By Randal C. Hill
In the summer of 1973, Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s original “Monster Mash” reached the American Top 10 for a second time. Pickett sang lead with a Hollywood band called the Cordials. One evening, while performing the old Diamonds’ hit “Little Darlin,’ he delivered the song’s monologue in the voice of Boris Karloff. The audience loved it, and Pickett and bandmate Lenny Capizzi soon decided that such nonsense could become a Halloween novelty tune.
The original title was “Monster Twist,” but at the time Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” was fading and being overtaken by DeeDee Sharp’s dance hit “Mashed Potato Time,” so the lyrics were altered accordingly:
I was working in the lab late one night // When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab began to rise // And suddenly to my surprise
(He did the Mash) // He did the Monster Mash
(He did the Mash) // It was a graveyard smash
In Pickett’s takeoff of Mary Shelley’s creation, a benevolent monster throws a dance party with other horror-based creatures of lore (Dracula, the Wolfman…). The song came to the attention of Gary S. Paxton, a Los Angeles record producer who had created his own label, Garpax Records.
Paxton devised the sound effects for the one-hour recording session. A coffin lid creaking open was created by pulling a nail out of wood. A bubbling cauldron was really a straw in a glass of water. Chains falling onto the studio floor provided the clatter of clanking shackles.
A hastily assembled Garpax album — “The Original Monster Mash” — climbed into the LP Top 20 and included such blessedly-now-forgotten tracks as “Blood Bank Blues,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Transylvania Twist,” and “Me and My Mummy.”
Pickett claimed that “Monster Mash” sold 4 million copies. “I’ve been paid,” he said, “so I’m gonna believe it.”