We all revere Guns N’ Roses, despite the fact that they burned out after three albums. Glenn Danzig has blessed us with three legendary bands. The most badass elder statesman in the scene was the voice, principal songwriter and leader of the Misfits. Ask the guys in Metallica, My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold or Black Veil Brides about them to get a taste of their wide-ranging influence. The rockabilly-infused horror-punk band was only around from 1977 to 1983.
But in that short time, The Misfits created a legacy so big that Jerry Only (bass '77 – '83) and Doyle (guitarist from '80 – '83) were able to start over without any original members more than a decade later, on the strength of the brand name. (The pair began what some fans refer to as “The Resurrection Era” with American Psycho, the only Misfits album released on a major label).
There was no decade-long disappearance for Danzig after dissolving the group—he was back with Samhain the same year, offering a darker, more supernaturally driven take on what he’d laid down in the Misfits. When Rick Rubin signed Samhain to Def American, the A-list producer wisely shifted the musical emphasis to Glenn’s unmistakable voice. By the time their debut for the label was finished, the band changed their name to simply Danzig, and yet another legend was born, persisting to this day.
Glenn Danzig somewhat famously passed on a chance to play Wolverine in an X-Men movie. He’s an avid collector of classic animation cells, including a bunch of vintage Disney stuff, which he’s usually got for sale at San Diego Comic-Con. Perhaps most amazingly, he helped reinvigorate Roy Orbison’s career before the singer’s death, after Rubin urged him to write a song for him. The pair pulled off the same awesome maneuver in the '90s with Johnny Cash.
In celebration of the birth of the Evil Elvis, who turned 60 (!) this week, here are some deep cuts you may have missed. (We stopped at 9, in honor of Plan 9 Records, the label Danzig founded to release Misfits material.)
MISFITS – “Archangel” (1981)
Danzig originally wrote this song for the Damned’s David Vanian, who rehearsed with the band a few times but never made it to the studio. In 1984, Danzig took the drums and guitar he’d laid down at Mix-O-Lydian Studio in 1981 and finished “Archangel” for Samhain’s debut album,Initium. (Fun fact: when Jerry Only and his brother Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein restarted the Misfits in the 90s, they asked Vanian to step in for Glenn.)
MISFITS – “Mephisto Waltz” (1983)
This song was kicked around at Misfits rehearsals back in the day, but wasn’t recorded until three years after the band broke up. Danzig enlisted Misfits friend and Samhain/Danzig bassist Eerie Von for the 1986 studio version, which appeared on the Misfits Collection II in November, 1995.
GLENN DANZIG AND THE POWER AND FURY ORCHESTRA – “You And Me (Less Than Zero)” (1987)
Rick Rubin put together the unbelievably killer soundtrack for 1987’s Less Than Zero, which pitted Robert Downey, Jr against James Spader almost 30 years before Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Danzig wrote the title track with a female vocalist in mind, but Rubin liked Glenn’s demo vocals so much, he kept then. As legend has it, Eerie Von wasn’t down with the 50s ballad meets 60s Motown vibe of the song, so Rubin’s buddy George Drakoulias played bass instead.
ROY ORBISON – “Life Fades Away” (1987)
Glenn Danzig is often compared to Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, and to a lesser degree, Roy Orbison. Rubin was a huge fan of the legendary singer, who had fallen into relative obscurity by the 1980s. Rubin drafted Danzig to write this song, which singlehandedly brought Orbison back into the limelight. This one is also on the Less Than Zero original motion picture soundtrack. Orbison’s next solo album, his first in almost a decade, went triple-platinum.
JOHNNY CASH – “Thirteen” (1994)
The magic guest writer trick Rick Rubin pioneered with Roy Orbison paid off in an even bigger way, for the producer and the world, with Johnny Cash. Yep, Danzig wrote this one, too. It appears on Cash’s American Recordings.
DANZIG – “Cold, Cold Rain” (1990)
Eerie Von used to run a Danzig Hotline, where fans could call in and hear prerecorded messages from the band. That was the first place anyone ever heard “Cold, Cold Rain” in 1996, a full six years after it was recorded. It wasn’t released until the 2007 compilation, The Lost Tracks Of Danzig.
KINGHORSE – “Caged” (1990)
Ok, so this wasn’t written by Danzig, but it’s a rare track that he produced, which certainly makes it unique. There’s a very early Danzig vibe to this Kentucky band’s blend of hard rock and punk rock. Caroline Records, the label that issued the Misfits coffin box set, released Kinghorse’s only full-length album.
MELISSA AUF DER MAR FT. GLENN DANZIG – “Father’s Grave”
Out Of Our Minds (2010)
Best known as the former bassist for Courtney Love’s Hole and a member of Billy Corgan’s post-original lineup incarnations of Smashing Pumpkins, Melissa Auf Der Mar is an accomplished singer/solo artist, too. This duet with the Evil Elvis, about a conversation with a gravedigger, is badass.
DANZIG – “Black Hell”
The Hangover Part II original motion picture soundtrack (2011)
Director Todd Phillips, who got his start with a documentary about late punk G.G. Allin, put a Danzig song on the soundtrack of every single Hangover movie. The recently released Danzig Legacy special, a riff on the classic Elvis Presley ’68 Comeback Special, features plenty of hits from Danzig, Samhain and Misfits, played by Glenn with current and former members of his groups. “Black Hell” closes the film with evocative, haunting power.