(NEXSTAR) – The lyrics to “Monster Mash” are a bit fantastic, to say the least. The song is clearly not based on actual events, so any logical fallacies or gaps in continuity are easily forgiven.
However, the backing vocals are undoubtedly out of place, even for a novel song about a busy undead dance party.
Going back to the beginning: The 1962 song, sung by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, was written by Pickett and Lenny Capizzi, his bandmate in a group called The Cordials. The idea came about after Pickett began demonstrating his Boris Karloff impressions during the band’s cover of “Little Darlin’,” a 1957 song made famous by The Diamonds. Specifically, Pickett would perform the song’s monologue (“My darlin’, I need you…”) in his Karloff voice, much to the amusement of the audience.
At first, Pickett wasn’t very interested in Capizzi’s suggestion that he record an entire new song with his Karloff voice, and had instead hoped to break into showbiz as an actor. Pickett even secured an agent once, though he “died of a heart attack two weeks later,” he told the Washington Post in 1982.
“So I called Cordials boss Lenny Capizzi and said, ‘Maybe we should do that novelty album that you suggested,'” Pickett said.
The song was written in just a few hours, with Pickett and Capizzi writing the lyrics over an I-vi-IV-V chord progression (the same one used in countless doo-wop songs of the era, including “Little Darlin'” and Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time” among others). The recording didn’t take long either. As Pickett recalled, a group of studio musicians pounded out the tune while Pickett recorded his Karloff-esque vocals in a single take, he once told Billboard.
Pickett also recalled that the song’s producer, Gary S. Paxton, demonstrated all the practical sound effects himself, simulating the sounds of bubbling potions using a straw and a glass of water, and mimicking the sound of a coffin creaking by leaning on a “rusty.” Nagel “pulled out of a board,” he told author Jan Alan Henderson in 1995.
In fact, one of the few things Pickett couldn’t remember, even in his later years, was why the backing singers sang about shoes during the song’s bridge.
“[They’re saying] “Ooh, tennis shoe, wah-ooh,” he told Dr. demento. “We do not know, why.”
Despite its eccentricities — or, more accurately, because of them — the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart later that year and stayed in radio rotation for six decades.
“I never thought anyone would play it,” Pickett remarked in an early ’90s KROQ interview. “I thought this was such a bummer that only a couple of my friends who were Boris Karloff freaks would enjoy it.”
Pickett was quick to embrace his fame. He went on to record other, less enduring novelty songs, including “Monster Swim” and “Werewolf Watusi”. He continued to perform at concerts and Halloween festivals until his death in 2007, often prompting the crowd to prepare for a “medley of”. [his] Hit” and remembered Elvis himself once saying that “Monster Mash” was the “stupidest thing he’s ever heard”.
However, Pickett remained enthused about his place in pop culture history.
“Monster Mash has paid my rent for the last 33 years,” he noted in his 1995 interview with Henderson. “I have no complaints!”
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https://wgntv.com/news/nexstar-media-wire/the-background-vocalists-on-monster-mash-are-singing-about-shoes-and-no-one-remembers-why/ The backing singers on “Monster Mash” sing about shoes and no one knows why