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Insanity—It’s no accident that Dracula is set next to an insane asylum.  Insanity has always been a common subject for horror.  However, there are very few early rock ‘n’ roll songs dealing with the subject of insanity, perhaps the reason for this being that insanity was not only a taboo subject for popular music but the target audience for rock 'n' roll had little interest in the subject.  Of course, with the coming of the rock era, many teenagers adopted, and still do, a posture of insanity, or, at least, dangerous eccentricity, as a reaction to conformity, but that came later.  Rock 'n' roll for the most part steered clear of the subject..  One exception is this novelty tune by Jerry Samuels, who took the name Napoleon XIV.

"They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha," Napoleon XIV

In the cold war era, the threat of nuclear Armageddon was very real.  While some songs, such as "Thirteen Women," by Bill Haley and the Comets, of "Rock Around the Clock" fame, made light of this anxiety and others, such as "Doomsday," by the Shirelles, connected it with more immediate teenage concerns such as boy/girl relationships, "A Mushroom Cloud," by Sammy Salvo focuses on not only threat of nuclear annihilation but also the anxiety it causes.  Nevertheless, even this song, touches on the subject of teenage romance, which was virtually inescapable at the time.


“Thirteen Women,” Bill Haley and the Comets

“A Mushroom Cloud,” Sammy Salvo

“Doomsday,” The Shirelles

"Voodoo Voodoo," Lavern Baker

"Voodoo Doll," Amelia

"The Voodoo Man," The Del Vikings

"Voodoo Eyes," The Silhouettes

"Witchcraft," The Spiders

"It's Your Voodoo Working," Charles Sheffield

"Witch Doctor," David Seville

Horror music and Other Media--During the era of early rock 'n' roll, horror in music often depended on borrowing from the tradition of horror in other media.  It was the era of the drive-in movie and the late night horror feature, and the popular songs represented those pop culture phenomena.


Again touching on the subject of teenage romance, the first three of the these songs cover the same concept, that a girl can be put in the mood for romance by watching a horror film.

"Batman, Wolfman," The Diamonds

"Scary Movies," Monica Kirby

"Frankenstein Rock," Eddie Thomas

"The Blob," The Five Blobs


In addition to films, horror music borrowed from other media, including classic literature, comic strips, and radio.

"Legend of Sleepy Hollow," The Monotones

"Alley Oop," The Hollywood Argyles

"The Shadow Knows," The Coasters


“Nightmare,” Scottie Stuart

"Nightmare," The Velvets

“Nightmare,” The Whyte Boots

The Dark

“Darkness,” The Nobles

The Gaze--The concept of being constantly observed by some unseen force fits easily into the horror genre.  Notably, in all the songs listed here that feature "The Gaze" as their focus, women are the ones being watched, and indeed, "to-be-looked-at-ness" is a particularly feminine quality.  Additionally, in these songs, the women are watched because of the (male) speakers' fear of the women's infidelity.  None of the songs actually states for certain that the female subject is unfaithful, but the suspicion is enough to cause them to be monitored.  This can be seen as an example of the fear of female sexuality and the need to contain and control it.  After all, what shows more control than constant observation.

"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," Bobby Vee

"Peek-a-Boo," The Cadillacs

"The Bug-Eyed Man," The Hollywood Argyles

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