Science has determined your heartbeat mimics the music you listen to, but the good news is, it might also mean music is the best way to calm the savage beast within. Somebody call the werewolf! Before you jump in the Mystery Van, be aware that while your heart is beating to one drum, the neural circuits in your mind could be stuck in a repeating loop scientists like to call “ear worms.”
Not to be outdone, Psychologists believe the vast majority of ear worms stuck in people’s heads tend to be song segments that are melodically and rhythmically simple. Studies show the most common method of getting rid of these annoying ear worms is to listen to a different (and possibly better) song – that brings us full circle. Gather round my friends, sit for a spell, and allow me to unveil some of the more bewitching tunes worthy of inclusion in your October playlist. We’ll teach those worms a lesson.
10.) The Seasons – October (“Autumn Song”) – Tchaikovsky
The mystical month of October is host to several holidays, most notably Halloween and Oktoberfest, but in the Northern Hemisphere it is also recognized as the first full month of Autumn. Way back in 1875, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write 12 short character pieces for solo piano, one for each month of the year, the idea being each piece would somehow characterize the unique quality of each different month. Written in D minor, The Seasons – October once enjoyed enormous popularity. Only recently has it been rediscovered by pianists. In 1971, Lev Oborin recorded it live on television as did Yakov Kasman, and Vadim Chaimovich, but most recently the talented and beautiful Khatia Buniatishvili showcased her solo piano talents in this enchanting music video. Enjoy her performance as you watch the yellowed leaves flying in the wind.
9.) Moon Over Bourbon Street – Sting
Soon after reading the Anne Rice novel Interview With A Vampire, Sting found himself alone one moonlit night in the French Quarter and felt like he was being followed. The creepy sensation (coupled with his active imagination) inspired Sting to write Moon Over Bourbon Street and may have also had something to do with this rarely seen acoustic version featuring Sting “alone” in The Tube.
As one third of The Police, Sting brought many tunes to life, including Spirits in the Material World from the 1981 Ghost in the Machine album. Sting and Andy Summers (guitarist in The Police) rarely collaborated on songwriting, but when they did the results were often bluer than blue, especially on Murder By Numbers which teaches us the most wonderfully grim lesson of all.
8.) People Are Strange – The Doors
Jim Morrison often struggled with serious bouts of depression despite the collective efforts of those closest to him. Late one afternoon in 1967 Jim confessed to bandmate, guitarist, and co-writer Robbie Krieger “if you’re strange, people are strange.” Robbie immediately encouraged Jim to develop this revelation into a song and he (Krieger) would write the music to accompany Jim’s lyrics. “People Are Strange” proved to be one of The Doors most beloved tunes.
Jim Morrison died four years later at the age of 27. The story told by his girlfriend changed on every telling, but most people believe Morrison died of a heart attack due to complications of a drug overdose. No autopsy was performed and rumors still exist today as to exactly how he died.
7.) This is Halloween – Danny Elfman
“This Is Halloween” written by Danny Elfman, is a song from the Tim Burton produced 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas. It is a common misconception that Tim Burton directed the film, but in fact he was busy directing Batman Returns and relegated this hefty responsibility to his old Disney Animation colleague Henry Selick, who made his feature directorial debut here. During the 80s, Danny Elfman was better known as the Oingo Boingo frontman until he began collaborating with Burton and was called to compose the score for Burton’s feature directorial debut, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. The dynamic duo re-teamed for Beetlejuice, Batman and Edward Scissorhands before Elfman was called to write the music and lyrics for The Nightmare Before Christmas.
If you like your Danny Elfman materials on the creepier the better side, you might enjoy Marilyn Manson’s version of This is Halloween.
6.) Gravedigger – Willie Nelson
Written by Dave Matthews and released by Willie Nelson in 2007, Gravedigger is genius on display on so many levels. The music video features Willie’s grizzled glower and unmistakable voice, but it is his impeccable delivery which sells this tune like only he can. Go ahead and dig up Dave Matthews acoustic version as well.
5.) Witchcraft – Frank Sinatra
At age 47, Frank Sinatra was the first to release this Cy Coleman (lyrics by Carolyn Leigh) classic. The song depicts the feelings associated with being spellbound (Witchcraft) by a lover. Most recently the song was remastered and included on the Fifty Shades of Grey movie soundtrack.
4.) Witch Hunt – Rush
This fantastically eerie song depicts fear, persecution, and the public rush to judgement (see what I did there), but it also just happens to be written and performed by one of greatest rock trios of all time. Vocalist Geddy Lee believes “The sentiment of the song is as appropriate as ever, considering all that is happening in the world with racial profiling and all these different issues.” As if it wasn’t nightmarish enough, Witch Hunt was recorded the same night John Lennon was shot in New York. The band was right in the middle of laying down the epic chorus when they heard the tragic news.
3.) I Put a Spell on You – Nina Simone
This song may very well be the original Halloween song and definitely one of the greatest. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (original songwriter) would sometimes appear out of a coffin on stage in a black cape, tusks coming out of his nose and skulls all around.
Every October “I Put A Spell On You” is routinely covered by a number of amazing artists, but a recent version you might like to carve out is Joss Stone and Jeff Beck’s collaboration on American Idol.
Superstition was written as a warning to others about the dangers of believing in superstitions, such as walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror. Stevie Wonder recorded the song at Electric Lady Studios originally built by Jimi Hendrix and the site of so much amazing music. It is commonly believed Jimi’s ghost continues to haunt the studio today. Talented artists across the globe have covered Superstition, but none made an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version in 1986. Vaughan’s rendition has grown more popular since his untimely demise in a helicopter crash in 1990.
1.) Thriller – Michael Jackson
No matter how you slice it, MJ’s Thriller is a killer tune. Riding on an insistent, funky Minimoog bass line, the King of Pop’s infectious chart topper is the definitive smash hit for all things macabre in October. Made in 1983, the music video cost half a million dollars (the most for a music video at that time) and looks great even when it’s rendered in Lego or parodied in Minecraft.
There you have it my friends, these songs are Howlin For You! Now, being that it is the Season of the Witch, it is likely there are more than Seven Devils who should have been invited to this Dead Man’s Party, and it’s quite possible you have thoughts on Which Witch should be the honorable Ghost In This House. While we Don’t Fear the Reaper, be assured Heads Will Roll if too many ear-worms are about. If you think so, do let me know and I’ll invite you to our Ghost Town and attempt to sing you a Lullaby. For now, I’m off to Feed My Frankenstein.