Oct. 19, 2019: The original Misfits—singer-songwriter Glenn Danzig, bassist Jerry Only and guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein (with ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and guitarist Acey Slade, formerly of Joan Jett‘s Blackhearts) headlined NYC’s Madison Square Garden over ’90s punk heroes Rancid and OG late ’70s Brit-punks the Damned.
The sold-out pre-Halloween celebration was a triumph on two levels. First, it would’ve been unthinkable in 1977 for any punk band to pack MSG, let alone headline it. And second, this was essentially the lineup that made classic LPs such as Walk Among Us and Earth A.D. (give or take a drummer or two and the second guitarist addition), thereby settling 30 years of acrimony and litigation.
The Misfits originally resembled a Ramones steeped in hours of Midnight Creature Feature reruns, and moldering EC Comics. Their early 45 RPM rippers (especially “Horror Business” and “Teenagers From Mars”) were some of the best of U.S. punk’s second wave. Hardcore’s acceleration of tempo and aggression gripped their debut LP, Walk Among Us, without sacrificing the well-crafted, melodic tunes Danzig was writing.
The thrash-o-holic ’corefest that was Earth A.D. was surely the record that had everyone from Metallica to Norwegian death metallers proclaiming the Misfits to be an influence. But the total package aspects of the band—look, stage show, graphic presentation—were surely noticed by ’00s garage acts such as the White Stripes and the Hives.
For listeners that may have seen the iconic band logo, but not heard the glorious music, we’ve got you. The essential Misfits canon can be summarized in five LPs.
- Walk Among Us
Honestly? This is the LP from where much of the legend derives. Having been issued by Slash Records subsidiary Ruby, it gained broader distribution than previous releases from the band’s in-house Plan 9 Records. It was also the third attempt at a Misfits full-length after 1978’s Static Age and 1980’s 12 Hits From Hell. Light speed tempos had yet to take a grip on the band, save for exceptions such as “All Hell Breaks Loose.” Hence, this mostly hews to fairly Ramonic time signatures. This is certainly the best recorded and produced of the early Misfits records, with some of Danzig’s catchiest, strongest songs (“Hate Breeders,” “I Turned Into A Martian,” “Astro Zombies”). It also has more whoa-whoa choruses per square inch than your average Buzzcocks single.
- Static Age
“We’re all blue from projection tubes!” Danzig snarls from the title track, one of many bits of self-criticism involving the saturation TV viewing the band—Danzig, Only, guitarist Franché Coma and drummer Mr. Jim—admittedly enjoyed. The 17 raw, crude tracks were byproducts of recording time awarded in a legal settlement with a Mercury Records subsidiary. The label issued Pere Ubu records under the name Danzig used to release the Misfits’ debut “Cough/Cool” 45, Blank Records.
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In late 1978, Coma and Mr. Jim left during a Canadian tour and the planned full-length album was scrapped. The John F. Kennedy assassination riff “Bullet,” “We Are 138,” “Attitude” and “Hollywood Babylon” were cannibalized for the “Bullet” single and the later Beware EP, alongside a remixed “Last Caress.” “Teenagers From Mars” would be recut for the “Horror Business” 45, and several other tracks would get reworked for the Legacy Of Brutality odds-and-sods collection. The corrosive guitar sound that became the Misfits’ trademark is firmly in place.
Though the horror/trash themes aren’t quite fully established, they grip much of this material. When finally issued in its complete form in 1996, Static Age was a revelation, a wholly realized work that had many wondering why it took so long to see the day’s light.
3. Earth A.D.
Also titled Wolfs Blood, this is fully the Misfits’ hardcore record. Every single track breaks the land-speed record and sets new ones. The production is thick and funereal. Only’s bass tone resembles a cement mixer. Doyle lays down masses of guitar overdubs, overdriving a chorus unit on each one. The result is a massive wash of stereo distortion crashing down on Danzig’s howling head. Black Flag’s Damaged-era drummer Robo slams the skins, and classic SST Records producer Spot mans the tape deck and mixing board.
The Mad Marc Rude cover art looks like Rudimentary Peni‘s Nick Blinko doing one of his schizophrenic speed doodles for EC Comics. Earth A.D. features some of Danzig’s best compositions, including a studio version of “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?,” the more mid-tempo “Die, Die My Darling” (at least on reissues) and “Green Hell,” as later covered by Metallica.
4. Collection I
5. Collection II
Do you need these two comps? After all, Earth A.D.‘s entirety, for all intents and purposes, is reprised across these two discs, alongside select Walk Among Us highlights on Collection 1. But the meat of this duo is all the early singles and EPs presented in one place: The entirety of the Horror Business and Beware EPs, the debut 45 “Cough/Cool” (albeit with only the original drums used and Danzig replacing the electric piano with his electric guitar and additional drum machine) and even the cover of Allan Sherman’s “Rat Fink” used on the Night Of The Living Dead EP. These five releases represent the meat of the Misfits.