When I started this series I considered laying some ground rules excluding certain bands from the Mixtape because they're too easy and obvious and it would just be lazy to include them. I like The Misfits as much as anybody but do you really need me to single them out as having written some pretty decent horror-themed songs? In the end my lazier instincts won out, not to mention the fear that once I've exhausted my initial list of songs that I'll have to resort to writing about Jennifer Love Hewitt's "How Do I Deal" from the I Still Know What You Did Last Summer soundtrack. Let me tell you guys about this awesome song you've probably never heard called "Teenagers from Mars".
In that respect, Slayer is such an easy candidate for this series that I could probably just press "shuffle" on a selection of their songs and let the dark lord choose. With all due respect to the Prince of Lies I've chosen to feature a Slayer song that I think is underappreciated. In 1996 Slayer put out an album of punk covers called Undisputed Attitude that for the most part was greeted with a shrug from their fans. The one original Slayer track on the album was called "Gemini". Almost a companion piece to their earlier song "213". named for Jeffery Dahmer's apartment, "Gemini" was written from the point of view of the Zodiac Killer. Most of the song is slow, sludgy and almost Melvins-like, but at the end when it follows the killer at work it's the musical equivalent of the shots from the killer's POV that people like Dario Argento and John Carpenter popularized. For sheer insane badassitude it's hard to top "I am here for the sole purpose of your death."
On the advice of my esteemed colleagues here at Bloody Good Horror, I checked out Sufjan Stevens's "John Wayne Gacy, Jr". I have to admit that I haven't listened to much Sufjan Stevens. I know a few years ago he announced his insane plan to record an album for each of the fifty states and his release of Illinois was on a lot of critic's best of the year lists. At the time I checked out a few of his songs and thought they were okay but never felt compelled to seek out one of his albums. That being said, after giving "John Wayne Gacy, Jr" a listen, I have to admit that I've been caught sleeping.
As you might have guessed, the song is about the titular boy-killing clown, but what makes the song supremely creepy is the way it humanizes Gacy and draws parallels between his crimes and the dark secrets we all have with the chilling final line "In my best behavior / I am really just like him / Look beneath the floorboards / For the secrets I have hid".
Another singer with his own sordid secrets is the guy who was quite possibly the first to take the horror theme and run with it, the immortal Screamin' Jay Hawkins. When I lived in New Orleans I remember seeing posters all over the place shortly after his death asking "Are You One of Screamin' Jay's Kids?". It turns out Screamin' Jay left behind up to an estimated 75 little Jays, many of whom never knew he was their father. A dubious achievement to be sure, but it sure doesn't hurt the legend of Screamin' Jay.
On stage, Screamin' Jay lived up to the legend. He would emerge from a coffin wearing outragous costumes, carried a cigarette-smoking skull named Henry and claimed to practice voodoo. He also wrote Constipation Blues (here performed alongside sleaze king Serge Gainsbourg) which is pretty much the greatest song about poo ever. Here is his signature song, "I Put a Spell on You", which was censored upon its release in 1956 due to some sounds that were deemed "cannibalistic" and has since been covered by artists ranging from Nina Simone to Marilyn Manson.