Bad Music For Bad People: A Listicle Not for the Always Woke, Ever Timid or Politically Correct

The title is copped from the name of a great 1984 Cramps compilation album, and that’s kind of what this story is about

The Cramps Bad Music for Bad People, A&M 1984

Maybe it’s for people weaned on the irreverence of MAD magazine who grew up digging the scabrous comic edge of the early National Lampoon. People who liked R. Crumb comics and the World’s Toughest Milkman, Reid Fleming. Movie buffs who like early John Waters and Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Or just rock ‘n’ roll fans who are seduced into liking (or loving) songs that they realize – either immediately or down the road a piece – that they are just flat-out nasty and wrong. Maybe even cringe-worthy. But, upon consideration, dammit, you still love the songs.

I could probably just list 10 Norwegian Black Metal songs and be done with it, but one of the key criteria here is this: I must really like the song, the mood, the  melody, what have you, and I either take the lyrics with a grain of salt, pretend I don’t get it or just admit that I am a truly bad person.

Omissions: This list does not include Peter Gabriel’s “Intruder,” – the creepy crawler protagonist is obviously a character – nor Talking Heads “Psycho Killer” (same). It does not mention Dead Kennedys “Kill the Poor,” because that was completely ironic (except when the Reagan campaign used it straight-up in a campaign ad).  It does not include Ramones’ “Glad to See You Go” – “And in a moment of passion/Get the glory, like Charles Manson” – because it was too comic book to be taken seriously.

You may wonder why the Rolling Stones “Under My Thumb” isn’t here. It could’ve been, but after Tina Turner covered it – making it her song – it’s kind of equalized things out.

The Top 15. Enjoy. Or not. Send hate emails.

 

 

 

Fear, “I Love Livin’ in the City”

The late John Belushi loved these guys so much he got ‘em on SNL, probably to Lorne Michaels chagrin.  Lee Ving’s Los Angeles-based hardcore punk band upchucked lots of vile rockers, but none so much fun as this one. Fear celebrates degeneracy as no band ever has, kicking off with “My house smells just like a zoo/It’s chock full of shit and puke/Cockroaches on the walls/Crabs crawling on my balls” and then – and then – “Oh, I so clean cut/I just wanna fuck some slut!” Gulp. The hooks are undeniable and as to that uncontrollable urge, well, there was a time …

 

 

 

Starz, “Subway Terror”

A Jersey based ‘70s hard rock/power pop outfit Starz was fronted by singer Michael Lee Smith and managed by Kiss impresario Bill Aucoin. The little bastard who’s engenders all this subway terror enjoys – a little too much – pushes people onto the tracks. Key lyric: “They look so lovely and pale/When they kiss the third rail/And they won’t step lively anymore.”  Sometimes, those people are in the medical profession. “I take the purses,” sings Smith. “I see some nurses/They think they’re oh so prim and white/I’d like to dirty up their little skirties up.” Then, you know, comes the shove onto the tracks. Smith sounds just so darn pleased with himself, so part of this character, I find myself singing along and check to make sure I’m not in public. (Starz still exist! And they still play “Subway Terror” in concert!)

 

 

 

Tiger Lillies, “Bangin’ in the Nails

Warning: Play this song once and it’s in your head forever. The Tiger Lillies, fronted by Martyn Jacques, got into the whole cabaret/punk thing a decade before Dresden Dolls and their catchiest/most offensive number has to be this cheery ditty about crucifying Jesus. Jacques is positively delirious with glee, as sings, “I’m bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang bangin’ in the nails!”

 

 

 

 

Anti-Nowhere League, “Wreck a Nowhere” & “So What”

In “Wreck a Nowhere,” he ANL’s singer, Animal, is just looking for love. Well, not quite love. A place to put it. “And if she’s ugly I don’t mind,” he sings sweetly, diplomatically. “She’s got a bum I want to grind.” He’ll take it other ways, too. In “So What,” Animal’s in bestiality boasting mode – “I fucked a sheep/I fucked a goat/Rammed my cock right down its throat.” But what makes the song really cool is the rejoinder: “So what?! So what?! So what? You boring little cunt.” Slammin’ guitar riffs in both.

 

 

 

 

Rolling Stones, “Brown Sugar”

A top 40 hit, a classic riff-rocker, with Mick taking the role of a “scarred-up slaver” putting it where scarred-up slavers often put it. This is bad. But Mick and the Stones make it sound so sexy, so, almost, consensual … and then Mick shifts into first person: “I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like/You should have heard me just around midnight.” Has he become that slaver? Or, have we distanced himself from that era and is he just saying he really digs black girls? Certainly, that’s the point seven years later when “Some Girls” came out.

 

 

 

The Beatles, “Run for Your Life”

The Stones you expected, right? Of course, the Stones. But the Beatles? I knew there was something wrong when I first heard this as a wee lad. That John Lennon guy is stalking – no, pursuing, running after! – this woman and if he catches her with another man, well, “That’s the end-uh, little girl.”

 

 

 

Sparks, “How Are You Getting Home”

Here, it seems Russell Mael is just sweetly – if frantically – offering this poor girl a ride home tonight. It would appear his intent is far more nefarious. He’ll take her half-way home. In what shape? Dead? Alive? I love singing along to this one, but feel complicit in the (deadly?) con.

 

 

 

Ice-T and Body Count, “Cop Killer”

I saw Ice-T and his metal band Body Count bang this one out in a club way back when and I was just as wrapped up in the sentiment as he was, but then stepped back and went: “Whoa.  I don’t think this is a good idea.” I know Ice-T – longtime detective on Law & Order: SVU – means a certain kind of (bad) cop

 

 

 

Charles Manson, “Garbage Dump”

It’s not the song that so wrong – although a paean to the trash-pickin’/garbage eatin’ life isn’t really my ideal – it’s the singer. It’s a catchy, lo-fi, folk-punk ditty and one I can uncannily mimic, but when I consider the source … well, Charlie did some very bad things.

 

 

 

Dead Boys, “I Need Lunch”

Most of the first Dead Boys album was songs about trying to get laid, but this one had a particularly relentlessly obsessive quality about it, with Stiv Bators not wanting to “dance,” but rather wanting to get in her “pants” – fair enough,  emotion-wise and rhyme-wise – but if his pretty persuasion fails, well, “your face is gonna get a punch.” Aw, Stiv!

 

 

 

The Only Ones, “Why Don’t You Kill Yourself?”

Singer Peter Perrett plays the part of a “friend” of this terminally depressed person who’s tried suicide and failed and is just getting on everybody’s nerves. “Why don’t you kill yourself?” he asks. “You ain’t no use to no one else.” Now, I’ve got to say, I’ve always heard this song as ironic – he means the opposite of what he singing; really, he does care – but years ago, I remember playing it for a lady friend who was simply horrified at what he sang and how much I liked it. She didn’t hear irony; she heard somebody who seemed a master enabler (although that wasn’t a word back then).

 

 

 

Slayer, “Dead Skin Mask”

I’ve liked some Slayer in the past and I fully grant singer-songwriter Tom Araya’s right to be a rock ‘n’ roll Stephen King – that is, to write truly disturbing songs and violent characters. This one is hard, heavy and insistent. But what gives me chills is that Araya really loves singing in that protagonist’s voice like he means it, man, Here, he embodies the character of Ed Gein – the motivating force behind horror movies from “Psycho” to “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” – and celebrates killing women, skinning them and using their skin for nefarious purposes. As one wag on YouTube put it: “This is Slayer’s version of a love song.”

 

 

 

Alice Cooper, “I Love the Dead”

Maybe it’s not the first rock song extolling the joys of necrophilia but it’s the first I heard and it still makes my skin crawl – being that I’m not, you know, a necrophiliac.

 

 

 

The Rotters, “Sit on My Face, Stevie Nicks”

Probably no explanation needed.

 

 

 

Lou Reed, “I Wanna Be Black”

Uncle Lou trots out as many black stereotypes as he can muster in this jazzy, three-minute track from Street Hassle. He wants natural rhythm and to be able to shoot “twenty feet of jizm.” He wants a stable of “foxy whores.” He wants to “fuck up the Jews.” (Lou was Jewish.) I heard him play this in concert before the LP version came out and my jaw dropped. I will grant you that Lou probably intended this as a farce – conjuring up white fantasies – good or bad of black men and then exploiting or exploding them

 

Jim Sullivan

Jim Sullivan has written for The Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, the Boston Herald, Boston Common, the Christian Science Monitor, and Creem. Follow him on Twitter @jimsullivanink.

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