4.28.2007

Tell Them Boris Sent You

Bobby "Boris" Pickett, legendary singer of "The Monster Mash," succumbed to leukemia on April 25.


Pickett was 24 when he recorded his signature tune. A long time fan of horror films, which he watch in the local theatre in his home town of Somerville, MA, Pickett worked up a passable Boris Karloff impersonation. One thing led to another, and he ended up writing the world's greatest Halloween song, released as a single in 1962. His band, the Crypt Kickers, included a young Leon Russell.

1962 was the Year of the Monster in America, and Moster Mash went to #1 the week before Halloween. Famous Monsters magazine was on newstands across the country, The Munsters and The Addams Family were on TV, and theatres had movies like The Day of the Triffids and Carnival of Souls for one's viewing pleasure. In England, Hammer Horror was reviving the old monsters in movies featuring Christopher Lee and a cast of swingin' mods in period clothing. JFK was in office, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, and Monster Mash at the top of the charts. Sounds like quite a year. (Things really went to shit in '63 though.)

Hey, you should watch a video:

1.) Here's the Monster Mash cartoon.
2.) Here's a video made for the song.
3.) And here's a latter day Pickett performing the song with 60s garage rock legends Richard and the Young Lions.

The Man Himself:


Needless to say, I loved this song as a kid. Still do. Monster Mash forever, indeed.

5 comments:

ryan in exile said...

thomas pynchon's liner notes for a Lotion album, mentioning hte monster mash:
The name of Lotion's first album is Full Isaac, which besides getting instant screams of recognition from Love Boat rerun watchers everywhere, shows an attentive nostalgia at work -- not to mention some dream of an endless cruise, upon which Nobody's Cool is the next leg of the band's creative itinerary. As beneath the austerities of twelvetone music may lurk some shameless piece of baroque polyphony, so, throughout this album, beneath the formal demands of rock and roll as we have come to know it, between the metal anthems and moments of tonal drama, the darkest of surrealist lyrics, the most feedback-stricken, edge-of-chaos guitar passages, may also be detected the weird jiving sense of humor of a cruise combo, even an allegiance to the parameters thereof, the lounge chords on "Namedropper" and "Rock Chick," the bass line of "Juggernaut," so forth.
But . . . it's supposed to be the Millenium here -- the Apocalypse, right? -- worse it's New York in the middle of a seasonal charm deficiency -- and these guys are smiling? Well, not exactly. If it's a cruise gig, it sure runs through peculiar waters, full of undetonated mines from the cultural disputes that began in the Sixties, unexplained lights now and then from just over the horizon, stowaways who sneak past security and meddle with the amps causing them to emit strange Rays, unannounced calls at ports that seem almost like cities we have been to, though not quite, cityscapes that all converge to New York in some form, which is after all where these guys are from.
The recording studio is half a block from the subway. Times Square is being vacated and jackhammered into somebody's idea of an update. Next door to Peepland, up in a control room out of The Jetsons, the band, between takes, are discussing Bobby "Boris" Pickett, on whose 1962 hit "Monster Mash" it turns out Rob's substitute music teacher in elementary school played saxophone. Everybody here knows the record, not necessarily the Birth of Rap, less an influence than something trying to find a pathway through to us here in our own corrupted and perilous day, when everybody's heard everything and knows more than they wish they did. It's never certain how these things will be carried on, but mysteriously it happens. Every night, somewhere on the outlaw side of some town, below some metaphysical 14th Street, out at the hard edges of some consensus about what's real, the continuity is always being sought, claimed, lost, found again, carried on. If for no other reason, rock and roll remains one of the last honorable callings, and a working band is a miracle of everyday life. Which is basically what these guys do.
And here they are, now. Find the remote, get out the Snapple and Chee-tos, and like the Love Boat staff always sez, welcome aboard.

Ryan said...

oh yeah, also monster parties: fact or fiction?

plankface said...

I was at work when I heard the news of Pickett's death and my first thought was of this blog. Just thought you would want to know.

Rick said...

Thanks, guys.

Rotvang said...

I got to draw the album cover for the 1973 reissue of Monster Mash for London Records... I can't remember how they got my name, but I was gassed to get the call. Monster Mash was a theme song of my youth... I was a Cool Ghoul fan as a kid, walking around stiff-legged quoting Zacherley: "Igor! Igor! The knives go on the left with the pitchforks, Igor, Igor...". Getting to "pay back" the genre with some cover art was a treat.
I got about one night to do the thing: the single had been re-released on the radio and went crazy, so London wanted to profit from the buzz... It took about 3 months for the album to end up in the 99 cent bin, but what the hell.
(I've a JPEG over on my Web Site: I don't know your rules about URLs so here's how to find it if you want a link: please feel free to edit this parentheses out of my post... kaluta.com/pages/rock/monstermash)
My dad, who'd introduced me to the Bela Lugosi Dracula, etc, asked why I'd drawn a vampire materializing out of grave with a cross on it... duh!!! Answer: "it, uh, looked cool?"