Listen to this track by musician, actor, and novelty song innovator Bobby “Boris” Pickett and his merry band of Crypt Kickers. It’s the huge 1962 novelty hit, and just in time for Hallowe’en too, “Monster Mash”.
The song was released as a single, but later appeared on the LP The Original Monster Mash. It was released at the end of the summer that year, and just in time for the creepy, fun Hallowe’en season.
Like many songs that endure long past the eras in which they were created, “Monster Mash” was meant to be a knock-off, a bit of fun, while the business of a straight forward pop career was being forged. Although to start with, Bobby Pickett was singing in a pop group while he also pursued an acting career.
But, with this song, his chops as an actor, particularly his love of classic Universal horror movies to which British actor Boris Karloff was central, served him well in creating this seasonal hit.
But, what really brought the world’s of doo-wop pop and kitchy horror movies together in the first place?
The band that Pickett was in, the Cordials, did a version of that immortal doo-wop favourite “Little Darlin'”. And as a laugh one night, Pickett did the spoken part (“Little Darlin, I need you …”) while doing an impression of Boris Karloff. The audience ate it up. The band’s leader Lenny Capizzi suggested an original song centred around classic Universal horror movies, with Pickett doing the spoken word lead vocal in that same Karloff voice. Pickett and Capizzi wrote it loosely based on the Mashed Potato, which was the hot dance craze that same year (hence the song title), and a smash novelty hit was born!
It took some time to find a label to put out the single, with the B-side “Monster Mash Party”. But, it was eventually released on minor label Garpax in the States, and on a major label, Decca, in the UK. The band who played on it on the two-hour session were dubbed “The Crypt Kickers”. Among them, Leon Russell would play piano! The song is bolstered by sound effects, with bubbling “laboratory” sounds, creaking coffins, rattling chains, and vocal imitations of monsters in the background (“Mash good!!”). Who could resist? The song was a (graveyard) smash success.
Pickett would continue with his acting career and pop career apart from his famous chart-topping creation with marginal success after the song’s successful chart showing. But, it would be this song upon which he would build a long-term career, with TV appearances, song sequels (like “Monster’s Holiday”, which was released in time for Christmas, 1962), and even a full on Monster Mash movie in 1995, in which Pickett appeared as Dr. Frankenstein. Once again, a one hit wonder showed that it had legs, and had the power to entertain children of all ages and of many generations, especially around the Halloween season.
The song would be covered a multitude of times across the decades, on TV, in the charts, and live on stage. Acts as diverse as Alvin & The Chipmunks to ska-punk band Bad Manners would all take it on in cover versions. Even Smashing Pumpkins covered “Monster Mash”!
Bobby “Boris” Pickett died in 2007. But, his song still kicks (crypts) butt.
For more information about Bobby “Boris” Pickett, check out the Bobby “Boris” Pickett MySpace page.
To learn even more about this perennial Halloween staple, check out this article about “Monster Mash”, that goes into even more detail about the background of the song.
OOOOOOO! Scary one, kids!