Glenn Danzig is best known for his campy, B-movie lyrics, laced with over-the-top violent imagery. In The Misfits, he sang these songs in his “Evil Elvis” like voice, backed by furious punk thrashing. The band has been covered by numerous punk and metal bands, both good and bad—Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, AFI, to name a few. But somewhere along the way, a few troubadours decided that their teenage punk hero’s lyrics worked just as well with just a voice and acoustic guitar.
David Pajo (Zwan, Slint) recorded a version of “Last Caress” under his Papa M (a.k.a. Aerial M, or just M) moniker. This version, with its lightly picked guitar, plaintive vocals and the distinct sound of tape hiss, has more in common with an early Simon & Garfunkel demo than with any musician sporting the Devilock. There are even some sound effects of birds singing in the mix. Sure, there’s a creepiness to lines like, “I killed your baby today /And it doesn’t matter much to me as long as it’s dead,” but then there’s the strangely affecting line “Sweet lovely death / I am waiting for your breath / Sweet lovely death / One last caress,” which makes this version sound more like an old-timey murder ballad—confessions of a self-loathing killer—than the hysterical slasher-fest of the original.
The Lemonheads have a similar approach with their version of the classic “Skulls.” But there’s something even stranger about this one—it sounds just like any Lemonheads song. The song’s arrangement is so similar to any one of his acoustic pop songs that you might not even realize Evan Dando is saying things like, “Hack the heads off little girls and / Put them on my wall.” In fact, as a little experiment, place this one on the next mixtape you give to a lover (maybe sandwiched between “Into Your Arms” and “Confetti”) and see if they say anything—chances are they won’t notice Danzig’s incredibly vivid serial killer lyrics beneath Dando’s honeyed vocals.
The collaboration between Danzig’s lyrics and a troubadour never got better than on Johnny Cash’s “Thirteen,” a song written specifically for the Man in Black, that tells the story of a cursed man, who is (naturally) a cold-blooded killer so loathed he wasn’t given a name at birth, but was instead branded with the unluckiest of numbers. Though the song isn’t quite as gory as the Misfits tunes, it’s probably twice as dark and foreboding, and Cash, as always, makes it his own, sounding believable as the wicked man doomed to earth to do the devil’s work.