In honor of Halloween, I thought I would take a moment to divert from the regularly scheduled THKD programming. Do not attempt to adjust your monitor. I control the horizontal. I control the vertical. Now that I have your undivided attention, I want to take a moment to a talk a little about a band known as the Misfits.
For me, the Misfits are synonymous with the Halloween season and are one of my all-time favorite bands. My reputation as a Glenn Danzig fanboy is well documented. But what might not be so well-documented is that the Misfits represent my favorite phase of the man’s career. Like many folks from my generation, I was introduced to them thanks to Metallica’s “Last Caress/Green Hell” cover. That was a great version, but nothing compared to when I heard the Misfits playing their own songs for the first time. Mind officially blown. It was as if someone combined everything I loved about music into one band, and then added a visual and lyrical aesthetic that represented everything I loved about vintage horror and science fiction films. I remember buying Collection I and listening to it over and over and over again in junior high (especially “Where Eagles Dare”!). Back then, information on the Misfits was scarce (at least in the Midwest), and since Danzig famously hated talking about the band at that time (no doubt due to the legal bullshit going on between him and Only), I could only speculate about the band’s origins. I was so fucking excited to find a Misfits shirt (XL and baggy as all hell on my tall scrawny frame, just how I liked it) at my local record store, before the band’s “Crimson Ghost” logo became ubiquitous. I wore that thing until it disintegrated.
Very few bands are perfect. The Misfits were one of them. I’m not talking about the Jerry Only-fronted abomination that parades around today calling itself the Misfits. I’m talking about the band as it existed from 1977 to 1983. From songs to style to imagery, the Misfits had it all, an often duplicated but never equalled head-on collision of punk rock filth, ’50s rock catchiness and melody, gothic atmosphere and too much horror business. Glenn Danzig’s lyrics were a heady blend of twisted pop culture references, nihilism and misogyny. His backing band, consisting of bassist Jerry Only, a range of guitarists that included Only’s brother Doyle, Bobby Steele and Franche Coma, and a revolving door of drummers that put Spinal Tap to shame, created a sound that was unlike anything I’ve heard before or since. The fact that stories of alleged grave-robbing and excessive violence (the song “London Dungeon” was supposedly the result of Danzig and Steele spending the night in an English jail after a punch up with some skinheads) were part of the Misfits mythos made them even more intriguing, if such a thing were possible.
The Misfits took the innocence of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and forever corrupted it. They bathed Elvis Presley in the blood, brains and skull fragments of the Kennedy assassination. Punk rock was founded on speeding up and ripping off Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore riffs, but the Misfits brought a darkness and foreboding to the style in the same way that Black Sabbath brought it to the blues in the early ’70s. They were also better song-writers than any other punk band ever, writing some of the flat-out catchiest choruses ever put to tape (“I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch, you better think about it baby!”, “Sweet lovely death, I am waiting for your breath…”, etc.). But the band’s real area of expertise is what I refer to as “the whoah-whoah part”. The whoah-whoah part crops up in numerous Misfits songs (“Mephisto Waltz”, “I Turned into a Martian”, “Astro Zombies” and “Some Kinda Hate” to name just a few.) and is the single most infectious aspect of the band’s playbook. The level of craftsmanship the Misfits displayed was so far ahead of the curve in every aspect; it’s a fucking travesty that they continue to be left out of the punk rock history books.
The Misfits might not get the respect they deserve, but that’s beside the point. The fact that they have influenced everything from thrash to black metal to gothic rock to doom says a lot more about the band than some jag-off rock critic who refuses to acknowledge their greatness. For me personally, a lot of bands have come and gone over the years, but the Misfits sound just as exciting, vital and visceral today as they did when I heard them for the first time in 7th grade. They are total fucking anarchy by way of an alien invasion/zombie outbreak, lead by the reanimated corpses of Vampira and Marilyn Monroe. They are the soundtrack to an Autumn filled with “brown leaf vertigo / where skeletal life is known”. They are the Misfits. Beware.