“Candy apples and razor blades, little dead are soon in graves / I remember Halloween / This day anything goes, burning bodies hanging from poles / I remember Halloween!”
Thus cried Glenn Danzig in the classic Misfits song named for today’s hellacious, hallowed holiday, recasting Halloween as a day of purest evil instead of the plastic-pumpkin candy-grab it really is. The song itself is a gory little gem — a great song from a collection of accidentally brilliant songs — but it’s not good enough to make this list. Fuck it — Halloween is here! What better way to celebrate than a collection of the absolute best graveyard classics from the masters of unintentional comedy and gore-spattered punk ‘n’ roll? You know the Misfits, and you love the Misfits because they’re the fucking Misfits. You can’t hate them without hating fun itself.
For the uninitiated (for shame!), the Misfits crawled out of New Jersey way back in 1977 with a new take on punk rock: They took boring, comparatively straitlaced New York punk for a hell-ride, fashioning themselves after undead greasers with corpsepaint and trademark devilocks. The songs were sped-up ’50s rock played terribly with an evil-Elvis impersonation on top that almost masked the genius of the vocal hooks Danzig was able to pull from god knows where. For a band that could barely play their instruments, these guys could crank out the hits like no other. Lyrics fell between horror-fueled fantasies of violence and nonsensically sexualized celebrity obsessions, but they came off like alternate-dimension radio classics — Danzig’s croon easily sold lines about killing babies, inseminating little girls, and being, uh, 138.
Sadly, the Misfits came to an unfortunate end in 1983, due to the usual shitty reasons that cause young punk bands to break up. Glenn Danzig immediately moved on to heavier, less-punk sounds with his next band, Samhain, which would eventually morph into Danzig (the band). The remaining members, led by bassist Jerry Only, eventually (and unfortunately) won the rights to use the Misfits name and hired one Michale Graves to replace their irreplaceable singer. Several tours happened, countless T-shirts were sold, and a few terrible records were released before Graves split to leave the frustratingly persistent Jerry Only to front the band. No late-period Misfits will appear in this list, rest assured.
Which leads me to the task at hand: I will do the impossible here by attempting to select a measly 10 Misfits tracks to help us celebrate this most haunted holiday and most excellent band. One production note: The Misfits’ catalog gets messy as all hell — songs were re-released and re-recorded, repurposed from live recordings, and sometimes unceremoniously overdubbed by an angry Danzig (see: all of Legacy Of Brutality) — so we’re not including original release dates this time around. Suffice to say, all these songs (and many more great ones!) can be found in varying shapes on The Misfits (also called “Collection I”), Collection II, Walk Among Us, Static Age, and Legacy Of Brutality, as well as the four-disc box set that collects all relevant Misfits goodness from the Danzig era. With a catalog full of classics, it’s inevitable many favorites will be overlooked. Trust me, I love them all — I just love these more. Feel free to unleash the hounds in the comments section and tell me exactly why “Rat Fink” should be on here.
10. “Mommy Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?”
For all the talk of hooks and ’50s crooning, the Misfits also made for a hell of a hardcore band. They’d dive deeper into hardcore with the Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood album, but they’d never outdo the filth and fury of “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” Released smack dab in the middle of studio album Walk Among Us, “Mommy” is a live track that kicks ass by simply kicking ass. Your typical deranged Danzig rant leads into one of the best Misfits moments ever when the song lurches to a sudden stop. Everything hangs for a second before Danzig screams the title — “Mommy? Can I go out and … kill tonight?” — and we bash our way through the song in double-time. For a song about a bullied kid murdering the world, they nail the tone. As a teenager, this was the soundtrack for head-banging and trashing my room.
9. “Horror Business”
The Misfits’ third single, released in 1978, “Horror Business” is a perfect case of the absurd legends that arise from vague, violent lyrics. With lines like “You don’t go in the bathroom with me” and “I’m warning you, I’ll put a knife right in you”, folks have long theorized it was about Sid and Nancy (she was stabbed to death in a bathroom, quite possibly by Sid), or that it’s a warning to gay fans not to follow Glenn into the shitter. In reality, it’s a clear reference to the movie Psycho, with the line “Psycho ’78″ meant to transpose the timeframe of the original story to the year they recorded the song. As we all know, Norman Bates, the titular pyscho, stabbed Janet Leigh in the bathroom in Hitchcock’s classic. Misfits lyrics are rarely deep, just awesome. Also of historical note: the “Horror Business” single marked the first appearance of the impossibly cool Misfits mascot, the Crimson Ghost.
8. “Astro Zombies”
One of Danzig’s best tricks is his ability to sing a line about the extinction of the human race like he’s belting it out to his girlfriend, Betty Sue, as she drives off into the distance, leaving sad Glenn to weep mascara into his devilock. He imbues so much charisma and heart into every single line, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s singing about something real — and that’s what makes it so magical. All that feeling paired with this melody, and you’ve got a classic Misfits banger fit for the end of the world.
“Like a dry desert soaking up rain, soaking up sun.” It sounds like a nice enough line out of context. In this case, Danzig is singing about Jackie O licking up … semen. Barf as you see fit. “Bullet” retells the story of the assassination of JFK by fixating on nauseating details: the president’s bullet-ridden body in the street, his shattered head hitting concrete, and most curiously, the mental state of his wife. After shouting about JFK for half the song, Danzig shifts gears and suddenly belts “You gotta suck, suck, Jackie suck.” The rest of the song becomes a singular, morbid vision of Jackie O masturbating the dead president for his vital fluids with which to (presumably) sustain her gold-digging lifestyle. Naturally.
6. “Hybrid Moments”
“If you’re gonna scream, scream with me / moments like this never last.” That’s the opening line to “Hybrid Moments,” a song about creatures raping faces and crying girls and other nonsense, but Danzig might as well be singing about the song itself. Misfits songs are short — painfully short. Brief little bursts of gore and joy that rock so hard you bang your fist and scream along straight through till the end, which usually hits after 90 seconds of ecstatic bliss. “Hybrid Moments” roars in like a banshee and tears out of there before you know what hit you — it’s a roller coaster of melody that stops short and leaves you hanging, hungry for more.
5. “Where Eagles Dare”
How can a perfect song be such a lyrical mess? Only Danzig knows. With a rumbling bass from hell holding down the bottom, we get batshit lines like, “An omelet of disease awaits your noontime meal / her mouth of germicide seducing all your glands” before the chorus drops the classic hook: “I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch!” Reading through the theories at songmeanings.net reveals that (A) this has nothing to do with the classic World War II movie of the same name and (B) most folks think it’s a song about prostitutes. In which case “an omelet of disease” is suddenly twice as gross. But there’s no question the song is gold, to the point where the phrase “goddamn son of a bitch” has become indelibly linked with the band. When metal/hardcore/whatever band Trap Them snuck the line into a song last year, there was no question from whence it came.
4. “London Dungeon”
For a band mostly known for whoa-oh vocals and huge choruses, it’s refreshing to hear a song with such a delicious riff. The band as a whole finally deliver at the same level as Danzig, which is a rare occurrence in the Misfits canon. The stuttering snare, the ominous bass, and that infectious, near-metal, goth-baiting guitar — every piece setting the stage for the perfect chorus. Despite their origins and the roughshod execution of most of the songs, the Misfits were capable of serious songcraft, as proven here. For once the song’s lyrics are no mystery: Upon visiting the UK for an ill-fated tour with the Damned, Danzig and then-guitarist Bobby Steele attempted to do battle with skinheads and wound up in jail for a few nights. Danzig, sassy bitch that he is, turned a feather-ruffling experience into one of the best punk songs ever written.
Ask me my favorite Misfits song, go ahead. It’s “Skulls”! It’s hard to quantify exactly how and why “Skulls” rips so fucking hard, but I suppose we’d better try. The song itself is simple four-chord punk, nothing fancy. Lyrics? Practically retarded. But when the chorus hits, all I want are skulls. It’s all in the delivery: When Danzig sings that he wants your skull, it’s like he’s never wanted anything so badly. Yet there’s something tugging at the back of his heart, something in the way he holds back during the verse: He almost feels bad about it. Not so bad as to NOT sever your head and mount your skull on the wall, leaving your body to seep out its precious blood like devil’s rain (his words), but still: Danzig feels some modicum of sorrow for his insatiable need. It’s essentially a wistful, yearning love song for your severed head. Complex shit. This is my favorite Misfits tune without question, though it’s hard to call it their “best” when the next two are pretty much untouchable ….
2. “Last Caress”
It’s the big one — the one everyone knows. The one with the nastiest lyrics ever set to an anthem meant for fist-pumping sing-alongs. Metallica covered it and made it legitimately famous without even touching on the quality of the original. AFI covered it and we’re better off forgetting they tried. By this point, “Last Caress” is practically played out, but the song still stands as one of the best the Misfits would ever produce. Heck, it’s one of the best songs ever produced by the punk genre. “Sweet lovely death, I’m waiting for your breath ….” Danzig’s final, “One … last … caress!” is as timeless and classic as anything to come out of the ’50s, just as melodic, and a million times deadlier. Which is why it’s almost the best thing they’d ever do.
1. “Die, Die My Darling”
This — the sixth and final Misfits single ever released before the painful-to-watch, even-worse-to-hear Michale Graves/Jerry Only period — is about as good as it gets. The band had broken up by the time it came out in 1984, though “Die, Die My Darling” was actually recorded in 1981 for the Walk Among Us sessions, and — somehow, amazingly — left off that album. By Misfits standards, the 3:11 running time is an eternity — but that’s part of the magic. Never once does the energy flag. The stomp that launches the song out the gate carries through the entire running time, building up to stomp even harder before crumbling to chaos at the end. An insistent single-note guitar lead ratchets the tension as high as it can go while Danzig howls his way through a song about killing his unnamed darling. It’s single-minded and nasty, pissed as fuck and perfect. “I’ll be seeing you in hell.” Released when it was, it’s easy to picture Danzig aiming the sentiment at his former bandmates, or even the band itself. Then again, Misfits lyrics are rarely deep. Either way, it was the perfect sendoff for one of the best punk bands of all time.