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The Long, Strange Afterlife of the Monster Mash
Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 10:20 AM
Happy Halloween! It’s the best holiday we’ve got. Zero familial or religious obligations, free candy, and the nighttime air is filled with spooky menace. The only downside is that unlike, say, Christmas, there are less holiday-specific Halloween songs than there ought to be.
The most famous one, of course, is "Monster Mash," recorded by Bobby Pickett in 1962. It is, inarguably, a perfect song. But did you know that Pickett wrote hilarious follow-ups to it again and again in the decades afterwards?
In December 1962, there was the Christmas version, "Monster’s Holiday," which is almost an exact recreation of "Monster Mash." Same rhythm, same melody, but with added sleigh bells and slightly modified lyrics.
That formula, of nearly-exactly copying the original, would persist throughout Pickett’s reanimations of his hit. In the 1980’s, there was "Monster Rap," which perfectly rides the line between bad and enjoyably bad.
Shock the body, shock the body body
I’ve given you a voice, now rap for Daddy.
RAPPING FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER:
Well they shot a million volts into my brain
Now I’m ready to rap like a runaway train
If you get in my way, we’re bound to clash
Cause I’m the same dude who did the Monster Mash
In the early 90’s, there was “It’s Alive,” a synth-y "Monster Mash" sequel that probably would’ve been more at home in the 80’s. Over keys and compressed horns, we meet the son of the original singer.
It’s been thirty long years since I’ve walked these stairs
Down to my lab, no one cares
I’m no longer the Mad Scientist of Rock n Roll
It’s apparent to me time has taken its toll
My son’s taken over he’s quite the bright lad
Bringing life to the dead just like his old Dad
And finally, in the 2000s, "Monster Mash" was reanimated one last time, as a political protest song. Now it was “Monster Slash,” an anti-Bush, pro-rainforest protest song.
We were hiking in the forest late one night
When our eyes beheld an eerie sight
Our President appeared and began to frown
Then he and his friends cut the forest down
He did the slash
They did the forest slash
Usually, when you see stories about someone who had one big hit early in their music career, those stories are depressing. But by all accounts, Pickett seemed happy and unembittered about his novelty hit. And so I think there's something lovely about his frequent rejiggerings of his graveyard smash. Anyway, he died in 2007, so we're unlikely to get any more Monster Mashes, unless someone, somehow, finds a way to reanimate the man.