who knows what's going to happen?


MARTIN: And, I mean, what about the kitsch too because, you know, what's Halloween without a little kitsch?

FLEMING: Oh, sure. I mean, there was, like, the universal horror films came out. And the second run of them had stuff like, you know, "Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman." And it was all trashy and kitschy. And you get, like, a lot of songs like this in the '50s. And one of them, and not a lot of people know it, was by the Naturals. It's called "The Mummy." It's like these, you know, this empty sort of candy calorie type of song. But it gets a pretty good R&B groove going actually.


NATURALS: (Singing) Well, over in Egypt in an old pyramid, I spied an old coffin and I opened the lid.

MARTIN: Oh, man. You know what that song makes me want to do? Ban all clever costumes. Throw a costume party where you have to show up as, like, a mummy or a werewolf or Frankenstein. You're not supposed to be something ironic. It's supposed to be old school like that song.


NATURALS: (Singing) I said no. He said oh. Put me back in my tomb.

MARTIN: So you have a bunch of candy that you've accumulated throughout the night. You're gorging yourself. Is there a particular song to accompany that culinary experience?

FLEMING: The vibe for that is - to me, it's this oddity - mega-oddity by a guy named Boots Walker from 1967 called "They're Here," which is just - you've had your Reese's Pieces and all that. And it's just a mind blower at the end of the night.


BOOTS WALKER: (Singing) They're watching you. They're here they are. They are. They are. They're here, they really are. I saw them. I did, I did. I saw them, I really did.

MARTIN: OK, so there are candy wrappers everywhere and the kids have gone to bed, but the grownups are still awake. And Halloween is still around for another couple of hours. What is the song that puts this holiday to bed?

FLEMING: Well, I don't know if it puts the holiday to bed, but I think it has to be Camille Saint-Saens' "Danse Macabre."


FLEMING: It's from 1874 so it's 140 years old. And basically the gist of it is the reaper comes out at midnight on Halloween and starts dancing, calls up all the skeletons. They revel and dance throughout the night. And there were these wood cuts, you know, even earlier than that of like a plowman going to field. And the reaper would saddle up next to him and be like, hey, man. Why don't you just come over here and take a good, long rest. It'll all be over. And the strings get going. And it has the rhythm of a ghost story. And it's just, you know, everyone has a birthday. You sort of dance through life. Then you get a death day. And it's like, how do you like bobbing for them apples?

MARTIN: And with that, we have walked through all the musical moods of this Halloween holiday with Colin Fleming. He writes for Rolling Stone and The Atlantic. His next book, "The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories From The Abyss," comes out next summer. Hey, Colin, thanks so much.

FLEMING: Hey, thank you, Rachel.


MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web version, our guest incorrectly refers to Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman as a movie from the 1950s. It was released in 1943.]

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