There’s no denying that Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers’ ‘Monster Mash’ is a graveyard smash! A holiday favourite, this spine-tingling tune about monsters dancing has remained a Halloween party essential for over 60 years. But how did this novelty monster hit come to be?
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An aspiring actor by day, Bobby Pickett sang in the evenings with local band, the Cordials. One night, whilst performing The Diamonds’ ‘Little Darlin’’, Pickett performed a monologue, imitating horror movie actor Boris Karloff (known for portraying Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 film Frankenstein). The audience loved it, and Pickett was encouraged by band member Lenny Capuzzi to continue imitating Karloff.
Inspired by Gary S. Paxton’s hit ‘Alley Oop’ and the 60s dance craze the Mashed Potato, Capuzzi and Pickett teamed up to write the ‘Monster Mash’, with Pickett reflecting in an interview with The Washington Post that the “song wrote itself in a half hour and it took less than a half hour to record it”. The pair recorded the track with Paxton, pianist Leon Russell, Johnny MacRae, Rickie Page, and Terry Berg – who are credited as ‘The Crypt-Kickers’, and backing vocals were done by girl group The Blossoms, who featured legendary singer Darlene Love. Whilst producing the song’s various spooky sound effects, the crew got creative in the studio: using the sound of a rusty nail being pulled out of a board to imitate a coffin opening, blowing bubbles in glasses of water for bubbling cauldrons, and dropping chains on a tile floor for chains rattling.
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Released in August 1962, the ‘Monster Mash’ caught on in a flash – becoming a seasonal hit and reaching number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart the week before Halloween. Although it was a success in the States, the record was actually banned from airplay in the UK by the BBC, being considered “too morbid”. However, it ultimately received its due acclaim when its 1973 re-released saw it top the UK charts, reaching number three.
Since its release, the song has spawned various cover versions – including a 1999 cover by horror punk band, the Misfits. Today, it remains a hit of the land, standing as a ubiquitous Halloween classic, re-entering the charts during spooky season. We’ll be doing the Monster Mash for many years to come!
Image by Jason Garrattley via Flickr
Thumbnail Image/ Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons via PICRYL