Friday Top 5: Psychopath Songs
Nothing brings out our core values like the holidays. Halloween, for example, is a day to celebrate the most important American values. Values like fake blood and childhood obesity. Come to think of it, there’s something unsettling about Halloween. Why do people dress their children up like monsters and parade them around the neighborhood to extort candy from strangers? And what about adults who willfully engage in dressing like zombies, or slutty nurses, or slutty nurse zombies? That all sounds a little. . . you know, crazy.
It’s one thing for us to invent Vampires and Werewolves. But the real monsters, the Dahmers and Mansons, that look just like us? That’s a little harder to get a handle on. I guess that’s why people write songs about psychopaths. They want to get up close and personal to get a big whiff of crazy. If you embrace lunatics, you demystify them. The ghosts just become people in bedsheets. With that in mind, here are five songs about psychos for your Halloween weekend:
The Geto Boys are not known for being subtle. So “Mind of a Lunatic,” the rap equivalent of a slasher movie, is right in their wheelhouse. When the Geto Boys take turns spitting verses about the various horrors they inflict, there’s no shortage of disturbing imagery. Despite all the imagined violence, it’s hard not to admire the creativity and gall of narrating the song from a lunatic’s perspective. Even two decades after the fact, this track is not lacking in shock value. It’s barely hyperbole when the Geto Boys boast: “The nightmares I leave you with on the scene/ will make Freddy’s b**** a** look like a wet dream.”
As far as songs about people being murdered with chainsaws are concerned, this one is pretty upbeat. Just bang out a couple of chords, throw in a little doo-wop bridge, and in less than two minutes, you’ve got a Ramones song. The track opens with the sound of a chainsaw, which is pretty extravagant production by Ramones standards. That’s about as graphic as the song gets though. According to the logic of the song, if your baby gets sliced up by chainsaw wielding maniac, the feelings this will arouse in you will be: (a.) longing and (b.) boredom.
The best part of the song though, may be how the Ramones pronounce ‘massacre’ in such a way that it rhymes with ‘me’: “Texas Chainsaw MasaCREE/ They took my baby away from me.” Stranger still, despite all the love talk, the Ramones seem mostly indifferent to murder by power tools: “They chopped her up and I don’t care.” Plenty of fish in the sea I guess.
The Sonics waste no time bringing the ruckus on this track, and launch right into full blown snare-drum-murdering garage rock mayhem. The lyrics give a pretty standard lament: “Baby/ you’re driving me crazy/ I said I’m losing my mind/ you treat me so unkind.” Nothing too psychotic here. But as the song continues, the vocals grow more and more unhinged, while the singer yelps out with increasing desperation:
Ah, now that’s how you bring the crazy.
Outside of Texas, the Toadies are just another obscure 90’s alternative band. Say the words “Possum Kingdom,” to an average American rock fan and you may be greeted with a blank expression, but play the crunchy opening guitar riff of the aforementioned tune and the same fan will say: “Oh, this song. This song rocks.” Yes hypothetical fan, yes it does rock.
In Texas, where Rubberneck is about as obscure as Thriller, you may well have heard Possum Kingdom so many times that you could be forgiven for forgetting what a freaky song it is. It’s a camp fire horror story in the best possible sense. There may be enough ambiguity in the lyrics that the singer’s intentions aren’t (at least at first) entirely clear, but the delivery is so menacing that the only creepy element missing is a Michael C. Hall voice-over. Public Service Announcement: if someone asks you to go behind the boathouse to show you their “dark secret,” just say no kids.
If you’re going to write a song about a psycho killer, it helps to sound a little unstable. And I’ll be damned if David Byrne doesn’t play the part well. There’s no explicit carnage to be found in the lyrics, just the bizarre tension of a mind that seems unbalanced at best. Also, there’s singing in French. But that’s not even the weird part.
The weird thing is the song is, well, funky. So all the while Byrne is talking about a psycho killer, you may find yourself bobbing your head. Catchiest song about murder ever! May it be the soundtrack to a delightful Halloween for you.