When someone asks what the first thing is that comes to your mind when you think of Halloween, you are not supposed to say The Misfits. At least that is the idea I got after I was greeted with a classroom full of blank stares when I said The Misfits are in fact the first thing I think of when it comes to Halloween.
It’s rather disheartening when people look at you like you’re crazy for making what is actually a very obvious association. Imagine a classroom full of people looking at you expressionless after you tell them Jesus Christ is the first thing you associate with Christmas. Yeah. That’s pretty much exactly how I felt. Except I’m hoping no one would break the awkward silence with, “Who is Jesus Christ?”(I do realize the irony of equating The Misfits with Jesus in that analogy).
Granted, the fact that no one seemed to realize who The Misfits were lets me give them the benefit of the doubt that if they did know, the blank what-the-bloody-hell looks would change to oh-that-makes-perfect-goddamn-sense looks. I guess I can also concede that when everyone else is naming things like candy, scary movies, and costumes, it is a little different to name a band.
Now I suppose the thing would be to explain why I immediately think of The Misfits when I think of Halloween. Halloween is a time of rituals and traditions, and like many people, I had a tradition of my own. Was it trick-or-treating? Having a party? Toilet papering people’s houses? Nope. I spent every Halloween since middle school at my friend’s house playing Super Smash Bros and listening to horror punk.
Looking back, this seems horribly nerdy and antisocial, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have great memories from it and I probably had a lot more fun playing Super Smash Bros than dressing up and walking around in the cold all night.
Each Halloween we would listen to a lot of bands, but there were certain bands we made sure to include, and to whom we devoted most of our listening time. Therefore, I would like to provide my short list of favorite bands to listen to on Halloween. Normally, I would do this Cracked.com style and count down, but I feel like any conversation about Halloween bands must begin with The Misfits.
1. The Misfits
They formed in 1977, headed by Glenn Danzig, and pretty much defined the genre of horror punk. Horror punk, one of the many subgenres of punk, combines the fast playing style of punk with the themes and imagery of horror movies. The lyrics are often a mixture of gore, vulgarity, and tongue in cheek humor. Many songs tell a kind of story and draw inspiration from horror and sci-fi movies.
The Misfits started this by rooting their band in film references. The song “We Are 138” comes from the George Lucas film THX 1138. When Danzig created a studio to distribute the band’s music, he named it Plan 9 Records, after the notoriously cheesy film Plan 9 From Outer Space. The band’s name itself comes from the 1961 movie The Misfits, which was Marilyn Monroe’s last role. This also adds to the obvious predilection the band has for Marilyn Monroe since she is the subject of numerous songs as well.
My favorite songs:
“Halloween” – considering the song is called Halloween it seems obvious I would listen to it on the actual holiday. The song is pretty much an anthem for Halloween full of gruesome imagery. Such as dead cats hanging from poles and candy apples and razor blades.
“We Are 138” – I like the fact it is based off of a movie few people have actually heard of. And it is pretty much one of the catchiest songs ever.
“Last Caress” – speaking of catchy songs, this is probably in my top five of catchy songs. Which is funny since it is also in the top five of songs I should not sing the lyrics of in public. The opening line is:
I got something to say
I killed your baby today
And it doesn’t matter much to me
As long as it’s dead
Not exactly the kind of thing you want people overhearing you say. It makes a great Halloween song though.
Although AFI is not technically a horror punk band, a lot of their work is inspired by The Misfits. AFI formed in the early 1990s as a hardcore punk band. They can kind of be looked at as a closet horror punk band because the horror punk influence began to manifest more clearly as their career went on. In 1999, they released the All Hallow’s Eve EP which is what gets them on this list. The EP is clearly Halloween/horror punk inspired and includes a cover of The Misfits song “Halloween”.
“Halloween” – yeah I realize it is kind of unfair considering this was already listed as a favorite song. Nevertheless, the cover is incredibly awesome and I listen to both versions over and over on Halloween.
“Totalimmortal” – this is not only my favorite AFI Halloween song but also my favorite AFI song period.
3. Tiger Army
Again, I almost feel like this is cheating since some people refer to Tiger Army as “AFI-lite”. Although to be fair, Tiger Army has almost more right to be on this list than AFI. I just like AFI more. Tiger Army is a psychobilly band. Psychobilly is pretty much to rockabilly what horror punk is to punk. It takes the conventions of the genre and then makes the lyrical focus on horror movie themes and imagery.
The generally wailing vocals give it an extremely eerie sound. Perfect for Halloween. Anyway, Tiger Army formed in 1995 with Nick 13 as its frontman. Nick 13 is a good friend of AFI and does background vocals for them on some tracks. Davey Havok, from AFI, does background vocals on a lot of Tiger Army tracks.
“Annabel Lee” – this is based on Edgar Allen Poe’s poem of the same name. It is a kind of re-imagining of story in which Edgar Allen Poe is literally haunted by the ghost of Annabel Lee.
BALZAC is a Japanese horror punk band hugely influence by The Misfits. In many ways, they are just the Japanese equivalent of The Misfits: they dress similar, sound similar, and utilize similar themes in their songwriting. As far as straight up punk bands, they are one of my favorites. I went through a ginormous punk rock phase in middle school and this is one of the few bands I still love to listen to. In fact, I think the reason they only make honorable mention is because I listen to them enough when it is not Halloween that by the time Halloween rolls around I want to listen to something else.
The Banner is one of the few hardcore bands I would even think of labeling as “horror hardcore.” Even so I think that is a bit of a stretch. However, they share some thematic elements with horror punk and have enough of an eerie sound to make the honorable mentions list. If anything, I throw them on just to mix up the sound a little bit. With horror punk like The Misfits, AFI, and BALZAC, it is nice to have something a little different like hardcore from The Banner and psychobilly from Tiger Army.
For me, Halloween just would not be Halloween without these bands. I’ve listened to them for so long that hearing just one song can remind me of six years worth of Halloween memories. Some people may love Halloween for the costumes and the candy, but I’ll take the music any day. After all, it lasts longer and it doesn’t make you sick to your stomach when you have too much of it.