Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Playlist -- Spooky Music for the Season

You’ve made your costume, carved your pumpkin, and decorated the house with ghosts and goblins. A huge bowl of candy sits by the front door, awaiting sugar-starved witches, zombies and spider-people.

All that’s left is to load your iPod with some spooky sounds of the season.

Here are 20 Halloween party-ready songs you can sink your fangs into. Crank them up while you open the door to trick-or-treaters, or queue them up on TV as your party guests arrive.

Some are scary, and some are silly, but all evoke the spooky spirit of Halloween.

Read more here:
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Early 1700s)
Johann Sebastian Bach

Used to enhance the intensity and fright factor of such classic horror films as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and The Black Cat (1934), this classical piece is a “towering monument of organ music” with a “deep sense of foreboding,” says Melissa Lesnie of The number was originally written for solo organ, but many prefer the full orchestral version that kicks off Fantasia, Disney’s animated masterpiece from 1940.

Headless Horseman (1949)
Bing Crosby

Everyone knows Bing Crosby sang White Christmas, one of the all-time great yuletide tunes. Far fewer people are familiar with Headless Horseman, a song Crosby (as Brom Bones) sang in the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” segment of Disney’s animated semi-classic, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. In this snap-inducing, speech-rhyme ditty, Crosby rightfully, frightfully reasons that you “can’t reason with a headless man.”

Psycho Suite (1960)
Bernard Herrmann

Fifty-five years ago, Alfred Hitchcock made moviegoers think twice about taking a shower. The scene in Psycho (1960) where Norman Bates stabs the beautiful Marion Crane to death with a butcher knife remains terrifying today, but it wouldn’t have nearly the impact without Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho Suite, which heightens the fear factor considerably. Strings have never sounded so scary.

Monster Mash (1962)
Bobby “Boris” Pickett

A Halloween staple since it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart more than 50 years ago, Monster Mash features Bobby Pickett sounding like Boris Karloff, the horror legend who frightened audiences in such flicks as Frankenstein (1931) and The Body Snatcher (1945). Ghouls, vampires, graveyards, castles, zombies, werewolves, the dancing undead and a mad scientist laboratory—this fun (and funny) novelty tune has it all.  

People Are Strange (1967)
The Doors

Recorded during the Summer of Love, People Are Strange eschewed the happy hippie communal ethic of the era, focusing instead on alienation, loneliness and how people seem ugly and wicked when you’re an outcast. The song’s dark theme and surreal sound give it Halloween cred, as does the fact that Echo & the Bunnymen covered it for the 1987 vampire film, The Lost Boys.

Rhiannon (1975)
Fleetwood Mac

A song about an old Welsh witch who “rings like a bell through the night,” Rhiannon is sung by groovy goth goddess Stevie Nicks, whose haunting and unusual vocal style could “Halloweenize” just about any tune. Both ethereal and accessible, the track is from the first Fleetwood Mac album to feature Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, the duo responsible for some of the band’s biggest hits.

Time Warp (1975)
Rocky Horror Picture Show Cast

Stand up, jump to the left, step to the right, put your hands on your hips, bring your knees in tight and do a pelvic thrust. Congratulations, you’ve just done the Time Warp, an early high point of the interactive midnight movie musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). An infectious, upbeat number, Time Warp is still routinely played at dance clubs, weddings and, yes, Halloween parties.

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper (1976)
Blue Öyster Cult

Before it was immortalized, satirized and, ultimately, demoralized  in the famous Saturday Night Live skit, in which Christopher Walken demands “more cowbell,” (Don't Fear) The Reaper was a hypnotic, spine-chilling song, appearing in such films as Halloween (1978) and Stephen King’s epic TV mini-series, The Stand (1994). Forgetting the SNL comedy routine, the song still packs a mighty death-punch, thanks to its lush harmonies, haunting melody and rocking riff.

Halloween Theme (1978)
John Carpenter

Early in his filmmaking career, director John Carpenter (Christine, The Thing) composed his own music because he liked to work quickly and was on a tight budget. His spooky piano theme for Halloween, the movie that popularized the slasher subgenre, plays during the opening credits and at various points throughout, adding immeasurably to the dread and fear wrought by the knife-wielding, mask-wearing Michael Myers.

Werewolves of London (1978)
Warren Zevon

At once humorous and grisly, Werewolves of London is about a lung-ripping lycanthrope who eats Chinese food, drinks Pina coladas and visits hip areas of London. Zevon played piano (quite memorably) on the tune, backed by Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums). Jesse Ventura, joined onstage by Zevon, sang the song at his inauguration party when he became governor of Minnesota—now that’s scary.

(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend (1979)
Johnny Cash

Numerous singers covered this fiery country and western tune, from Burl Ives to Peggy Lee to Elvis Presley to actor Christopher Lee, but we’ll stick with the galloping-good Man in Black version. Written and originally recorded by Stan Jones in 1948, the song implores an old cowboy to change his ways or he’ll spend forever trying to “catch the devil’s herd across these endless skies.”

Creatures of the Night (1982)

After spending a few years toying around with disco (Dynasty), pop (Unmasked) and conceptual music (Music from “The Elder”), KISS made a resounding return to their hard rock roots with Creatures of the Night, one of the best albums by the makeup- and costume-clad band. The title track, featuring sinister vocals by frontman Paul Stanley and loud, bombastic drums by the late, great Eric Carr, is pedal-to-the-metal madness from beginning to end.

Thriller (1982)
Michael Jackson

Lightning strikes and wolves howl. A door slams and there’s nowhere to run. A creature creeps up behind while demons draw near. Horror icon Vincent Price warns that “grisly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom.” Atmospheric, fun and downright thrilling, Thriller is the ultimate Halloween song, and it inspired the greatest MTV video of all time, an epic saga directed by John Landis featuring dancing zombies that are still mimicked today.

Bark at the Moon (1983)
Ozzy Osbourne

While still reeling from the death of legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads, Ozzy Osbourne, accompanied by new axe man Jake E. Lee, recorded Bark at the Moon, a hard rocking track that spawned a video that borrows from both the werewolf myth and the Jekyll and Hyde story. Hollywood legend Rick Baker did Ozzy’s werewolf makeup.

Freaks Come Out at Night (1984)

In Freaks Come Out at Night, pioneering rap group Whodini sing about nightclub-loving freaks who “come in all shapes, sizes and colors” and “like to wear leather jackets, chains and spikes…they wear rips and zippers all in their shirts…real tight pants and fresh mini-skirts.” But the tune has a spooky vibe that could just as easily refer to trick-or-treaters.

Ghostbusters (1984)
Ray Parker Jr.

Thirty years ago, if you had an apparition you wanted to get rid of, there was no question who you were going to call—Ghostbusters! The theme to the 1984 horror comedy of the same name, Ghostbusters hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. While waiting for next summer’s franchise reboot, gear up by listening to this synth-funk favorite.  

Dead Man’s Party (1986)
Oingo Boingo

Memorable for its appearance in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to the School (1986), Dead Man’s Party is a quirky song by a quirky band, the Danny Elfman-lead Oingo Boingo. A must-play at any good Halloween party, the tune, which suggests you “leave your body at the door,” was also featured in the “Halloween” episode of Malcolm in the Middle.

Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man (1992)
Concrete Blonde

Best known for Joey, their lone top-20 hit, Concrete Blonde also recorded Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man, a country-tinged horror rocker sung with authority by Johnette Napolitano. The bold-voiced brunette sings that she’s unafraid of the “ectoplasmic lover from the other side” floating above her bed, all the while throwing down a bass line that would’ve made Johnny Cash bassist Marshall Grant proud.

Dragula (1998)
Rob Zombie

Culling from such tunes as Living Dead Girl, Halloween (She Get So Mean) and I, Zombie, you could make an entire book of Halloween songs by the ghastly, ghostly Rob Zombie, formerly of White Zombie (which was named after a Bela Lugosi film). If we had to choose just one, we’d go with Dragula, a relentless, crank-it-to-11 rocker named after Grandpa’s dragster on The Munsters.

Heads Will Roll (2009
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Every Halloween party worth its weight in candy corn needs a good dancer number by a New York art punk band, and Heads Will Roll by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs fits the bill nicely. Backed by a catchy combo of guitar, synthesizer, and drums (think Words by the Missing Persons), South Korean-born indie diva Karen O sings, “Off with your head; Dance ’til you’re dead; Heads will roll.”

Thirteen more songs to listen to while you party or hand out Halloween candy:

Symphony Fantastique (1830, Hector Berlioz)

 Night on Bald Mountain (1867, Modest Mussorgsky)

Carry Me Back to Transylvania (1964, Gene Moss and The Monsters)

Season of the Witch (1966, Donovan)

Tubular Bells (1973, Mike Oldfield)

Bela Lugosi’s Dead (1979, Bauhaus)

Halloween (1981, the Misfits)

The Number of the Beast (1982, Iron Maiden)

(Every Day Is) Halloween (1984, Ministry)

Pet Sematary (1989, the Ramones)

Feed My Frankenstein (1991, Alice Cooper)

Creep (1992, Radiohead)

True Blood (2013, Justin Timberlake)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pinball Magazine #3 Now Available -- Special KISS Issue!

Pinball Magazine #3 is now available for order. It is a massive, 260-page behemoth loaded down with interesting articles and full color photos. If your a pinball fan or a member of the , it's a must-own!

Features include:
  • Almost everything there is to know about KISS-themed pinball machines (total KISS-related content is about 88 pages)
  • Former pinball designer Jim Patla discusses his entire career at Bally Pinball, including lots of new details on his 1979  design as well as other games
  • Former Bally Marketing and Licensing Director Tom Nieman talks about his years at Bally, inventing the licensing model, lots of details on Bally’s KISS marketing campaigns and much more
  • Pinball artist Kevin O’Connor discusses his years and games at Bally, including the artwork he did for KISS and lots more. This article features unique sketches and artwork!
  • Stern’s Director of Marketing and Licencing Jody Dankberg discusses their current KISS game
  • Stern Pinball designer John Borg discusses his new KISS design
  • 9-page pinball review of Stern’s KISS by Pinball News
  • 2 Bally KISS restoration features
  • Very rare  painting from 1982 by a well-known pinball artist
  • Barenaked Ladies leadsinger Ed Robertson talks about his pinball passion
  • The French Connection: four articles on French manufacturers of replacement printed circuit boards that will enhance your game
  • Showtime: Festi’Flip, Europe’s biggest pinball show
  • Museum: Freddy’s Pinball Paradise, location to play and game distributor
  • Plus articles on Jersey Jack Pinball (USA), Project Pinball Charity (USA), Pinball Creative (U.K.), Pinball Dreams (Germany), Pavlov Pinball (U.K.), Who’s Working On What?, Show Diary,and lots more
Check out a review of the issue HERE.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Frankenstein Monster -- He's Alive! Alive!

The Frankenstein monster first lumbered into existence in 1818 in Mary Shelley’s classic British novel, , a work that many, including noted SF author Brian Aldiss, have called the first science fiction story.

Filled with “grotesque, dreamlike imagery” (Jane Yolen, Horror: 100 Best Books), Frankenstein is a gothic horror yarn as well, relating the tale of a mad scientist who discovers the secret of life, fashions a monster out of spare parts, and is cursed by his curious (not to mention hideous) creation.

Shelley’s masterpiece has spawned numerous feature films, including last year’s . Based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, I, Frankenstein starred Aaron Eckhart as Adam Frankenstein, a super-powered, pieced-together being who “gets swept up in a long-running battle between powerful gargoyles and infernal demons who seek the key to his immortality” (

Like virtually every other Frankenstein interpretation, I, Frankenstein drew inspiration from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, but played fast and loose with the details. The film is but one of countless ways the Frankenstein monster has appeared in popular culture over the years, from food to songs to merchandising to the big and small screen.

To paraphrase Frankie’s pal, Dracula, and to wish you a happy Halloween, I bid you welcome to my brief history of Frankenstein in popular culture:


You could write a whole book on Frankenstein movies (in fact, several have been written), but I’ll just cover some of the highlights here.

For historical purposes, you should watch the 1910 Edison Studios version of Frankenstein on YouTube. After that, pick up (on DVD or Blu-ray) the trio of Frankenstein films Universal produced during the 1930s: Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939), each starring Boris Karloff in his signature role as the sympathetic creature.

Feel free to skip such low-budget turkeys as Frankenstein 1970 (1958) and Frankenhooker (1990), but be sure and check out: Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Hammer Films’ first foray into the Frankenstein mythos;  (1943), another classic from Universal; The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), one of the more entertaining Hammer entries; Young Frankenstein (1974), Mel Brooks’ funniest film (yes, even funnier than Blazing Saddles); Frankenweenie (2012), Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated Disney feature; and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), a flawed, but compelling adaptation of the novel with none other than Robert De Niro as the creature (he’s actually one of the weaker aspects of the film).

If you’re an adult B-movie buff with the will to be weird, boot up the 1973 sleaze fest, Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, which film critic John Stanley (Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again) called a “low point in cinema” and a “sickening exercise in black humor.”

Frankenstein on TV

In 1973, Dan Curtis, who created the vampire soap opera , produced Frankenstein, a made-for-TV movie shown over two nights as part of ABC’s “The Wide World of Mystery” anthology series. The movie felt like a stage play, was shot on video, and had a tiny budget, but it adhered fairly closely to Shelley’s novel, with Bo Svenson as the articulate and verbose monster.

Airing later the same year and overshadowing the Curtis picture was the oxymoronically titled Frankenstein: The True Story, a superior British production that was shown theatrically in Europe and on television in the U.S. The monster, played by Michael Sarrazin, is a handsome creation that deteriorates as the film, which runs 182 minutes, progresses. The star-studded cast includes Leonard Whiting, Jane Seymour, James Mason, and Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor Who), who has a brief role as a ship captain.

Modern audiences may enjoy the 2004 made-for-cable movie, Frankenstein, but there’s more entertainment to be found in the Frankenstein monster’s many TV show appearances. In addition to the obvious—Fred Gwynne’s comedic turn as Herman Munster in The Munsters—the ghastly ghoul has reared his ugly head in Tales of Tomorrow, Route 66, Saturday Night Live, The X-Files, and countless other programs, including such animated fare as Drak Pack, Groovie Goolies, Monster Force, and Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles.

Frankenstein in print

, who was only 18 when she wrote Frankenstein, surely had no idea her creepy creation would inspire countless other novels, including: The Frankenstein Wheel (1972) by Paul W. Fairman; Frankenstein Lives Again (1981) by Donald F. Glut; I Am Frankenstein (1996) by C. Dean Anderson; Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein (2012) by Dave Zeltserman; and the five-volume series collectively known as “Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein.”

For those who like pictures with their words, Frankenstein comic books have existed since 1940 with the publication of Prize Comics #7, which featured the “New Adventures of Frankenstein.” More attainable comics include Marvel’s The Monster of Frankenstein (1973), DC’s Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (2011), and Image’s  (2003), which features a conflicted creature stitched together from the body parts of one cop and three bad guys.

Sing along to a Frankenstein song

If you listen to classic rock radio, you’ve probably heard The Edgar Winter Group’s bass-heavy “Frankenstein” many times. Named after the elaborate, piecemeal recording process used in creating the song, which is one of the few rock instrumentals to become a #1 hit, “Frankenstein” is also noteworthy for its early use of a synthesizer as a lead instrument.

Shock rocker cranked out “Teenage Frankenstein” (1986), which was written for Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, and “Feed My Frankenstein” (1992), which features guest appearances by noted rockers Joe Satriani, Nikki Sixx, and Steve Vai.

One of the best Frankenstein tunes is “Over at the Frankenstein Place,” written and sung by Richard O’Brien for the musical stage play, The Rocky Horror Show (1973). In the feature film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon join in.

Other Frankensongs of note include: “Frankie Frankenstein” (1959) by The Crickets; “Monster Mash” (1962) by Boris Pickett; “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria” (1988) by Blue Oyster Cult; and “Jumpstart Your Electric Heart” (2005) by Kevin Max (of dc Talk fame).

Ringo Starr’s “Back Off Boogaloo” (1972), a single some say was directed at Paul McCartney’s solo work, featured the Frankenstein monster on the picture sleeve. 

Fun with Frankenstein

When guys like Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, owner of one of the largest collection of vintage monster toys in the world, was a youngster during the 1970s, playing with Frankenstein meant putting together an Aurora model kit and then destroying it. As he says in his collector bio, Too Much Horror Business (2012), “A lot of the toys I have in my collection are toys I once had as a kid, but either blew them up with firecrackers, set on fire, threw off the roof, drowned, buried or whatever.”
These days, playing with Frankenstein translates to video games, such as the long-running, whip-slashing Castlevania series that has appeared on the Nintendo NES, Xbox 360, and many systems in between. Video games with Frankie in the title include:  (1983) for the Atari 2600; Frankenstein: The Monster Returns (1991) for the NES; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo; and The Island of Dr. Frankenstein (2009) for the Nintendo Wii.

Beware: “Frankenfood”

A relatively new phenomenon, “Frankenstein food” is any type of edible that has been genetically modified. According to, big business, farmers, and scientists “create strains that can withstand what normal foods and plants can’t; these traits include chemical tolerances, pesticide resistance, heightened nutritional content, and the tolerance of extreme environments”

To avoid this type of altered food, which some experts say poses health and environmental risks, you should go organic. To paraphrase Boris Karloff in , “Frankenstein food: bad!”

Frankenstein food can also refer to unconventional combinations, such as: New York chef Dominique Ansel’s cronut, which is a cross between a croissant and a doughnut; and KFC’s infamous Double Down, a “delicacy” that has bacon, two types of melted cheese, and the Colonel’s secret sauce sandwiched between two fried chicken filets. You can opt for grilled chicken, but what fun would that be?

In simpler times, Frankenstein food meant sitting down to a bowl of sugary sweet, strawberry-flavored Franken Berry, which General Mills first produced in 1971, alongside Count Chocula. Boo Berry followed in 1973. In recent years, the company has made all five of its monster cereals readily available in grocery stores once again, including the long-forgotten Fruit Brute (introduced in 1984) and Fruity Yummy Mummy (1987).

Frankenstein is alive, alive!

Like Hercules, Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and Tarzan, the Frankenstein monster is a timeless icon that is open to interpretation and is probably here to stay. He’s appeared on postage stamps (in 1997 and 2002), he haunts our nightmares (or at least tickles our post-modern funny bones) and keeps us entertained, and he’s a friend to anyone with an appreciation for classic horror.