Sunday, 22 November 2015

This Music Leaves Stains: The Complete Story Of The Misfits by James Green JR.

I've been thinking about doing an article about the influence that horror, sci-fi, and similar B-Movie
schlock has had on punk rock - and to a greater extent, rock music as a whole. However James Greene Jr.manages to do such a good job of it in pages 3 to 7 (covering the tradition of dark fantasy theme within rock since it's inception, the unrelenting thirst for content of 60s & 70s USA TV stations pumping the movies out, the move from 40's & 50's ideal lifestyles to economic pressures forcing mothers into the workplace causing more TV viewing by kids, and the kitschy anti-establishment & juvenile escapist joys found within them)... that there really isn't much more to add to his thesis.

As an added bonus, his observations are followed by a full and fully researched history of the progenitors of the Horror Punk genre. Starting with the first musical endeavors of founder member Glen Danzig and working it's way through to the contemporary Jerry Only period of the band, this book uses a combination of the historical record and interviews with an extensive range of members and associates of the troupe. Whilst doing so, it also gives a wider idea of the Misfits place and importance in the history of punk rock as a whole; something that previous works like American Hardcore: A Tribal History have touched on but never truly given the credit owed, due to either the lyrical/performance content of the heavy metal elements of their work not fitting into the established narratives of the genre.

Given the number of people who have gone through it's ranks, and the amount of disagreement over what did or didn't happen (often settled by legal action), the "give everyone's view, and let the reader decide" approach adopted by Greene is a practical solution to a complicated problem. It's also an approach that could leave the reader unsure as to what may have happened, however there is sufficient editorializing opinion thrown in to make it clear where the writer sits on many occasions. This could upset Misfits fans with a strong viewpoint on the personalities involved (which boils down to Danzig Vs Only), but the appreciation shown for the music and performances should avoid alienating all but the most entrenched of fans.

What you mostly get is a clear yet wistful message that if the band hadn't had it's internal rifts, it would never have produced the content it did - but the band could also have been so much more successful than it was. You also get some interesting (and often sarcastically funny) insights into what is involved in writing a book such as this, plus the egos that can continue, decades after the events. Add to this the true story of a band that failed to succeed at the time but became a huge influence to those who followed and the eventual return (of sorts) to the deserved acclaim all of this, helps make this book a great read, be it for fan or soon-to-be fan of the band.
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