“monster swim” – don hinson and the rigormorticians (1964)

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Halloween may be my favorite holiday. There is so much to love about it because it has everything. Candy, people dressed in imaginative costumes, and spooky movies (or if you’re like me, then you prefer campy Halloween movies). Halloween just comes at a great time of the year as well. The air chills and the leaves turn. It is all so hauntingly beautiful. However, what I love most about Halloween are the seasonal novelty songs.

I love campy Halloween music. My Halloween playlist is full of diverse and playful music including tracks from the catalog of Dr. Demento, horror soundtracks, spooky surf rock, and even classics like “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett. Everyone knows “Monster Mash.” It is such a jaunty song about monsters coming together and rocking out. It is arguably the most famous Halloween novelty song. And with fame, imitators follow. Throughout the 1960s, there were many artists who attempted to capitalize on the fame of “Monster Mash.” If artists didn’t release their own take on “Monster Mash” (check out the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s version), they released their own spin-offs. With songs like “Monster Hop,” “Monster Bop,” and “Monster Twist,” novelty artists attempted to carve their own niche in the world of Halloween novelty music. There are literally dozens of songs from that era that are nearly identical sounding, serve as sequels, or reference the original classic throughout.

My favorite Halloween song ever is “Riboflavin Flavored, Non-Carbonated, Polyunsaturated Blood.” I love the original by Don Hinson and the Rigormorticians and any subsequent covers (check out 45 Grave’s version). However, I want to talk about a lesser known song by Don Hinson and the Rigormorticians. “Monster Swim” was a track from their sole children’s novelty Halloween record that unapologetically references and attempts to cash on Pickett’s original classic. And it does it so well.

In the “Monster Swim,” the monsters are tired of doing the mash because it has become such a drag. So, what do monsters do when they need a hip, fresh dance? They do the swim of course! Everything this song has it owes to Pickett. The Boris character providing the vocals sounds nearly identical to Pickett and is backed by equally identical female vocals. Even the character references are completely ripped off; this time Dracula wants to know whatever happened to his monster mash (a throwback to the Transylvania Twist line).

This is a fun record and Hinson sounds like he is having a great time. It is a quintessential mid-1960s novelty record. Peppered throughout this poolside monster setting are references to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (as the Rolling Bones which I assume are bluesy skeletons). Rock and roll music was hardly a decade old at this point so the musical frame of reference for the kids was relatively new. Most musical artists at the time, even outside the realm of novelty music, certainly had a mentality that if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it. Essentially, whatever record sold well and was popular, you did that record. That’s why we have so many rip-offs and unofficial sequels to songs from that area.

Songs like these get lost because, frankly, they aren’t timely. They don’t have lasting appeal and were never meant to. “Monster Swim,” while being a stand-out song for me this time of year, is nowhere near the top of the list of truly great novelty songs from the era such as the “Monster Mash,” “The Hearse Song,” and “Purple People Eater.” However, it has a place in my heart for not only it’s ridiculous beach blanket concept, but for being so brazen in it’s attempt at being a complete rip-off. Rock and roll was a budding genre and it certainly had growing pangs, and the sound all the same.

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