Like Christmas, Halloween is the kind of holiday that doesn't feel complete without the right music.
Unlike Christmas, however, you won't find everyone from Bing Crosby to James Brown scrambling to record a Halloween album.
The perfect Halloween playlist demands a skillful balance of fun and frightening, whether you need dance tunes for your costume party, atmosphere for a neighborhood spook alley or just a few songs for the trunk-or-treat.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get your spook on:
"Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" (Johann Sebastian Bach): Bach's opening blast of shimmering organ chords is the essence of Halloween.
"This is Halloween"(Danny Elfman): The creepy-cute opening theme from Tim Burton's stop-motion cult classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas" outlines a laundry list of essential Halloween characters.
"Spooky"Classics IV): If the lyrics rhyme "groovy" with "movie" and "spooky," it must have come out of the late 1960s
"Thriller"(Michael Jackson): Zombie dances, Vincent Price voiceovers and a 30-minute music video are part of Michael Jackson's early '80s October anthem. This song is as essential to Halloween parties as Neil Diamond's work is to fireworks displays.
"I Put a Spell on You" and "Screamin' " (Jay Hawkins): If the name "Screamin' Jay" isn't enough to convince you to try on this spooked-out blues number, you can always try the Creedence Clearwater Revival version.
"Walk Like a Zombie" (The HorrorPops): The doo-wop melodies of the 1950s collide with 1970s punk and the modern Zombie renaissance in this upbeat pop-rock track.
"Werewolves of London" (Warren Zevon): According to this late 1970s pop gem, werewolves enjoy Chinese food and pina coladas, and can be very picky about their hair. Zevon must have been a Team Jacob kind of guy.
"Trick or Treat" (Otis Redding): In the hands of one of R&B's greatest voices, this song gives classic soul music a double meaning.
"Vampire Girl"(Jonathan Richman): If you've ever been a sucker for a girl in black with ultra red lipstick and a lot of eyeliner, this happy-go-lucky confession of love could be your own personal mantra.
"Chainsaw" (The Ramones): Joey Ramone's two-minute, tongue-in-cheek pop-punk salute to slasher movies is goofball gold.
"Ghostbusters" theme song (Ray Parker Jr.): If the rumors are true that Dan Akyroyd is working on "Ghostbusters III," all I ask is that they bring Parker back for an encore. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man probably would agree.
"Ghost Town"(The Specials): Swirling organ tones, braying horns and reggae beats give this dance number the perfect balance between kooky and spooky.
"Monster Mash" (Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers): Goofy, fun and definitely danceable makes this song one of the best of the campy novelties of the 1960s novelty. Strangely, Mannheim Steamroller also did a version of this song.
"In the Hall of the Mountain King" (The Who): Just add a strobe light to this manic cover of Edvard Grieg's classical piece and your spook alley will give the neighborhood a swift kick in the scary pants.
"Dead Man's Party"(Oingo Boingo): Before Elfman was penning soundtracks for Tim Burton, he was composing 1980s alternative dance pop classics like this. This is just one of many Boingo tunes that fit the Halloween bill, but the one that comes up most often when taking requests.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist. When he isn't compiling playlists, you can find him drumming for local garage bands or teaching composition for Salt Lake Community College. See more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com