Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” The Halloween Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
- Picket was a nightclub entertainer who performed with a group called The Cordials. He wrote “Monster Mash” with his friend Lenny Capizzi. They were both big horror movie fans, and Pickett would do an impression of the actor Boris Karloff (known for playing the monster in many Frankenstein movies) during the speaking part of “Little Darlin'” that went over well in his act. As Capizzi played the piano, he and Pickett put together this song with his Karloff impression in mind. They came up with the plot about Frankenstein’s monster starting a dance craze.
- The lyrics are based on the story of Frankenstein, which started as a 1818 novel by Mary Shelley and evolved into various film adaptations. In the story, Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature who comes to life, but what he created is a monster. The book is sober tale of regret and unexpected consequences, but the story is often played for comedy. In this song, the monster throws a big dance party, which is enthusiastically attended by many other creatures of lore (Dracula, Wolfman).
Pickett is imitating Boris Karloff, but is narrating the story as Dr. Frankenstein, not the monster that Karloff famously portrayed.
- Pickett and Lenny Capizzi wrote this song in about two hours. They recorded a demo to tape and brought it to Gary Paxton, lead singer of The Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”). They recorded the song with Paxton and studio musicians Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae and Rickie Page, who were credited as “The Cryptkickers.” Paxton, who is credited as the song’s producer, also added the sound effects.
Paxton put the song out on his Garpax label and distributed it to radio stations around southern California. Response was overwhelming, as the stations saw their phone banks lighting up with requests for the song. A deal was struck with London Records, who distributed the song worldwide.
- This is a dance song based on the “Mashed Potato” dance craze, which is where The “Mash” in the title comes in.
The original title was “Monster Twist” in an attempt to jump on the Twist craze, but that fad was fading so they tried calling it “Monster Mashed Potato,” then settled on “Monster Mash.”
- This being 1962, many of the sound effects had to be created in the studio. The sound effects on the song were done as follows:
The coffin being opened was made by pulling a rusty nail out of a lump of wood with the claw of a hammer.
The bubbling sounds came from blowing through a straw in a glass of water.
The sound of the chains was made by dropping chains onto plywood planks on the record studio floor.
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