were a "punk rock" band from Lodi, New Jersey. Formed in 1977 toward the end of
the "punk" era, they took the band name from Marilyn Monroe's last film and in fact, thanked the cast
of the movie on the back of their first record.
The founding members were: Glenn Danzig on vocals and electric piano, Jerry Caiafa on bass, and Manny on drums. Their first release on their own label, Blank Records, didn't reflect the characteristic anger and rebellion of most "punk" records, but instead a more brooding and romantic side lingering beneath.
Side A was called "Cough/Cool" and it had a jazzy sort of feeling to it. With the release of this record only the interesting lyrical content and strong vocals hinted at the style that wold emerge with the passage of time and the band's subsequent releases. Side B had the original recording of "She", and was about Patty Hearst. It was the more agressive track but there was no noisy guitar. Instead, Glenn played the electric piano through a fuzz box.
In 1978, the "punk rock" influence reared its ugly head with the addition of Frank LiCata (a.k.a Franche Coma) on guitar and Jim Catania (a.k.a. Mr. Jim) on drums. The next release was the notorious "Bullet" EP, on their Plan 9 label. The four song seven inch reflected a more aggressive and angry style. It was originally pressed on black vinyl with a fold out sleeve and a lyric sheet for the title track. "Attitude" was a poppy little tune with colorful usage of many four lettered words. "Hollywood Babylon" had a rich vocal track and a very catchy melody. "We are 138" was filled with the straight down-strumming guitar technique that was very reminiscent of the Ramones. It was a style the band would proudly perfect, and one that stayed with them throughout all of their recordings.
The "Bullet" sheet showed former-president Kennedy's head on a blood splattered background with a bullet hole in it. Not tame by any means, and not meant to be either. These four songs came from a larger session, that was to be their first album, Static Age.
At this time it was fairly common to see Jerry (now calling himself Jerry Only) around town with his electric blue hair and leather jacket that proudly proclaimed "The Misfits" on the back. Everyone in Lodi had heard of the Misfits (if they cared to listen) and how they wrote their own songs, put out their own records and booked their own gigs. This D.I.Y. method was a staple of "punk rock". Why let some big record company tell you how to look, how to sound, or what to do for that matter? They would make it happen on their own terms, all the way down to cutting and gluing the seven inch sleeves together themselves.
In the summer of 1979 a new EP was coming out and there had been some major changes: enter Bobby Steele on guitar and Joey Image on drums. Another addition, although not to the actual line-up itself, a logo appeared, the Crimson Ghost was adopted as the symbol of the band in the Spring of that year on the poster for the band's show at Max's Kansas City. This would be the image that would forever be linked to the band and would grace the cover of this new EP, "Horror Business".
When you bought a Misfits record back then, you would find an application for the "Fiend Club". If you filled it out and sent it in they would send you whatever they had (buttons, stickers, or photos) for free. This would continue throughout the band's career. "Horror Business" was another seven inch with three new songs recorded live in the studio and pressed on yellow vinyl. Besides the title track there was "Teenage From Mars" and "Children In Heat". This EP was powerful, raw, and obnoxious.
A different look was going on with the ever-evolving sound. All that horror business was starting to branch out. The trade mark "devilock" hair style was becoming more prominent. Jerry's eye makeup, Glenn's bone shirt and glooves, and of course the black clothes. Everyone looks better in black clothes! They were turning into what we used to call a "ghoul rock" band. Some said "monster rock", "horror rock", and others even said "death rock". It was their own niche, one that would last, one that would always separate the Misfits from all others.
In November of 1979 a new EP called "Night Of The Living Dead" came out as a three song seven inch with the b-side being "Where Eagles Dare" and "Rat Fink". With the release of this record, the band went to England to support the Damned with a possible opening tour with the Clash being talked about too. But Glenn got into a bar fight and was thrown into jail and upon leaving the Damned tour, Joey Image quit the band and flew back to the states. Without a drummer everyone flew home and there would be no Clash tour.
The "Night Of The Living Dead" record was sort of a disappointment in that something went wrong during the mastering and all of the levels were way too low. Only 2000 copies were pressed and the plates were destroyed. Despite the bad mastering, Glenn had told me on a few occasions that this was his favorite time in the band.
All along, Jerry's younger brother, P.C. Doyle had been hanging around rehearsals, going to the shows, learning how to play guitar, and being groomed by Jerry to be a Misfit. Practice was always held at their parents' house on Grove Street in Lodi where P.C. Doyle would be waiting in the wings.
Halloween was approaching and the time was right. Jerry had decided that Doyle (the P.C. was dropped) was in and Bobby was out. It was an obvious choice for Bobby's replacement. Doyle and I were 15 when he did his first show. It was at Irving Plaza, sometimes called Club 57 or the Monster Movie Club. This was Halloween. It had become a tradition for the Misfits to play here in New York City. What a way to start Doyle's career. They showed horror movie trailers before and in-between the bands. There were lamb's heads hanging from the chandeliers and cobwebs everywhere.
On the bill that night was the legendary blues shouter Screamin' Jay Hawkins and a transvestite band aptly named Marilyn. It was the first gig I ever went to and it was kool as hell! The Misfits had three coffins standing behind the blood red velvet curtain. They also had Arthur Googy, who had been in the band for a while now, behind the drum kit. This line-up was my favorite.
As the show started, they kicked down the lids and went into "Halloween". The rest was a blur. If you never saw them, a Misfits show was a wall of guitars and howling, screaming vocals. Totally intense and insane. There were piles of bodies all over the stage, people jumping off the P.A. stacks, and tons of stage diving. Jerry would count off every song, flail his bass around, and run and jump all over the stage. Doyle would punish his guitar and scare the hell out of people. Glenn would sometimes lose his mind and be found crawling around on the floor or crouching way down close to the crowd. He'd get kicked in the head. He would jump on people and maybe even throw a punch or two. It was insanity! I loved it.
In England, Cherry Red released a twelve inch called "Beware". It contained the first two EP's along with "Last Caress" from the Static Age sessions. It had a kool black and white photo on the cover and was the band's first twelve inch.
Doyle and Googy's first appearance on vinyl is my favorite. Three Hits From Hell was another three song seven inch. The a-side was "London Dungeon", the song Glenn wrote while in jail in England, and the b-sides were "Horror Hotel" and "Ghouls Night Out". These songs featured a great mix of the unrelenting bass and guitar assault that sounded too fast to be played by human beings, along with a full, rich vocal and a great drum sound. The cover showed only the eyes of the four members. On "London Dungeon", credit the kool sound on the main riff and the spooky feedback, that added so much to the song, the producer Rob Alter.
I was hooked for real and wanted to be involved somehow. Right around this time Doyle asked me if I would photograph the band. I'd been shooting since 1978, so I thought "hell yes" I would. The shoot was at a cave in upstate New York or somewhere on a Sunday in August. I hadn't met Glenn until this point. He was a little guarded, but had a good sense of humor and all went well. Jerry loved the camera. Googy kept wandering away or spacing out while Doyle just growled into my lens all day. The shoot lasted five or six hours and about a dozen or so of these shots would wind up on the fourth-coming first album.
After that I shot them at Chase Park on Houston Street in New York City and the East Side Club in Philly. Going to gigs meant carrying gear, beer, or coffins. I printed T-shirts and took pictures. Once, Jerry asked me to grab him a fresh bass after he smashed one. Pretty kool!
It was 1981 and a new single was coming out. It was another seven inch, this one entitled "Halloween". It contained version one along with a Latin werewolf chant for version two. There was a lyric sheet for the autumn anthem, "Halloween I". "Bon fires burnin' bright/pumpkin faces in the night/ I remember Halloween". Version two was a spooky song that sounded like pagans dancing around a festive fire. You could find the lyrics to that one on the back of the seven inch. The orange cover was crowded with skulls and a scary jack 'o lantern framing a kool black and white photo of the fearsome foursome.
There was a national tour planned, an album deal with Ruby Records, and a headlining gig at the Ritz that would be recorded. The Ritz in New York was at 3rd Avenue and 11th street, and was considered a prestigious gig back then. The huge posters the band made up (and would paste all over town) had four skeletal horsemen riding four skeleton horses, proudly proclaimed "The Misfits at the Ritz". The band showcased a lot of material that would end up on their first album. From this show came the legendary version of "Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight".
Walk Among Us came out in 1982, mine and Doyle's senior year in high school. Thirteen classic songs. All the elements were there; the hooks, the catchy melodies, grade B horror movie titles, the BIG choruses, the 8th note downstrumming barrage, tons of photos (some of mine were used so I was thrilled!), and a lyric sheet that let you in on the twisted vision that hid within Glenn's mind.
Upon that release, the band did a national tour that took them out to sunny California. There they met horror film star Vampira, for whom they named a song. She was living in seclusion and hadn't made a public appearance in many years. She was so moved by the band's musical tribute that she met with them publicly and posed for pictures.
Before a scheduled Whiskey A Go-Go gig, Glenn said the band and Henry Rollins (then with Black Flag) chased some Sunset Strip, cock-rock band named Motley Crue down the street. The shows at the Whiskey were recorded for what would be a special gift for the "Fiend Club" members.
Touring across the country in a van was never easy, but it's a lot of fun. No heat during snow storms, breaking down, getting into accidents, Mad Max road wars, getting shot at in Detroit, gear getting lost, stolen or broken, and duct taping guitars back together. While on tour it was common for the band to bring along silk screens for their scary T-shirt designs. They had no problem letting their fans lay down their leather jacket while the band printed the Crimson Ghost all over the place, leaving their mark wherever they went.
Walk Among Us was a great success. The culmination of years of hard work and patience was captured as a true representation of the Misfits' sound. Today, all of the songs are all classics: "20 Eyes", "Hate Breeders", "Astro Zombies", "Nike-A-Go-Go", and not to mention a new version of "Night Of The Living Dead".
As a gift to the "Fiend Club", a seven inch of live tracks from this last tour called Evilive was released. The first 1000 copies pressed would be available only to the Misfits' loyal throng. The cover featured a whole band live shot with Glenn's interpretation of the Crimson Ghost on the back. On "We Are 138" guest screams and growls came from Misfits buddy Henry Rollins. This record was a nice gesture to the fans, from a band they looked up to and thought were kool.
For whatever reasons, yet again, the band would find themselves without a drummer. They called upon Robo, former Black Flag drummer, who was looking for a gig in California. He moved to New Jersey and stayed with Glenn.
For their second album, the band chose Black Flag's engineer, Spot, to record them. Things were moving into a faster area. Hardcore bands were a big influence everywhere and some of the tracks that would end up on Earth A.D. were incredibly fast. "Demonomania", "Green Hell", and "Death Comes Ripping" took hardcore into a new dimension. Fusing hardcore's speed with heavy metal's big sound. Poof! Earth A.D., the speed metal bible.
Recorded at a very high decible level, the album has a train-wreck feeling to it with tons of feedback holding it all together. Not all of the songs were new. "We Bite" had been performed as far back as 1981. A studio version of "Mommy..." was also done. This time the words, hooks, and melodies took a back seat to the speed, power, and fury of a live performance captured on tape. The mood of Earth A.D. reflected more real life violence and true-to-life horror. Things weren't so comic-book- like anymore.
The cover was a three hundred hour labor of love drawn by good friend Mad Marc Rude of Los Angeles. It showed the four members amongst zombies, ghouls, and human wreckage in various forms of decay. The overall feel of this album might remind you of "Horror Business" but the intensity brought to life on this 1983 release was ten times greater.
A German company, Aggressive Rock Productions, had already licensed Evilive as a twelve inch with extra tracks added for sale in Europe. The new album would be put out overseas as well, but as Wolf's Blood. For this version, "We Bite" and "Die, Die My Darling" were added as bonus tracks.
The final Misfits record was a twelve inch on Caroline Records. It was called "Die, Die My Darling". It was pressed on black, purple, and white vinyl. The other tracks were "We Bite" and the studio "Mommy...".
When Glenn had told me he was leaving the Misfits I was saddened but not suprised. He felt it was time for a change. He once said that the Misfits were he and Jerry, and if they weren't together it wouldn't be the same. They were moving further apart. Musical and personal differences played a big part. People grow older and change is inevitable. But as you listen you can hear a sound and musical partnership that endures even today.
Even if you never saw them play or had a chance to buy some of the rarest "punk rock" records ever, you can still let the music move you.
The Misfits were some guys from New Jersey who made great music during a crazy time unlike
anyone before or since. To them, I say Fangs...for the memories.