1. Bauhaus, "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (available on Crackle: The Best Of Bauhaus)
Arguably the first true goth song, Bauhaus' 1979 debut single "Bela Lugosi's Dead" honors the memory of the B-movie actor who immortalized Dracula onstage and onscreen in the '20s and '30s. Lugosi himself probably would've crapped his pants had he ever heard it, though: The song is a tense, horrific nine minutes of doom-laden bass, scraped guitar strings, and ghoulish lines from frontman Peter Murphy, like "The bats have left the bell tower / the victims have been bled." It all sounds like good fun to desensitized ears, but even the most jaded hipsters of the night have the sense to bow low before the lord of all Halloween anthems.
2. Roky Erickson, "Night Of The Vampire" (available on The Evil One)
Nobody gives a song about monsters quite the sense of authenticity that cult legend Roky Erickson does. In the '60s, Erickson helped invent psychedelic music, but by the '80s, his mental health had deteriorated and he was almost exclusively recording songs about horror movies, demons, alligator men, and other paranoid delusions. Still, those songs had plenty of punch, thanks to the inimitable intensity of his vocals and the wholehearted glee and sincerity he brought to the material. "Night Of The Vampire" is one of the high points of Erickson's classic The Evil One; it drips with midnight-movie warnings about the approaching bloodsucker, along with some practical advice for any potential vampire victim: "If it's raining and you're running / don't slip in mud / 'cause if you do / you'll slip in blood tonight." Sensible footwear is key!
3. Concrete Blonde, "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)" (available on Bloodletting)
The title track from what's arguably the career high point of singer and songwriter Johnette Napolitano, "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)" was inspired by the vampire novels of Anne Rice and Sting's song "Moon Over Bourbon Street" (itself a Rice homage, from the days when Sting was still worth listening to). Though steeped in goth imagery ("they used to dance in the garden in the middle of the night") and set in Rice's New Orleans, "Bloodletting" avoids falling into embarrassing cliché, thanks to a roots-rocky riff and a shuffle beat that sounds more than a little like Los Lobos.
4. Hot Blood, "Soul Dracula" (available on Disco Dracula)
This German-made oddity from the height of the disco era was a hit single in its day, but it now serves as a weirdly catchy but mostly just weird example of how low disco music could sink in its search for novelty themes to shore up a shaky foundation of dance beats and shallow fashion. (Only The Lawrence Welk Show was a more hilariously cringe-worthy cultural co-optation machine.) The entirety of Hot Blood's lone album was vampire-themed, including songs like "Even Vampires Fall In Love" and "Terror On The Dance Floor." It certainly proves that what the punks used to say is true: Disco sucks.
5. Allan Sherman, "My Son, The Vampire" (available on Dr. Demento Presents: Spooky Tunes & Scary Melodies)
One of a long line of songs in the tradition of "My Son, The Folk Singer" and "My Son, The Nut," the vampire entry from Allan Sherman's canon feels like a B-side form start to finish. After an unrelated 20-second drum solo, the song kicks into gear as Sherman dresses down his son, the vampire. Over an abrupt, repeating piano phrase, he warns listeners not to dine with his vampire son, and he shows no paternal protectiveness in disapproving lyrics such as "My son the vampire / He'll make you a wreck / Every time he kisses you / There'll be two holes in your neck." Nevertheless, Sherman does concede that blood is pretty tasty. Like father, like son.
6. Orvin Yoes, "Vampire" (available on These Ghoulish Things: Horror Hits For Hallowe'en)
An obscure recording from an even more obscure '50s country artist, "Vampire" opens with screams, howling wolves, and heavy rainfall. While this definitely makes for the right ambience, it rendered the original 45—only two of which are known to exist—practically unlistenable. "The vampire's fingers will dig you as the rain comes pouring through / He'll scratch you on your back and drain the blood from you," Yoes deadpans as even more sound effects illustrate his lyrics. But he seems to be referring to some sort of local folk monster who scratches backs, not bites necks, and who spends a lot of time near the town's clock tower. Did Nashville have a vampire problem in the '50s?
7. Future Bible Heroes, "I'm A Vampire" (available on Eternal Youth)
Stephin Merritt's deep, intoning voice is usually the most distinct thing about his bands, but the 6ths and Magnetic Fields leader ceded vocal duties to Claudia Gonson for Future Bible Heroes' 2002 song "I'm A Vampire." Her sweet iciness just makes the tune better: Over pale synthesizers and starchy new-wave beats, Gonson croons, "I'd rather drink blood than beer / 'cause I'm a vampire." It's all fang-in-cheek silliness—imagine a teenage Elvira fronting OMD—but isn't that what Halloween is all about?
8. Misfits, "Vampira" (available on Walk Among Us)
9. Bad Brains, "Fearless Vampire Killers" (available on Bad Brains)
Add Misfits' "Vampira" to Bad Brains' "Fearless Vampire Killers," and you get a measly two and half minutes of music—but there's an ocean of gore contained therein. Both songs by the hardcore legends reference classic, trashy horror cinema: Vampira was an Elvira-like '50s TV and film icon, as well as the title of a '70s Dracula spoof, while Fearless Vampire Killers is an early Roman Polanski vehicle that featured Charles Manson's most famous victim, actress Sharon Tate. If that's too terrifying, never fear: It'll all be over quick.
10. Rocket From The Crypt, "I Drink Blood" (available on Halloween Hootenanny)
Dracula was a monster, but he did things with wit and panache: Instead of cartoonish come-ons like "I vant to suck your blood," Bela Lugosi—master of subtlety—preferred to drop winking double entendres like, "I never drink… wine." Rather than dicking around with all that ironic foreplay, however, the howling protagonist of Rocket From The Crypt's typically revved-up contribution to 1998's Halloween Hootenanny compilation comes right out and says it: "I drink blood on Halloween / Yeah, it's what I need / It makes me feel alive / Sexy blood." It lacks a certain world-weary style and grace, but drinking blood is as primal as it gets. Why mince words?
11. OutKast, "Dracula's Wedding" (available on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below)
Putting the "vamp" back in "vampire," this creepy harpsichord-flavored jam finds the one thing besides a wooden stake that strikes fear into Dracula's heart: commitment. "I wait my whole life to bite the right one / Then you come along and that freaks me out," he says. Of course, since Dracula is immortal, it's no wonder a lifetime vow would give him pause. So what does his special lady have to offer? "I can count 1-2-3 / Plus I make great peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches," Kelis says in a guest verse. Is that really all it takes to make a crypt a home? Apparently so, since Drac gives in by the song's end, sighing, "You only live once / Well, not in our case / Because we live forever."
12. J Church, "Vampire Girl Prefers Me Alive" (available on The Horror Of Life)
Leave it to J Church frontman Lance Hahn to reformat a tale of supernatural menace into one of his favorite lyrical themes: the strong-willed, slightly antagonistic, just-out-of-reach female. This "vampire girl" has a typical name—Sarah—and her unexpected invitation to go on a drive perplexes him: "I always had her wrong, so what was I doing right? / And why did we stop every time we had the chance?" The next time they do, Hahn sneaks after Sarah to see what she's up to: sucking the life out of convenience-store clerks. "I guess my vampire girl preferred me alive," he concludes.
13. Wesley Willis, "Vampire Bat" (available on Greatest Hits)
Odd, whimsical monsters populated the musical world of late schizophrenic Chicago songwriter Wesley Willis, from the memorable "chicken cow" to the menacing vampire bat. In its eponymous song, an evil vampire "bird" has a predilection for attacking victims' hindquarters: "After the vampire bird sucked blood out of me / he started stabbing me in my ass / then three more vampire birds stabbed me in my ass too / they sucked the blood out of me, killing me." Watch your asses, Chicagoans.
14. Twilight Singers, "My Time (Has Come)" (available on Powder Burns)
Greg Dulli has always been glad to play the borderline-abusive lover in his songs for The Twilight Singers and The Afghan Whigs, so why wouldn't he want to taste a girl's blood and take her soul? In "My Time (Has Come)," he's really trying to enslave a fellow heroin junkie ("for another hit, she gave me her soul"), but he imagines himself as a vampire, thriving on his habit rather than destroying himself with it. It's as subtle as a sweaty crotch-thrust, but Dulli knows what kind of trouble he's making for himself. Like any good vampire tale, his song simultaneously embraces damnation and hedonistic oblivion.