Just them Lodi boys makin’ some noise at Riot Fest East. Photo by Alf Berg.
Second verse, same as the first: the Original Misfits got up there in Chicago and played the hits like Famous Monsters never happened. Remember when mere mention of this band would send Glenn Danzig into convulsions? Now he’s done two reunion gigs with them, his mood at both jovial. “I bet a lot of you have kids you take trick or treating,” he opined last night. “Scream your ass off if you take your kids trick or treating!”
I wan’t there. I wasn’t at Denver Riot Fest either. The reasons are myriad. I felt skepticism that any of this would really go down, or that it might veer into disaster if it did. The venue struck me as wrong; the Misfits in their glory days were always a club band, and while I’m happy they can command headlining festival slots in 2016, an engagement at Irving Plaza would have been more spiritually authentic. And, of course, this assembly is not really the original Misfits—it is Most of The Original Misfits Featuring Dave Lombardo. Jerry and Glenn must have had a Batman v Superman moment where they both realized they dislike all the actual Misfits drummers with the same passion.
Call me fussy, call me prissy, call me a freelance hillbilly with a snoot full of honeybees. Denver and Chicago aren’t exactly around the corner. Yes, I feel some regret, but I also wouldn’t be having this discussion if the reunion had been Glenn, Jerry, Doyle, and Arthur Googy at the Whiskey a Go Go. Solace is located in the fact that 2017 is the 40th anniversary of the Misfits’ founding. I’d bet my collection of bird skeletons that something auspicious along these lines will occur to commemorate four haunted decades.
If not, there’s always the YouTube. You know, I never saw the Misfits when Danzig was in the band between 1977 and 1983. I’m keeping a streak alive.
Blackheart Acey Slade, Jerry Only, Doyle, & Glenny D. Photo by Alf Berg.
And so it came to pass; Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only met between a pair of twelve foot jack-o-lanterns to belt out an hour’s worth of Misfits songs for the ultra devoted. No fistfights or lawsuits broke out onstage. Everyone seemed to be having fun, including Glenn, who is allergic to most forms of humor. In fact, at certain intervals, it sounded like this ferocious hound of hell was workshopping his standup material—and the crowd was loving it.
Part of me wants to chastise Riot Fest organizers for not offering a high quality live stream of these Misfits, something for which I and many other fiends would have paid a nominal fee. A greater part of me understands that cacophonous cell phone videos are more in keeping with the live recording legacy of this band. Even through pigeon shit fidelity you can tell the ‘Fits performed well, holding perfect tempo and pressing their fervor into the music (Glenn especially). A few clips have moved me emotionally.
The million dollar questions now: will Chicago receive a concert of similar character or will the bloom be off the skull in a couple weeks? Will there be future gigs in other cities? Will there be an album? How will all this affect eBay sales of Graves era merchandise?
Original recipe Misfits Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig, 1979. Photog unknown.
In not very surprising news considering the recent past, founding Misfits Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig have announced they will take the stage with Jerry’s brother Doyle and a drummer to be named later for several performances as “The Original Misfits” at 2016’s Riot Fest. We understand this to mean Glenn and Jerry have finally stopped suing each other over ownership of the Misfit logos and skull faces. Fantastic. I’m excited to see the exclusive merch they plan to roll out for this landmark concert engagement.
My enthusiasm for the reunion itself is mild. Of course Danzig goes back to the Misfits, driving a stake through the heart of its legal monster with option to make a final artistic statement on the matter if he chooses. Of course Jerry agrees, because it’s spectacle (and profitable). A bigger surprise would have found Danzig buying back the performing rights to the Misfits and icing Jerry out for the rest of his life, or Danzig retiring from music and moving to Nepal to become a monk. Sting went back to the Police. Nesmith went back to the Monkees. Of course Glenn Danzig goes back to the Misfits.
Everyone goes back to the well—especially if the well vomits money.
Obviously there is also cynicism in my heart that any of this will actually happen. Riot Fest is four long months away, and these guys have lived in acrimony for a far greater period than they ever spent making music. Will Jerry and Glenn make it to September without another donnybrook or injunction? Maybe if the Original Misfits drummer is one of their lawyers.
It’s like the Mets. I wanna believe, but history and logic tells me otherwise. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. We’ll see come September.
The Devil’s Rain
When asked about the state of his band shortly after singer Michale Graves and drummer Dr. Chud both quit on the same night in 2000, bassist Jerry Only said something to the effect of “Anything concerning the Misfits is between me and my brother, Doyle.” These days, anything concerning the fate of suburban New Jersey’s most storied punk rock band appears to be secured firmly between Only’s ears. Brother Doyle was replaced on guitar by Black Flag legend Dez Cadena in 2001, but it still took a decade for this latest incarnation of the band Only founded in 1977 with vocalist Glenn Danzig to release an album’s worth of new material. Nail-biting fans must wonder—did Jerry Bear spend the Aughts trying to convince Danzig to return to the fold?
If so, he clearly didn’t wave enough money in Glenn’s face. The Devil’s Rain, lucky seven in the Misfits discography, finds Only assuming lead vocals. The monstrous bass player has a commanding and tuneful bellow, but the vampire bite of the two who came before him seems generally absent. Musically, the Misfits have stripped away here many of the heavy metal elements that punctuated their 1990s releases, barreling away in a mid-tempo rockish manner that only occasionally breaks into something Judas Priesty. This proves to be both positive and negative: While it’s great to hear a Misfits record that cruises more or less at the same pace as their dusty ’70s classic Static Age, even that record punched the hardcore throttle once in a while. Nothing on Devil’s Rain comes within a mile of matching the speedy theatrics of that album’s “We Are 138” or “Bullet.”
But what of theme? Anyone expecting The Devil’s Rain to offer biting commentary on the geopolitic or our nation’s planking epidemic will be crestfallen to learn the Misfits are continuing to simply swipe horror movie titles and write songs around them. “Land of the Dead,” “Dark Shadows,” “Death Ray,” and “Ghost of Frankenstein” all offer reasonable if not rousing tributes to their celluloid predecessors, although that last one is almost felled by a handful of corny monster grunts to drive home the point we are listening to a song about Frankenstein (or rather, Frankentein’s ghost). Similarly, “Death Ray” closes with album with—you guessed it—a sputtering of lasery death ray noises.
Only once do the Misfits of 2011 stray ever so slightly from their ooky spooky trick-or-treat tableau: “Where Do They Go” is a do-woppy lost love song centered around infamous murder burg Juárez, Mexico. The band fumbles a tad as they try to address such a shockingly real social horror in their quasi-cartoon style, but there’s enough hook to sink the chorus of “Where Do They Go” firmly into the recesses of your brain. Those gooey female back-up vocals, by the way, come courtesy of Joanna Powers, Jerry Only’s ex-wife.
Producer Ed Stasium gives the Misfits (a trio now consisting of Only, Cadena, and drummer Eric “Goat” Arce) a full, engaging sound on The Devil’s Rain, and there are moments where enough melodic horror flares up to remind skull jockeys of the band’s original intangible magic. Unfortunately, at fifty minutes, this outing is padded with too many so-so tunes that end up running together like trickles of lukewarm blood. Had they sliced the thing in half, the Misfits may have had something strong enough to shame devilocked doubters into corpse-like silence.
Then again, there’s nothing as stupid or embarrassing on The Devil’s Rain as that song Glenn wrote about his penis from the last Danzig record, and here it sounds like they actually paid to have the damn thing mastered. So the point in this round of “Who’s Working Hardest Not To Ruin Their Legacy?” goes to Mr. Only, unless it turns out “Curse of the Mummy’s Hand” is some kind of masturbation joke. In that case, well…anything concerning Jerry Only’s masturbation habits is between the man’s own meaty, leathered paw and his wang.
FINAL SCORE: Two Ghosts of Frankenstein (out of four).
The rock never stops here in JG2Land. Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, the six foot pile of muscles who currently pounds his bat-shaped guitar for similarly-named horror punk outfit Gorgeous Frankenstein, dropped a bombshell in the Cleveland Free Times yesterday—apparently his former band the Misfits came this close to reuniting with fussy founder Glenn Danzig in 2002. ZOMFG! Unfortunately, Doyle’s brother and longtime Misfits bass player Jerry Only screwed the undead pooch on the whole deal. Read:
“We were actually going to do a Misfits reunion with Glenn,” says Doyle. “But Jerry put a fuckin’ monkey wrench in it. [In] 2002, we had meetings … And [Jerry] kind of fucked it up, him and his manager. We were going to do a record, do a tour and everything. So let all the Misfits fans put that in their pipe and smoke it.”
The full article doesn’t elaborate any further, but independent research conducted by yours truly uncovered the rumor that Jerry pushed too hard for the inclusion of original Misfits drummer Robo in this proposed reunion. Glenn, who I’m pretty sure fired Robo from the Misfits in 1983 (precipitating the band’s initial breakup), was apparently not about that. Danzig was only willing to participate, my source* tells me, if the drummer from his long-running eponymous band, Joey Castillo, was behind the kit. Including Castillo, of course, would be totally wrong. Joey’s from California, and federal law dictates every single person who plays in the Misfits has to be from a working class suburb in New Jersey.
Would I pay money to see a Misfits reunion featuring Glenn Danzig? Ten years ago, absolutely, without question. I wouldn’t care if Bozo the Clown was drumming and they were doing an exclusive tour of McDonald’s Playlands. Today? Oooh, I’m not so sure. Glenn would have to promise to actually sing the songs instead of just barking and howling the lyrics like a horny, dying wolf. He’d also have to give me a no lycra guarantee. If I could get those two on lockdown, I’d certainly clear my schedule to make sure I could go if I felt like it that night.
In a related story, I recently read an interview in which Michale Graves, the singer who replaced Glenn Danzig in the Misfits, stated he’d gladly make another forty albums with the band if they could get together and work out their problems (man, those guys are some tumultuous motherfuckers!). Can you imagine if the Misfits reunited with Michale Graves and made forty more albums? Just think about that for a second. Forty Misfits albums with Michale Graves. How far do you think they’d get before they’d have to start writing songs that aren’t about or named after horror movies? Can you imagine a Misfits song about Caddyshack or The Gods Must Be Crazy? That would be the definition of LOL.
* = the filthy hobo who practices karate moves all day outside Bagel World.