Here's a bunch of ranting I did back in 2011 for Roctober Magazine. I share it today to celebrate Danzig's 60th birthday! Enjoy...
Cough Cool / She
The very first release from Lodi, New Jersey's favorite Devil Boy and two of my favorite tunes that I wouldn't discover until almost a decade later. Released shortly after their very first show at CBGB's, this one captures the band seemingly in utero before Jerry Only had taken up his stage name and before Danzig realized he looked way cooler with bangs covering his face. Like the lost teachings of Jesus that he likes to recite in his library, these odd Danzig gems arrived too late for punk (despite the Blank Records imprint which was an obvious "nod" to Richard Hell) and too soon for hardcore and were nearly exiled to the purgatory of late 70s indifference. What we get are two otherworldly and utterly uncool skeletons of songs banged out on moody piano and crude percussion, sounding like something you might hear on a 50s jukebox in an abandoned diner at the end of the world. This is the jazzy graveyard swing of a post-war pre-coitus Saturday morning cartoon. The vintage monster vibe was already creep...creep...creeping into the lyrics but the bones were not quite fleshed out and the Crimson Ghost was not yet resurrected. This is the birth of what Danzig occasionally referred to as "real modern American horror." His record collection consisted almost exclusively of horror soundtracks and Golden Oldies back then so it isn't entirely surprising that he drenched his misanthropic vision in darkness, crooning melody and unearthly menace. He was often asked "back in the day" about the disparate imagery and aggression between this first release and the amazing Bullet 7" that followed in 1978, to which he responded that Bullet was written three years earlier than these songs and, had there been guitar in the mix, Cough Cool would've sounded like classic Misfits. But there was no guitar and that was a strange and fortuitous choice. The rebel yell of punk was the promise of breaking all the rules, not buying your angry pretense at the mall, and kids today would do well to study these unclassifiable finger-snapping dirges. As a kid I wondered what the hell these songs were about and learned a lot about Patty Hearst in the process. To this day if I had to bet, I'd put my money down that She was loosely inspired by the 1956 drive-in pleaser The She Creature. Nothing more and nothing less, Daddy-o.
"On Feb. 28, 1979 The Misfits and a mobile recording unit entered an abandoned haunted house in northern New Jersey. They recorded and left. While mixing the tapes back at a NYC studio, strange voices and noises were heard in the background. [Note esp. Teenagers from Mars] No explanation of these sounds could be given by the band or recording crew. The following Tracks on This Record Are A result Of That Eerie Session" -Dave Street
The third release and the first to feature the Crimson Ghost in all his rictus glory! If this cover art doesn't get your attention, check yourself for rigor mortis. Shocking EC Comics yellow and reds designed to pull an adolescent boy's eyes right out of their sockets. The insert that accompanied this EP provided further creepy delight in the form of matter-of-fact liner notes that read like Rod Serling on quaaludes (see above). You can bet I almost went deaf leaning into the speakers to hear those "strange voices and noises." Never heard any. My mail order X-ray glasses never worked either. Posers who insist the haunted house story isn't true are, of course, absolutely correct. But they also miss the point entirely. Like all enduring mythology, "truth" is not what is being transmitted. It's all about meaning and intention. As far as I'm concerned, these three tracks could've been recorded in Glenn Danzig's toy room and they'd still embody more charged horror-punk aggression than an arena full of wacky-masked Slipknot cunts. Horror Business is a hostile masterpiece that drops Norman Bates and his unfortunate obsession with the bathroom in room #1 into suburban America circa 1978. Like Hitchcock's skirt-wearing mama's boy, this song gets in, does the job and gets out before you know what hit you. What the fuck was that? Shower time is over. Danzig re-recorded this one with Samhain as Horror Biz and was still performing a variation of the theme 10 years later with his namesake band of longhairs. B-side opens with some toothy engineer introducing "Take one, this is Teenagers From Mars and Children in Heat" and the Misfits die is cast. The pinnacle of this recording just might be the last 35 seconds of Teenagers From Mars when the entire band starts growling "AND WE DON'T CARE!" like a pack of, well, teenagers from mars hellbent on inseminating little girls. "We take your weak resistance, throw it in your face!" Fade to feedback and cue Joey Image's drum roll. Too much horror business indeed.
I still get a thrill every time I drop the needle down on this strange artifact from the Jersey devils' relatively brief but absolutely sweeping 80s reign. This was the Misfits' grand declaration of FIENDISH WAR! It may seem quaint nowadays but as a teen this was the first time I had ever heard a band take such a swaggering combative stance against their own audience, shouting expletives and threatening to kill fans who were presumably bold enough to get up close. Keep in mind, GG Allin was still an unknown New England cross-dresser when these recordings surfaced, first as a Fiend Club 7" then as a 12" and finally as an expanded posthumous LP with one of the greatest album covers of all time. These recordings made a huge impact on my emerging sense of what it meant to be an artist and a rabid fan. The days of the casual observer were over. Sure, the sound quality wasn't the best but complaining about Misfits production values is like complaining that Darby Crash's slurred Sex Boy trance was ruined by all that messy glass. And most of the other live Misfits recordings that have survived are downright unlistenable. My favorite is that unfortunate bootleg of Teenagers From Mars where the band changed all the lyrics to address former Misfit Bobby Steele and his new band The Undead: "Bobby Steele's an asshole fucking cunt, that fucking asshole cunt...Bobby Steele is a homosexual!" Ouch. Ultimately, Evilive was as close as I ever got to experiencing the Misfits live until I saw Danzig rip through a few covers with his new band in 1988 and as far as I'm concerned this ranks right up there with Space Ritual, Live After Death and Unleashed In The East without all the canned applause and false polish. "Ya think you'll get outta' da hospital in time?"
Walk Among Us
Many ghouls consider this the definitive Misfits release. Certainly Walk Among Us boasts their most user friendly material and is the perfect point of entry for the uninitiated. Frankly, I prefer their less lighthearted moments but these remain some of the snappiest sing-alongs ever written about such subjects as extraterrestrial rape, romantic decapitation, honor roll bloodlust, hate breeders, horror hosts and concentration camp barbeques. From the moment 20 Eyes comes roaring out of the laboratory like some anguished over-caffeinated monstrosity you know this is no standard punk offering. Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight, with its plodding arc and maniacal climax, is one of Glenn's most memorable moments of the decade and I dare you to keep up once mom lets him off his leash. Of course they took the album's title from the sequel to The Creature From The Black Lagoon, dropped the "creature" and the "s" and sent a swinging call to arms to awkward children of the night everywhere. Some of us have been marching ever since. If there is any justice in the world - or any world at all- this record will be praised as a pinnacle of American folk art in 50 years. Someday futuristic feral kids will discover a lone surviving copy of this hot pink masterpiece beneath the rubble of civilization and paint skeletal fingers on black leather gloves and pull their bangs into razor sharp devilocks using congealed blood and radioactive sludge for pomade. Good luck finding that first pink pressing in 100 years, kids. And speaking of the impending apocalypse, this release featured the same curious admonishment from Revelations 13:18 made popular that same year by Iron Maiden on their own classic LP Number Of The Beast. 1982 was a good year for the Devil.
"1,2,3,4...Goooooo!!! BOOM!!!!" Do I really need to explain why this record rules? The final Misfits LP is a discordant bloodfeast strung together with gory entrails of feedback and hellbent distortion! These little ditties, clocking in collectively at about 15 minutes, feature more of Glenn's most inspired lyrical moments of the decade with song titles and poesy carved straight from the usual b-movie source material (The Hills Have Eyes, Demonomania, The Monster of Green Hell, etc). The production admittedly suffers on this one, perhaps partially due to the fact that it was cobbled together like Frankenstein while the band was on a US tour and most of the instrumental tracks were laid down in a single night after a Los Angeles gig while Danzig reportedly slept. What?? Sleeping??? At night???? If that sounds lame, you needn't worry. A week after this session the boys were arrested for attempted grave robbing in a New Orleans cemetery where they were allegedly hunting for human skulls in the above ground crypts. Danzig denied the skull theory and went on record around this time with the statement that they were, in fact, "just hanging around." One of the highlights of this final jewel on the Misfits crown was the amazing Mad Marc Rude cover art. A friend of the band since their first LA visit, Rude reportedly spent more than 300 hours over the course of a year on this zombie epic. Hidden amongst the putrescence are portraits of the band with glowing green eyes and other horror notables such as the cellar-dweller from The Evil Dead (one of Danzig's favorite movies at the time). Glenn has the Crimson Ghost bursting from his guts and that's drummer Robo on the far right looking like The Amazing Colossal Man with Black Flag bars on his chest and a funny Issac Asinov reference for the especially astute fan (read: social retard). Every dot on this stippled masterpiece heralds the necrotic hymns waiting inside the sleeve and the classy use of color, specifically Herbert West Green and Coffin Satin Purple, perfectly echoes the second pressing of Walk Among Us. The back cover is arguably even more fucked up and amazing and comes to us from an otherwise unknown artist named Carroll Stockard (wish I could find her). The German pressing of Wolfs Blood/Earth A.D. reversed the art and featured Stockard's demonic porn on the front cover in full color! "On EARTH As it is in HeLL!"
Die Die My Darling
Easy to overlook this posthumous 12" single but in many ways Die, Die My Darling is a quintessential relic of the Misfits' fertile final days together. The strangely mournful title track and fun thrashers We Bite and Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight? were actually recorded in 1983 during the Earth A.D. sessions but were ditched at the last minute for being too fun and not consistent with the more violent vibe of what became the last Misfits LP (note to the wikipedia ballbusters: yes, I know Die Die and We Bite appear on the German Wolfs Blood LP). Aside from finally capturing clean studio versions of these Fiend favorites, this 12" also boasted classic graphics that continue to be bootlegged more than two decades later! It's no secret that during his time with the Misfits Glenn hustled his portfolio to Marvel Comics, hoping to join the illustrator's bullpen. This was not to be and while it was many years before he launched his own indie comic imprint Verotik with the same stubborn D.I.Y. spirit that has come to embody the best of his creative legacy, this single features one of Danzig's most iconic drawings on the cover. You know the one. A busty Marilyn Monroe doppelganger with a sexy zipatone corset dines with Death who perceives her impending fate through the glass of a brandy snifter. The lines are shaky and crude, as if traced on a light table with a sharpie, but this classy design holds its own with the best of the 50's horror pulps from which it was swiped. The back cover features Pushead's Devilock w/ Eyeball, which he would revisit a few years later with the inky frontispiece of his 1986 Danzig cover story for Thrasher. Another saccharine treat for the Monster Kids!
In hindsight it's difficult to discern exactly when the Misfits died and Samhain was conjured to life like some ungodly tentacled Thing-That-Could-Not-Be-Named. Danzig often eluded to his creative discontent way back while the Misfits were still touring and dropped all kinds of hints in zines that he was working on something new, something all his own, something he would properly produce. He was already writing more serious and experimental rhythm-driven songs that didn't quite fit the Misfits mold as far back as 1981 when he penned the haunted love song Archangel for Dave Vanian of The Damned. One thing's for sure, Danzig was hitting the weights hard and when he finally emerged from behind the pig's blood and bonfire smoke with Samhain he was an entirely different beast. Lub, lub, lub, lub. "I Live! Infinitus sleep has ended and I live again!" Gone was the skinny fun-loving monster geek and wanky eight second solos with two stringed guitars. Eddie Munster had gone through puberty. With the lo-fi title track, a slightly embarrassing self indulgence which sounded like a backward masking of WPIX's Chiller Theater theme music, Danzig recast himself as a hip-thrusting heathen with an altogether more mature vision of ghosts, goblins and things that go bump 'n' grind in the night. Specifically, he wanted musicians who could keep up and groupies that put out. The results are a perfect melding of Eros and Thanatos that initiated a new generation of gorehounds with such lumbering tantrums as Black Dream, All Murder, All Guts, All Fun and the brilliant crooner The Howl, arguably the band's finest moment. Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night is fucked when that Eerie bassline begins to pulse under the full moon! After all, this is Samhain, the transitional season when the veils thin and the dead walk and the three Norns share one broomstick and one bubbling cauldron of sex and death. This is The Shift...
If you still have any reason to doubt the fact that Glenn Danzig is a national treasure, this second Samhain release should dispel any remaining irony. Here he achieves lyrical eloquence worthy of Edgar Allan Poe and these infectious tribal dirges trump Christian Death and Rudimentary Peni for sheer necromantic devotion. Unfortunately it seems Glenn wasn't entirely satisfied with the recording because after the first pressing he re-recorded all the guitar tracks and revised some of the vocals for all subsequent pressings. The results were assembled on the 1987 CD version along with an odd new track titled Misery Tomb, which features Glenn howling over a creepy John Carpenter-inspired bass line while the song I Am Misery can be heard grinding away in the background. Your girlfriend probably loves it. Incidentally, the guitar on I Am Misery is total proto-Norwegian Black Metal. Not even Hellhammer or Bathory had captured such an utterly morbid and aggressive sound, made all the more disturbing because it was so catchy and couldn't be so easily dismissed as purely juvenile. The only thing confounding this one was the band's attempt to resurrect the Crimson Ghost as a winged female mascot. The ample tits and pubic mane could be forgiven as symptoms of the decade but the rictus drag queen face with chiseled jaw line is manly and somehow comical when it should be fearful and seductive. Remember those Woody Woodpecker cartoons where Woody lifts some sexy concubine's veil only to find that her face is hideously malformed? That's the joke that plays out here. Skulls, it seems, are inherently masculine to the eye no matter how much lip gloss and hair you pile on. I am reminded of the church painter in Bergman's The Seventh Seal who reasons, "A skull is more interesting than a naked woman." But not necessarily when the skull sits on the shoulders of an 80's porn star. Regardless, Unholy Passion is another seminal (ahem) abomination of unbridled genius. No mosh. No fun.
The third and final studio ritual during their too-brief existence opens with a galloping chant that would make Basil Poledouris blush. The band really came into their own on this one. Every song is dark, perverse, esoteric and, above all, violent. Slide this cassette into the Kenwood of your Chevy Nova with a case of Budweiser and I promise mailboxes will get smashed. To Walk The Night, with its ghostly harmony swirling in the background, takes its title and chorus directly from a line in Anne Rice's novel Interview With A Vampire and is about as close as the goths could ever get to claiming this band for their own. Fortunately, it is closely followed by the revenge-fantasy Let The Day Begin which is where I imagine the clove cigarettes jump ship. Halloween II is a squealing re-imagining of the old Misfits' incantation. Did the world really need another variation of the theme? YES! This soulful headbanging rendition in latin goes best with a sharp knife and a virgin pumpkin. More literary references with Kiss Of Steel, a thrashing homage to J.G. Ballard's industrial-erotica not entirely unlike the old Misfits standard Nike A Go Go. But the clincher on November-Coming-Fire, the muthafuckin' deal maker of the entire record, is Human Pony Girl. Clocking in at just under 5 minutes (sounds about right), this sexual epic sounds like it was recorded on a tundra somewhere and as a teen I was almost embarrassed if my mom entered the room while it was pumping away. I always wondered if Glenn had been inspired by that weird Frazetta painting titled Pony Tail which features, well, an oddly attractive human pony girl standing on a precipice while a bare-chested warrior with sword and horned helmet beckons from below. Speaking of art, the cover is a Glenn Danzig original with stenciled flames that resembles a deleted scene from Disney's Fantasia and remains one of the most memorable album covers of the era. Black silhouetted skeletons rise from the Celtic fire as if out of a Ray Harryhausen fever dream. The art becomes something of a metaphor for the band at their best: uncomplicated, primal, and immensely satisfying.
There are some people you just don't punch. Vincent Price. Frank Frazetta. Sonny Barger. Lemmy Kilmister. Glenn Danzig. I don't care what kind of arrogant self-parody he became at some point in his career or how hilarious it looked on youtube, Danzig obviously wrote the soundtrack to my formative years as a suburban ghoul and punching him on camera shouldn't lend street cred to some baggy pants pretenders. Danzig could kick my daughter's pet bunny and piss all over my laptop and I would simply remind myself that he also provided me with some 25 years of pleasure and creative solidarity while politely escorting him to the door by his thinning forelock. I fondly recall the day this first post-Samhain recording hit stores, sitting in my friend's car behind Arcadian Books & Records waiting for the opening riff of Twist of Cain to break the silence. The cover art was lifted from the last Samhain album (which was in turn lifted from a 1983 comic, Crystar The Crystal Warrior #8, originally drawn by Michael Golden). Check. The band looked like greasy scumbags with unhealthy complexions and complete disregard for your personal space bubble. Check. But the music was slow motion muscle rock, all cleaned up and ready for the stripper's pole. We should've hated it! But it was impossible. Glenn used to complain about Earth A.D. for being stupidly fast and in early Samhain interviews he used to say he wanted to slow things down. Well, with Danzig he really did. And it worked. When She Rides came bumping along with its slinking inuendo I was ready to fuck something (anything!). By the time Evil Thing came barreling along on side two with its raspy admonishments and punchy Chuck Biscuits flourishes I was ready to smash something (anything!). We flipped the tape, listened to Twist of Cain again and got drunk instead. In 1989, a few months after that afternoon in the parking lot, I spent days staring at that gatefold photo and meticulously drawing the band's likenesses in soft #2 pencil when I should've been studying for my high school exams. I didn't do well on the exams. But the drawings turned out pretty good. I still repost my old pencil portrait of Glenn some 27 years later. Why? Because I still like it. And I still absolutely adore this record. Am I Demon? Fuck off.
© Dennis Dread 2015