Plenty of songs have been inspired by classic horror films. In fact, you can easily make a whole playlist of them to get you in the mood for the upcoming chills and thrills of the spectral season. Here are a few of my favorite songs that trace their origins back to classic horror movies.
"The Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett - Of course, it's the obvious choice for Halloween, with references to all of the old Universal monsters and creatures. Like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” you just can’t have a Halloween playlist without it.
"Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus - Almost 10 minutes long, this Goth classic pays homage to horror star Bela Lugosi, best known as the iconic vampire in Dracula (1931).
"Pinhead" by The Ramones - Inspired by Tod Browning's Freaks (1932), this punk rock classic quotes some of the film's most famous lines, "We accept you...One of us." Also check out their song, "Pet Sematary," which is one of my personal favorites for this time of year. It’s spooky and mournful with just enough rocker edge.
"Batman, Wolfman, Frankenstein or Dracula" by The Diamonds - Like "The Monster Mash," this song from the 1950s refers to lots of well known monsters and creatures, but its humorous twist is more disturbing because the speaker in the song finds out that his girlfriend only feels romantic when they're watching horror movies!
"Boris Karloff" by The Barbarellatones - If Bauhaus can pay tribute to Bela, then Boris also needs some love. The band gets added points for having a name inspired by the cult classic, Barbarella (1968), starring Jane Fonda. Karloff made many great classic horror movies, among them Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932).
"I Was a Teenage Werewolf" by The Cramps - These punk rockers really loved old horror movies, including the 1957 film of the same name starring a very young Michael Landon. Plenty of later songs take their cue from either this film or The Cramps song about it, including several about Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter novels.
"Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon - This popular song was inspired by The Werewolf of London (1935), which set the tone for many werewolf movies to come.
"I Walked with a Zombie" by Roky Erickson and The Aliens - Horror maestro Val Lewton is best remembered today for the original Cat People (1942), but Roky Erickson and The Aliens give up some love for Lewton's take on Jane Eyre - with zombies! - in this song that shares the name of the 1943 film.
"Eyes Without a Face" by Billy Idol - 80s punk star Idol makes direct reference to the 1960 horror masterpiece by director Georges Franju; the backup singers during the chorus are actually saying the name of the film in its original French, Les Yeux Sans Visage.
"Nosferatu" by Blue Oyster Cult - Nobody can be surprised that the band best known for "Don't Fear the Reaper" liked classic horror films. Here, they take their inspiration from the 1922 silent film from F.W. Murnau. The song actually retells the story of the movie.
"Return of the Fly" by The Misfits - The Misfits loved classic horror a lot, and they recorded quite a few songs inspired by their favorite movies, including this one, which refers to the 1959 Vincent Price film. Try "Die, Die My Darling," inspired by Tallulah Bankhead's last film, or "Abominable Dr. Phibes," also a Vincent Price picture, for more of their horror tributes.
"The Creature from the Black Lagoon" by Dave Edmunds - Old school rocker Edmunds sings this tribute to the aquatic member of the classic monster gang; the title comes from the 1954 film.
"Peter Lorre" by Satan's Pilgrims - Don't let the band's name fool you. This is a surf rock tribute to the classic horror star and great character actor. The very idea of a surf rock song being named after Peter Lorre is wonderful. Catch Lorre himself in M (1931), Mad Love (1935), and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), as well as in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942).
"Ballad of Dwight Fry" by Alice Cooper - Even though Cooper leaves the last letter off of Dwight Frye's name, this song still merits attention for its celebration of the great horror actor, most remembered for his portrayal of Renfield in the 1931 version of Dracula. Frye also appeared in Frankenstein (1931) and The Vampire Bat (1933). Cooper's song adopts the perspective of a Renfield sort of character, and it’s a must-have for fans of either the actor or the Goth rock star.
Need more? Try Florence + The Machine’s “Howl,” which quotes The Wolf Man (1941), Ookla the Mok’s “Bride of Wolfman,” and vampire-inspired hits like Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street” and Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting.” Also, let me know in the comments section about your favorite songs inspired by classic horror films!