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|Single by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers|
|from the album The Original Monster Mash|
|B-side||"Monster Mash Party"|
|Released||August 25, 1962|
|Writer(s)||Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi|
|Producer(s)||Gary S. Paxton|
"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 was #1 on the Hot 100 chart on October 20–27 of that year, just before Halloween. It has been a perennial holiday favorite ever since. It was on the top 50 in November of 2014.
Pickett was an aspiring actor who sang with a band called the Cordials at night while going to auditions during the day. One night, while performing with his band, Pickett did a monologue in imitation of horror movie actor Boris Karloff while performing the Diamonds' "Little Darlin'". The audience loved it and fellow band member Lenny Capizzi encouraged Pickett to do more with the Karloff imitation.
Pickett and Capizzi composed "Monster Mash" and recorded it with Gary S. Paxton, pianist Leon Russell, Johnny MacRae, Rickie Page, and Terry Berg, credited as "The Crypt-Kickers". (Mel Taylor, drummer for the Ventures, is sometimes credited with playing on the record as well, while Russell, who arrived late for the session, appears on the single's B-side, "Monster Mash Party".) 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. A variation on the Mashed Potato was danced to "Monster Mash", in which the footwork was the same but Frankenstein-style monster gestures were made with the arms and hands.
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?"
While working in his lab late into the evening, a scientist beholds an eerie sight. The scientist is both the narrator of the song and the story's protagonist. We know very little about the narrator, whether he is an accredited scientist or simply an enthusiast is never made clear. We also are not told what project the scientist is working on at the time of beholding the sight, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that it is a similar to the 'monster' which he refers to as his own. This monster is revealed to be the eerie sight that the narrator is beholding, as it begins to rise from his 'slab'. The fact that the narrator is shocked by this, given that the act of rising from the slab was in all probability what the monster was designed to do by the narrator himself, is puzzling but never addressed. The narrator is further surprised when, having been animated into life, the monster does 'the mash'. The mash will become the central focus and recurring motif of the song, and while the step to the dance are never described, it is not unreasonable to assume that it does not require any amount of dexterity given that it is performed initially by a walking corpse. If the narrator joins in with the monster 'mash' it is not made clear to the listener.
The timeline of what follows is never made explicit, but at some point after the initial 'mash', a number of ghouls come to the narrator's (previously unmentioned) castle in order to get a jolt from his electrodes. The electrified ghouls then do the 'mash'.
Following the performance of 'the mash' by the electrified ghouls, zombies, the Wolf Man, Dracula and the son of Dracula arrive. They also do the 'mash'. There appears to be no animosity between any of these creatures and the narrator, nor is there any inter-monster animosity, the tone of the event appears to be cordial and jubilant.
A band arrives after these characters have done the 'mash', raising the possibility that the monsters were hitherto dancing to nothing. The band is named 'The Coffin Bangers' and have a vocal group called 'The Crypt Kicker Five'. After or during this performance, Dracula (called 'Drac' by the narrator, suggesting a level of familiarity) speaks up from his coffin. This means that he has been doing the 'mash' from within a box the whole time. He speaks up and asks everyone what happened to the 'Transylvania Twist' (which is the title of another horror-themed song on the same album). Despite his question, no one answers, instead, they do the 'mash'.
Possibly to placate him, Dracula is now part of the band. It's unclear whose discussion this is, and if a member of the 'Crypt Kicker Five' was ejected from the band to make space for Dracula. Dracula's son is not part of the band.
The 'mash' has now by this stage become extremely popular and famous. How this happens is never made explicit, but it can be assumed it is a combination of both word of mouth and through a tour of the Crypt Kicker Five, now able to book larger venues because of the profile of Dracula, who is a very famous vampire. The narrator closes by addressing the listener directly, imploring them to come to his castle and do the 'mash'. He reveals his name to be Boris.
Re-releases and other versions
The song was re-released several times and appeared in the US Billboard charts on three occasions after the original release: December 1962, August 1970 and May 1973. The 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. To celebrate this popular release, Bobby and the Crypt-Kickers toured Dallas and St. Louis around the 1973 Halloween holiday. On this tour, the Crypt-Kickers were composed of Brian Ray (now guitarist with Paul McCartney), drummer Brian Englund, keyboardist Don Chambers, singer Jean Ray, and others. The "Monster Mash" re-entered the British Charts again on November 2, 2008 at #60.
"Monsters' Holiday", a Christmas-themed follow up, was recorded by Pickett and released in December 1962, peaking at #30 on the Billboard chart. The tune was penned by the renowned novelty song composer Paul Harrison. In 1985, with American culture experiencing a growing awareness of rap music, Pickett released "Monster Rap", which describes the mad scientist's frustration at being unable to teach the dancing monster from "Monster Mash" how to talk. The problem is solved when he teaches the monster to rap. A movie musical based on the song starring Pickett was released in 1995. During the 2004 presidential election, Pickett turned the song into a campaign video and retitled it "Monster Slash," with lyrics by Jerry Altman, in which he critiqued President George W. Bush's environmental policies.
"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.
- Boris Karloff was so taken with the song that he performed it himself on a 1965 episode of Shindig!.
- 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").
- 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.
- In 1973 the song was covered in Spanish by Mexican rock and roll stars Luis Vivi Hernandez. The 7" EP features a color picture of The Munsters cast on the sleeve.
- 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 1978 Finnish band Kontra made, for their second album Kontran Toinen Puoli, a cover of the song in Finnish called "Hirviömuhennos", describing a food, "salad in meat".
- 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 1989, Brazilian new wave/rockabilly band João Penca e Seus Miquinhos Amestrados made a Portuguese-language parody of the song, entitled "O Monstro Macho" ("The Macho Monster").
- In 1989, Ross Higgins covered the song for the ABC For Kids 0-9 series of albums. It appeared on album #7 and was one of the songs from the project to be promoted with a music video.
- In 1991, the hardcore punk band Murphy's Law covered the song for their "Monster Mash" EP.
- 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.
- The 1999 Freaks and Geeks episode "Tricks and Treats" has Jean Weir (Becky Ann Baker) perform the song at the dinner table, to her children's chagrin.
- In the 2001 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 2010, comedian and actor Nick Wiger appeared on Comedy Death Ray Radio's 77th episode in character as Leo Capizzi, the song's co-writer. He performed a fictitious 'unreleased' version of the song that was his original idea for the song, entitled "The Monster Fuck," which graphically depicts sex acts performed by the characters in the song. Wiger returned for two subsequent Halloween episodes - the 252nd and 319th, respectively - in character as Capizzi. During these episodes, he performed "The Monster Fuck, Part 2" and "The Monster Fuck, Part 3: Spooky Orgy," respectively. The songs are identical to "The Monster Fuck," save for alluding to being the second or third part of the song in the chorus.
- In 2011 Shake It Up stars Kenton Duty, Adam Irigoyen and Davis Cleveland covered the song for the film Spooky Buddies.
- Blair Packham wrote and performed "One Hit Wonder" in 2004, about the later years of Bobby Pickett's musical career and Pickett's relationship with his most-recognized song.
- 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 performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
- The song was featured on the original motion picture soundtrack for the critically acclaimed 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook covered by CrabCorps.
- British group Only the Young performed the song on Week 4 of The X Factor (UK TV series) as part of a mash up with Elton John's Crocodile Rock
|Single by the Misfits|
|Released||October 31, 1999|
|Format||7" vinyl, CD|
|Writer(s)||Bobby Pickett, Leonard L. Capizzi|
|Misfits singles chronology|
Horror punk band the Misfits recorded a cover version of "Monster Mash" in 1997 as part of a promotion surrounding a DVD release of the 1967 stop motion film Mad Monster Party. Their version was released as a single in 1999, and a new version was recorded for their 2003 album Project 1950.
The Misfits recorded their version of "Monster Mash" in 1997 in a recording studio in Newark, New Jersey. Bassist Jerry Only later stated that "The 'Monster Mash' was a no-brainer for the Misfits to cover as a timeless Halloween release. The song was always a childhood favorite of mine." The recording was the first time that Only had performed lead vocals for the band, while then-Misfits lead singer Michale Graves provided backing vocals. On October 18, 1997 a live performance of the song was recorded and broadcast from the studio of the New Jersey-based cable television music show "Power Play", the same studio in which the song was recorded.
The Misfits' version of "Monster Mash" was used in a cross-promotion campaign arranged by Deluxo and John Cafiero, who had directed the Misfits' music videos for "American Psycho" and "Dig Up Her Bones", to create awareness of a home video release of the 1967 Rankin/Bass stop motion film Mad Monster Party. Deluxo had recently acquired the rights to the film in hopes of restoring it, but could not find a quality print. They eventually found a quality 16 mm print and the Misfits hosted a special screening of the film at Anthology Film Archives in New York City, with the "American Psycho" music video as an opening featurette. Notable attendees at the screening included members of the Misfits, Cafiero, Marky Ramone, Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy's Law, and executives from both Geffen Records and Roadrunner Records. Deluxo restored Mad Monster Party from the 16 mm print and re-released it on VHS in limited numbers. A music video for the Misfits' live recording of "Monster Mash" was created interspersing clips from the film with footage from their "Power Play" performance, and was intended to be included as a bonus feature on a forthcoming DVD release. However, due to complications over distribution rights, the DVD was not released and the VHS version was discontinued. A DVD version of the film was eventually released in 2003 by Anchor Bay Entertainment, restored from a different 35 mm print.
As part of the promotional campaign, an image of Boris Karloff as he appears in Mad Monster Party was used under license from his daughter Sarah Karloff in artwork for a 7" vinyl single of the Misfits' version of "Monster Mash". Percepto Records used the same image of Karloff for the cover of the film's soundtrack album which was released in September 1998. The Misfits single was intended to be released the following month, but was delayed due to lack of time to properly mix the studio recording. Instead the artwork was used in connection with a free MP3 download of the band's live recording of "Monster Mash", available through their website as a "virtual single". The image was used again as cover artwork when the finished single was released physically in October 1999 as the first release of the band's new label Misfits Records.
The Misfits' studio recording of "Monster Mash" was included on their 2001 compilation album Cuts from the Crypt. At the insistence of the band's label Roadrunner Records, the live recording was omitted from the album and only the studio version was used. The Misfits recorded a new version of the song, featuring Cafiero on backing vocals, for their 2003 album Project 1950. By this time the band had a new lineup consisting of Jerry Only (bass guitar and lead vocals), Dez Cadena (guitar and backing vocals), and Marky Ramone (drums). Only called this version of the song "probably the best version we've ever done. I'm really happy with it. We've recorded it several times in the past and this is the hardest hitting version of them all." Ramone commented: "'Monster Mash' always reminded me of Boris Karloff. Our version's a lot faster than the original, which was a slower 4/4 beat. I always liked the way the drums seemed to come in out of nowhere after Igor walked across the room." Cadena, meanwhile, remarked that "If I didn't know any better ['Monster Mash'] could have been written for the Misfits."
Two separate pressings of the Misfits single were released, both issued on 7" vinyl in 1999. The first pressing had the studio version on both sides and consisted of 1,000 copies: 800 on green vinyl, 100 on red, and 100 on gold. It was sold by the band while on tour and also by mail order through their "Fiend Club" fan club and official website. 1,000 promotional CD copies of the studio version were also pressed and used for limited solicitation to radio stations. A second pressing of the vinyl single had the studio version on side A and the live version on side B and consisted of 1,000 copies on glow-in-the-dark vinyl, available exclusively by mail order through the band's website. The single sold out and is no longer in print.
- Jerry Only – bass guitar, lead vocals
- Michale Graves – backing vocals
- Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein – guitar, backing vocals
- Dr. Chud – drums
- "Google Nieuws". News.google.com. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
- "The origin of that terrible Monster Mash song - CSMonitor.com". Retrieved 2010-07-11.Pickett explains Monster Mash
- "Drummerworld: Mel Taylor - The Ventures". Retrieved 2010-07-11.
- "Bobby Boris Pickett". Janalanhenerson.com. Retrieved 2013-11-07.
- InTune. "Read about the Song History behind "Monster Mash" | InTune". Retrieved 2010-07-11.Monster Mash History
- "Learn more about "Monster Mash" -- Monster Mash song trivia and information -- All about "Monster Mash"". Retrieved 2010-07-11.Sound effects used on Monster Mash
- B. Lee Cooper, Wayne S. Haney, Rock music in American popular culture II
- "João Penca & Miquinhos - O Monstro Macho". YouTube.
- Cuts from the Crypt (CD liner notes). the Misfits. New York City: Roadrunner. 2001. 161 618 467-2.
- "Misfits discography". Misfits.com. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
- Project 1950 (CD liner notes). the Misfits. New York City: Misfits Records. 2003. RCD 10643.
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