Album: The Monster Mash (1962)
Charted: 3 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Pickett 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Graham - Windsor, Australia
  • This is arguably the most successful novelty song of all time. Bobby Pickett accomplished the rare feat of reaching the top 100 music chart three times with the same song. On October 20, 1962, the original release hit #1 in the US. The song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 on August 29, 1970 peaking at #91, and then again on May 5, 1972 when it went all the way to #10. The song has sold over four million copies and continues to be a Halloween favorite. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA
  • The song made little impact in the UK until it was re-released there in 1973 and reached #3 on the Singles chart. By this time Boris Pickett was a 32-year-old part time New York cab driver.
  • Pickett quickly followed up this song with "Monsters' Holiday," where the monsters throw a mischievous Christmas party. The song, which was written by Paul Harrison of "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" fame, did well, reaching #30 and giving Pickett back-to-back holiday hits in 1962. The following year, he reached #88 with "Graduation Day," his first entry that wasn't a novelty song. "The Monster Swim" reached #135 in 1964, which was his last chart appearance until the "Monster Mash" re-issues.
  • This has been used in several TV shows, including Cheers, The Simpsons and Happy Days. It's also been used in the movies Halloween III and Sweetheart's Dance. In 1995, Monster Mash: The Movie was released, starring Pickett as Dr. Frankenstein.
  • Boris Karloff loved this song. He performed it on a special Halloween edition of the variety show Shindig! on October 30, 1965.
  • Artists who have covered this song include The Beach Boys (on their first live album - Beach Boys Concert, released in 1964), Misfits, Mannheim Steamroller and Sha-Na-Na. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2
  • Pickett was diagnosed with leukemia in 2000 and died in 2007. In his autobiography Monster Mash: Half Dead In Hollywood, he wrote: "Gone is that conditioned, morbid fear of physical death. I feel that psychological death is much more grueling and painful. Besides, to quote the great Bela Lugosi as Dracula, 'To be dead... to be really dead... that must be glorious!' Poor guy. A vampire's half-life must really suck."
  • Around Halloween in 2004, Pickett re-recorded the song as "Monster Slash." The new version was a protest against President George W. Bush and his support for logging, mining and other environmental policies Pickett felt were harmful. Sample lyric: "The guests included big timber, big oil, mining magnates and their sons." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Darlene Love, who sang the holiday favorite "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," claims that she was one of the backing singers on this track, which is plausible as she was one of the most popular session singers at the time. Love occasionally performed the song at Bette Midler's Halloween shows.
  • The third release for this song in 1973 was a #1 hit in Australia, spending over 20 weeks on the Top 40 charts. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Graham - Windsor, Australia
  • When a novelty song becomes a surprise hit, a hastily produced album typically follows (see: "Pac-Man Fever"). In this case, the album was called The Original Monster Mash and included songs like "Blood Bank Blues," "Graveyard Shift," "Transylvania Twist," "Me And My Mummy" and "Irresistible Igor."
  • Pickett extended the "Monster" brand throughout his career. In 1970, he released "Monster Man Jam," 1973 saw "Monster Concert," and in 1984 he released the inevitable "Monster Rap."

    Also an actor, Pickett made appearances on T.J. Hooker, Bonanza and The Beverly Hillbillies, and played Dr. Frankenstein in the 1995 film Monster Mash: The Movie, which also starred Candace Cameron and Jimmie Walker.
  • According to Mark Steyn's A Song for the Season, Elvis Presley was not a fan of this and called it the dumbest record he ever heard.
  • "Monster Mash" was the nickname of the professional basketball player Jamal Mashburn.
  • This was banned by the BBC from their airwaves in 1962 for "being too morbid."
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Comments: 15

  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkI still love hearing this #1 hit from '62 with all those weird sound-effects. A really fun record. I was 8 or 9 when it came out in 1962 & loved it. My oldest brother bought the 45 rpm single & it got played until its grooves were worn out. Me & my sisters and brothers all danced the mashed potato to it. Later in '62, my oldest sis, Loony Lucy, bought the Monster Mash album. What a blast it was!! I loved it too. Do you remember in the lyrics of Monster Mash it mentions The Transylvania Twist? Well that was an album cut too on the Monster Mash album! But the song Transylvania Twist wasn't such a catchy song. Wasn't Monster Mash released several more times after 1962?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 23rd 1970, "Monster Mash" re-entered the Billboard Hot Top 100 at #92, the next it was still at #92, and then on its third and final week on the chart it peaked at #91...
    The same week it re-entered the Top 100 another ‘Mash’ debut on the chart; "Song from M*A*S*H" by Al Delory entered at position #85, though it would only peak at #70, it would stay on the Top 100 for 12 weeks...
    The 20th Century Fox movie “M*A*S*H” had its world premiere eights months earlier on January 25th, 1970 in New York City…
    R.I.P. Bobby 'Boris' Pickett {1938 - 2007} and Alfred V. 'Al' DeLory {1930 - 2012}.
  • Rocky from Fort Smith, ArI love this crazy song. I first heard it on a Halloween radio show about 11 yrs ago when I was 7 yrs old. Now I'm a horror movie fan and love those old horror movies from the 30s and 40s. It's just awesome the way Pickett used the Karloff voice on this record. It sounds creepy, but ain't scary. It's just a very good record!
  • Bubblesk from Memphis, TnHaha! As the song says "it was a graveyard smash." Love this song. I grew up in Memphis & when this song came out in '62 the word on "the street" was that Elvis (The King) hated this song. Well!! Elvis should've hated stuff like what Alvin & The Chipmunks put out. Now that stuff was squirrel scat! Anyway, "Monster Mash" was big in Memphis & got to #1. Bobby "Boris" Pickett (R.I.P.) based this on the then-current teen dance craze The Mashed Potato. Dee Dee Sharp's big #1 monster hit, "Mashed Potato Time" from spring '62 cashed-in big on the dance craze too. Dee Dee's hit stayed on the charts a long time & kept selling and selling to eventually become one of the biggest sellers of the year of '62. I think Pickett noticed this and tooled his song to cash-in on THE MASH craze. I loved to dance the Mashed Potato to Dee Dee Sharp's hit & her several following Top Ten hits. When "Monster Mash" came along in the fall, it was so weird that a lot of teens loved it. The song had a big beat & a girl group backing Pickett. And those crazy sound effects! I heard that Bobby Pickett appeared on American Bandstand, but I never saw it in '62. This is a great Halloween song.
  • Elmer H from Westville, OkIn 1962 "Monster Mash" became #1 by Halloween time. What timing!! It was such a fun song with the strange vocals & sound effects of "the lab." In my home area in eastern Oklahoma, it was still played on the radio well into early December '62. The 45 rpm single I bought of this was on Colpix Records' orange & black label (for Halloween?) and one of my buddies' single records he owned of it was Colpix Records' bone-white label. My cousin owned Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" album and his favorite track on it wasn't "Monster Mash" but "The Transylvania Twist." I still love that intro---you know, the bubbles then the pounding drums---then the voice saying " I was working in the lab late one night......." A real blast!
  • Nico from Amstelveen, NetherlandsI only knew the version of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, until reading this article. Very informative!
  • Chomper03 from Montrose, MdThings to know: 1. Although Pickett had never been in a recording studio before, he did the song in one take ...2. The musician who had booked time in the studio right before Pickett's session was Herb Alpert, who also was recording his first song that day...3. The sound of the coffin opening was made by pulling a rusty nail out of a 2-by-4 with the claw of a hammer...4. The bubbling sounds came from blowing through a straw in a glass of water..5. The sound of the chains was made by dropping chains onto plywood planks on the studio floor.
  • Chomper03 from Montrose, Md(from the book "The Wacky Top 40", p.55-56) : "A childhood fascination with horror movies and Boris Karloff led to this weird graveyard smash. While Bobby Pickett was growing up in Somerville, Massachusetts, he used to go to all the movies he wanted to because his father was the manager of a local theater. 'I would sit there and watch horror films two or three times a day', recalled Pickett. 'I was fascinated with the horror genre and I loved Boris Karloff.' Pickett eventually perfected a dead-on imitation of his favorite horror film star. 'I would enter these talent contests in local bars and clubs and do this shtick about Boris Karloff', he recalled. 'It lasted about four minutes and I'd always win.' In the late 1950s, Pickett, bitten by the acting bug, moved to Hollywood and landed some bit parts on TV and in films. In 1962, between acting gigs, Pickett sang with friends in a group called the Cordials. They specialized in doo-wop music and performed at local clubs. One of the songs they sang was the Diamonds' 1957 hit "Little Darlin' ". It featured a monologue which Pickett did in his Karloff impersonation: "My darlin', I need you to hold in mine your little hand/ I know too soon that all is grand." Recalled Pickett, 'The kids in the audience would crack up. Lenny Capizzi [one of the members of the Cordials] told me, 'That's a great voice for a novelty record.' " But Pickett didn't think much of the idea at the time. He quit the group shortly thereafter because the other members were always late for rehearsals. 'But then my agent died of a heart attack and I thought, "Gee, my acting career isn't doing so well." So I called Lenny and said, "Let's test out that idea you had." 'We got together and he sat at the piano and started playing four chords-- G, E minor, C, and D. I said, "Okay, let's call it "The Monster Twist." But Lenny said, "No, the Twist is out and the Mashed Potato is in. It's "The Monster Mashed Potato." 'Then I wrote, "I was working in the lab late one night and my eyes beheld an eerie sight..." And in less than two hours we had the whole thing written.' They took the song to producer Gary Paxton, whom they had met a few months earlier. 'When I was with the Cordials, we used to go to Will Rogers State Beach every Sunday afternoon and sing doo-wop a cappella,' said Pickett. 'Within ten minutes, a hundred people would encircle us and listen to our music. One day, this cute red headed girl walked up and said, "My old man Gary Paxton. He sang "Alley Oop" and he produces now. He'd love you guys. Call him." 'Gary loved our song and decided to call it "The Mean Monster Mashed Potato." But after talking it over, we decided that just "Monster Mash" was fine. Then Gary told me, "From now on, you're Bobby 'Boris' Pickett." 'Every major record label that Gary visited turned "Monster Mash" down. They said it would never get on the radio and that it was stupid. Gary told me, "Don't worry. This is a number one record and I'm going to put it out on my own label." 'He pressed 1,000 records on his label, Garpax, put them in the back of his old Excalibur and drove up and down California, dropping off records at every radio station along the way. And by the time he returned to Los Angeles, the song was on its way to becoming a hit.' "
  • Edward from Henderson, NvElvis Presley hated this song. Bobby Pickett was told, by a girl that knew Elvis, he thought it was the stupidest thing he'd ever heard.
  • Rolf Thunander from Mansfield, OhIt would be great to know who the drummer (Debbie's Dad) was!!??
  • Debbie from Colorado Springs, CoThere was actually a different drummer that did the "recording" of the song, he just did not want to tour so someone else took over. I would know this because it was my dad....
  • Mike from Franklin County, PaBobby Pickett was a big fan of Boris Karloff . It was known that while Karloff was still living at the time Boris had recorded the song ; he walked into a music store (sinced he had heard the song himself), and a friend of Mr. Pickett ( a girl ) walked up to the actor and said , "Mr. Karloff , I know who wrote the song the 'Monster Mash' ; and he's a big fan of yours. " Karloff answered back saying , "I love his song!"
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhSometime around 1980 (1982?) there was a parody of Newsweek magazine written by the Harvard Lampoon. One of its finer articles consisted of the lyrics to this song, but written as a news story.
  • Allan from Vanderhoof, CanadaI find it interesting that after the first hit with the song, neither of the other two times it made the Billboard Hot 100 was around Halloween, which you would assume would be the most likely time.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThis was greatest Halloween song of all time. I stil enjoy hearing it every year, especially the brief drum solo near the end. Over 20 years after its initial release, Pickett recorded a sequel that I remember hearing on The Dr. Demento Show titled Monster rap. It was also a graveyard smash.
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