Album: They Only Come Out at Night (1972)
Charted: 18 1


  • Written by Edgar Winter, "Frankenstein" is one of the most famous instrumental rock songs. It got its title because of the arduous editing that went into the song; it became a monster when it was pieced together in the studio. Said Winter: "When we were editing it in the studio, back in those days when you edited something, you physically had to cut the tape and splice it back together, so it was all over the control room, draped over the backs of chairs and the couch. We were making fun of it, trying to figure out how to put it back together, saying 'Here's the main body; the leg bone's connected to the thigh bone...' Then Chuck Ruff, my drummer, says, 'Wow, man, it's like Frankenstein.' As soon as I heard that, I went, 'Wow, that's it!' The monster was born."

    Frankenstein the character first appeared in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, where Victor Frankenstein is the mad scientist who puts the creature together. His creation is "Frankenstein's monster," which would be a more appropriate, but also more cumbersome title for the song. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA. U.S.A
  • This was the first hit song to use a synthesizer as the lead instrument. The Who incorporated synths into "Won't Get Fooled Again," but it's the star of the show on "Frankenstein."
  • Edgar Winter is a multi-instrumentalist and keyboard wizard who was keen to experiment with synthesizers, which were in their early stages of development. In 1971, the ARP 2600 was released. Unlike their previous model (the ARP 2500), the keyboard was not built into the console - it was connected by a cable. Winter figured out a way to extend the cable so he could play the instrument by wearing the keyboard around his neck, which meant he could walk around the stage with it. (The 2600 also didn't require bulky patch cables.) Winter developed "Frankenstein" as a showcase for the instrument, which became a jaw-dropping part of his live show. It seemed too experimental to be a hit, but they thought it might get some airplay on freeform FM radio stations that were willing to push the boundaries.

    Running 4:45, the song was the last track on the They Only Come Out At Night album, and a 3:02 edit was included as the B-side of the "Hangin' Around" single. DJs didn't give "Hangin' Around" many spins, but some played the B-side, "Frankenstein," which elicited lots of calls from listeners wanting to know who created that crazy noise. A few program directors at big AM radio stations added it to their playlists, so it became clear the song needed release as an A-side.

    By this time, the band had been playing the song live for a while and had become quite familiar with it. Winter brought the band back into the studio and created a new and improved "Frankenstein" that was released as an A-side single at 3:24. In May 1973, it hit #1 in America.
  • There is a lot more to this song than the synth. Winter also played the saxophone solo and jumped on drums to duel with Chuck Ruff. The crunchy guitar riff comes courtesy of Winter's guitarist, Ronnie Montrose, who in 1973 left the Edgar Winter Group to form Montrose. Live performances were usually about 10 minutes long and very impressive, with Winter playing the sax solo with the keyboard still strapped around his neck, then later moving to a drum kit. Winter's use of the synthesizer as a portable instrument was later appropriated by another keyboard virtuoso with flowing white hair: Rick Wakeman, who would often take a keytar into the audience when performing.
  • The working title was "Double Drum Solo," named for the section when Winter and Chuck Ruff go back and forth on drums.
  • Edgar Winter's older brother is the renowned blues guitarist Johnny Winter. Edgar was playing in a jazz group when Johnny's career took off in the late '60s, so Johnny had him join his band on keyboard and saxophone - they performed together at Woodstock. Edgar released his first solo album in 1970, then put together a band called White Trash that backed him on two more albums. In 1972, he broke up White Trash and assembled The Edgar Winter Group, a hard rock outfit comprised of guitarist Ronnie Montrose, drummer Chuck Ruff and bass player Dan Hartman.

    The first Edgar Winter Group album was They Only Come Out at Night. After "Frankenstein," they had another big hit with "Free Ride," another track from the album, this one written by Hartman. When Montrose left in 1973, he was replaced by Rick Derringer, who produced They Only Come Out at Night and both White Trash albums. This lineup released the album Shock Treatment in 1974 and were a popular live act throughout 1975. In ensuing years, members branched out on different projects. Winter appears on Derringer's 1975 album Spring Fever, and on Hartman's first three solo albums. Hartman had a solo hit with "I Can Dream About You" in 1984.
  • There is nothing all that spooky about this song, but because of the title it often appears on Halloween playlists.
  • This was the last rock instrumental to hit #1 in America. There were several more instrumental chart toppers in the '70s, but they were either soul ("TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)"), funk ("Pick Up The Pieces"), orchestral ("Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)") or disco ("A Fifth Of Beethoven").
  • Bill Szymczyk, who went on to produce the Eagles, did engineering work on this track. Rick Derringer told Songfacts: "Bill Szymczyk and I did extensive editing, hence the name 'Frankenstein.'"
  • From 1992-1995, They Might Be Giants often did a bizarre cover version as their encore, using an accordion instead of a synth.
  • This has been used in a number of movies, including both Paul Blart: Mall Cop films. Among them:

    That's My Boy (2012)
    Tropic Thunder (2008)
    Beer League (2006)
    Knockaround Guys (2001)
    Detroit Rock City (1999)
    The Secret Life of Girls (1999)
    My Girl 2 (1994)
    Wayne's World 2 (1993)
    The Spirit of '76 (1990)

    It also appears in these TV series:

    Bob Hearts Abishola ("Nigerians Don't Do Useless Things" - 2019)
    My Name Is Earl ("Van Hickey" - 2006)
    The Simpsons ("Homer Defined" - 1991)
  • This was used in a Halloween-themed commercial for the 2002 Buick Rendezvous starring golfer Tiger Woods, who appears at the end of the spot saying, "You were expecting Igor?"

Comments: 32

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenPretty sure Jerrold is right about "Popcorn" being a hit before "Frankenstein." "Popcorn" came out during the summer of 1972 and "Frankenstein" showed up that fall. Fair also to point out that "Popcorn" was originally released in 1969.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 4th 1973, "Frankenstein" by the Edgar Winter Group entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #98; and on May 20th it peaked at #1 (for 1 week) and spent 20 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 7 of those 20 weeks it was on the Top 10)...
    Was track five of side two on the group's third studio album, 'They Only Come Out at Night', and the album reached #3 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    One other track from the album also made the Top 100 chart, "Free Ride", it peaked at #14...
    Mr. Winter celebrated his 67th birthday three months ago on December 28th (2013).
  • Mark from Rogers, , ArA rock classic, now 40 years old. One of its kind and what memories are made of.
  • Karlin from Nelson, BcIs it just me or is the video out of synch with the sound? Like, at 1:05 see his fast fingers start going about 3 beats after it sounds.
    Oh well, nitpicky me. I have been listening the heck out of this lately.

    What is the story about [one of the brothers] selling his soul for talent?
  • Doug from Lincoln, NeWow, such misinformation about White Trash abounds here! Here's the real deal: Edgar's first album was called "Entrance", and it's incredible. Jazzy blues, hardly sounds like anything else he's ever done, although one of the riffs from "Frankenstein" makes its first appearance on Side One.

    After the first album, Edgar formed a band called "White Trash". Johnny was not in this band, but did some guest appearances. This was a big, swaggering horn-fueled band that put two albums in 1972. Definitely listen to the live album called "Roadwork" for some of the best live recordings of any band in the seventies. Rick Derringer was part of this band on the second album.

    Then, The Edgar Winter Group formed, which had absolutely nothing to do with White Trash. Completely different style, completely different members except for Edgar. After the first album, "They Only Come Out at Night", Ronnie Montrose (you may have heard of him) left the band and Rick Derrigner joined.

    So the takeaway from this long ramble is this:

    White Trash did not become The Edgar Winter Band.
    Johnny Winter was not a member of White Trash.

    Thanks for reading... btw, Edgar's going to be in my home town in a few days. Can't wait!
  • Phil from Paducah, KyWhite Trash was Johnny Winters band who Edgar played in before he got his own band, the Edgar Winter Band.
  • Phil from Paducah, KyThe first song to use Synth as the lead instrument, I Don't Think So!
    Let's try Roundabout by YES. The synth is not the only lead on ether. But it was definitely used by YES as a lead instrument first.I mean Really, when you've got Rick Wakeman in your band you've got to give him a turn out front!
    Also, Uriah Heep probably had a hit with lead synth before Frankenstein. Don't get me wrong, this is one of my all time Fav's. Wish I had a really long Version.
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InJust too much fun not to listen to, even after all these years of hearing it.
  • Quique from Mexico City, MexicoI think FRANKESTAIN is a Led Zeppelin´s MOBY DICK inspiration, 1st, the name... both are novels, 2nd... drooms, gitar, then... instrumental. Edgar Winter had an important contribution but I would be so much happy with out this concern. This is a masterpiece anyways and Overkill know this.
  • Skip from Honesdale Pa, NcI believe this was also one of the first hit songs to prominently feature synthesized percussion - see the clips on YouTube...
  • Mackenzie from Van Anda, BcThis song is amazing... the musical composition of it is sheer genius.
  • Jason from Denver, CoLISTEN EVERYONE,
    Frankenstein is a great song, however, there are other great Edgar Winter songs. Free Ride, Alta Mira and We all had a real good time, just to name a few. Get the album called "They onle come out at night".
  • Scott from Boston, MaMay have been first hit to use synth as the lead, but The Who are the masters of the synth.
  • Jerrold from On The Beach, Nj"This was the first hit song that used a synthesizer as the lead instrument."

    Didn't the Top 10 hit "Popcorn" by Hot Butter (from 1972, also an instrumental) feature the Moog Synthesizer as the lead instrument?
  • Eddie from Natchez, MsCurrent artist who try to play music like this cannot match the bands/artist that recorded in the late 60's and 70's. The engineers and band members really had to work on the music instead of canned stuff.
  • Pete from Laguna Beach, CaEruption is not even a fully structured song, and it doesn't even contain a synthesizer no less it being the main instrument. Technically, eruption is merely a preamble. Furthermore as a keyboardist I will say that Eb Eddie plays a keyboard about as good as he golfs. Frankenstein is an epic freak of a tune that was born strategically as assembled music parts on an editing block. It was a bunch of parts put together in the most ingenius way to form a complete embodied song, much like the way Frankenstein the scientist assembled body parts to create his masterpiece. That is why it was named Frankenstien. It is a legacy today, and one of the most monolithic synthesizer pieces ever created.
  • Andrew from Wimauma, FlWOOT! only song that could listen a 1000 times and kinda not get bored. go whitey go!
  • Frank from Fircrest, Wathe first time I heard this in '73, I thought that my radio was "crappin'" out. Then I heard about Edgar Winter.--Awesome
  • Dave from Oak Park, MiEdgar Winter does this song with a RAP when he performs it in Concert!
  • Fred from Dallas, TxFrankenstein is without a doubt one of the finest rock intrumentals ever made. If you like it, check out the Dixie Dregs doing "Take it off the top" from the "What if" album, it's my personal number 1
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaEruptions' alright, but to compare it to 'Frankenstein" is like comparing an orchestra to a string quartet.
  • Travis from Phoenix, Nyhow can you say Eruption is better than Frankenstein, they are not even comparable. that is a disgrace to say such a thing, may God have mercy on your soul.
  • Rocco Vanfanculo from Sanfrancisco, CaMONN TANNO MONDO was inspired by the song "Frankenstein" way back in the early 70's. The song was a Revolutionary hit as far as I'm concerned. The drumming is similar to the style of ED Montano II.
    Look for "Monn Tanno Mondo" on the web and you'll hear cool vibes that reflect this idea in the CD "TALES OF ETERNITY"
  • Lydia from Tulsa, OkThis is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. My parents used to go crazy every time we were in the car and it came on the radio.
  • John from Chalk Bluff, TxFor thoes who haven't discovered yet, JunkieXL does a modern version of this on the XBOX game Forza Motorsports. Check it out, it's great!
  • Sam from West Covina, CaEruption isn't even half the genius of this wonderful instrumental. Eruption reminds me of a little kid with ADD trying to get everyone's attention. There's no feel to Eruption and that whole stupid tapping "technique" is really not that hard to do. Speed doesn't make you a good player, feeling does.
  • Ivan from Jersey City, NjNeeds to be remastered! BIG TIME!!! This song is too good to sound as poorly as it does on CD. SONY needs to go back a do the whole album over in 24Bit!
  • T from Cleveland, OhPhish does an incredible cover of this song that I feel is better than the original. If you don't believe me, find a version and listen to it.
  • Jonathan from Oklahoma City, OkYep! in a Simpsons episode...good song....Like the way there are no lyrics
  • Evan from Orlando, FlEruption by van halen is a much better instrumental piece
  • Rich from Elkins, WvI'm going by memory here, but I think the album was called THEY ONLY COME OUT AT was full of good tunes... including 'Hangin'Around' and 'Autumn' to name a few.
  • Jon from Mountain Home, Idgood song to get adrenalized to. Its in a simpsons episode. Its a good song with a catchy title for how it was created.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Little Big TownSongwriter Interviews

"When seeds that you sow grow by the wicked moon/Be sure your sins will find you out/Your past will hunt you down and turn to tell on you."

Did They Really Sing In That Movie?Fact or Fiction

Bradley Cooper, Michael J. Fox, Rami Malek, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney: Which actors really sang in their movies?

Harry ShearerSongwriter Interviews

Harry is Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap, Mark Shubb in The Folksmen, and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.

Psychedelic LyricsMusic Quiz

Whoa man! Do you know which band came up with these cosmic lyrics?

Charlie Benante of AnthraxSongwriter Interviews

The drummer for Anthrax is also a key songwriter. He explains how the group puts their songs together and tells the stories behind some of their classics.

Lip-Synch RebelsSong Writing

What happens when Kurt Cobain, Iron Maiden and Johnny Lydon are told to lip-synch? Some hilarious "performances."