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Bobby Pickett's 25-Year Monster Hit

October 31, 1987|JOHN VOLAND

Let Bobby (Boris) Pickett--who parlayed a passable Boris Karloff impression into a classic novelty tune, "The Monster Mash"--stand as an example of a one-hit songwriter who doesn't really mind the tag.

"To be honest, I am still shocked that song (celebrating its 25th anniversary today) has lasted as long as it has," Pickett said. "For years I talked like I knew it was going to be a smash hit--I must have picked that attitude up from Gary Paxson (who produced the novelty tune). But nowadays, it's like, 'Yeah, isn't that something?' "

It is something that an offbeat, very seasonal ditty like "Monster Mash" should sell more than 4 million copies and resurface on the radio every All Hallows' Eve. The tune--according to Pickett, recorded in about four hours in a dingy Hollywood studio with an absolute minimum of production fuss--hit No. 1 in 1962, and a rerecorded, slightly updated "Monster Mash" hit the Top 10 in 1973.

"For a while I wondered if I could do any other tune after 'Mash'," said Pickett, now 49. "I did a follow-up ("Monsters' Holiday," a yuletide "Monster Mash") that did fair, but after that it seemed less important. I got interested in other things." These days, Pickett lives in West Hollywood and is a true industry hyphenate: actor-screenwriter.

Pickett said his newer career(s) wouldn't prevent the notion of remaking "Monster Mash" for a second time, though.

"Gary (Paxson) has some interesting ideas about a new version, using a bunch of electronic instruments and effects," Pickett said. "I think that would be a lot of fun, and so would a video. When I saw "Thriller" (the video), I said to myself, 'That's exactly the kind of thing "Monster Mash" could use.' And the rhythm track on the tune should be juiced up, for sure."

Pickett has grown accustomed to the annual resurrection of "Monster Mash"--and doesn't mind the associated publicity--but he tells a chilling tale when talking about the record companies' handling of the tune.

"Gary and I wanted to re-release the tune about 10 years ago, and the lawyers told us Polygram (International) held the rights. So we went to them, but they told us, 'We don't own that song.' So we went ahead and released it (on Rhino Records)--and Polygram's lawyers call us up and say, 'You can't do that. We own that record!' " It's been that kind of thing all along: a single that sells 4 million copies still gets lost in the paper work."

As something of an expert on matters Halloween, Pickett has for a while collected extra change doing Halloween-oriented appearances. However, he said he sees a graying of the holiday, once the sole preserve of children.

"The monster theme for Halloween has been around forever, so that now adults are getting into it as much as kids. The thing is," Pickett said, "I haven't prepared for adults to come to my house trick-or-treating."

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