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Best Disturbing Songs

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This subjective list, focusing more on lyrics than on music, is in no particular order.

1. “Hurt” – Nine Inch Nails

Covered by Johnny Cash, I get a shiver each time I hear this song so full of despair and pain with classic lines like “everyone I know goes away in the end.”

The song has taken on added meaning as the last hit of Johnny Cash before he died, with a harrowing video made not long before Cash’s wife, June, died. The video went on to win a Grammy.

Best verse:

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hold
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

2. “World Destruction” by Time Zone

This song is much less well known but I used to request this to dance to while in high school. It’s sung by Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon of Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited fame.

It’s got a good beat, you can dance to it and the lyrics name-drop Nostradamus, talk about third-world governments, brainwashing and other issues.

My favorite line: “Fascist, chauvinistic government fools.”

My favorite moment, when Bambaataa asks: “Who wants to be a president or king?” and Lydon shouts, “Me!”

This from the same guy who sang “God save the queen, the fascist regime” while leading the Sex Pistols.

3. “Family Snapshot” by Peter Gabriel

This song captivates and engages me every time I hear it and I’ve listened to it hundreds of times.
This is a song about an assassin waiting for the president to drive by so he can kill him:

The streets are lined with camera crews
Everywhere he goes is news
Today is different
Today is not the same
Today I make the action
Take snapshot into the light, snapshot into the light
I’m shooting into the light

The music speeds up as the moment of violence comes closer…

They’re coming ’round the corner with the bikers at the front
I’m wiping the sweat from my eyes
-It’s a matter of time
-It’s a matter of will
And the governor’s car is not far behind
He’s not the one I’ve got in mind

And then the music slows down again at the key moment:

Holding my breath
Release the catch
And I let the bullet fly

The listener can imagine the visual slow motion as he shifts from his actions to possible causes of his distress:

All turned quiet-I have been here before
Lonely boy hiding behind the front door
Friends have all gone home
There’s my toy gun on the floor
Come back Mum and Dad
You’re growing apart
You know that I’m growing up sad
I need some attention
I shoot into the light

4. “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats

Speaking of possible causes of action, this song’s title comes from a famous exchange. Asked why she went on a 1979 shooting spree at a San Diego elementary school 16-year-old killer Brenda Ann Spencer famously said, “I Don’t Like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

All the playing’s stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while.
And school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die.
And then the bullhorn crackles,
And the captain crackles,
With the problems and the how’s and why’s.
And he can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die?

I remember the song’s catchy chorus was stuck in my head on a day when I had a college English assignment to write about three songs that were on my mind. I wrote about this song. The teacher never treated me quite the same after that, perhaps thinking me psycho by association.

I did not realize, until reading the Wikipedia link above, that Spencer has been in prison since 1979 in Corona, Cal. I spent the first 25 years of my life living and working in that region, including for a newspaper in Corona.

5. “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd

As with Hurt, this song packs so much emotion into such a short period of time that one can’t easily listen to it without being affected. I know I never am.
The song, from the Wall, includes these lyrics:

When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

“Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash (mostly for the classic line of “I shot
a man in Reno just to watch him die)

“Intruder” – Peter Gabriel – What can I say? Gabriel has a gift for getting in the head of disturbing people, in this case, that of an intruder.

Between “Family Snapshot,” “Intruder” and “Lead a Normal Life” (about living in a mental hospital) Peter Gabriel III is probably the most disturbing album I listen to on a regular basis. And why? Listen to a song like “Biko” – about the slain South African civil rights leader – and you should understand why I have so much respect for this artist.

And, yes, I’m sure I’m overlooking some of your own personal favorites so feel free to tell me which ones I left out.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • Greg
  • E

    “Daddy” by “Korn”. You won’t find anything better…

  • Dill

    Immortal Technique- Dance with the Devil
    I don’t usually like rap music but that song made me re think
    my whole life

  • Jimbo

    Any song by slayer lol

  • redrabbit

    The most disturbing song I have ever heard, and I have heard thousands over the years, being both a music junkie and having a taste for the bizarre, is a tune by a UK 70s punk rock group called Some Chicken. The song is called “Blood On The Wall” and it is about the Manson gang murders of 1969. I feel like I am actually at the scene of the crime at the time it was happening when I hear it.

  • joe

    How about waste by staind it was written when the mother of a boy who killed himself who went to aaron lewis and asked him why he killed himself.The boy worshipped staind and the mother went for questons looking for a reason as to why he might have killed himself

  • oh and i forgot – i’d add few crystal castles songs too. Black Panther is about a mother who dumps her babies to the sea, i am made of chalk is made by sampling dying shark noises, pap smear is about abortion (i cant tell the difference between an embryo or a planted seed), mother knows best sounds like it’s about an incest relation and std’s.
    And teenage jesus and jerks -80s noise band- has some crazy stuff too. Orphans has a repeating line of ‘little orphans running through the bloody snow’. Crown of thorns is pretty aggressive too. Baby doll is about inestwhich lydia – vocalist – lived

  • A big portion of Throbbing Gristle songs are disturbing as hell, industrial noises make them even more disturbing.
    Also Berlin album by Lou Reed; Closer album by Joy Division and many of Nick Cave songs can be considered disturbing -stagger lee, mercy seat, red right hand-. He is a fantastic songwriter.
    Also a few additions ;
    – Diane by husker du. It is a song about a real rape/killing sung from killer’s point of view. (hey little girl, can you get a ride? I’ve got room in my wagon it’s parked right outside/ we could cruise down robert street all night long/ but i think i’ll just rape you and kill you instead)
    – Sister Ray by velvet underground; a drughead kills a sailor while the rest of people are busy cooking and f-ing.
    – Bloody mary by the jesus lizard: about a female killing himself in a bathtub , bathing in blood.
    – Death valley 69 by Sonic Youth: about manson killings sung by killer’s point of view. The build up and creepy vocals are incredible in this song.
    – 4st 7lb by Manic Street Preachers: richey edwards was anorexic and this is about death of an anorexic girl. It starts with the girl starving himself, losing her sexuality, and how she idolises 90s models; then slows down pointing out she reached her goal of weight , and died.
    – Stigmata martyr by Bauhaus; about crucifixion. The weep for me line is quite odd but music’s much creepier than lyrics.
    – Lady in the radiator song. Eraserhead’s music. Eerie and haunting.
    And hands down creepiest is frankie teardrop by suicide.

  • sahand

    “tormentor” and “worlock” by skinny puppy , very creepy!

  • Sounds like a typical Saturday afternoon at Wal-Mart.

  • Tyler

    I’ll probably catch hell from classic rock purists, but how about “A Little Piece of Heaven” by Avenged Sevenfold? It’s about a guy who kills his girlfriend, has sex with her (after she’s dead, mind you), then she comes back to life and kills him, then HE comes back to life, they get married by a demon, then they go on a killing spree. Almost crapped myself the first time I heard it.

  • Alex K.

    Violent Femmes – Country Death Song
    PJ Harvey – The Piano
    Throbbing Gristle – Slug Bait
    Marc Broude – Sometimes It Hurts
    GG Allin – Die When You Die
    Throbbing Gristle – Urge To Kill
    Heathen Dan – I Like
    Suicide – Frankie Teardrop
    Otep – Jonestown Tea

  • Viking’s Dragonette

    How about “Party Til You Puke” by Andrew W.K.? This one is disturbing because he seems like such a nice guy. But so did Ted Bundy, and that’s why he had so many victims, I guess.

    We’re not gonna die
    You can never kill us
    We’re not gonna die
    You can never hurt us

    We dent, We rob
    We choke, We gun
    We kill, We stab
    We rob, We steal

    We dent, We rob
    We choke, We gun
    We kill, We stab
    We rob, We steal

    Party ’til you puke…


    We’re not gonna die
    You can never kill us
    We’re not gonna die
    You can never hurt us

    We dent, We rob
    We choke, We gun
    We kill, We stab
    We rob, We steal

    We dent, We rob
    We choke, We gun
    We kill, We stab

    We rob, We steal Party ’til you puke…


    Party ’til you puke…

    GO!… Party ’til you puke

  • ben

    Sorry for posting twice there, got a bit impatient with my computer. I found “Vermillion” and “Scissors” (both from Slipknot) pretty disconcerting also, forgot about those.

  • ben

    I saw “DOA” by Bloodrock somewhere on here, and I have to say it’s the scariest song I’ve ever heard. I also saw “Daddy” by Korn, pretty disturbing as well. But I gotta throw a few into the mix:
    “Careful With That Axe Eugene” – Pink Floyd
    “The Thing That Should Not Be” – Metallica
    “Kill You” – Korn, worse than Daddy in my opinion
    Any Cannibal Corpse and almost any Rammstein would also make this list…

  • me

    “Finger Paintings Of The Insane” By Acid Bath

    “Maniacal” By Cannibal Corpse

    “Dead Human Collection” By Cannibal Corpse

    “I Would Die For You” By Garbage

    “He Hit Me(And It Felt Like A Kiss)” By Hole

    “Saturday Night” By The Misfits

    “Helena” By The Misfits

    “Blood Roses” By Tori Amos

    “Wait” By The Ying Yang Twins

    “Guts On The Ceiling” By Insane Clown Posse

    “Amy’s In The Attic” By The Insane Clown Posse

    “If I Was A Serial Killer” By Insane Clown Posse

    “Run For Your Life” By Jarvis Church

    “Slug Bait” By Throbbing Gristle

  • Stu

    Then of course, there is Sympathy, by Rare Bird. I’ve made a video of the Marillion cover of that amazing song here.

  • Stu

    Here is my interpretation of Peter Gabriel’s Family Snapshot as a video.

  • pjp

    Tell that mick he just made my list of things to do today by Fall Out Boy is totally one. I don’t know the most disturbing lyric is but the chorus is:
    Let’s play this game “when you catch fire”
    I wouldn’t piss to put to put you out
    So stop burning bridges and drive of them
    So i can forget about you

    and another one is ‘i hope you die by Blood Hound Gang’
    one of the verses is:
    hope your pinto begins to spin
    Takes out a disabled vietnam veteran
    Mows down a nobel peace prize winner
    And maybe some orphans having christmas dinner
    Perhaps even the british royal family
    And the rabbi thats clutching the bottle-fed puppy
    And we cant forget the newlyweds
    And those jerrys kids are as good as dead

    I hope this helps to emphasize
    I hope this helps to clarify
    I hope you die

  • How about “Race War” by Carnivore?

  • Depends on what really disturbs you, I guess. “Hurt” is a great sad song, but I don’t particularly find it disturbing.

    Much more disturbing would be “Mr Ambulance Driver.” On the surface, it’s a pretty, nicely textured Flaming Lips song. But the narrator has just been in a horrible wreck, and his girl is dead in the seat beside him, and he’s waiting helplessly for the ambulance. That helplessness is much more disturbing to me than Leon Payne wanting to go on a killing spree.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Faith No More The Morning After. I believe it’s from the perspective of a rape/murder victim who is in purgatory:

    Awakened by the sun light
    Victimized by last night
    Memories flashin’ through my head
    Was I just born or am I dead?
    Yesterday’s forgotten, the morning after
    I can taste you, I can hear your laughter
    Fading in the distance
    Recollections drifting
    Bloodstains on my tattered clothes
    Each minute the fear grows
    If I could just lay down to rest
    I’m tired of searching for myself
    If I am dead, how can I feel such love?
    If I am dead, why am I dreaming?
    If I am dead, where do I go from here?
    If I am dead, why does this pain feel so good?
    Is this my blood dried upon my face?
    Or is it the love of someone else?
    It tastes so sweet, just like you used to
    So rescue me my love, splice us together
    I remember loving you so much
    But where are you and where’s your fatal touch?
    When I closed my eyes, was it my siesta?
    Did I encounter a darkness stronger than sleep?
    I am thirsty for my sleep
    There are no answers anyway…

  • El Burro

    PS: Leon Payne did, in fact, write “Psycho”. The first recorded instance I know of was a guy named Jack Kittel (I know because my lovely wife hunted down a re-issue CD). Leon Payne, if I am not mistaken, eventually committed suicide.

  • El Burro

    I see that Leon Payne’s “Psycho” has already made an appearance on this list. I would also have to add BR5-49’s “18 Wheels and a Crowbar”, in which the death count is five (I think). “Fate was on the dashboard looking right at me now”. It’s about a trucker gone mad…

    I have played guitar in numerous country and western cover bands over the years, and “Psycho” has been one of my mainstays. Most of the time, no one even notices, but once in a while, someone will actually listen to the lyrics as I sing them, and the moment of recognition, then surprise, then almost-fright, is priceless.

  • Huggy Bear

    The lyrics are still freaky as hell. And no one thinks about it. Oh yeah, and “Warm smell of colitas”? That’s marijuana. Fun fact many don’t know.

  • Scott Butki

    I’d call that overplayed and thus annoying more than disturbing. But maybe that’s my so. cal heritage showing.

  • Huggy Bear

    No mention of “Hotel California”?

  • Scott Butki

    I’d never heard that. How disturbing!

  • Venema

    About “Polly”: Nirvana never performs this song anymore the way it was recorded, since two retards raped a girl WHILE SINGING the song Polly. In their sick moronic way they claimed to be “inspired” by the song.

    When Nirvana heard about this, they changed the lyrics completely.

  • Ethan

    Doa from bloodrock is really disturbing.Most disturbing song I evr heard.

  • Kryst

    Black Serenade by Slayer

    “Terrorize frozen eyes stare deep in me
    Paralyzed inside death breeds on your pain
    Pretty lace lie in hate you wear my scars
    Terrified you find that you push me too far
    Your repulsiveness reminds me of dead flesh
    Rotting corpse the smell of your putrid fucking soul

    Petrified that I decide the moment of your death
    Belongs to me the taste is sweet it’s so unreal

    Your God weeps, it bleeds, it begs for me
    God is letting you recover

    Welcome to my Black Serenade
    The entrance to my hell your pain
    Scream your song the Black Serenade
    Live in fear a mind insane

    Voice inside my head
    Your face still shows itself to me
    Telling me you’re dead
    Staring at your lifeless body
    I saw you fucking die
    My mind’s tearing itself apart
    Screaming from the inside
    Release this pain from my fucking heart

    Destroy the empty shell
    Smash away the haunting fear
    I hate your endless stare
    Watching as I fuck your corpse

    Welcome to my Black Serenade
    The entrance to my hell your pain
    Walk on through a tortured mind
    You’ll scream your song in time

    Welcome to my Black Serenade
    The entrance to my hell your pain
    Flesh is burnt the Black Serenade
    Live in fear no coming back

    Welcome to my Black Serenade
    The entrance to my hell your pain
    Walk on through a tortured mind
    You’ll scream your song in time

    Welcome to my Black Serenade
    The entrance to my hell your pain
    Flesh is burnt the Black Serenade
    Live in fear death is back
    (fear death)

  • Tina

    Lets not forget “Spinal Meningitis” – Ween, extreamly SICK and disturbing song with a kid that asks his mom if hes gonna die and telling her how it hurts ..
    …Smile o mighty jesus spinal meningitis got me down…
    seriously its haunting me.!!

  • Gordon Hauptfleisch

    Gosh, lnlemonlime, think you can be more vague?: “”Leon Payne” – Did NOT write “PSYCHO” and neither did “Elvis COstello” it’s a COuntry song from the late 1950’s,early 1960’s..I still do not know who did????”

    I can cite many sources stating that Leon Payne wrote “Psycho” in 1966 (and no one here claimed Costello wrote it–he did a cover on his Country album). You, on the other hand, need to flesh out your refutation and contention to come anywhere near to beinng credible. Anyway, here’s one of my sources, from CMT (Country Music Television):

    In San Antonio, news of the tower shootings greatly affected Leon Payne. He was a blind songwriter and singer who had written the great country standards “Lost Highway” and “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me,” recorded by Hank Williams. Payne’s “Psycho” is unlike anything else he wrote and indeed is very much unlike most other country songs ever written. It’s been recorded a few times, most effectively by Elvis Costello, who cut it live at Hollywood’s Palomino Club and released it as the B-side of “Sweet Dreams” on a UK-release single. It also appears on his album Almost Blue.

    The dark tale is told matter-of-factly — which only accentuates the horror — as the song’s pace gets faster and faster, and Costello’s voice grows darker and darker. It’s the story of the frenzied Whitman of the night before his calm sniper spree. And it ends with the chilling line: You think I’m psycho, don’t you Mamma/Mamma, why don’t you get up?

    “Psycho” remains the most chilling song I have ever heard. It can still make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. And that, my friend, is the indicator of a good and powerful song.

  • lnlemonlime

    1) “Leon Payne” – Did NOT write “PSYCHO” and neither did “Elvis COstello”……………it’s a COuntry song from the late 1950’s,early 1960’s..I still do not know who did????

    2) “DOA” by “BloodRock” – was removed from the airwaves, because it was sooooooooooooooooo GRAPHIC, for it’s time. The song made people sick……..

    3) Add these to your lists”:

    a) “Stranded in the Jungle” – New York Dolls.

    2) “How Will I Ever be Simple, Again” – Richard Thompson

    3) “Steven” – Alice Cooper

    4) “There’s a Hole in the Wall” – Alan Jackson

    5) The ENTIRE Murder Ballads – Nick Cave

    6) “Don’t Pay the Ferry man” – Chris DeBurgh

    7) “My Cricket” – Leon Russell

    8) “Ten Feet Tall and Bullet Proof” – Travis Tritt

    9) Most operatic music

    10) “Tenement Steps” – The Motors

    11) “Down Among the Dead Men” – Flash and the Pan

    12) “Hey, Joe” – Jimi Hendrix

    13) “Dead Flowers – The Rolling Stones

    14) “God Damn the Pusher Man” – Steppenwolf

    15) “He Nevr Got Enough Love” – Lucinda Williams

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks a lot, Snarkattack.I’m glad you like it.

    Great suggestions.

  • Scott Butki

    Family Snapshot video


  • Scott Butki
  • Scott Butki

    Yeah that’s definitely a strong contender.
    Thanks for that comment and thanks to others who have keep this topic alive.

  • Meghan

    Rope of Weeds by Elysian Fields. About a sailor who gets a dead woman tangled in his fishing line, pulls her up on deck, sleeps with her, then wraps chain around both of them and throws them overboard.

    “Now I roam the ocean floor, with the lady I adore. This is where we remain.”

    Dangerous because it has a catchy little rythym. I was at work humming it until I realized I was humming a song about necrophelia. Ick!

  • “Paper Cuts” by Nirvana
    “Big Long Now” by Nirvana
    “Revolution 9” by The Beatles
    “Hey foxymophandemama that’s me” aka “Stupid Mop” by Pearl Jam

  • mike hayden

    “i love the dead” and “dead babies” by alice cooper
    “kill yourself” by s.o.d
    “last caress” and “die die my darling”(among others) by the misfits
    some lyrics from “last caress” are—

    I got something to say
    I killed your baby today
    And it doesn’t matter much to me
    As long as it’s dead

    Well I got something to say
    I raped your mother today
    And it doesn’t matter much to me
    As long as she spread

    Sweet lovely death
    I am waiting for your breath
    Come sweet death, one last caress

    like the site.
    see ya

  • Melanie

    “Balck Mass” by Jason Crest
    Check out the creepy backwards loop and the ear piercing wailing.

  • There’s a song by the Blood Brothers called “The Salesman, Denver Max” about a malevolent travelling salesman who spirits a young girl away from her parents. The verses are thick with the kind of disconnected metaphors that pop up a lot in the band’s songs, but the chorus gets uncomfortably direct:

    Don’t you try to call the cops little girl, cops little girl
    Before you pick up the phone you’ll be dead
    Don’t you try to call the cops little girl, cops little girl
    Your tongue is withered, it’s heavier than lead
    Won’t you just step into the car little girl, car little girl
    Your parents don’t understand what’s in your head
    We’re really onto something special little girl, special little girl
    You’re blushing red, your head can’t hide those thoughts of dread

    And then there’s Jean Grae. Jean’s got a number of disturbing songs (“God’s Gift” off Attack of the Attacking Things, for instance, or her contribution to the Mr. Lif song “Post Mortem”), but none more so than “Taco Day”, her collaboration with Company Flow beatmeister Mr. Len. It’s an unhinged narrative about a girl who loses her mind and shoots up her school. There’s a bit too much in the way of lyrics to post, but the MP3 is out there if you care to look for it.

    Also… regarding the Rugburns: “Dick’s Automotive”? A bit too silly to disturb. “You Should’ve Told Me”… now that’s a messed-up song.

  • “Ballad of Dwight Frye” – Alice Cooper

  • Scott Butki

    Cool. I am glad you like the thread.

    Good choices.

  • Cheddar

    New poster here…love the thread.

    Gotta second E.Costello’s I want you as a super creepy tune. It’s an audio tour through the twelve-step program of unrequited love…even better because of the desperate pacing towards the end…

    Here’s some of my nominees…

    Tom Waits….someone else mentioned ‘singapore’, but I think ‘What’s he building’ is pretty creepy too. for a spoken voice recording. ‘Filipino box spring hog’ I find terrifying because it visually captures my horror of moving from a big city to a small town where people regularly grilled their pets in their front yards as part of some strange celebratory ritual…Waits also gets a nod for ‘earth died screaming’. He’s just not a lullaby kind of guy…

    2. Rugburns “ballad of tommy and marla” or “Dick’s automotive” are pretty f’d too. Hard to believe that Steve Poltz, the lead singer of the rugburns, is the same guy who penned Jewel’s ‘you were meant for me’ song. I guess even psychos can get nostalgic after nookie…

    3. Did I see Violent Femmes ‘country death song’ on here? makes my list…

    4. Patti Smith’s ‘summer cannibals’ is made even more viscerally disturbing by the zombielike pastiness of her image, screaming EEEEEAAAATTTT!!!!

    5. Bjork’s ‘pagan poetry’ is worth a trip..especially the video, showing a masochistic, muttering, brooding, displaced girlfriend getting pierced again and again while wailing “he makes me want to hurt myself”

    6. Any ‘love song’ by the Dead Kennedy’s…their political ones are bad enough, but ‘too drunk to fuck’s line, ‘you bawl like the baby in Eraserhead’ in this context, almost made me celibate.

    7. Country creepy award goes to Lyle Lovett for ‘creeps like me’. I love the image of a guy wearing a ring made from his grandma’s gold tooth.
    very classy.

    8. old school award to Nancy Sinatra for ‘bang bang’…a beautiful ballad about the evolution of a battered woman, from child victim to…Just what we would expect from that disfunctional family…

    9. What happened to Frank Zappa? pick one. My favorite is Bobby Brown.

    I’m gonna reserve on the last of my top 10…I need to mull this a while…

  • zingzing

    strange fruit?
    coil’s “love’s secret domain”?
    any nick cave? nearly.
    joy division’s “24 hours”?

  • “He Hit Me” is a Phil Spector masterpiece, but the message is one you hear in a number of songs, where women feel the guy doesn’t really care about her until he cracks her one. Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” also come to mind.

  • Guppusmaximus

    I would include Opeth “Deliverance” because of the impending doom:

    “walk with me, you’ll never leave
    wait to see your spirit free
    tell me how your heart’s in need
    as i drown you in the sea
    unwinding snares of distrust
    your wrist in my face grip
    look me in the eye, i’m clear
    this is your time
    face down beneath the waterline.”

  • Scott Butki

    Oh that is an excellent one.

  • “He Hit Me (and it felt like a kiss)” by the Crystals.. certainly deserves a position on a list, at least of some length, of disturbing songs. Sung from the perspective of a woman who in her mind feels the abuse she receives from her man is justified.

  • lowlevel

    Father Picard by King Diamond…

    Welcome to my quarters, do come inside
    Welcome dearest Sisters, come into the light
    I’m Father Picard, I’m taking over
    Things will be different here
    you are the four GOD has chosen
    To be his angels in white
    Drink My sweet holy wine
    Oh yeah come on it’s not a crime
    From now on every sunday this time
    You will attend this communion of mine
    Father Picard is hiding something
    A white powder for the wine
    I’m Father Picard, I’m taking over
    Things will be different here
    you are the four GOD has chosen
    To be his angels in white
    Drink My sweet holy wine

  • Scott Butki

    Any new nominees?
    I thought the Rolling Stones performance last nite
    was pretty disturbing but that’s more an appearance issue than lyrics.

  • (snaps bullhorn on)

    Put the lullaby down, step away from your children and keep those lips closed before you depress anyone else.

    Wha? You trying to make the movie the Wall into a documentary?


  • No here’s the lullaby I sing to to the kids, guaranteed to scar them of life:

    I feel for you, you little horror
    Safe at your mother’s breast
    No lucky break for you around the corner
    ‘Cause your father is a bully
    And he thinks that you’re a pest
    And your sister she’s no better than a whore.

    Life seems so rosy in the cradle,
    But I’ll be a friend I’ll tell you what’s in store
    There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow.
    There’s nothing to grow up for anymore

    Tycoons and barrow boys will rob you
    And throw you on the side
    And all because they love themselves sincerely
    And the man holds a bread knife
    Up to you throat is four feet wide
    And he’s anxious just to show you what it’s for.

    Your mother works so hard to make you happy
    But take a look outside the nursery door
    There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow.
    There’s nothing to grow up for anymore

    And all the sad and empty faces
    That pass you on the street
    All running in their sleep, all in a dream
    Every loving handshake
    Is just another man to beat
    How your heart aches just to cut him to the core

    Life seems so rosy in the cradle,
    But I’ll be a friend I’ll tell you what’s in store
    There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow.
    There’s nothing to grow up for anymore

  • Oh and I was worried it was a lullaby you sang to kids.

  • I should’ve mentioned that I know the song mostly from Elvis Costello’s cover of it on his country album, Almost Blue.

  • Woot! That’s crazy

  • I don’t know that one but it sounds like a good pick.

  • Chilling stuff: “Psycho” by Leon Payne–inspired by the 1966 sniper Charles Whitman who killed his mother and his wife, climbed up into the University of Texas tower and started shooting away (“my mind just walked away”):

    Can Mary fry some fish, mama
    I’m as hungry as can be
    Oh lord, how I wish, mama
    You could stop the baby cryin’
    ‘Cause my head is killing me

    I saw my ex again last night mama
    She was at the dance at Miller’s store
    She was with that Jackie White mama
    I killed them both
    And they’re buried under Jacob’s sycamore

    You think I’m psycho don’t you mama
    I didn’t mean to break your cup
    You think I’m psycho don’t you mama
    You better let ’em lock me up

    Oh, don’t hand me Johnny’s pup mama
    As I might squeeze him too tight
    I’m havin’ crazy dreams again mama
    So let me tell you ’bout last night
    I woke up in Johnny’s room mama
    Standing right there by his bed
    With my hands around his throat mama
    Wishing both of us were dead

    You think I’m psycho don’t you mama
    I just killed Johnny’s pup
    You think I’m psycho don’t you mama
    You’d better let ’em lock me up

    Oh you recall that little girl mama
    I believe her name was Betty Clark
    Oh don’t tell me that she’s dead mama
    ‘Cause I just saw her in the park
    We were sitting on a bench mama
    Thinking of a game to play
    Seems I was holding a wrench mama
    Then my mind just walked away

    You think I’m psycho don’t you mama
    I didn’t mean to break your cup
    You think I’m psycho don’t you mama
    Mama why don’t you get up?

  • Happy New Year, everyone

  • Scott Butki

    Oooh, good one and very catchy. Many Beautiful South and Housemartins songs definitely fit this category.

  • MD

    How about Beautiful South’s “Woman In The Wall:”

    He was just a social drinker but social every night
    He enjoyed a pint or two or three or four
    She was just a silent thinker, silent every night
    He’d enjoy the thought of killing her before

    Well he was very rarely drunk but very rarely sober
    And he didn’t think the problem was his drink
    But he only knew his problem when he knocked her over
    And when the rotting flesh began to stink

    Cry freedom for the woman in the wall
    Cry freedom for she has no voice at all
    I hear her cry all day, all night
    I hear her voice from deep within the wall
    Made a cross from knitting needles
    Made a grave from hoover bags
    Especially for the woman in the wall

    She’d knitted him a jumper with dominoes on
    So he wore it everyday in every week
    Pretended to himself that she hadn’t really gone
    Pretended that he thought he heard her speak

    Then at last it seemed that he was really winning
    He felt that he had some sort of grip
    But all of his new life was sent a-spinning
    When the rotting wall began to drip

  • Brazenhead

    This song came out in 1982 and charted in the UK, It’s the Specials (it’s not a Ska song and very unlike anything else they ever did) and the lyrics were spoken by Rhoda Dakar. The ending of the song is a minute or so of incredible screaming…amazingly powerful and disturbing. Find it.

    The Boiler

    I went out shopping last saturday
    I was getting some gear, and this guy offered to pay
    Who’s the hunk? I think to myself
    For so many years I’ve been left on the shelf
    An old boiler

    Then we went walking back down the high street
    And I felt so proud because he looked so neat
    He was a real hard man, tough as they come
    He said I was cool but I still felt like
    An old boiler

    He bid me “Come out”, how could I say no?
    He said “Meet me at eight round my place, you know”
    With my new gear on, and a blow dried hair-do
    But in my mind I knew I was sill
    An old boiler

    We danced all night long to a nice steady beat
    But my hair went to frizz in the terrible heat
    My mascara ran, and so did my tights
    Confirming in my sight, I must be
    An old boiler

    So we came out this club, hot and sweaty
    Because we’d been dancing all night
    And he says to me “Well babe, what you doing then?”
    “Well I think I might get a cab” I said casually
    “Nah nah, come back to my place, I only live just round the corner
    You can go home in the morning, yeah?”
    “Well I don’t think so, I’ve only known you a day, It’ a bit soon innit
    Give me a ring sometime yeah?”
    But then he starts to get mad
    “Listen here girl, I bought that gear you got on, I paid you in here tonight
    I bought you all them drinks and you wanna go home, I should bleedin coco”
    And then he stormed off

    Well, I felt a right mug, well you would wouldn’t you
    So I ran after him, caught him up
    And here we are walking down this street about a hundred miles per hour
    Arm in arm, no talking, atmosphere you could have cut with a knife

    There’s no-one about, nothing to take your mind off it you know
    No cars, not even the occasional stray animal
    It was cold and the wind’s whistling through the tree’s
    Blowing newspapers accross my legs so I tripped as I tried to keep up with him
    And there was all these alleyways and railway bridges, the stink of piss

    The all of a sudden he grabbed hold of my arm
    And he starts to drag me up one of these alleyways
    Then he starts to hit me really hard across the face, you know
    He was hitting me and grabbing at me
    It was awful because he was, like, so big
    Hitting me he was, and tearing at my clothes
    There was nothing I could do honest, I was helpless
    And then he tried to rape me, and there was nothing I could do, honest
    All I could do was scream, no…

  • GoHah

    Scott#75–yeah, it has one of my favorite lines:
    “She’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake.” Evocatively noirish imagery, femme fatale and all.

  • Dan

    Mazeborn, comment #42

    The song “Timothy”, about the dudes trapped in a caved in mine, who then resorted to cannibalism, was performed by the “buoys”.

  • Link doesn’t seem to have worked, though I can’t see why. Let’s try my psycho kiddie songs link again.

  • Perhaps this little tribute to my favorite psycho kiddie songs might interest some of you in this “disturbing songs” vein.

  • Scott Butki

    What’s the Costello song about watching the cops drag the lake? Watching the detectives?

  • GoHah

    Costello’s always had isolated, jarring lines of disturbance and violence jutting out: “Shake you very gently by the throat,” “White knuckles on black and blue skin,” “Don’t look now under the bed/An arm, a leg, a severed head,” etc.

    The most sustained song of pent-up and building obsession is “I Want You.” A Sample:

    The truth can’t hurt you it’s just like the dark
    It scares you witless
    But in time you see things clear and stark
    I want you
    Go on and hurt me then we’ll let it drop
    I want you
    I’m afraid I won’t know where to stop
    I want you…

    …I might as well be useless for all it means to you
    I want you
    Did you call his name out as he held you down
    I want you
    Oh no my darling not with that clown
    I want you
    You’ve had your fun you don’t get well no more
    I want you
    No-one who wants you could want you more
    I want you
    Every night when I go off to bed and when I wake up
    I want you
    I want you
    I’m going to say it once again ’til I instill it
    I know I’m going to feel this way until you kill it
    I want you
    I want you

  • Brady

    First of all I have to agree that the “driedel song” is quite creepy without even ever having heard it. Kudos to GoHa and JP for their inclusion of Richard Thompson and David Ackles, respectively. I think that perhaps Thompson’s “The End of the Rainbow” from “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” is more shudder inducing ( as is virtually anything off of said recording). I think Richard’s naive sexual predator in “Read About Love” from “Rumor and Sigh” is a bit creepier as well. Or perhaps I’ve
    just heard “Shoot Out the Lights” too many times. “Hello Skinny” by the Residents is another chilly number but they have way too many to mention ( lest we be forced to include virtually everything from Ralph Records here). Scott Walker wrote some Gothically ( the Wuthering Heights kind not the Bauhaus kind) inspired tunes such as “Montague Street” and the Bergman inspired “The Seventh Seal” which never fail to give me pause. Elliot Smith’s ouvre has many disturbing or just plain sad songs – the obvious being “Waltz # 2.” His songs sometimes are so personal that they are often hard to sing along to despite their sometimes very strong melodies. Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” freaks me out with a chorus that begins: “Sundown, you better take care if I find you’ve been creepin’ down my back stairs” Unless of course “Sundown” is just his dog, cat or latex wearing Gimp. Lastly, the line “It’s not your heart I want to break” from “B Movie” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions from the brilliant “Get Happy” is fairly disturbing too.

  • GoHah

    Dave Nalle#58–you may be on target about the Turtles’ “Eleanor”: later on (as Flo and Eddie), they admitted that they purposely and cynically wrote the most absurdly sappy and commercially lovey-dovey (“gee, I think you’re swell!”)hit song they could. Nothing specifically about a more sinister agenda, but as a song that served a dual purpose, I wouldn’t rule it out, either.

  • GoHah

    “And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones”: EXCITABLE BOY–Warren Zevon in his darkest humor, with–perhaps its most disturbing aspect–a catchy tune you can hum:

    Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
    Excitable boy, they all said
    And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
    Excitable boy, they all said
    Well, he’s just an excitable boy

    He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
    Excitable boy, they all said
    And he bit the usherette’s leg in the dark
    Excitable boy, they all said
    Well, he’s just an excitable boy

    He took little Susie to the Junior Prom
    Excitable boy, they all said
    and he raped her and killed her, then he took her home
    Excitable boy, they all said
    Well, he’s just an excitable boy
    After ten long years they let him out of the Home
    Excitable boy, they all said
    And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones
    Excitable boy, they all said
    Well, he’s just an excitable boy

  • Juliette

    There are two songs that I’m surprised no one has mentioned here: Murder by Numbers (The Police) and Tyler (by The Toadies).

    Murder by Numbers was creepy enough to be used in a movie called Copycat about a serial killer. It’s cast includes Sigourney Weaver, Harry Connick, Jr., Holly Hunter, and Dermot Mulroney. The lyrics should be very easy to find if you don’t already know them.

    Tyler is a song about a stalker breaking into a woman’s home. I am conflicted by it because I love the song and tend to sing it at full volume in my car despite it’s frightening content. Here are the lyrics:

    And she runs through her days with a smile on her face
    And she runs, and she waits, and I wait

    We can drive to anyplace, day or night, across the state
    And in the morning, into Mexico, we will wake up

    I find a window in the kitchen, and I let myself in
    Rummage through the refrigerator, find myself a beer
    I can’t believe I’m really here, and she’s lying in that bed
    I can almost feel her touch, and her anxious breath!

    I stumble in the hallway, against the bedroom door
    I hear her call out to me, I hear the fear in her voice
    She pulls the covers tighter, I press against the door

    I will be with her tonight! (repeats this line several times)

  • GoHah

    the facile snap-out-of-it sappiness of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” leaves me worried and unhappy, and that disturbs me.

  • Tool and “Don’t Fear the Reaper” don’t count because they’re TRYING to be creepy and weird.

    It has to be somewhat unintentional, which disqualifies a lot of classic rock, goth, and industrial music.

    The Costello song isn’t creepy because those lyrics are cheeky and satirical. Well-placed irony also largely disqualifies songs from being creepy.

    Anything with “rape machine” is definitely creepy, I agree.

    That is all.

  • gonzo marx

    bah..yas are pikers in the Realm of Disturbing…

    howabout some Tool…an exceprt from Prison Sex

    “Do unto you now what has been done to me.

    You’re breathing so I guess you’re still alive
    even if signs seem to tell me otherwise.
    Won’t you come just a bit closer,
    close enough so I can smell you.
    I need you to feel this.
    I need this to make me whole.
    There’s release in this sodomy.
    For I am your witness that
    blood and flesh can be trusted.
    And only this one holy medium brings me piece of mind.

    Got your hands bound, your head down,
    your eyes closed.
    You look so precious now.”


  • Man, I forgot about Clair. I remember it now from when I was a kid, but I’d never seen the lyrics written out before. As written they COULD be seen as harmless, but there’s no way you can actually hear the song and not think paedophilia.

    But since we’re sharing disturbing lyrics, here’s my pick:

    Down in the Park – Gary Numan

    Down in the park
    Where the Machmen meet
    The machines are playing `kill-by-numbers’
    Down in the park with a friend called `Five’

    I was in a car crash
    Or was it the war?
    Well, I’ve never been quite the same
    Little white lies like “I was there”

    Come to “Zom-Zom’s”, a place to eat
    Like it was built in one day
    You can watch the humans
    Try to run

    Oh, look, there’s a rape machine
    I’d go outside if it looks the other way
    You wouldn’t believe
    The things they do

    Down in the park
    Where the chant is “Death, death, death”
    Until the sun cries morning
    Down in the park with friends of mine

    “We are not lovers
    We are not romantics
    We are here to serve you”
    A different face but the words never change


  • Uh! [insert indignant noise here] I am tweaked!

    XOX, Gonzo. Keep slinging that Elvis.

  • gonzo marx

    bah….just to tweak big Al…

    howabout “Less than Zero” by Elvis Costello

    Oswald and his sister are doing It again
    they got the finest home movies
    that you have ever seen
    they got 1000 variations
    every service with a smile
    they’re gonna take a little break
    and they’ll be back in just a while
    well, I hear in South America
    It’s coming into Style….

    just a Thought


  • KYS

    Another song, by Billy Joel, is poignant, and as relevent now as ever: Goodnight Saigon:

    We met as soul mates on Parris Island
    We left as inmates from an asylum
    And we were sharp, as sharp as knives
    And we were so gung ho to lay down our lives

    We came in spastic like tameless horses
    We left in plastic as numbered corpses
    And we learned fast to travel light
    Our arms were heavy but our bellies were tight

    We had no home front, we had no soft soap
    They sent us Playboy, they gave us Bob Hope
    We dug in deep and shot on sight
    And prayed to Jesus Christ with all our might

    We had no cameras to shoot the landscape
    We passed the hash pipe and played our Doors tapes
    And it was dark, so dark at night
    And we held on to each other
    Like brother to brother
    We promised our mothers we’d write

    And we would all go down together
    We said we’d all go down together
    Yes we would all go down together

    Remember Charlie, remember Baker
    They left their childhood on every acre
    And who was wrong? And who was right?
    It didn’t matter in the thick of the fight

    We held the day in the palm of our hand
    They ruled the night, and the night
    Seemed to last as long as six weeks…

    …On Parris Island
    We held the coastline, they held the highlands
    And they were sharp, as sharp as knives
    They heard the hum of our motors
    They counted the rotors
    And waited for us to arrive

    And we would all go down together
    We said we’d all go down together
    Yes we would all go down together

  • Scott Butki

    Oh that’s a good one

  • KYS

    How about Don’t Fear the Reaper? Isn’t this about a suicide pact? Freaks me out every time I hear it. It kind of pisses me off, too, cause it sounds like he convinced her then chickened out.

    All our times have come, Here but now they’re gone
    Seasons don’t fear the reaper, Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain..
    We can be like they are, Come on baby… don’t fear the reaper, Baby take my hand… don’t fear the reaper, We’ll be able to fly… don’t fear the reaper, Baby I’m your man…

    Valentine is done, Here but now they’re gone
    Romeo and Juliet Are together in eternity… Romeo and Juliet, 40,000 men and women everyday… Like Romeo and Juliet
    40,000 men and women everyday… Redefine happiness
    Another 40,000 coming everyday… We can be like they are
    Come on baby… don’t fear the reaper
    Baby take my hand… don’t fear the reaper
    We’ll be able to fly… don’t fear the reaper
    Baby I’m your man…

    Love of two is one. Here but now they’re gone
    Came the last night of sadness
    And it was clear she couldn’t go on
    Then the door was open and the wind appeared
    The candles blew then disappeared
    The curtains flew then he appeared… saying don’t be afraid
    Come on baby… and she had no fear
    And she ran to him… then they started to fly
    They looked backward and said goodbye… she had become like
    they are
    She had taken his hand… she had become like they are
    Come on baby… don’t fear the reaper

  • Aside from the good choices above

    “Terror Couple Killed Colonel” by Bauhaus
    “Night Prowler” by AC/DC
    “Am I Evil?” by Metallica, original Diamond Head
    “I Put A Spell On You” by Marilyn Manson original Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
    “Momma’s Gotta Die Tonight” by Body Count
    “I’m Afraid of Americans” by David Bowie although I admit the video adds to my impression of it.

    Give me a moment. I’m sure I’ll be back with at least some Danzig.

    I read “One” was based on Dalton Trumbo’s book, “Johnny Got His Gun”. They used footage from the movie in the video.

    Scott, could you use a / or a hard return to break up the lyrics? It would make for an easier read of the meter rather than a capital letter.

  • Melody

    I’ve always thought “Once” by Pearl Jam was a little disturbing. It’s like the second act to “Alive” where the character becomes a killer.

    I admit it…what’s to say
    I’ll relive it…without pain
    Backstreet lover on the side of the road
    I got a bomb in my temple that is gonna explode
    I got a sixteen gauge buried under my clothes, I play…
    Once upon a time I could control myself
    Ooh, once upon a time I could lose myself…
    Oh, try and mimic what’s insane.
    I am in it…where do I stand?
    Oh, Indian summer and I hate the heat
    I got a backstreet lover on the passenger seat
    I got my hand in my pocket, so determined, discreet…I pray…
    Once upon a time I could control myself
    Ooh, once upon a time I could lose myself.
    You think I got my eyes closed
    But I’m lookin’ at you the whole fuckin’ time…
    Ooh, once upon a time I could control myself,
    Once upon a time I could lose myself.
    Once, upon a time I could love myself, yeah…
    Once upon a time I could love you, yeah, yeah, yeah…

  • I’ve got two for the list. I’ve always found “Eleanor” by The Turtles strangely disturbing. Not because the lyrics are in any way disturbing, but because the way they sing the song just makes you feel like there’s some sort of agenda behind the words which is bound to end up with the girl in pieces wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave.

    And for a more transparently creepy, but extremely good song, I recomment the little known but excellent Gary Numan song “Down in the Park”, which is far better than much of his earlier and more famous work and also quite creepy.


  • Scott Butki

    Last nite I watched Crash and that made me think of gangsta rap lyrics like copkillers, which are disturbing on a whole different level.

  • A lot of Oldies songs have weird creepy lyrics like that.

    Gary Puckett’s “Young Girl” is one of the creepiest songs ever: “”Young Girl, get out of my mind/ My love for you is way out of line/ Better run girl/ You’re much too young, girl.”

    That is all.

  • uao

    [Excerpts from the #1 pedophilia-is-OK anthem]

    But try as hard as I might do I don’t know why
    You get to me in a way I can’t describe
    Words mean so little when you look up and smile
    I don’t care what people say,
    To me you’re more than a child
    Oh! Clair, Clair

    But why in spite of our age difference do I cry
    Each time I leave you I feel I could die
    Nothing means more to me than hearing you say
    I’m going to marry you
    Will you marry me Uncle Ray?
    Oh! Clair, Clair

    Clair, I’ve told you before
    Don’t you dare
    Get back into bed
    Can’t you see that it’s late
    No you can’t have a drink
    Oh! all right then but wait just a bit
    While I, in an effort to baby sit,
    Catch of my breath what there is left of it.
    You can be murder at this hour of the day
    But in the morning this hour
    Will seem a lifetime away
    Oh! Clair, Clair

    The song ends with the sound of a perhaps 8-year-old girl squealing with laughter.

    The song? “Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan (better known for “Alone Again”, naturally), top-10 in 1972.

    If it weren’t for the giggling at the end, I’d write this off as a clumsy, innocent joke.

    But the giggling disturbs me…

  • Scott Butki

    Oh and as I was just writing over in the
    car accident thread accident thread, Smiths songs can be disturbing because lyrically it goes from being pure angst to almost suicidal at times.

  • Scott Butki

    I saw the Femmes live several times while in college in so. cal in the late 80s and they were great. But from a lyrical point of view they were somewhat disturbing, like Nine Inch Nails is disturbing but with – as you correctly note – more intended humor.

    And to your question, no there was no tail partaken of

  • Caroline Shaw

    Anorexic beauty is a scary song. By Pulp, its a widely known pro-ana song. Its well written…just dusterbing.
    Same with “Ride the Wings of Pestillence.” by From First To Last.
    Creepy, but good.

  • Beating a dead horse, but the creepiest stalker anthem of all time is “Your Body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer.

    Read my various thoughts elsewhere on this site about him and that song.

    That is all.

  • The Femmes are just goofballs who are kidding around, so their songs are more enjoyable than disturbing. I saw them for the first time since college this summer and that just may be among the top live concerts I saw all year in 2005. I didn’t expect them to be nearly as fun as I did, but everyone sang along to every song and it brought back a lot of memories. Even their songs that try and go out of their way to sound disturbed, like “Country Death Song,” are just schtick.

    Get any Jewish tail during our cosmpolitan holiday visit, Butki? 🙂

    How many Polish Blogcritics do we have? We have a Butki, a Saleski, a Paprocki, and a Bambenek…

    That is all.

  • Scott Butki

    Oh I’m half German half Polish. Raised Catholic. Currently Unitarian. But was visiting a friend who is Jewish so I had much cultural diversity.

    Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy hanukah, etc.

    Yes Every Breath You Take is disturbing on many levels because not only is it a stalker song but since it mistaken as a romance song it’s even more insidious. I think at some point Sting just gve up on explaining it because it was sampled by, I think, Puffy and Sting allowed it and it wasn’t mean in the stalker type way.

    Most Violent Femmes songs would fit the disturbing category.

  • That one is pretty disturbing. Don’t get me wrong — if you take out the murder, blood, and beating, the hair-pulling would be hot.

    I thought of a stalker anthem that’s creepy but people mistakenly think is romantic: “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. A lot of Police songs had slightly creepy lyrics, though, before Sting went all “Field of Gold” adult contemporary.

    There are many others like that.

    Butki: Happy Hannukah. I always thought you were Polish from your name.

    That is all.

  • Don’t forget ‘The Knoxville Girl!’

    I met a little girl in Knoxville
    A town we all know well
    And every Sunday evening
    Out in her home I’d dwell
    We went to take an evening walk
    About a mile from town
    I picked a stick up off the ground
    And knocked that fair girl down;

    She fell down on her bended knees
    For mercy she did cry
    Oh, Willie dear, don’t kill me here
    I’m unprepared to die
    She never spoke another word
    I only beat her more
    Until the ground around me
    Within her blood did flow.

    I took her by her golden curls
    And I drug her ’round and ’round
    Throwing her into the river
    That flows through Knoxville town
    Go down, go down, you Knoxville girl
    With the dark and roving eyes
    Go down, go down, you Knoxville girl
    You can never be my bride.

    I started back to Knoxville
    Got there about midnight
    My mother she was worried
    And woke up in a fright
    Saying, “”Dear son, what have you done
    To bloody your clothes so?””
    I told my anxious mother
    I was bleeding at my nose.

    I called for me a candle
    To light myself to bed
    I called for me a handkerchief
    To bind my aching head
    Rolled and tumbled the whole night through
    As troubles was for me
    Like flames of hell around my bed
    And in my eyes could see.

    They carried me down to Knoxville
    And put me in a cell
    My friends all tried to get me out
    But none could go my bail
    I’m here to waste my life away
    Down in this dirty old jail
    Because I murdered that Knoxville girl
    The girl I loved so well.

    -traditional, recorded by The Louvin Brothers

  • Scott Butki

    One week is disturbing in its annoying habit of getting stuck in your head and forcing you to hum it weeks later.
    I’ve had the same problem all week with the song
    “dreidel dreidel dreidel” after going to a pre-hannukah festival.
    It’s gotten so bad that my niece – 3 – is walking around singing dreidel dridel dreidel…

  • Oh, and of course, let’s not forget the most disturbing song of all time:

    “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies.

    “Ants are Marching” by Dave Matthews always raises the hair on the back of my neck too.

    But seriously, folks, I’ll have to sit and think of the INTENTIONALLY creepy creeps.

    That is all.

  • Scott Butki

    Good picks. Thanks

    And yes one definitely fits the bill.

  • Zack

    Don’t know if anyone mentioned this, but I saw “One” by Metallica being mentioned… it’s actually about de-cerebration. If you don’t know what that is, it was practiced around WWII or WWI (can’t remember which). It’s an operation in which the “patient” (victim) has his cerebral functions removed (speech, memory, vision, personality and muscle control).

    Another disturbing one – not violently so, but spiritually so (to some) – would have to be:

    “From the Cradle to Enslave” – Cradle of Filth
    “Better to Reign in Hell” – Cradle of Filth

    Then one about a man burning down a chapel because five “men of God” raped his wife (who was a witch) and left her to freeze to death in the winter snow.

    “Her Ghost in the Fog” – Cradle of Filth

    NOTE: If you can’t understand metal, look up lyrics at http://www.darklyrics.com

  • “DOA” is a good/bad one — I heard they took it off the playlists because the realistic siren had people pulling over on the road…

    I’d propose “Timothy”, not the UFO or Elton John song, but an old one whose artist I don’t recall. It has disturbing overtones of cannibalism, and a haunting chorus of “God! What did you do?”

  • Armand La Bes

    Sorry… thought it might help if I included the simple, but harrowing lyrics to one of rock and rolls outstanding songs:

    Iron Man

    “Has he lost his mind?
    Can he see or is he blind?
    Can he walk at all,
    Or if he moves will he fall?
    Is he alive or dead?
    Has he thoughts within his head?
    We’ll just pass him there
    Why should we even care?

    He was turned to steel
    In the great magnetic field
    Where he traveled time
    For the future of mankind

    Nobody wants him
    He just stares at the world
    Planning his vengeance
    That he will soon unfurl

    Now the time is here
    For iron man to spread fear
    Vengeance from the grave
    Kills the people he once saved

    Nobody wants him
    They just turn their heads
    Nobody helps him
    Now he has his revenge

    Heavy boots of lead
    Fills his victims full of dread
    Running as fast as they can
    Iron man lives again!”

    Wonder what inspired it…


  • Armand La Bes

    Ever thought about the lyrics to “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath? Apparently about a hero who is converted into an “Iron Man” while in the course of traveling time in the service of mankind. Ignored and rejected after his transformation, the end of the song describes his “revenge” as he sets out to destroy those he once saved. Pretty disturbing stuff.

  • Nancy

    I used to think “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” was disturbing; obviously I need to come out of the monastery from time to time; it has NOTHING on most of the stuff cited above.

  • Sounds like it.

  • mt

    Anybody ever hear FRANKIE TEARDROP by Suicide? It’s about a young man who loses his job and murders his wife and 6 month old baby in her crib. This song is beyond disturbing.

  • I thought about adding”Every breath you take” by the Police, which was supposedly originally about stalking before the public instead accepted it a a love song.

  • “DOA” by Bloodrock is the ultimate disturbing rock song. Gotta add that one to the list.

  • GoHah

    Instrumental division–“Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” (think Chicago Fire) on Brian Wilson’s SMILE (unexpectedly re-constructed after a 37-year delay)–fantastic and visionary album, melodiously Wilsonian (with most lyrics by Van Dyke Parks). This increasingly intensifying and scary track is lent an extra layer of disturbance because this is the piece that, in 1966, drove Brian over the psychological edge enough for him to scrap and destroy much of the whole SMILE recordings, even though he had all the musicians wear fun fireman’s hats! In his mentally-fragile, drug-addled state, however, Brian lost it when, hearing fire engine sirens out in the streets, he somehow thought that he had started the fire that was raging up in the hills, and in this delusionary condition, he, according to legend (although there are varying ones), broke down and went into some kind of paranoic tangent or cowering retreat that, in any case, led to the destruction of the SMILE tapes (again, conflicting reports–but many bits and pieces survived or were re-made and then scattered among various Beach Boys albums).

    On the heels of such a traumatic experience, Brian took to his bed, painted his house purple and planted his piano in a big sandbox that he had put in the living room.

    Disturbing then, and now, but I’m glad Brian is supposedly well enough that he could virtually re-live and deal with the issue enough to complete “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow,” troubled past or not. I’m thinking though, that he skipped the fireman’s hats this time around.

  • Great article. Here are my picks:

    “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” by Eminem (also remade by Tori Amos)
    When Aaron, Duke De Mondo mentioned “Kim” in his comment, I immediately thought of this song, which I think is more disturbing than “Kim.” I was definitely surprised and unsettled when I first heard this song. The combination of the Em talking to his daughter and the gradual realization of the savagery of Em’s acts made it quite disturbing to me.

    “Suicidal Thoughts” and “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Kills You” by The Notorious B.I.G.
    “Suicidal Thoughts,” the lyrics of which were lifted to create the single “Hold Ya Head” with Bob Marley, always got to me. From Biggie wishing his mother had an abortion to the self-inflicted gunshot that ends the song (and Biggie’s first album Ready To Die), it’s chilling. Equally chilling is the song “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Kills You.” It might not come off so strongly if not for the context that surrounded it, including the death of Tupac Shakur and the fact that the song was released shortly after Biggie himself got killed.

    “The Devil Is In The Details” by Boards Of Canada
    This song is just overall disturbing. It has a female voice speaking about death that is warped to make it sound like she’s drowning as wails make periodic appearances in the background.

  • Gabriel has said that “Family Snapshot” was inspired by a book about Arthur Bremer, the guy who shot George Wallace, who fortunately never became president.

  • Hey, that cunt’s not breathing
    I think she’s had too much
    Of something or other, hey, man, you know what I mean
    I don’t mean to scare you
    But you’re the one who came here
    And you’re the one who’s gotta take her when you leave
    I’m not being smart
    Or trying to be cold on my part
    And I’m not gonna wear my heart on my sleeve
    But you know people get all emotional
    And sometimes, man, they just don’t act rational
    They think they’re just on tv

    Sha-la-la-la, man
    Why don’t you just slip her away

    You know, I’m glad that we met man
    It really was nice talking
    And I really wish that there
    was a little more time to speak
    But you know it could be a hassle
    Trying to explain myself to a police officer
    About how it was that your old lady got herself stiffed
    And it’s not like we could help
    But there was nothing no one could do
    And if there was, man, you know I would have been the first
    But when someone turns that blue
    Well, it’s a universal truth
    And then you just know that bitch will never fuck again
    By the way, that’s really some bad shit
    That you came to our place with
    But you ought to be more careful around the little girls
    It’s either the best or it’s the worst
    And since I don’t have to choose
    I guess I won’t and I know this ain’t no way to treat a guest
    But why don’t you grab your old lady by the feet
    And just lay her out on the darkened street
    And by morning, she’s just another hit and run
    You know, some people got no choice
    And they can’t never find a voice
    To talk with that they can even call their own
    So the first thing that they see
    That allows them the right to be
    Why they follow it, you know, it’s called bad luck

  • Thanks for stopping by, Glen.

    Yeah, Lou Reed can definitely do disturbing, much of the New York album, for example.
    Or Heroin.

  • Shark

    Welch, that experience was pretty fucking disturbing.

    What else ya got?

  • Or not. How do you format lyrics these days?

  • Let me mention a pair of really, really disturbing albums, each with their share of disturbing songs. Both by Lou Reed, both involve tragic drug deaths: Berlin and Street Hassle.

    There is a song on Berlin that I can barely bring myself to listen to. It’s called “The Kids,” and it’s about a woman whose kids are being taken away from her. The song goes absolutely overboard in the melodrama department, since the actual cries of anguished young kids are mixed into the song.

    The title track from Street Hassle is a long, morbid Reed masterpiece about a girl who goes to a party and winds up dead.

    The song is in three sections, and in the second section the girl’s boyfriend gets some advice about disposing of the body.

    If these words aren’t disturbing, then nothing is:
    [I saw your formatting problem resolved in #32 so deleted this for tidiness sake. Comments Editor]

  • great article, Scott, here’s a few others off the top of my head.

    “The Mercy Seat” – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.

    about a fella being executed. Johnny Cash does a brilliant BRILLIANT cover on American III, but the original Cave one has the upper (red right?) hand when it comes to sheer terrifyin dementia.

    ANYTHING from Closer by Joy Division.

    i still can’t listen to this album, i bought it an heard it an loved it an knew i never wanted to hear a note of it ever again. truly unpleasant experience.

    “4st 7lbs” by The Manic Street Preachers

    A lot of The Holy Bible is incredibly disturbing, songs discussin the holocaust and serial killers tend to have that effect, but this is particularly stark and it’s the only track I skip on the album. not becuase it’s bad, but because it’s too damn good, TOO effective. it’s about anorexia. “i wanna walk in the snow and not leave a footprint..” etc

    Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday

    this just makes me feel like shit for the rest of the day. which is the idea, i guess. incredibly beautiful and powerful and distressing.

    Kim by Eminem

    one of the most relentlessly unpleasant, disturbing songs i’ve heard from a mainstream artist in many a damn year.

    there’s loads more, but thats the ones off the top a my head

  • Shark

    Shark’s Most Disturbing Lyrics

    1) God Bless America

    2) More Than I Can Do — by Steve Earle
    (the greatest song ever written about a crazed murderous stalker!)

    MORE THAN I CAN DO [Steve Earle]

    I’m trying hard to let you go
    But it’s more than I can do
    And every day or two
    I wind up right back where I started
    I’m trying not to let you know
    That I’m still in love with you
    I can’t just sit home blue
    Cause there ain’t no rest for the brokenhearted
    Just because you won’t unlock your door
    That don’t mean you don’t love me anymore

    I’m never gonna let you go
    No matter what you do
    Because you know it’s more than I can do

    You told me that I got to stop
    But it’s more than I can do
    And that ain’t nothing new
    Cause we both know I’m crazy about you

    You said you’re gonna call the cops
    But I ain’t gonna run
    Because you’re the only one
    There ain’t no way I could live without you
    You left me just when I needed you
    So I ain’t even close to through with you
    I’m never gonna let you go
    No matter what you do
    Because you know it’s more that I can do


    Get the feelin’ some ungrateful bitch is about ta die?



    3) The Gun Song by the Hangdogs

    …Second BEST song ever written about a crazed, murderous stalker…

    THE GUN SONG [Hangdogs, Beware of Dog CD]

    he was drunk depressed and crazy when he bought himself the gun
    over the counter in some pawn shop on south main
    one feel of that cold steel and he gratefully unwadded
    the last fifty dollars to his name

    he walked back to the subdivision, into the house
    all excited to show her his new gun
    she stopped packing right away when he put it to her head and told her
    “the thing is, i still love you, hon.”

    see your reflection in the blue steel and it’s too late to run
    the romance was gone with that first bruise
    see, cupid don’t shoot arrows out the barrel of a gun
    and love don’t make the ten o’clock news

    she waited till he passed out, then she dashed her cigarette out
    in the crumpled pile of her old wedding gown
    she thumbed a ride to fredericksburg got a car there at the hertz
    and she stopped into a pawn shop west of town

    he tracked her credit card to clovis just to tell her he still loved her
    he found her waiting tables in some bar
    she smiled, said “oh darlin,” slid her hand beneath her apron
    and she blew a hole right through that fucker’s heart


    they acquitted her on grounds of the gun in his cold hand
    still she ain’t smiled once since that bloody day
    they UPSed back both the guns, inherited and owned
    so she sold em in some pawn shop on south main

    see, cupid don’t shoot arrows out the barrel of a gun
    and love don’t make the ten o’clock news


  • GoHah

    More from Richard Thompson: the most disturbing and depressing song in the world–“THE END OF THE RAINBOW”:

    I feel for you, you little horror
    Safe at your mother’s breast
    No lucky break for you around the corner
    ‘Cause your father is a bully
    And he thinks that you’re a pest
    And your sister she’s no better than a whore.
    Life seems so rosy in the cradle,
    But I’ll be a friend I’ll tell you what’s in store
    There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow.
    There’s nothing to grow up for anymore

  • “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” from Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinois(e)” creeps me out in a big way (maybe because it’s such a damn beautiful song about so many awful things…)

  • I always viewed the story behind “Family Snapshot” as a young kid playing as if he’s an assassin shooting the president, rather than the ending being a backflash to a real assassin’s childhood. The child is certainly disturbed, however, and the ending reveals that he’s calling out for help. I’m not sure I buy the metaphorically killing of the dad, per se, since there’s no indication that he’s particularly upset with his father (as opposed to being upset that both parents are growing apart).

    All that said, there’s room for Scott’s interpretation to be sure.

    To add to the list of disturbing songs, I’d put forward a number by Richard Thompson, including “Psycho Street,” “I Feel So Good,” or “Cold Kisses,” which starts off:

    Here I am in your room going through your stuff
    Said you’d be gone five minutes, that’s time enough
    Here in your drawer there’s lacy things
    Old credit cards and beads and bangles and rings
    Well I think I’ve found what I’m looking for
    Hidden away at the back of the drawer
    Here’s the life that you led before

    Nothing more disturbing that a boyfriend searching through your drawers while you step out, is there?

  • zingzing

    from coil’s “love’s secret domain,” a song just as musically disturbing as it is lyrically… disturbing… is “lyrically” a word? anyway:

    Oh rose, thou art sick
    Seduce.. let loose
    The vision and the void
    Blood sickle.. honey suck…
    In little children’s heavy heads
    My dreams erupt while in my bed
    Innocence is dripping red…
    Give sanity a longer leash
    Some of us have sharper teeth
    In love’s secret domain…
    Oh rose, Thou art sick
    The invisible worm
    The vision and the void
    The blood sickle cuts
    And the honey sucks

    hard to tell what this is about… but it certainly is violent and sexual and it just may be about children. sick, sick stuff.

  • Jeremy is an excellent addition.

    Thanks for the clarification on Polly.

    Ah, yes, “One.”

  • JR

    “Raining Blood” – Tori Amos
    “Klavier” – Rammstein
    “Heaven Tonight” – Cheap Trick
    “Black Sabbath” – Type O Negative
    “Hand of Doom” – Black Sabbath
    “Lather” – Jefferson Airplane
    “Child In Time” – Deep Purple
    “The Wind Cries Mary” – Jimi Hendrix
    “Daddy” – Korn
    “Guyana” – Manowar
    “Sister Morphine” – Rolling Stones

  • Den Lloyd

    Just for the record ‘Polly’ is a nirvana song, but still disturbing all the same, and the metallica song is ‘one’, which includes a fair few disturbing lyrics like these

    “I’m waking up I can not see
    That there is not much left of me
    Nothing is real but pain now
    Hold my breath as I wish for death
    Oh please god,wake me”

  • I was trying to remember thename of the song – I think it was by Metallica – about a guy with no arms or limbs.
    That would have gone on my list had it been something I have listened to more than once.

    Sonic Youth’s music is annoying but the lyrics are usually more insiped than disturbing.

  • J. P. Spencer

    I’d like to add the song “Candyman” by David Ackles, a nearly-forgotten songwriter of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. The song is about a war amputee who decides to get even with society for losing his hand by opening up a candy store and slipping pornography to kids in their bags of candy.

    Now THAT’S about as far as you can get from your typical popular song.

  • GoHah

    “ODE TO BILLIE JOE” by Bobbi Gentry–here’s something you don’t see everyday:
    “That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today”
    “Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way”
    “He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge”
    “And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

    “RUBY, DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE TO TOWN” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition–wheelchair-bound soldier back from the Vietnam War gets less than a welcome homecoming:
    She’s leaving now cause
    I just heard the slamming of the door
    The way I know I’ve heard it
    Some 100 times before
    And if I could move I’d get my gun
    And put her in the ground
    Oh Ruby
    Don’t take your love to town…
    Oh Ruby for God’s sake turn around

    “ALONE AGAIN NATURALLY” by Gilbert O’Sullivan–and this is only the beginning of the song!:
    In a little while from now,
    If I’m not feeling any less sour
    I promised myself to treat myself
    And visit a nearby tower,
    And climbing to the top,
    Will throw myself off
    In an effort to make it clear to who
    Ever what it’s like when your shattered
    Left standing in the lurch, at a church
    Where people ‘re saying,
    “My God that’s tough, she stood him up!
    No point in us remaining.
    May as well go home.”
    As I did on my own,
    Alone again, naturally

    Sex, Violence, Suicide, 3 AM in the Soul–now that’ll dredge up some old disturbing songs that gave you chills as a child. I’ll stop now.

  • How about almost anything by Sonic Youth? Disturbing in that it wants to make me jump out a window!

  • PJ Harvey can make some pretty disturbing tracks… great band, though.

  • Since Pearl Jam’s been invoked, how about “Jeremy,” which I believe preceded Columbine by quite a ways but captured the turbulent adolescent emotions (and classmate bullying) that produce such tragedies.

  • GoHah

    Apparently I know too many disturbing songs (which could explain a lot)–Here’s an addendum to a previous list:

    “Down By the Water” PJ Harvery
    “Long Snake Moan” PJ Harvey
    “Visions of Johanna” Bob Dylan
    “Ballad of a Thin Man” Bob Dylan
    “Jokerman” Bob Dylan
    “Limp” Fiona Apple
    “Powderfinger” Neil Young
    “Big Tears” Elvis Costello
    “Goon Squad” Elvis Costello
    “7 And 7 Is” Love
    “California Uber Alles” Dead Kennedys

  • GoHah

    About Polly mentioned in #7and 8: do you mean “Polly” by Nirvana on Nevermind? That’s about a rape that I believe was fact-based. Did Pearl Jam also have a song by the same name–I admit I don’t know all their songs, but just seemed kind of unlikely to me (both Seattle grunge bands, etc).

  • GoHah

    These selections are both lyrically and musically disturbing to me:
    “Shoot Out the Lights” Richard Thompson
    “Desolation Row” Bob Dylan
    “I Scare Myself” Dan Hicks
    “I Want You” Elvis Costello
    “Friction” Television
    “Marquee Moon” Television
    “Isolation” John Lennon
    “Psycho Killer” Talking Heads
    “Monkey Gone to Heaven” Pixies
    “Singapore” Tom Waits
    “I Found Out” John Lennon
    “Tomorrow Never Knows”
    “Darkness on the Edge of Town” Bruce Springsteen

  • Oh, Polly is a good one.

    Disturbing as in emotionally disruptive, making you feel uncomfortable.
    Note I’m talking more about the lyrics than the music – so while country music disturbs me musically the lyrics don’t bug me.

    Although that reminds me of another also-ran I considered- Goodbye Earl by the Dixie Chicks.

  • I would also have to add Polly by Pearl Jam. It’s about the real abuction, rape and tourture of a 15 year old girl.

  • I’m trying to understand what you mean by disturbing. Death Metal might be disturbing to some, Mahler can be pretty disturbing, and of course, a lot of hip-hop/grunge has dystopian or anti-social themes

    Good choice, though:)

  • Are you sure of that intepretation of the Family Snapshot song? I can see how that works but a link would be great.

    Glad you guys liked the piece.


    I’ve been wanting to write this up for a few weeks but pledged I would wait until I finished my classes first. Finished my class earlier today:)

    Yes, Biko is another great song. Gabriel seems to do disturbed well.

  • uao

    Excellent topic, Scott! Well written too, excellent article.

    It’s subjective; “Comfortably Numb” always “unsettled” me but never quite “disturbed” me.

    I agree with Cash doing the Nine Inch Nails; Reznor could shock, but never like that, Cash’s great exit trumps any rocker’s so far, in my book.

    Some more disturbing ones:

    Marianne Faithful: As Tears Go By
    (one of the sweetest voices in music re-recorded her biggest hit and sang it with a death rattle. She was still in her 30’s at the time)

    Billie Holliday: Strange Fruit
    “Strange Fruit”, about a lynching, was shocking in 1939 and sure sends chills up my spine now, too)

    Peter Gabriel: Biko

    Like the Gabriel song you nominated, Scott, I get the same chills from Biko, about a black South African during apartheid who “fell” out of a police station window.

    Jimi Hendrix: Hey Joe

    Remains the only rock classic about killing your wife.

    Pink Floyd: Careful With That Axe Eugene

    For violent psychodrama, this is my favorite because it is so abstract; only one line of lyric, the title, is uttered at a crescendo after a long build-up, followed by screams and an exploding jam. It’s like Jack Nicholson chopping down the door in The Shining.

    Great work, Scott.

  • Baronius

    My top five would have included a different Peter Gabriel song, also on Melt, “I Don’t Remember”. Very creepy, especially because I’m not sure what it’s about. Same with some Violent Femmes and Warren Zevon. Just back away slowly and don’t ask what the song means.

  • Oh and I forgot to mention. Great article!

  • Family Snapshot is not about a man killing the prez, it’s about a boy killing his dad (metaphorically) because he’s feeling abandoned by his parent’s divorce. And when we find him behind the front door, it’s like a fade in after he “wakes” from his fantasy/daydream/imaginative play.

    And yes Peter Gabriel is a creative genius.