7 Scott Walker Songs For A Lush But Grim Halloween

Your ultimate holiday music guide.

Possessing one of the 20th century’s finest baritones along with a unique sense of melody and storytelling, singer/songwriter Scott Walker (1943–2019, not the Wisconsin guy) consistently eschewed the trappings of pop music in favor of the dissonant and opaque.

And since all that eschewing sounds like a gargoyle having a psychic freakout in an abandoned cathedral, it’s the perfect mood for the most frightful time of year.

In the spirit of the season, here’s 7 songs you can use to bring Scott’s paranoid brand of spookiness to *your* family’s Halloween.

7: Jesse

It’s a ghost story as old as time: Elvis Presley communicates with the spirit of his long-forgotten twin brother Jesse, who died in childbirth.

In the song, as in life, Elvis is primarily concerned with both finding salvation and warning his brother about 9–11 (or Jesse is warning Elvis–it’s unclear). Talk about Halloween fever!

Pretty soon around the neighborhood, Elvis’s deceased fetal twin brother will be the second hottest costume of the season (behind Ninja Turtles).

6: After The Lights Go Out

This one is straight from your classic slasher story playbook: someone is scared of getting killed.

The narrator is clearly afraid of getting murdered, and without the unnamed protecter the song is addressed to, it sounds scary as heck! Let’s see what else is in the lyrics:

That’s the same as before, he just sang it again. They do that in a lot of songs.

Anyway, you can put this on between Halloween movie marathons, what with its relevance to the plot. But don’t stay up too late! You have work in the morning.

5: Funeral Tango

It’s an exercise we all do, every day, without exception: spitefully imagining our own funerals.

Besides being an “I’m dead” song (creepy!) it’s arranged and performed with a rigidity that could only be achieved by a band of skeletons dressed up like sea captains (a la The Goonies).

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Scott Walker (1969)

UNRELATED: The Monster Mash is stupid.

4: Hero of the War

Halloween songs don’t always have to be scary. They can be breezy, hummable jaunts about the legionnaires who gave life and limb for an uncaring empire.

Put out your fake spiderwebs and jack ‘o lanterns while tapping your foot to this infectious expression of irrepairable trauma inflicted by the state. Perfect for the house that gives out full size candy bars!

3: Tilt

Dread. Around this time of year? Can’t get enough of it. But so much of it is the same: “Oh no, he’s got a knife!” or “Oh no, she’s a ghoul!” Yawn.

Where’s the existential fear? Where’s the crushing sense that we were making it all worse the whole time? Also, what would Hank Williams playing the gates of hell sound like?

Thankfully, we have Scott Walker’s extremely unnerving output from the 80s onward to answer those questions and bring some variety to that rotten feeling deep in our cores. Spooky!

2: Clara

I like to imagine Scott Walker watching movies over the years going “What the hell is this, nobody is like this.” Then, one day, he saw a David Lynch film and was like “Finally! Something normal!”

When it comes to filling October with unease, this number has it all: Tense, brutal-sounding arrangements that never resolve swirling around themes of betrayal, death, and fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Also it’s 12 minutes long.

Just put it on repeat until DSS takes the kids away. What a deal!

1: The Electrician

One thing about October is that you cannot escape the cold grip of The Electrician. Supermarkets playing the piercing leadup. Gas stations blaring ill intentions and a sense of inevitability. Halloween commercials.

And yes, year after year, kids come home screaming “MOM, WHERE ARE THE PLIERS? I WANT TO BE A CIA BLACKSITE OPERATOR THIS YEAR.” We’ve all been there.

That’s not to mention haunted houses, goth weddings, and anywhere else that uses Scott’s beloved mix of orchestral swells, soaring melodies, and lyrical imagery of jumper cables cooking human flesh.

Some say this stone cold classic is overplayed around the holiday, but we can all agree that these timeless frightfests light up our All Hallow’s Eve every year.

Happy Scott Walker season, everyone!

i wanna live in a lighthouse

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