Alice Cooper’s top 10 tunes for Halloween

The shock-rock veteran picks his favourite ghoulish tunes

Halloween and Alice Cooper – they go together like crypts and creaking doors. The kohl-eyed, shock-rock veteran has for four decades been the go-to guy for all things ghoulish and gothic, albeit with a decidedly theatrical, tongue-in-cheek bent. He isn’t really intent on scaring seven shades of shitake out of anyone, but just wants to stage a spooky-themed pantomime with a kicking rock soundtrack and a few ballads thrown in.

He’ll be doing just that at Alexandra Palace on Saturday October 29, with his annual ‘Night of Fear’ show, also featuring glam-punk misfits New York Dolls and twisted fire-starter Arthur Brown. Dressing up is pretty much de rigeur.

To set the tone, Alice tells us what makes a scary song work and reveals his top ten creepy tunes of all time. It’s his personal spookbox, you could say.

Alice Cooper Alice Cooper

‘Halloween’s my time of year. I know all about that! If you get into the minor key and hit the words right on those chords, then you can get a very effective scary song. I’ve always tried to set the audience up to think one thing is going to happen, then do another thing. It’s the old Alfred Hitchcock movie theory; tension would build up and build up and build up and… nothing would happen. And then it would happen. It’s the same with a song. You need to set the audience up and give them a punch line at the end. Or of course, you can just do something that’s creepy all the way through, like The Doors’ ‘The End’.’

  • 1

    ‘I Put a Spell on You’ - Screaming Jay Hawkins

    ‘This has that voodoo thing to it that we just don’t understand. How do people go into these trances? I’ve seen things on TV about voodoo rituals in Haiti and people go into these other states that I can’t explain or understand. The song is so well done. It’s almost a blues song – very haunting – so there’s something about it that throws a chill up your spine.’

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    ‘Fire’- Arthur Brown

    ‘If you think about it, Arthur Brown is like a direct relation of Screaming Jay Hawkins. Both really, really tall, imposing guys and they both did ‘I Put a Spell on You’. They both had incredible vocal ranges, like maybe five octaves.’

  • 3

    ‘Bark at the Moon’ - Ozzy Osbourne

    ‘I have to say I don’t find this genuinely spooky, but Ozzy went through a period of being The Scary Guy. I remember he was going to be the werewolf, so I have to give him kudos for taking on that archetype. I have to acknowledge that Ozzy was the wolf man.’

  • 4

    ‘That Smell’ - Lynyrd Skynyrd

    ‘It’s sort of like a hillbilly song, but the lyric ‘the smell of death is all around you’…If you go out in the woods and there’s something like a dead deer nearby, it’s an unquestionable odour. When guys go into apartments and find someone who’s been dead for two weeks, they say there’s nothing like that smell. I thought it would be good to pick something that attacked a different sense.’

  • 5

    ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ - Blue Oyster Cult

    ‘This is actually a really pretty song and it became a punch line on every level, because of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch. It starred Will Ferrell as a cowbell player with the band and Christopher Walken as the music producer, who was going ‘more cowbell, I need more cowbell,’ although the cowbell was already so loud and over-the-top. That song suddenly turned into a comedy number, whereas it had of course been about a character in a cowl with a scythe, waiting for us all to die.’

  • 6

    ‘Living Dead Girl’ - Rob Zombie

    ‘Rob is like my little brother and he totally gets the idea that comedy and horror go together. This song is an industrial-rock collage of sounds, but it’s really catchy and the video is really good. His show is a bombardment on the senses, and this particular song is the perfect encapsulation of that.’

  • 7

    ‘The End’- The Doors

    ‘I knew Jim Morrison pretty well; we drank a lot together back in those days. He never did that song the same way twice; he would go off in these poetic tangents and take you down the dark corridor… everything he did was about going to the other side. That was his ambition. He would take you on these psychotic trips and he really was the tortured soul – he wasn’t playing that guy. The guitars in this song are really creepy. If you were taking hallucinogens, you wouldn’t want to listen to this alone in the dark.’

  • 8

    ‘Sweet Dreams’ - Marilyn Manson

    ‘The Eurythmics’ original was a sweet pop song, but Marilyn Manson turned it into a nightmare. We’re at different ends of the world where our theology is concerned, but the way it was produced, coupled with his persona resulted in a great job on this song. He totally re-imagined it.’

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    ‘Children of the Grave’ - Black Sabbath

    ‘I think the title says it all! It’s your classic, heavy metal, we’re-gonna-take-you-to-the-graveyard-now vibe. You could almost do a ‘Spinal Tap’ on this, because it’s so over-the-top, but when it first came out, I think they meant it.’

  • 10

    ‘Prince of Darkness’ - Alice Cooper

    ‘I had 40 or 50 scary songs to pick from, but I really like this song because it’s a warning that the Prince of Darkness is nothing to be fooled around with. Satan is not the guy with the horns and the pitchfork, he’s much more the guy who’s going to persuade you to do something you don’t want to do. Being a Christian, I believe very firmly that there is a god and there is a devil. And the devil is the source of evil. There’s some reason why we’re afraid of the dark and certain things really do creep us out.’