The Monster Mash
I spent a few hours today doing some research about The Monster Mash. It occurred to me that I didn’t even know who wrote or performed it - it’s one of those songs that I’ve always just taken for granted, and that has existed pretty much exclusively in the background of my consciousness. But interestingly enough, my curiosity led me to an interesting cross-section of the life of a one-hit-wonder: the rise of the hit, and the failed attempts to follow up its success.
Robert Pickett (later known as Bobby “Boris” Pickett), a Korean War veteran, was an aspiring actor who moved to Hollywood to kickstart a film career. Initially having little interest in a career in music, he conceived the idea of the Monster Mash whilst incorporating a Boris Karloff impression into his band’s cover of a Diamonds track called Little Darlin’. It’s not too much of a stretch to see how that little joke was built into the tune we all know today.
The Monster Mash itself was something of a perfect storm - it combined an accessible and well executed doo-wop style with the invention of a dance craze (something of a trend of the early 60s: when Elvis had just left for the army, and Beatlemania was a few years away, people were looking for anything to keep them going!), as well as the beginnings of the cultural perception which cast the previously terrifying Universal/Hammer monsters as kitschy and cute.
As such, the Monster Mash was a hit. But what interested me the most was Pickett’s attempts to recapture the magic of the Monster Mash. Maybe another holiday-themed hit? Maybe a new musical style? Well, no. Pickett stuck with what he knew, releasing tracks like Monster’s Holiday, The Monster Swim, Monster Rap, and the politically charged Climate Mash, all of which are (to varying degrees) effectively carbon copies of the original.
It’s a bizarre pop culture trend of which I was entirely unaware, and makes me wonder about the potential one-hit wonders of today (take for example Carly Rae Jepsen). Is this a one-off? Or should I look forward to “Send Me A Text If You Want”, “If You Get A Moment, I’d Love It If You’d Send Me An Email” and “Look, I Don’t Want To Make A Big Hairy Deal About This Or Anything But This Poke War Isn’t Going Anywhere Without Your Input” on the charts next year?