In honor of J.R. Angelella’s stunning debut novel Zombie we have assembled an all-zombie playlist for your listening (and no doubt arguing) pleasure. Zombie stars Jeremy Barker, a fourteen-year-old who attends an all-boys Catholic high school where roving gangs of bullies make his days a living hell. His mother is an absentee pillhead, his older brother a self-diagnosed sex-addict, and his father disappears night after night without explanation. Jeremy navigates it all with a code cobbled together from the zombie movies he’s obsessed with: Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Planet Terror, Zombieland, and Dawn of the Dead among others.
In the spirit of Angelella’s brilliant cataloging of zombie cinema, we’ve put together what we feel is a solid attempt at a top ten “zombie” themed song list. Our guidelines were simple: The song or artist had to have “zombie” in their title or name.
10. “She’s Not There” by The Zombies
There is no avoiding their appearance on a list of zombie music. Their name being what it is and all. While “She’s Not There” lacks some of the brooding atmosphere of “Time of the Season,” this live recording comes with a soundtrack of screams worthy of any Dario Argento film.
9. “Zombie Dance” by The Cramps
There is a proud tradition of creep show camp in west coast punk. Actually, when you get right down to it B-grade horror can be found throughout most manifestations of punk. The CBGB’s-by-way-of-Sacramento band The Cramps were more psychobilly, or proto-Goth, than they were punk, and for that reason alone they beat out the other spiky-haired Vincent Prices out there. That’s no knock on punk either. It’s just that psychobilly is hard to beat when it comes to campy horror themes.
8. “Zombi” by Goblin
Speaking of Dario Argento, the Italian director worked with zombie king George A. Romero on his undead masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead. Argento helped produce the influential movie and helped capture some of the soundtrack magic he was famous for in movies like Suspiria and Deep Red.
That famous Argento sound being the Italian progressive rock band Goblin. The title track, “Zombi,” somehow manages to capture Fela Kuti, Tangerine Dream and Gustav Holst and mash them together in one giant cheese sandwich. Thankfully so, it should be added.
7. “Eye of the Zombie” by John Fogerty
The front man and driving force behind Creedence Clearwater Revival has always had a soft spot for the dramatic. “Run Through the Jungle” and “Bad Moon Rising” are but two examples from the glory days of CCR.
In 1986 he released his fourth solo album and lucky for us it was titled Eye of the Zombie. The album was a commercial and critical failure. But it did have a title song that is a hot mess of undead twang.
6. “All You Zombies” by The Hooters
Look, I used to own a bookstore in the Philly area. I have a lot of family and friends who live there. If I put together a top ten list of zombie songs and left off The Hooters then I would never get to see them again.
5. “Zombie” by the Cranberries
Stop that groaning. The Cranberries’ atypically grunge protest song about the Troubles in Northern Ireland is both a rock masterpiece and the single most recognizeable “zombie” song ever. It doesn’t top the list here, but it sure does make the top 5.
4. “Zombie” by Fela Kuti & Afrika 70′
Continuing the zombie political metaphor hinted at in #5, Fela Kuti’s 1977 album Zombie used the zombie as stand-in for the Nigerian army and their brutal suppression tactics. The album and title track were immensely popular and this led to serious problems with the Nigerian government. Military forces attacked the commune where Kuti lived and fatally wounded his mother and many others. Kuti himself barely escaped with his life.
3. “Zombie Jamboree” by Lord Jellicoe & His Calypso Monarchs
Not a lot is known about the Jamaican calypso artist Lord Jellicoe, but the song “Zombie Jamborie” has a long history in the calypso tradition. It was first released in 1953 by the Trinidadi artist Lord Intruder (zombies can be such a political subject!), under the title “Jumbie Jamberee.” It has been recorded as “Back to Back” as well. Really, though, a zombie Carnival in Woodlawn is just about the most interesting idea on this list and so Lord Jellicoe finds himself here at the top.
2. “I Walked with a Zombie” by Roky Erickson
There’s not much in the SciFi/Horror music world that’s better than Roky Erickson. The Texas bred pioneer of psychedelic rock has created some real treasures over the years and all of it is as campy as it is cryptic. Two things, by the way, that are essential in a good zombie song. The names for the various incarnations Erickson has taken over the years reads like Romero’s filmography, with band names like the 13th Floor Elevators & The Aliens. Erickson’s most celebrated era of production surrounds the Evil One album, which boasts Southern guitar-crunch-epics such as “Two-headed Dog” and “Bloody Hammer.” Evil One makes Molly Hatchet look like a chamber ensemble. Zing!
“I Walked with a Zombie” is the slow-it-down and put-your-arm-around-them love ballad from Evil One and with lyrics like those below you can totally understand why it lands at #2 on our list (and also why someone went and made a bobblehead of Erickson).
Her stare is so demanding and her groans are so commanding
She makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop
With my head on the butcher block
You’re the only one for me, I’m in love with a decomposing zombie
Beauty’s on duty in this horror movie
Make me spill my guts with just one touch
See you in the graveyard at midnight
Such a horrifying delight
Your ice-cold touch, it feels so right
And just last night
I walked with a zombie, zombie, zombie
I walked with a zombie, zombie, zombie
I walked with a zombie
1. “I, Zombie” by White Zombie
You’re probably thinking that this one made it here only because it has “zombie” in both the band and song name (and artist’s name too, really). You are only partially right.
This is a list about zombies. In a sense, like the checklist in J.R. Angelella’s novel, it is also about advice. Philosophy. Strategy. A “how to weather the zombie apocalypse with ironic music” blog post.
You see: When you’re the last living human on earth, standing alone on a pile of rubble as the undead horde closes in, and the only thing that is keeping their putrid smell out of your nose is the chug chug chugging exhaust of your chainsaw and the sulfurous warmth of a recently fired shotgun, well, you’re going to want to push play on that boom box at your feet and hear something inspirational.
Just give yourself enough time to enjoy the grandeur of that intro before it’s go-time…