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I’M A MADMAN, DON”T YOU KNOW?-9 SONGS ABOUT PSYCHOS, MADMEN AND JUST PLAIN CRAZY FOLK

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Did you ever know someone who was crazy? I’m not talking ‘run up and look under a nun’s habit and giggle’ crazy (although that might qualify); I’m talking a level of crazy in which anytime you are near this person you fear for your life because you have no idea what’s going on in that head of theirs and the scary part is neither do they.

Here are 9 songs about some crazy people. Why 9? Why not 10? Why not 11? Why not rub myself in peanut butter and call myself Betty?

PSYCHO KILLER by THE TALKING HEADS (David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth)

It’s not so much the lyrics of Psycho Killer that warn us that we are inside the brain of a madman; it is David Byrne singing the song as if his shock treatment session went on a little too long. Byrne said he wrote the song (with help) by ‘imagining Alice Cooper singing a Randy Newman ballad.’

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RIDERS ON THE STORM by THE DOORS (Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore)

Is the entirety of Riders on the Storm about a psycho? Probably not; but that part about a ‘killer on the road’ whose ‘brain is squirming like a toad’ puts the storm just outside of crazy town.

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WHERE THE WILD ROSES GROW by NICK CAVE AND KYLIE MINOGUE (NIck Cave)

One of the perks of picking out songs for these little lists of mine is finding something that I’ve never heard before; for instance this gem by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue from Cave’s Murder Ballads. Boy meets girl, boy loves girls, boy kills girl to preserve her beauty. Nope, nothing crazy here.

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EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE by THE POLICE (Sting)

Every Breath You Take is the un-official theme song for Stalking Awareness Month. If you thinks it’s a sweet little love song then you’re the one who’s crazy. Even Sting said he didn’t realize how sinister it was and that people have misinterpreted it.

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USED TO LOVE HER by GUNS ‘N’ ROSES (Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin)

He loved her, he killed her, he buried her six feet underground and still hears her complain. I think the serial killer Edmund Kemper may have been a ghost writer on this tune. After murdering his mother and attempting (unsuccessfully) to stuff her larynx down the garbage disposal, Kemper said that even in death the woman wouldn’t stop bitching at him.

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DESTROYER by THE KINKS (Ray Davies)
Poor Ray Davies; he meets a girl(?) named Lola and she(?) sends him right over the edge. Ray, just stop! Hold on. Stay in control.

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EXCITABLE BOY by WARREN ZEVON

It’s my wife I have to thank for reminding me of this Zevon song about a young man who finds creative things to do with little Susie, her bones, his Sunday best suit and an infamous pot roast. The fact that I’m a major Warren Zevon fan makes me ashamed that I forgot it.

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MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER by ELTON JOHN (Elton John, Bernie Taupin)
Leave it to Elton John to make something as simple as a visit to a sanitarium into a near staple of classic rock. The song is not about Richard Nixon as many people think; but Bernie Taupin says the (mis)interpretation amuses him.
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STEVEN by ALICE COOPER (Alice Cooper, Bob Ezrin)
Before Marilyn Manson was a sty in his mommy’s eye, Alice Cooper wrote the book on Shock rock. He also wrote the book on crazy and it was called Welcome to My Nightmare. It was all about the journey through the mind of a disturbed little boy named…Steven.
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THE BARRENS

THE BARRENS-United States/Canada-2012

Steven Moyer as Richard Vineyard

Mia Kirshner as Cynthia Vineyard

Erik Knudsen as Ryan (Image not from film)

Allie Macdonald as Sadie Vineyard

Peter DaCuhna (L) as Danny Vineyard

Athena Karkanis (R) as Erica

Shawn Ashmore (R) as Dale

Written and Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

The Jersey Devil was the 13th child of Mama Leeds, 

His daddy was the devil himself.

Born normal, it changed form;

Cloven hooves, horses head,

Bat wings and a forked tail. 

Pine Barrens, New Jersey

is where it calls home.

Pine Barrens, New Jersey

is where no one belongs.

If you recall, after the debacle that was 11-11-11, I was ready to write Darren Lynn Bousman off as having spent the 15 minutes of fame that he earned after Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV. 11-11-11 was a monotonous and uneventful film directed by a man with no imagination and no fucking business behind a movie camera. But I guess everyone deserves a second chance and Bousman receives that chance with The Barrens. It’s not a great film; there are no Oscars in its future and film historians will not be talking about in the same breath as Citizen Kane; but at least it gets the bad taste of “11″ out of our mouths.

Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer, Bill Compton of True Blood) is determined to take his family camping for the weekend. His reasons are two-fold; one is to bring himself, his daughter Sadie (Allie MacDonald, Alphas, House at the End of the Street) and his new wife Cynthia (Mia Kirshner, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, The L Word) closer together; the other is to scatter his father’s ashes.

Vineyard and his family set up camp in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and talk that night commences from fellow campers about the legend of the Jersey Devil, a creature said to have haunted the woods for the past 400 years. Richard overreacts to the stories and it is from there that we discover that he had his own little run-in with the beast. Pretty soon he’s acting strange; hallucinating, hearing things. He comes down with a fever and we think ‘well that explains it; he’s not in his right mind’. Then the bodies turn up with their entrails ripped out. Is Vineyard responsible; or is the Jersey Devil all too real.

Okay, so looking back I can see that the whole premise is about as dumb as a retarded box of rocks, but Bousman actually manages to keep it together and keeps us guessing until the very end. After the predictability that was 11-11-11, I have to give kudos to the old boy. I also have to give props to whoever decided to make Moyer’s character British. Moyer actually is from Brentwood, Essex, England and I believe the writers knew that if they gave Vineyard an American accent that viewers would associate it with his character from True Blood.

In the end, The Barrens boils down to good, dumb Bousman fun.

TRIVIA

Darren Lynn Bousman’s earlier cut of this movie was only 81 minutes long.

Darren Lynn Bousman originally wanted to shoot the film in the actual Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

There were more shots of the Jersey Devil in an earlier version of the movie.

A majority of the scenes were done in a single take.

As an added treat, ladies and gentlemen Mr. Bruce Springsteen and A Night With The Jersey Devil:

The Dreams of Which I’m Dying-9 Songs About Suicide

I am not going to even pretend to know why I am posting this article; except to say that when I get a subject in my head I have to have some way to release it. It’s like a song that creeps in on you and you sing it over and over and the only way you can stop it is to play the damn thing.

One thing I will say is that I know that this is a sensitive subject. I would like to assure everyone that I mean no disrespect to any of you. The last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone.

There have been songs written about death for as long as songs have been written and they can be broken down into two categories; songs about people who have died by someone else’s hand or songs about people who have taken their own lives.

What I present to you here are 9 songs about suicide. I’m sure you have heard some of them before. Some are old, some are not so old. Some are popular and some maybe not. As I said before, it’s been on my mind and I got to get it out somehow.

Oh and when I say it’s been on my mind I mean the songs and not the act itself. So, if you were worried about me, it’s okay. I’m fine.

JEREMY-Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament)

On January 8, 1991 Jeremy Delle, a 16 year-old student walked out of his classroom at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas presumably to get a note from the admittance office after missing a class. On his return he walked directly to the front of the classroom and said “Miss, I got what I really went for.” He then placed a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. In his explanation for writing “Jeremy”, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder said that he felt “the need to take that small article (from the Dallas Morning News) and make something of it—to give that action, to give it reaction, to give it more importance.”

HURT-Johnny Cash (Trent Reznor)

An argument could be made that this is not a song about a man about to take his life; but about a man searching for a reason to live (If I could start again 
A million miles away 
I would keep myself 
I would find a way.) I’ve never heard the Nine Inch Nails version of the song. I never felt that I needed to; Mister Cash says it all so poignantly.

HEY MAN NICE SHOT-Filter (Richard Patrick)

Contrary to belief, this song is not about the 1994 suicide of Kurt Cobain; but is instead about the public suicide of Pennsylvania treasurer R. Budd Dwyer. Dwyer had been convicted of bribery and instead of facing a long sentence chose instead to take his life at a press conference with a .357 Magnum. I guess it goes to show that some people want to do the crime but they don’t want to do the time.

MAD WORLD-Gary Jules (Roland Orzabal)

I chose this version of Mad World for two reasons. One, I’m not a fan of Tears For Fears lead singer and bassist Kurt Smiths voice; two I heard this version first and I like the minimalist approach it takes to the song. Okay, that’s three reasons; but are you really counting? If you wonder if the song is about suicide the lyrics ‘the dreams of which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had‘ don’t sound like the words of a person who wants to live. The Jules version is from Donnie Darko. If you’ve never seen it I suggest you do.

I THINK I’M GOING TO KILL MYSELF-Elton John (Bernie Taupin)

Leave it to Elton John to record a song about suicide that you can boogie to. Frankly, the song is more about a teenager who threatens the act to get attention when he doesn’t get his way (I can’t use the car. I gotta be in by ten o’clock; who do they think are?). He does have one condition that will keep him from committing this horrific act; Brigitte Bardot gotta come and see me every night. Who knows, maybe he’ll hold his breath until he turns blue.

VINCENT (Starry Starry Night)-Don McLean (Don McLean)

It’s hard to believe that a song so beautiful can be about something so sad. McLean wrote this as a tribute to the artist Vincent Van Gogh. I don’t know what more there is to say.

FOR YOU-Bruce Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen)

Did you really think I wasn’t going to include a Springsteen song in here somewhere? I had to go way back into the vaults for this one as it’s from his first album Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey. The song is not so much about a suicide as it is about a man who will do everything he can to save this person.

ALICE-Tom Waits (Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan)

All of a sudden it’s become a cool thing to become a fan of Tom Waits. I got news for you; Tom Waits has always been cool; the rest of us just needed time to catch up. The first time I heard this song I listened to it at least fifty more times. In my humble opinion it is one of the most beautifully written and hauntingly arranged songs I have ever heard. Is it a song about a suicide? Yes and no. The song is a part of an Opera about Alice in Wonderland scribe Lewis Carroll; but apart from that a lyric like ‘How does the ocean rock the boat? How did the razor find my throat?’ take on an entirely new meaning.

ODE TO BILLIE JOE-Bobbie Gentry (Bobbie Gentry)

Now here is an example of a song that, while we are aware of what happened, we are not fully aware of why it happened. We know that Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge; what we don’t know is why he jumped. I believe that some things are better left to the imagination. I guess the producers of the 1976 movie based on the song don’t agree with me.

BADLANDS

BADLANDS-United States-1973

Martin Sheen as Kit

Sissy Spacek as Holly

Warren Oates as Father

Written and Directed by Terence Malick
This is one of those films that I agonize over. I know that when it comes time to review it that nothing I say will do it justice. My words will sound like complete bullshit and will fall off the page like a man hanging from a ledge by one fingernail.  This is the motion picture as pure art, lyrical in its storytelling and poetic in its imagery. The fact that it is a debut film makes it all the more astounding. Terrence Malick has crafted as beautiful and compelling a film about love, death and the loss of innocence as we are ever likely to see in this lifetime. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are superb as Kit and Holly. Kit is Charles Starkweather by way of James Dean; walking with the bravado of Brando and killing everyone in sight. Spacek is wide-eyed innocence onscreen; yet her voice betrays her as she narrates with the flat tone of a detailed confession. She is Natalie Wood, Bonnie Parker and Caril Ann Fugate all rolled up in a red-haired, freckle-faced package.

Badlands is the motion picture as National Treasure. Its influence has been felt through the years in films like Monster, True Romance and the highly underrated Kalifornia. The first lines of Bruce Springsteen‘s Nebraska are awash with imagery of the first meeting between Kit and Holly.

 

I saw her standing 

On her front lawn

Just a twirlin’ 

Her baton

I and she went

For a ride, sir

And ten innocent people died…

 

Yes, the song is about Starkweather, but the imagery is all Terrence Malick and Badlands.

Finally, and it should go without saying, Badlands is the motion picture as a masterpiece. I’m just going to leave it at that.

TRIVIA

The actor that originally had to play the man that rings at the rich man’s door did not show up, so Terrence Malick played it himself, although the intention was to use this part only temporarily.

Although Charlie Starkweather had been executed when the movie came up for production, Caril Fugate was still alive and facing parole, prompting the filmmakers to change the names of the principal characters to avoid a lawsuit.

Don Johnson auditioned for the part of Kit.

 

THE MONKEY’S PAW by W.W. Jacobs

THE MONKEY’S PAW by W.W. Jacobs

Published in 1902

Did you ever have a rabbit’s foot when you were a kid? I did. It wasn’t real, but it was supposed to bring good luck to whoever owned it. I’m sure at one time or another people carried real rabbit’s feet around. So I beg to differ about that whole good luck thing. The rabbit lost his foot, how lucky is that? It’s like Bruce Springsteen sang, ‘with very wish there comes a curse.’ That’s the whole idea behind the short storyThe Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs. A couple receives a mummified monkey’s paw that supposedly will grant its owner 3 wishes. The couple wishes for two hundred pounds so that they may pay their house loan. The next day their son is killed in a horrible industrial accident and for their compensation they receive the amount of, you guessed it, two hundred pounds.

But it doesn’t stop there. The mother obviously has not learned her lesson. For she thinks, “If this monkey’s paw can give us this money, then it can return our boy to us!” Well now, she’s right, it can return him to his loving parents. The thing is he’s messed up bad. He’s messed up in the ‘dad could only identify him by his clothing’ way. But being a husband who loves his wife and doesn’t want to see her grieving, he finds the paw and wishes their boy alive again. Then there is a knock on the door. Is it him? Is it their son? The woman rushes to the door! The husband knows that he can’t allow her to see her son in this condition and finds the paw yet again and just before she flings the door open he wishes his final wish. The knocking stops as the wife opens the door to the emptiness of the night.

It’s funny, W.W. Jacobs was known throughout his career for being a writer of humor. But can you, off the top of your head, name any other story that the man wrote? I sure as hell can’t. The Monkey’s Paw has been around for so long and has been adapted and parodied in so many ways that it has become a landmark of the horror short story. Everybody from the Simpsons to the late Warren Zevon has paid homage to this story in one way or another.

So, if I had a monkey’s paw in my pocket that would grant you three wishes. Would you take it? Think hard before you make your decision. For some reason you decide yes, then be careful what you wish for. Who knows, you might just get it.

Boredom at Point Zero

CSI would have determined that Humpty Dumpty was indeed pushed. They would also made sure that no one moved the body (i.e. tried to put Humpty together again) until a full forensic investigation could be made.

If you are what you eat, what does that make porn stars?

King Solomon had 700 official wives and 300 concubines. Poor guy. That means he had a 1000 mother-in-laws.

Here’s a stolen joke (what joke isn’t?) Why do shepherds wear flowing robes? Because a sheep can hear a zipper a mile away.

I glued a cotton ball and construction paper bunny ears to my guinea pig. I can’t afford both.

Dear PETA, just kidding about the above comment. I would never glue a cotton ball and construction paper bunny ears to my guinea pig.

It was my hamster.

I like to test out the validity of a rumor. So I went into a pet store the other day and stood by the gerbils. I shouted “Look! It’s Richard Gere‘s bottom!” Poor little guys fainted on the spot.

Mary had a little lamb/It’s fleece was white as snow/And everywhere that Mary went/ The lamb was sure to go/Which is why her husband stuck a GPS on it and caught her at the Motel Six with her boyfriend.

The new Tom Waits album will be out very soon. I’m as excited as a homeless man on a talent show.

Bruce Springsteen was right; it does take a red headed woman to get a dirty job done. That’s why I married one. Be jealous!

A friend of mine asked me the other day “If you could have sex with any MILF, who would it be?” I said Miss Piggy. Well, how was I to know the M stood for Mom, not Muppet?

Later, folks! Take care and stay scared!!

Hangman,Hangman:13 Songs about the Death Penalty

Everybody has an opinion about the death penalty and that opinion swings but two ways; you are either for it or you are against it. The list of songs that I feature here does the same thing, or at least I hope they do in their own way. I tried to make as diverse a list as possible and not have too many that swung the opinion one way or the other. With the exception of “I’m Not the Man” by 10, 000 Maniacs and The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave, I’ve heard all the songs at least once at one point or another in my life. I chose the number of songs to be 13 for obvious reasons. If you enjoy this post and have any more to add to it I will gladly seek them out and do just that.

Gallows Pole-Led Zeppelin (Traditional)

This is a centuries old song that appears to have been originally titled “The Maid Freed from the Gallows”. The song is about a condemned person who begs for the hangman to wait for his/her friends/family to arrive to bring the hangman a bribe to set them free.

Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
I Think I see my friends coming, Riding a many mile.
Friends, you get some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my dear friends? Keep me from the Gallows Pole.
What did you bring me to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

I couldn’t get no silver, I couldn’t get no gold,
You know that we’re too damn poor to keep you from the Gallows Pole.
Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
I think I see my brother coming, riding many a mile.
Brother, you get me some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my brother, to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

Brother, I brought you some silver, yeah.
I brought a little gold, I brought a little of everything
to keep you from the Gallows Pole.
Yes, I brought you to keep you from the Gallows Pole.

Hangman, hangman, turn your head awhile,
I think I see my sister coming, riding many mile, mile, mile.
Sister, I implore you, take him by the hand,
Take him to some shady bower, save me from the wrath of this man,
Please take him, save me from the wrath of this mad, man.

Hangman, hangman, upon your face a smile,
Tell me that I’m free to ride,
Ride for many mile, mile, mile.

Oh yes, you got a fine sister, She warmed my blood from cold,
She warmed my blood to boiling hot to keep you from the Gallows Pole,
Your brother brought me silver, Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard, see you swinging from the Gallows Pole

But now I laugh and pull so hard, see you swinging from the Gallows Pole
Swingin’ on the gallows pole!

Ah-ha-ha
Swingin’
Swingin’ on the gallows pole!
See-saw marjory daw
See-saw knock at my door

25 Minutes to Go-Johnny Cash (Shel Silverstein)

This song was first covered by Cash on his Sings the Ballads of the True West and later on his masterful At Folsom Prison. The song is gallows humor at its all time best. It literally details the last minutes of a man’s life before his execution by hanging.

Well they’re building a gallows outside my cell I’ve got 25 minutes to go
And the whole town’s waitin’ just to hear me yell I’ve got 24 minutes to go
Well they gave me some beans for my last meal I’ve got 23 minutes to go
But nobody asked me how I feel I’ve got 22 minutes to go
Well I sent for the governor and the whole dern bunch with 21 minutes to go
And I sent for the mayor but he’s out to lunch I’ve got 20 more minutes to go
Then the sheriff said boy I gonna watch you die got 19 minutes to go
So I laughed in his face and I spit in his eye got 18 minutes to go
Now here comes the preacher for to save my soul with 13 minutes to go
And he’s talking bout’ burnin’ but I’m so cold I’ve 12 more minutes to go
Now they’re testin’ the trap and it chills my spine 11 more minutes to go
And the trap and the rope aw they work just fine got 10 more minutes to go
Well I’m waitin’ on the pardon that’ll set me free with 9 more minutes to go
But this is for real so forget about me got 8 more minutes to go
With my feet on the trap and my head in the noose got 5 more minutes to go
Won’t somebody come and cut me loose with 4 more minutes to go
I can see the mountains I can see the skies with 3 more minutes to go
And it’s to dern pretty for a man that don’t wanna die 2 more minutes to go
I can see the buzzards I can hear the crows 1 more minute to go
And now I’m swingin’ and here I go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!

The Long Black Veil-The Band (Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin)

The Long Black Veil has got to be one of the most hauntingly sad songs ever written. Originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell in 1959, it has become a country music standard and has been covered by everyone from Mike Nesmith to Bruce Springsteen. The first time I heard the song, and fell in love with those sad lyrics, was the John Anderson version from his album Wild and Blue. The version I feature here is by the legendary The Band. Rick Danko’s voice as he sings of a man who would rather die than for his best friend to know a terrible secret sends a chill through my bones.

Ten years ago on a cool dark night
There was someone killed ‘neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene and they all did agree
That the man who ran looked a lot like me

The judge said “Son, what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else then you won’t have to die”
I spoke not a word although it meant my life
I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

The scaffold was high and eternity neared
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night when the cold wind moans
In a long black veil she cries over my bones

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

Johnny 99-Bruce Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen)

I always wondered if Bruce Springsteen wasn’t inspired by the crimes of Gary Gilmore when he wrote this song. The main character, Ralph, murders a night clerk and is sentenced to die. Gilmore murdered a gas station attendant and a motel clerk and was sentenced to die. Both men request to be executed rather than rot away in prison. The song was covered by Johnny Cash and was the title of his 1983 album. The original version by Springsteen appeared on his stripped down masterpiece Nebraska. 

Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late that month
Ralph went out lookin’ for a job but he couldn’t find none
He came home too drunk from mixin’Tanqueray and wine
He got a gun shot a night clerk now they call’m Johnny 99

Down in the part of town where when you hit a red light you don’t stop
Johnny’s wavin’ his gun around and threatenin’ to blow his top
When an off duty cop snuck up on him from behind
Out in front of the Club Tip Top they slapped the cuffs on Johnny 99

Well the city supplied a public defender but the judge was Mean John Brown
He came into the courtroom and stared young Johnny down
Well the evidence is clear gonna let the sentence son fit the crime
Prison for 98 and a year and we’ll call it even Johnny 99

A fistfight broke out in the courtroom they had to drag Johnny’s girl away
His mama stood up and shouted “Judge don’t take my boy this way”
Well son you got a statement you’d like to make
Before the bailiff comes to forever take you away

Now judge judge I had debts no honest man could pay
The bank was holdin’ my mortgage and they was takin’ my house away
Now I ain’t sayin’ that makes me an innocent man
But it was more ‘n all this that put that gun in my hand

Well your honor I do believe I’d be better off dead
and if you can take a man’s life for the thoughts that’s in his head
then won’t you sit back in that chair and think it over judge one more time
and let ‘em shave off my hair and put me on that execution line

The Mercy Seat-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Nick Cave and Mick Harvey)

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that, up to a few weeks ago, I had never heard of this song. But as I was doing a search for songs about capital punishment this was one of the first songs mentioned. The Mercy Seat within the song is of two places; the electric chair where this man will be put to death, and the Throne of God where he will stand before Him. There are several Biblical references within the song. I don’t really know what more to say about it except that I wish I had heard it a long time ago.

It began when they come took me from my home
and put me in Dead Row,
of which I am nearly wholly innocent, you know.
And I’ll say it again
I..am..not..afraid..to..die.

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner meals
The meal trolley’s wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
All things either good or ungood.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I’m yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth.
An eye for an eye
A tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I’m not afraid to die.

Interpret signs and catalogue
A blackened tooth, a scarlet fog.
The walls are bad. Black. Bottom kind.
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath at my hind
They are sick breath gathering at my hind

I hear stories from the chamber
How Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
Died upon the cross
And might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that’s what I’m told

Like my good hand I
tatooed E.V.I.L. across it’s brother’s fist
That filthy five! They did nothing to challenge or resist.

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of his Testament is stowed
A throne from which I’m told
All history does unfold.
Down here it’s made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away.

Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And anyway I never lied.

My kill-hand is called E.V.I.L.
Wears a wedding band that’s G.O.O.D.
`Tis a long-suffering shackle
Collaring all that rebel blood.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I’m yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I’m not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I’m hoping
To be done with all this weighing up of truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And I’ve got nothing left to lose
And I’m not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smoking
And in a way I’m hoping
To be done with all this looks of disbelief.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway there was no proof
Nor a motive why.

And the mercy seat is smoking
And I think my head is melting
And in a way I’m helping
To be done with all this twisted of the truth.
A lie for a lie
And a truth for a truth
And I’ve got nothing left to lose
And I’m not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is melting
And I think my blood is boiling
And in a way I’m spoiling
All the fun with all this truth and consequence.
An eye for an eye
And a truth for a truth
And anyway I told the truth
And I’m not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I’m yearning
To be done with all this measuring of proof.
A life for a life
And a truth for a truth
And anyway there was no proof
But I’m not afraid to tell a lie.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I’m yearning
To be done with all this measuring of truth.
An eye for an eye
And a truth for a truth
And anyway I told the truth
But I’m afraid I told a lie.

I’m Not the Man-10,000 Maniacs (Natalie Merchant)

This song has some good lyrics. The only thing is that the music and the singing make me think of Bananarama on Quaaludes. The song is one of those “I was framed, somebody is going free while I swing from the rope” songs. Merchant throws in a reference to the KKK, giving it an edge of racism. If I heard this song on American Bandstand I would say “Well, Dick, it’s got some catchy words, but I’d rather take a nap than dance to it.” By the way, would a song about a man being hanged fall under the classification of ‘swing music’?

It crawls on his back, won’t ever let him be.
Stares at the walls until the cinder blocks can breathe.
His eyes have gone away, escaping over time.
He rules a crowded nation inside his mind.

He knows that night like his hand.
He knows every move he made.
Late shift, the bell that rang, a time card won’t fade.
10:05 his truck pulled home.
10:05 he climbed his stair, about the time he was accused of being there.

But I’m not the man.
He goes free as I wait on the row for the man to test the rope he’ll slip around my throat…
and silence me.

On the day he was tried no witnesses testified.
Nothing but evidence, not hard to falsify.
His own confession was a prosecutor’s prize,
made up of fear, of rage and of outright lies.

But I’m not the man.
He goes free as the candle vigil glows, as they burn my clothes.
As the crowd cries, “Hang him slow!” and I feel my blood go cold, he goes free.

Call out the KKK, they’re wild after me.
And with that frenzied look of half-demented zeal,
they’d love to serve me up my final meal.
Who’ll read my final rite and hear my last appeal?
Who struck this devil’s deal?

Let Him Dangle-Elvis Costello (Declan McManus)

Let me get this straight; Derek Bentley was a simple-minded (mentally retarded?) 18 year old boy who didn’t pull the trigger. Am I right so far? Christopher Craig was a 16 year old hoodlum who did pull the trigger because Bentley said “Let him have it, Chris!” Craig was too young to hang, so basically in a case of one hand washing the other Bentley took his place. I learned of this case from the film Let Him Have It, directed by Peter Medak. When I heard the song and read the lyrics on Elvis Costello’s Spike, I shouted out “Let him have it! I know what this is about!” Derek Bentley was hanged in 1953 for the crime, but was fully pardoned in 1998. Too little, too late.

Bentley said to Craig Let him have it Chris
They still don’t know today just what he meant
by this
Craig fired the pistol, but was too young to swing
So the police took Bentley and the very next thing
Let him dangle
Let him dangle
Bentley had surrendered, he was under arrest,
when he gave Chris Craig that fatal request
Craig shot Sidney Miles, he took Bentley’s word
The prosecution claimed as they charged them
with murder
Let him dangle
Let him dangle
They say Derek Bentley was easily led
Well what’s that to the woman that Sidney
Miles wed
Though guilty was the verdict, and Craig had
shot him dead
The gallows were for Bentley and still she
never said
Let him dangle
Let him dangle
Well it’s hard to imagine it’s the times that
have changed
When there’s a murder in the kitchen that is
brutal and strange
If killing anybody is a terrible crime
Why does this bloodthirsty chorus come round
from time to time
Let him dangle
Not many people thought that Bentley would
hang
But the word never came, the phone never rang
Outside Wandsworth Prison there was horror
and hate
As the hangman shook Bentley’s hand to
calculate his weight
Let him dangle
From a welfare state to society murder
Bring back the noose is always heard
Whenever those swine are under attack
But it won’t make you even
It won’t bring him back
Let him dangle
Let him dangle (String him up)

The Fall of Troy-Tom Waits (Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan)

Tom Waits is the only artist I know who can write and sing a death penalty song without actually mentioning anything to do with capital punishment itself. From what I can surmise, the song is more about the effect of the crime and the punishment on the families of the criminals and the victims. If anyone gets any different meaning out of this I would love to hear it.

It’s the same with men as with horses and dogs
Nothing wants to die
Evelyn James they killed in a game
With guns too big for their hands
Just off St. Charles in no man’s land
And you’ll have to find your own way home, boys
You’ll have to find your own way home

The oldest was Troy, an eighteen year old boy
Shot dead in March in a robbery
His brother started out to hell and to ruin
Troy’s killer was never caught, they say
Young Nick, he just went bad that day
Now he’ll have to find his own way home, boys
He’ll have to find his own way home

Why cook dinner, why make my bed
Why come home at all?
Out the door and through the woods
There’s a world where nothing grows

It’s hard to say grace and to sit in the place
Of someone missing at the table
Mom’s hair sprayed tight and her face in her hands
Watching TV for answers to me
After all she’s only human
And she’s trying to find her own way home, boys
She’s trying to find her own way home

My legs ache
my heart is sore
The well is full of pennies

Ellis Unit One-Steve Earle (Steve Earle)

I originally heard this song on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. Earle is a very outspoken opponent of the death penalty and this song, along with his Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)is one of his strongest statements. I’ve been a fan of Earle’s for quite a long time and this is one of my favorite songs of his. I may not share his philosophies, but like the saying goes I will defend his right to those philosophies.

I was fresh out of the service
It was back in ‘82
I raised some Cain when I come back to town
I left to be all I could be
Come home without a clue
Now, I married Dawn and had to settle down

So I hired on at the prison
Guess I always knew I would
Just like my dad and both my uncles done
And I worked on every cell block
Now, things’re goin’ good
But then they transferred me to Ellis Unit One

Swing low
Swing low
Swing low and carry me home

Well, my daddy used to talk about them long nights at the walls
And how they used to strap ‘em in the chair
The kids down from the college and they’d bring their beer ‘n all
‘N when the lights went out, a cheer rose in the air

Well, folks just got too civilized
Sparky’s gatherin’ dust
‘Cause no one wants to touch a smokin’ gun
And since they got the injection
They don’t mind as much, I guess
They just put ‘em down at Ellis Unit One

Swing low
Swing low
Swing low and carry me home

Well, I’ve seen ‘em fight like lions, boys
I’ve seen ‘em go like lambs
And I’ve helped to drag ‘em when they could not stand
And I’ve heard their mamas cryin’ when they heard that big door slam
And I’ve seen the victim’s family holdin’ hands

Last night I dreamed that I woke up with straps across my chest
And something cold and black pullin’ through my lungs
‘N even Jesus couldn’t save me though I know he did his best
But he don’t live on Ellis Unit One

Swing low
Swing low
Swing low and carry me home
Swing low
Don’t let go
Swing low and carry me home

Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)-Steve Earle (Steve Earle)

A companion piece to Earle’s Ellis Unit One. Enough said.

The warden said he’d mail my letter
The chaplain’s waitin’ by the door
Tonight we’ll cross the yard together
Then they can’t hurt me anymore.

I am going over yonder
Where no ghost can follow me
There’s another place beyond here
Where I’ll be free I believe.

Give my radio to Johnson
Thibodeaux can have my fan
Send my Bible home to Mama
Call her every now and then.

I suppose I got it comin’
I can’t ever pay enough
All my rippin’ and a runnin’
I hurt everyone I loved.

The world’ll turn around without me
The sun’ll come up in the east
Shinin’ down on all of them that hate me
I hope my goin’ brings ‘em peace.

The Long Road-Eddie Vedder with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Eddie Vedder)

Okay, so I take back what I said earlier about Tom Waits. Apparently Eddie Vedder can write a song about the death penalty without actually mentioning it, too. This is also from the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. I’m not a big Pearl Jam fan, but I do feel that this is some of Vedder’s best singing.

And I wished for so long, cannot stay…
All the precious moments, cannot stay…
It’s not like wings have fallen, cannot stay…
But I feel something’s missing, cannot say…

Holding hands are daughters and sons
And their faiths just falling down, down, down, down…
I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today

We all walk the long road. Cannot stay…
There’s no need to say goodbye…
All the friends and family
All the memories going round, round, round, round
I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today

And the wind keeps roaring
And the sky keeps turning gray
And the sun is set
The sun will rise another day…

We all walk the long road. Cannot stay…
There’s no need to say goodbye…
All the friends and family
All the memories going round, round, round, round
I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today
How I’ve wished for so long
How I wish for you today

We all walk the long road

Sing Me Back Home-Merle Haggard (Merle Haggard)

A condemned man longs for the good old days once again. This is probably Haggard’s most well known song. All I know is that there was no damn way I could write a post about death penalty songs and not include this one. Karaoke nearly ruined the song for me as every redneck in a five mile radius had to put his or her spin on it. It’s like a friend of mine said when Run-DMC covered Walk This Way: You don’t f**k with a classic.

The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom
I stood up to say good-bye like all the rest
And I heard him tell the warden just before he reached my cell
‘Let my guitar playing friend do my request.’ (Let him…)

Sing me back home with a song I used to hear
And make my old memories come alive
And take me away and turn back the years
And sing Me Back Home before I die

I recall last Sunday morning a choir from ‘cross the street
Came in to sing a few old gospel songs
And I heard him tell the singers ‘There’s a song my mama sang.
Could I hear once before you move along?’

Let him sing me back home, with the song I used to hear
And make my old memories come alive
And take me away and turn back the years
And sing Me Back Home before I die

Sing Me Back Home before I die

Sing Me Back Home before I die

THE Green,Green Grass of Home-Tom Jones (Claude ‘Curly’ Putnam, Jr,)

Have you ever read An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce? It’s about a Confederate sympathizer sentenced to hang. Suddenly, he is free and running for home. As he runs to the loving arms of his wife he feels a jerk and a snap of his neck. He was never free. It was his life as he longed for it to be flashing before his eyes. This song could easily be the lyrical companion to the story.

The old home town looks the same as I step down from the train,
and there to meet me is my Mama and Papa.
Down the road I look and there runs Mary hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It’s good to touch the green, green, grass of home.
The old house is still standing, tho’ the paint is cracked and dry,
and there’s that old oak tree that I used to play on.

Down the lane I walk with my sweet Mary, hair of gold and lips like cherries.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.

[spoken:]

Then I awake and look around me, at the four grey walls that surround me
and I realize, yes, I was only dreaming.
For there’s a guard and there’s a sad old padre -
arm in arm we’ll walk at daybreak.
Again I touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree
as they lay me neath the green, green grass of home.

7 Songs About Murderers and Serial Killers

Hello, boys and girls. This is your Uncle John coming at ya with a little history lesson. Now, me being who I am, and me being the way I am, I’m sure you can understand that this not your ordinary history lesson. This is a history lesson of the dead, the murdered, and the snuffed. It is a history lesson set to rock and roll in its many forms. Bruce is here, as are Harry and Elliott. Hell, even the Police get in on the shenanigans. So gather ’round the campfire, you little ankle biters. Who knows, you might learn something. I always wanted to say that.

NEBRASKA-Bruce Springsteen

From December 1st, 1957 t0 January 29, 1958 Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate went on a killing spree across Nebraska and Wyoming that left 11 people dead. Starkweather was executed by electric chair on June 25, 1959. Fugate served 17 years and was paroled in 1976. In 1982, inspired by Terence Malick’s Badlands and by the writing of Flannery O’Connor, Bruce Springsteen told the chilling tale of Starkweather in a bleak and desolate masterpiece, Nebraska. Springsteen tells the story from the eyes of the condemned, Starkweather himself. He gives no reason for his actions except to say that he and Caril had ‘fun’ and there’s ‘meanness in this world.’

THE MIDNIGHT RAMBLER-The Rolling Stones

From their 1969 album Let It Bleed is this little ditty by The Rolling Stones. The song is inspired by the real life serial killer Albert DeSalvo aka The Boston Strangler. Between June 14th, 1962 and January 4th, 1964 DeSalvo left Boston with 13 women, ages 19-85, dead. As justice is poetic, DeSalvo was stabbed to death in prison in 1973. The Rolling Stones reportedly took quotes from DeSalvo’s confession and incorporated it into the song.

SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN-The Smiths

If one were to look up ‘evil’ in the dictionary they would surely find a picture of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. From July 12th, 1963 to October 6th, 1965 these two sub-human wastes of space murdered 5 children between the ages of 10 and 17. Suffer Little Children is not metaphorical in any way as mentions the deceased by name and is actually sung from the point of view of the murdered. Originally the victims’ families took offense to the song, but lead singer and songwriter Morrissey explained to Ann West, the mother of Leslie-Anne Downey that the song was a sign of compassion.  Below is a copy of the lyrics. If this doesn’t haunt you, then you’ve got ice in your veins.

Suffer Little Children by Morrissey and Johnny Marr

Over the moor, take me to the moor
Dig a shallow grave
And I’ll lay me down

Over the moor, take me to the moor
Dig a shallow grave
And I’ll lay me down

Lesley-Anne, with your pretty white beads 
Oh John, you’ll never be a man 
And you’ll never see your home again 
Oh Manchester, so much to answer for

Edward, see those alluring lights ? 
Tonight will be your very last night 

A woman said : “I know my son is dead
I’ll never rest my hands on his sacred head”

Hindley wakes and Hindley says :
Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, and says :
“Oh, wherever he has gone, I have gone”

But fresh lilaced moorland fields
Cannot hide the stolid stench of death
Fresh lilaced moorland fields
Cannot hide the stolid stench of death

Hindley wakes and says :
Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, and says :
“Oh, whatever he has done, I have done”

But this is no easy ride 
For a child cries : 

“Oh, find me … find me, nothing more 
We are on a sullen misty moor
We may be dead and we may be gone 
But we will be, we will be, we will be, right by your side 
Until the day you die 
This is no easy ride 
We will haunt you when you laugh 
Yes, you could say we’re a team 
You might sleep 
You might sleep 
You might sleep 
but you will never dream ! 
Oh, you might sleep 
but you will never dream ! 
You might sleep 
but you will never dream !” 

Oh Manchester, so much to answer for
Oh Manchester, so much to answer for

Oh, find me, find me !
Find me !
I’ll haunt you when you laugh
Oh, I’ll haunt you when you laugh
You might sleep
but you will never dream !
Oh …
Over the moors, I’m on the moor
Oh, over the moor
Oh, the child is on the moor

SNIPER-Harry Chapin

We come now to one of those songs where the names have been changed to protect the deceased. Clocking in at 9 minutes and 55 seconds, the late Harry Chapin’s take on the murderous endeavors of Charles Whitman is as chilling as they come. For those of you too young to remember, Whitman was the guy who climbed the tower at the University of Texas at Austin on August 1st, 1966. Opening fire, Whitman left 16 people dead and 32 others wounded before being shot to death by police. What? Did you think Chapin only sang about Cats, Cradles and Taxis?

BRING ON THE NIGHT-The Police

What the hell do you say to a guy who wants to be executed? Do you tell him ‘Yes sir, right away, sir’ or do you make him wait? That’s the question that Gary Gilmore imposed on the state of Utah when he asked to be shot through the heart for the murders of Max Jensen and Bennie Bushnell on July 19th-20th, 1976. Utah finally complied with his wishes on January 17th, 1977. Though he is never mentioned in the song, lead singer cum bass player cum songwriter Sting has indeed said that Bring on the Night is about Gilmore.

SON OF SAM-Elliott Smith

This song is too upbeat for its subject matter. That’s not a complaint, mind you. The cheeriness makes it all the more eerie. David Berkowitz was a bad man with a gun and voices in his crazy little head. He claimed that a talking dog led him to murder six people from July 29th, 1976 to July 31st, 1977. He is serving six consecutive life terms at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York.

I DON”T LIKE MONDAYS-The Boomtown Rats

Brenda Ann Spencer may go down in history as giving the most honest reason for killing 2 people and injuring 9 others. On January 29th, 1979 Spencer opened fire from her home on the Grover Cleveland elementary school. When she was finally arrested Spencer, showing no remorse, gave the excuse “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.” She was 16 years old. Led by Bob “Live Aid” Geldof, The Boomtown Rats took Spencer’s famous quote and turned it into their biggest hit.

So there you have it, kids. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip. Maybe we can do it again, sometime.

Rosalita

My tarantula died the other day. She was a Chilean Rose-hair tarantula. I had always said that she was the most well-behaved animal in my home and to be honest I was only half joking. She was by far one of the gentlest animals I have ever seen. I would pick her up and she would walk as I did the hand in front of hand trick. Sometimes I would go too fast and she would slip. I know it scared her and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she bit the shit out of me. She never did, though. She always took things in stride. I named her Rosalita after the song by Bruce Springsteen. She was a gentle soul who helped keep me calm. She was a good spider and was as much a part of our family as our dogs and cats. I’m going to miss her.

The sweetest tarantula that ever lived. Unless you were a cricket.

I don’t smile much. But trust me, Rosalita is smiling from fang to fang. 

Horror In Song-Scratching the Surface

Alice (album)

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone ever heard the song “Poor Edward” by Tom Waits? If you have, then you know just how eerie it is. The song is about a man with a woman’s face growing out of the back of his head. He can’t remove it, for it would kill him. So, in the end…

Finally the bell tolled his doom
He took a suite of rooms
And hung himself and her from the balcony irons
Some still believe he was freed from her
But I knew her too well
I say she drove him to suicide
And took poor Edward to hell

If you don’t believe me when I say this is some  spooky shit, then just listen to the song. Poor Edward by Tom Waits

Whats He Building is another of Waits’ excursion into the realm of the eerie and the creepy. Just what is he building in there? Whatever it is, it can’t be good…

Now what’s that sound from underneath the door?
He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor
And I swear to God I heard someone moaning low

We’re really not sure what he’s doing. Even the music clangles and clatters and makes odd sorts of sounds as if even it is unsure and unknowledgeable about what’s going on. What the hell is he building in there?

Of course, you can’t write about horror in song without mentioning Alice Cooper. All you have to do is listen to his album “Welcome to My Nightmare” to know the guy deserves a spot in the Horror Hall of Fame. The album is about a child named Steven and the nightmares he experiences. The nightmares drive him insane; the songs are a guide on his journey into madness.

Welcome to my nightmare, I think you’re gonna like it, I think you’re gonna feel you belong.
A nocturnal vacation, unnecessary sedation, you want to feel at home ’cause you belong.
Welcome to my nightmare whoa, ho, ho, ho…

The title song sets the pace for the rest of the album…Welcome to My Nightmare by Alice Cooper

“Black Widow”, “Cold Ethyl” and “Only Women Bleed” are standout tracks that guide us ever further into the journey through Steven’s mind. Black Widow  features a spoken word segment by none other than Mr. Vincent Price. How’s that for horror?

Sometimes horror in song takes an even more humorous bent. Warren Zevon‘s classic Werewolves of London is a gleeful song about a lycanthropic individual ‘with a Chinese menu in his hand’ as he’s howling around your kitchen door’. When Zevon sings that a ‘little old lady got mutilated late last night’ there is a slightly uncomfortable enthusiasm in his voice. What’s interesting is that the song is a metaphor for addiction and the effects it has on the life of the addict and his loved ones. Zevon himself suffered from alcoholism off and on throughout his adult life, so the werewolf he sings about is probably him.

Speaking of werewolves. how about

Mama knows there’s something strange about her boy, Billy. Papa doesn’t want to listen at first; but when Mama tells him about the farmer losing a few of his sheep and seeing Billy on the hill ‘just screaming at the moonlight’, Papa knows he better get off his ass and take action. Mama is torn between her husband’s safety and the eternal destiny of Billy’s soul as she says ‘Papa, I beg you don’t kill him. ‘Cause I just can’t stand to think about my baby in hell.’ Luckily Papa has more sense than to let this monstrosity live to kill another night.

These songs are just one decapitated head in the basket. There are hundred of songs out there that have that element of eerie and that cadence of creepy:

A Night With The Jersey Devil by Bruce Springsteen-who else but Jersey’s greatest rock and roller to sing about Jersey’s favorite urban legend.

Timothy by The Buoys. I remember this song growing up. Timothy makes it out of the mine, only it’s within the belly of the narrator and Joe. Yep, they ate him.

Angie Baby by Helen Reddy-If you thought this song was a safe little piece of AM radio fluff, listen again. What exactly happens to that ‘neighbor boy with evil on his mind.’? The singer Helen Reddy and the songwriter Alan O’Day aren’t telling.

Last but not least, I leave you with the tale of Frankie Teardrop by Suicide. Put on your earphones, turn off the lights and turn up the volume and prepare yourself for a trip into despair, madness and finally into hell itself. Poor Frankie.

Take care and stay scared, everybody!!

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