Halloween is the best season for novelty holiday songs, and “Monster Mash,” Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s 1962 smash hit, has long been the gold standard. Not only did Pickett book an all-star lineup of monsters—Wolfman, Dracula, his son—but the song itself was catchy enough to top the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. But for all its manifest virtues, “Monster Mash” has one fatal flaw: It’s just not very scary. The monsters are cartoonish, and, with the possible exception of the Wolfman, entirely fictional. You know what’s really scary, though? The idea that any success you experience is a meaningless fluke that will doom you to spend the rest of your life in increasingly fruitless attempts to recapture the magic that once came so easily. So for a truly spooky, ooky, creepy-crawly Halloween playlist, kick back with some of Bobby Pickett’s unsuccessful “Monster Mash” follow-ups, and think about the prison of expectations you’re building for yourself, day by day, brick by brick, Halloween novelty song by Halloween novelty song. Spooktacular!
“Monster’s Holiday,” 1962
You know what holiday isn’t about monsters? Christmas! You know what song is essentially “Monster Mash” with jingle bells? “Monster’s Holiday!” Despite these serious conceptual flaws, Pickett’s follow-up to “Monster Mash” went all the way to #30 in 1962. It’s not to be confused with Buck Owens’ “[It’s A] Monster’s Holiday,” which is an entirely different novelty song, great and terrible in its own right.
“Monster Motion,” 1962
The B-side from “Monster’s Holiday” will sound familiar to anyone who’s heard “Monster Mash,” as it is essentially the same song. On the other hand, how many projects—songs, books, children—have you begun over the years, only to realize you were essentially repeating yourself and give up? Bobby Pickett finished this song and put it out in the world, which is a lot more than you can say, probably.
“Blood Bank Blues,” 1962
This single did not chart.
“Me & My Mummy,” 1962
What’s more terrifying than a single that didn’t make the charts? The B-side of that same single.
“Monster Swim,” 1964
This single literally opens with Bobby Pickett reminding the audience about the success of “Monster Mash,” and contains the couplet “They did the swim / It was a poolside smash.” It was not a poolside smash.
“The Letter,” 1967
This song is not a follow-up to “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, it’s by the Box Tops. It is included here pursuant to Article 12 of the Geneva Conventions, which strictly forbids embedding more than five Bobby “Boris” Pickett songs in a single webpage without an appropriate “rest period.”
“Monster Rap,” 1984
Imagine what a song called “Monster Rap” from 1984 sounds like. You’re exactly right!
“It’s Alive,” 1993
This Bobby Pickett song has only made it to YouTube in the form of tribute videos from people who don’t intend any copyright infringement, but the vintage 1990s production values are worth the trip.
“The Monster Slash,” 2004
Yes, Bobby “Boris” Pickett recorded an environmental-themed version of “Monster Mash” to accompany a JibJab-style animation in 2004. If only we had listened.
“The Climate Mash,” 2005
Yes, Bobby “Boris” Pickett recorded another environmental-themed version of “Monster Mash” to accompany a JibJab-style animation in 2005. If only we had listened.
“Monster Mash,” 2006
This isn’t a follow-up to “Monster Mash” so much as it’s a joyful live performance of “Monster Mash” from the 2006 Chiller Theatre Expo in which Pickett is backed by the Dead Elvi and joined at the mic by TV horror host John Zacherle. That’s more than just a thematically-appropriate pairing: In 1962, Zacherle released an LP entitled Monster Mash with a cover of Pickett’s song; when Pickett got around to releasing his own LP, he had to call it The Original Monster Mash to avoid confusion. Pickett, who introduces the song by saying “We’d like to play a medley of our hit,” seems at peace here with being a one-hit wonder, and is visibly having a lot more fun than he was in any of his American Bandstand appearances in the 1960s. (He died in the spring of 2007; this was his last Halloween.) It’s a great reminder that it’s better to have one big success to chase after for the rest of your career than to never have succeeded at all. Speaking of having a terrifying Halloween, how’s your one big success coming along? Spooooooooooky!