Misfits, Cramps Among Bands Playing Halloween Weekend

Revelers complain about dearth of new spooky holiday songs.

'Tis the weekend to blast Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein," Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" or Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" while you're eating candy, haunting a house or just plain partying.

But Halloween — and its music — isn't quite as fresh as it used to be, according to some observers.

"There has been sort of a cultural sea change," said Thane Tierney,

director of catalog development for Rhino Records, a reissue label that

has released several Halloween compilations. "There's not nearly as much

door-to-door trick-or-treating as there used to be. It's gotten where

kids tend to go to the mall ... and adults are going to parties. That's

probably had a ripple effect on how the music is treated."

"It's all older tunes — like ... I don't know, [Sheb Wooley's]

'Purple People Eater' (RealAudio

excerpt), that are on a bazillion compilations already," Dennis

Brewer, manager of a Tower Records in Seattle, said. "It's already been

done before. And only a few people are interested in sound effects,

because not everyone does a haunted house."

While Halloween continues to be popular, it doesn't inspire a continual

flood of new songs the way Christmas does. Tierney pointed out that almost

all Halloween music is decades old; the youngest he could name was

"Werewolves of London" (RealAudio

excerpt), which Zevon recorded in 1978.

But Tierney also said he feels that a new crop of theatrical rockers

— which includes Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Powerman 5000 —

might be able to bring spooky, macabre music back from the grave.

After all, even the nonschlocky R.E.M. covered Roky Erickson's "I Walked

With a Zombie" for a 1990 tribute album to the '60s psychedelic rocker.

Rhino offers compilations of old Halloween songs narrated by TV host

Elvira and radio personality Dr. Demento. On Thursday, the theme to the

macabre show "The Addams Family" played over the company's phone system

to callers on hold.

Jerry Only, lead singer for theatrical rock band the Misfits, said Thursday

that Halloween is his band's life. It is a life that has only gotten

better and more vibrant, not worse, he said. The Misfits perform a show

with fellow over-the-top acts Gwar and Speedealer at the Riviera Theater

in Chicago on Sunday.

"We've been doing the same thing for 23 years," Only, calling from

Milwaukee, said. "It took the planet that long ... to say, 'We accept it.

Why were we being so skeptical about it?' "

The Misfits base their act partially on the monster movies of the 1930s

and '40s. They've recorded a song called "Halloween" (RealAudio

excerpt), and their new LP, Famous Monsters, sports such

titles as "Pumpkin Head."

For now, though, folks have the old songs and the live sound of new ones

to fall back on, which Orfa Vanderhorst, an employee at the New York club

Webster Hall, thinks might not be such a bad thing. The club is holding

a party Saturday night that will feature stilt-walkers, tarot-card readers

and magicians, as well as a costume competition.

"It all depends on where you are and who you're with," she said.

The Cramps, the veteran theatrical punk band, will play their annual

Halloween show Sunday at the Fillmore in San Francisco. That event has

scared up a loyal following over the years, according to Michael Bailey,

who books their Halloween shows for the promoter Bill Graham Presents.

"Many people have costume parties. The extra thing you have to think

about ... is how much is this going to compete with what people are doing

on their own," Bailey said. "If it's not the right Halloween show, it

doesn't work well. We have the right show. It tends to bring a lot of

people out."

The Cramps are known for their straight-ahead, two-guitar assaults and

for campy vampire stage clothing. They've played Halloween shows in San

Francisco since the mid-'80s.

"Halloween's almost like any other night, except that bigger tours have

more competition from private parties and smaller clubs," said Gary

Bongiovanni, editor of concert-industry trade magazine Pollstar.

"It's true that most people do go out that night, and there are bands

[like the Cramps] who will perform one-off shows here and there, but for

the most part ... it's not that big a deal for us. People tend to go to

smaller shows and parties."

In New Orleans, the music this weekend won't take as much of a seasonal

turn as the atmosphere itself. The inaugural New Orleans Voodoo Music

Festival takes place at Tad Gormley Stadium on Sunday. The lineup features

rapper Wyclef Jean and hip-hop group the Roots, pop-rock band Third Eye

Blind, techno-rocker Moby and others.

Ultimately, though, Tierney said music, old or new, still plays a role

in shaping the holiday. "Because there are so many parties where people

get dressed up, and because there are haunted houses, there needs to be

a soundtrack for that kind of stuff," he said.

(SonicNet's Will Comerford and Correspondent Jenny Slater contributed to this report.)