I vividly remember as a child hearing tales (spread by the dangerous “older kids”, the kind that reeked of cigarettes and whose primary occupation was selling dog eared pin-ups from their Father’s Playboys for a quarter, profits from which would in turn be siphoned to even sketchier characters for half empty bottles of Night train) of an insane gang of musicians that were so evil, they actually encouraged their fans to send them authentic skulls. A band so vile, they sang songs about murder, monsters and violence…EXCLUSIVELY! This was my introduction to a lifelong obsession, Lodi New Jersey’s favorite hooligans The Misfits! Oh, and did I mention they were arrested for grave robbing?
Formed in 1977 by Glenn Danzig, the Misfits became a legend in the underground punk scene. Never achieving the crossover success of bands such as The Ramones or The Clash, the Misfits became a favorite of punk rockers looking for something a bit darker in their entertainment.
While most punk bands sang vitriolic tales of social injustice or corrupt politics, the Misfits went a different way (with a few exceptions such as Bullet, Who Killed Marilyn, and She) choosing instead to sing about such ghoulish subject matter as horror movie hosts (Vampira), other-worldly juvenile delinquents (Teenagers From Mars), and boardinghouses of the damned (Horror Hotel).
Before the band was dissolved in 1983 (later to be resurrected in 1995 by bassist Jerry Only sans Danzig), the Misfits had left behind a bloody legacy of brutal live shows, a handful of recordings and an arrest record that spanned two continents, as Danzig and guitarist Bobby Steele were incarcerated in Brixton England in 1979 following a brawl (an incident that inspired the song London Dungeon), and the aforementioned grave robbing incident in New Orleans in 1982, where the group was arrested after attempting to find the grave of a legendary practitioner of voodoo…and really could anything give a horror punk band more street cred than an arrest record that featured grave robbing?
A special thanks to Sean Hartter for suggesting this article and for providing one of the two illustrations that accompany this piece (the other being provided by yours cruelly). If you want to explore the music of the Misfits for yourself, here’s a good place to start: MisFits- Collection.
Until next time, stay spooky!