Music History

The True Story Behind “The Monster Mash”

With Halloween almost upon us, Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s 1962 novelty hit, “The Monster Mash” has once again been resurrected.  (The Key of Awesome has updated it here. About time.)  Vice’s Noisey looks at the true story of the novelty song that just won’t die.

With all due respect to The Misfits’ “Halloween” and “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” the song most closely associated with October 31st is “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. In its own way, the track is one of a kind. It is certainly the only Halloween-themed song that enjoys the cultural ubiquity of popular Christmas carols, and it’s one of the few novelty songs that have managed to worm its way into the public consciousness, remaining there long after the trends it parodied have faded away. Its opening lines (“I was working in my lab late one night / When my eyes beheld an eerie sight…”) are indelibly marked into our psyches as children, as is its melody, cribbed from Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time.”

The track was a smash upon its August 1962 release, and charted again in 1970, and 1972. “Monster Mash” is a popular cover song among punk bands, its pre-Beatles grooves and campy horror movie-inspired lyrics hitting the same sweet spots that bands such as Misfits and The Ramones took dead aim at. Meanwhile, it enjoys a perennial presence in film and television, having shown up in the likes of The Simpsons (twice!), Happy Days, True Blood, Cheers, and the filmsHalloween III and Must Love Dogs. Every October, the song sees a spike in iTunes sales—itreached number 25 on the iTunes sales charts in 2012, and currently sits at #49 on Billboard’s Digital Charts.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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