When it comes to seasonal novelty songs, few have reached the level of dominance achieved by “Monster Mash.” Unlike, say, “Jingle Bells,” The Mash (as I will refer to it throughout this post) is now basically synonymous with its associated holiday, becoming the first and maybe only Halloween song readily named by the average person.
But what is The Mash, really? As one blogger recently observed, there are only two things we can say about it with certainty: It was “a graveyard smash” and it “caught on in a flash.”
After further research, Gizmodo discovered that the speaker’s monster and various ghouls did The Mash, it was performed by The Crypt-Kicker Five, it was the “hit of the land,” and, somewhat surprisingly, it was also meant for the living.
Additionally, many, many Twitter users offered the (completely unsolicited) opinion that The Mash is a dance, one with “steps u can learn and everything” similar to “the mashed potato with Frankenstein arms.”
Is it, though? Certainly, after its release, many grooved along to the song with variations on the “Mashed Potato,” the combination song and dance craze that The Mash was modeled after. But the song itself makes no reference to any specific dance moves. One important piece of textual evidence, however, supports the dance theory: Dracula’s complaint that The Mash usurped his “Transylvania Twist.”
This, I believe, reveals the ultimate truth about The Mash. It is a dance, but (like the Transylvania Twist) a completely fictional one without any clearly defined “moves.” One could argue that the dance now called “The Monster Mash” is the canonical Mash, but, having been developed after the fact, it cannot (due to the properties of time) actually be The Mash described in the song.
So what is The Mash? Most literally, it’s a real song recorded by Bobby Pickett in 1962 and an imaginary popular dance celebrated within. In many ways, however, The Mash is also America, the only nation (other than Canada, which we’ll ignore) to fully embrace the celebration of Halloween. Like our country, The Mash is a fad in search of an obsession, an idea in search of an object, a craze looking for an audience just mad enough to fall in love.