Monster Mash is a 1962 novelty song and the best-known song by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. The song was released as a single on Gary S. Paxton’s Garpax Records label in August 1962 along with a full-length LP called The Original Monster Mash, which contained several other monster-themed tunes. The “Monster Mash” single reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on October 20 of that year, just in time for Halloween. It has been a perennial holiday favourite ever since.
Pickett was an aspiring actor who sang with a band called The Cordials. One night Pickett did a monologue in imitation of horror movie actor Boris Karloff while performing The Diamonds’ song Little Darlin’. The audience loved it.
Pickett and Capizzi composed “Monster Mash” and recorded it with Gary S. Paxton, Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae, Rickie Page, and Terry Berg, credited as “The Crypt-Kickers”. The song was partially inspired by Paxton’s earlier novelty hit “Alley Oop”, as well as by the Mashed Potato dance craze of the era.
The song is narrated by a mad scientist whose monster, late one evening, rises from a slab to perform a new dance. The dance becomes “the hit of the land” when the scientist throws a party for other monsters. The producers came up with several low-budget but effective sound effects for the recording. For example, the sound of a coffin opening was imitated by a rusty nail being pulled out of a board. The sound of a cauldron bubbling was actually water being bubbled through a straw, and the chains rattling were simply chains being dropped on a tile floor. Pickett also impersonated horror film actor Bela Lugosi as Dracula with the lyric “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”
The song was re-released several times and appeared in the Billboard charts on three occasions after the original release — December 1962, August 1970 and May 1973. The ridiculously reactionary BBC had banned the record from airplay in 1962 on the grounds that the song was “too morbid”. It was re-released in the United Kingdom in 1973, where it peaked at #3 in early October.
“Monster Mash” became a pop music standard, and many cover versions have been recorded over the years.
Radio/television horror host John Zacherle recorded his own version of the song in 1962, for an album of the same name.
The Beach Boys covered the song just two years after its original release, on their 1964 album Beach Boys Concert.
The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band covered it on their 1969 album Tadpoles having performed it on the British television series Do Not Adjust Your Set in 1968 (complete with Frankenstein Monster on “electric spoons”).
Boris Karloff was so taken with the song that he performed it himself on a 1965 episode of Shindig!
In 1972 horror film actor and DJ Mike Raven performed a version of “Monster Mash” on the music show 2 G’s and the Pop People.
Actor Vincent Price recorded a version of it as well in 1977.
A 1978 Halloween episode of Happy Days featured Ron Howard performing a rendition of the song, using a Peter Lorre impression rather than Pickett’s Karloff one.
In 1980, the British ska band Bad Manners covered “Monster Mash” on their debut album Ska ‘n’ B.
Hardcore punk band Ill Repute covered it as well on their 1985 album Omelette.
In 1988, The Big O covered it for the Return of the Living Dead Part II Soundtrack.
In 1991, Ross Higgins covered the song for the ABC For Kids Video Hits videotape.
In 1994, Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their Halloween special “Trick or Treason.”
The 1996 album Test for Echo by the Canadian rock trio Rush includes an instrumental track, Limbo, which contains several samples from “Monster Mash” including the line “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”.
In 1997, the horror punk group The Misfits released a music video of them covering “Monster Mash” live. They also released a studio version as a single in 1999, and recorded a separate version for their 2003 album Project 1950.
In the Walt Disney Records album Mickey’s Monster Bash, Goofy sings the cover version of “Monster Mash”.
A Kidz Bop cover version appeared on the 2004 album Kidz Bop Halloween & Kidz Bop Halloween Hits.
Mannheim Steamroller also covered the song for their 2006 album Halloween, Vol. 2: Creatures Collection.
The song has also been covered by Zombina and the Skeletones.
In 2008, The Smashing Pumpkins released a live recording of the song from Halloween of that year through Live Smashing Pumpkins.
In 2011, Shake It Up stars Kenton Duty, Adam Irigoyen and Davis Cleveland covered the song for the film Spooky Buddies
In 2012, the song was parodied by Zoidberg and his dummy “Little Hermes” for the Futurama episode “The Six Million Dollar Mon”.
On Halloween 2012, as part of the “Wrecking Ball” tour stop in Rochester, New York, the song was World-Tour Premiered by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
The song was featured on the soundtrack for the 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook” covered by CrabCorps.
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