Every October certain songs are played on the radio around Halloween or at Halloween parties: Thriller by Michael Jackson, Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr., the theme song to John Carpenter’s Halloween and of course, The Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. What started as a simple novelty song back in 1962, has become a Halloween hit for over fifty years. Join Universal Monsters Universe’s Halloween celebration and “do the mash” while you’re at it!
Bobby “Boris” Pickett (1938-2007) was an aspiring actor at the time he wrote The Monster Mash. He auditioned by day and sang with a band called “The Cordials” by night. During a gig, he decided to impersonate Boris Karloff while singing the song “Little Darlin’.” The audience loved it so Pickett, with bandmate Lenny Capizzi’s encouragement, kept doing the impersonation during every gig. The two then decided to write a song together using the Karloff impression and The Monster Mash was born.
Capizzi and Pickett wrote the song and recorded it with Gary S. Paxton, pianist Leon Russell, Johnny MacRae, Ricky Page and Terry Berg who would become known as “The Crypt-Kickers.” The song was inspired by an earlier Paxton title called “Alley Oop” and the popular dance of the time called the “Mashed Potato.” In fact, the Monster Mash dance was a mix of twisting your feet liked the Mashed Potato but holding out your arms like the Frankenstein monster. The song was extremely low-budget and the sound effects were all homemade. The bubbling cauldron was someone blowing bubbles through a straw, the coffin was the amplified sound of a rusted nail being pulled out of a piece of wood and the chains were chains being rattled on a tile floor. Pickett even puts on a Bela Lugosi-sounding accent for the line, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?” The song was released on August 25, 1962 on Garpax Records.
The Monster Mash hit number one on the 1962 Billboard Hot 100 charts the week of October 20-27, just in time for Halloween. While it was only number one for that week, it has endured the test of time. It was banned in the UK for a short time, has charted in the UK and US on three separate occasions within its first ten years of release and spawned a Christmas version as well as a 1980s rap version. Bobby “Boris” Pickett passed away in 2007 but the song, just like Dracula, has lived on and will continue to live on. You’ll be hard-pressed to have a Halloween go by without hearing this classic tune.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)