Remember when Rudolph went to the Island of Misfit Toys? That was pretty fun, right? But ya know what would be even more fun? If instead of toys it was a bunch of New Jersey punk rockers in skeleton prints singing songs about horror movies! December is one of the top twelve months of the year to listen to Horrorpunk music, and that entire subgenre owes a debt of gratitude to The Misfits, the group that started it all.
So let’s talk Misfits. There are three eras of the band, each marked by a different lead singer, and countless blood and ink has been spilled over the relative merits of each era. I’m a serious journalist though, so I won’t be wading into the murky waters of music opinions. I’m just going to give you the facts. The original incarnation of the band was led by Glenn Danzig, and it’s the best one. In the 90s, they resurrected with Michale Graves on lead vocals. A few years after that, bassist and copyright-holder Jerry Only took over singing duties. I guess technically we’re in the reunion era now, with Danzig joining his former bandmates and freaking Dave Lombardo from Slayer on drums, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be releasing new music or anything.
Even before we get into song titles, let’s cover some general ground. The band’s name is pulled from the last Marilyn Monroe movie, The Misfits (1961). Additionally, the band’s logo/mascot (a real spooky ghoul) is the titular antagonist of a film serial called The Crimson Ghost (1946).
The classic Misfits era, right at the birth of this whole “punk rock” thing, featured straightforward punk rock instrumentation augmented by Danzig’s distinctive baritone and audience-friendly gang vocals.
These songs were named after mostly horror movies, but also some war flicks: Return of the Fly (1959), Hollywood Babylon (1972), Where Eagles Dare (1968), Die! Die! My Darling! (1965), Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Brain Eaters (1958), Green Hell (1940), and Blood Feast (1960).
It would have been a huge mistake for 90s Misfits to stick to the same formula as the Danzig-era classics. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice, or whatever the expression is. Instead, new vocalist Michale Graves howled over riffier, more metal-influenced songs. Pretty much all of the songs were about horror movies too, instead of throwing tracks about JFK and Patty Hearst into the mix.
These songs include (deep breath) Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), The Hunger (1983), From Hell They Came (1957), This Island Earth (1955), The Crimson Ghost (1946), Day of the Dead (1985), The Haunting (1963), Mars Attacks! (1996, though this one is more likely about the 1960s trading cards than the Tim Burton film), Shining (1980, though this track is about 1982’s Poltergeist), Forbidden Zone (1982), The Crawling Eye (1958), Scream! (1996), Pumpkinhead (1988), Die, Monster, Die (1965), Them! (1954), Devil Doll (1964), and Fiend Without A Face (1958).
Original bassist Jerry Only has served as the lead singer of the band for years, filling out the rest of the band with members of legendary punk bands including The Ramones, Black Flag, and Murphy’s Law. These songs are musically similar to the Graves era, with Only doing his best Elvis Presley impression on top of it all. Songs from this era that are also the titles of movies include Land of the Dead (2005), The Devil’s Rain (1975), The Black Hole (1979), Jack the Ripper (1976), The Monkey’s Paw (1933), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Friday the 13th (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Mad Monster Party? (1967). It’s also worth noting that this iteration of the band released a holiday EP, Horror Xmas, which featured a track called Island of Misfit Toys. And that, my dear fiends, is the only reason I’ve given you this list of Misfits songs right in the middle of freaking winter. Scary Christmas!
One word of warning: if you’re putting together a playlist of all these tracks, go chronologically. Otherwise, you risk putting a Danzig song right next to an Only song, and the juxtaposition can be very unpleasant. I know everybody has different tastes, but I don’t think anyone would put Night of the Living Dead next to Land of the Dead and say, “Ah, yes. These two songs are similar and similarly good to me.” You’ve been warned!
For more educational articles that aren’t about specific horror movies, check out my primers on ornithology and marine biology. To keep up with rest of the Fiend Club, follow Nightmare on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group. And for more horror business, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.