By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"I'm Gonna Murder My Baby""
Is this the creepiest record ever unleashed? Hare was best-known as a sideman to Muddy Waters, but the blues singer/guitarist's name will forever live in infamy because of this 1954 solo side. In this bone-chilling little ditty, Hare stands before a judge threatening to murder his baby ("I'm gon' kill that woman!") because she "don't do nothing but cheat and lie." The vocals and guitar work are primal, unglued, psychotic stuff—traits Hare reportedly exhibited after drinking, although by most accounts, he was friendly and reserved when sober. A few years after this record was released, he made good on his threat, murdering his girlfriend. Hare spent the rest of his life in prison, dying behind bars in 1978.
"Why'd Ya Do It"
Faithfull was best-known as the angel-faced, girlie-voiced, fluff-pop-singing girlfriend of Mick Jagger before 1979, when she emerged from a long battle with drug addiction and depression to release the startling comeback album Broken English. Her once-comely voice and features now ravaged by excess, her lyrics brimming with passionate despair, Faithfull had been transformed from fetching rock & roll bimbo to traumatized junkie witch. The album's most notorious track, "Why'd Ya Do It," was the shrieking plaint of a woman scorned by her lover—most assumed the song was directed at Jagger. Still shocking and vulgar even by modern standards, the tune featured such immortal lines as "Why'd ya spit on my snatch?" and "Every time I see your dick, I see her cunt in my bed."
"Ballad of a Thin Man"
There are, of course, dozens upon dozens of classic, pissed-off Dylan tunes, but the one that comes immediately to mind is this cryptic, venomous vessel of sarcasm about the universal Mr. Jones—the conceptual, quintessential square turd. So wide-ranging was the song's impact that Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton wrote about its importance in his book Revolutionary Suicide and John Lennon alluded to "Dylan's Mr. Jones" in his screaming "Yer Blues." Dylan recited an absurdist poetry of horrors over a foreboding chord progression, with each verse concluding, "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is/Do you, Mr. Jones?" If the lyrics were enigmatic, the message remained clear enough: if you try to hold back the tides of youth and change, you're in for a nightmare of the worst order.
Lewis Allen wrote this horrifying yet lyrical anti-lynching statement, but the song really belongs to Lady Day, who first recorded it in 1939. Incredibly graphic and political for a repressed and violent era in which African-Americans were still widely treated as one step above barnyard animals, "Strange Fruit" stands in particular contrast to the giddy, popular swing tunes of the day. The song is a dirge-like, minor-key drone, and Holiday intones the ominous lyrics in a delivery marked by unbearable pain and anguish, but the rage is unmistakable as well. A sample of the brilliant lyrics: "Pastoral scene of the gallant South, the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth/Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh, then the sudden smell of burning flesh/Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck/For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop/Here is a strange and bitter crop."
The Tom Robinson Band
"Glad to Be Gay"
Tom Robinson was among rock & roll's first openly gay performers and almost certainly its most pissed-off. 1978's "Glad to Be Gay" took a disarmingly cheery music-hall melody (which sounded like late-'60s Kinks) and recited a litany of hate crimes against gays (largely by the British police) over the music. Each outraged stanza culminated in a sarcastic, anthemic chorus of "Sing if you're glad to be gay; sing if you're happy that way." Robinson's vocals dripped with icy disdain and loathing for the oppressors as he sang such lines as, "Don't try to kid us that if you're discreet/You're perfectly safe as you walk down the street/You don't have to mince or make bitchy remarks/To get beaten unconscious and left in the dark." The timbre of Robinson's voice was so filled with disgust he sounded as if he might actually vomit mid-verse.
Mott the Hoople
Perhaps a curious choice, as Mott was known mostly as a tongue-in-cheek flash-rock entity, but a case could still be made that this tune was the first unvarnished celebration of violence-for-the-hell-of-it recorded. Two years before the Ramones hit the scene, Mott unleashed this raging, three-chord punk detonation on a world still suffering from a hippie hangover. Ian Hunter screams, "Get off my back or I'll attack; I don't owe you nothing/Head for your hole; you're sick, and you're old, and I'm here to tell you something," followed by a fey, taunting voice chiming in with "Violence, violence—it's the only thing that'll make you see sense!" over a demented, squealing violin. This could be construed as the initial full-frontal attack on the flower-power generation.
"Boom! Boom! (Out Go the Lights)"
This one comes from the Pat Hare School of Political Incorrectness. By all accounts, Little Walter was one mean son of a bitch who took as much joy from beating people up as he did from playing the greatest blues harp in history. In this tender ditty from 1957, Walter is in search of his woman so he can whomp the crap out of her: "No kidding, I'm ready to fight/I been looking for my baby all night/If I get her in my sights/Boom! Boom! Out go the lights." The "boom booms" were punctuated by reverb-drenched snare hits, just in case the listener failed to get the message. Little Walter lived and died pissed-off—in fact, he bought the farm in 1968 from the results of a street fight, a depleted, alcoholic husk of his former glory. Those gosh-darn blues guys!