The 8 Ball 06.25.12: The Top 8 Songs About Vampires
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 06.25.2012
From Marilyn Manson's "Putting Holes in Happiness" and Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" to Slayer's "Bloodline," Radiohead's "We Suck Young Blood (Your Time is Up)" and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 songs about vampires!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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This weekend we had the latest in a long line of vampire films hit the multiplexes, as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter premiered nationwide. While the film was a disappointment at the box office, it served as inspiration for last week's Movie Zone 8 Ball and, as it turns out, this week's Music Zone 8 Ball. Vampires are one of the most famous and enduring monsters across the world, appearing in one form or another in almost every culture and period of history. Thus, it is no surprise that the undead creatures of the night are a popular motif in music. Vampires can be found in songs by everyone from Slayer, My Chemical Romance and HIM to Norah Jones, Kings of Leon and Neil Young. This week I thought it would be fun to take a look at the best songs about those who have risen from the grave to prey on blood.
Caveat: The rule was simple for this week: the song had to be predominantly about vampires, or clearly use vampires as their primary motif for whatever metaphor they were getting across. So Neil Young's "Vampire Blues," which is actually about the oil industry, absolutely qualifies as it makes the metaphor clear. On the flip side, The Toadies' "Possum Kingdom" is not clearly about vampires and in fact the band has not been clear about what it is about, merely describing it as inspired by "strange stories" about the Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas where they lived. One additional caveat: no novelty/humor songs. They're sort of in their own classification.
Just Missing The Cut
Static-X - "Otsego Undead"
Type O Negative – "Black No. 1"
Neil Young - "Vampire Blues"
#8: Slayer - "Bloodline"
When compiling a list like this, there are certain bands that immediately come to mind as a simple matter of course. Slayer is clearly one of those bands. The thrash metal legends have a few different tracks that would certainly qualify for this list. Many would think of "At Dawn They Sleep" first and that was high on my rather lengthy list that I put together, but for my money "Bloodline" is just the better song about vampires. The song's most ignominious moment was being used on the soundtrack to the flawed Dracula 2000, which was where it first appeared before being included on the band's 2001 album God Hates Us All. "Bloodline" has a more poetic nature to the lyrics and the higher production values certainly don't hurt. Tom Araya and Jeff Hanneman's lyrics cut none of the band's trademark aggression, while the guitar riffs are less frenzied but more interesting. This is a slower-paced song than most of Slayer's work but it's also entirely more evocative, aptly portraying both the allure and the anguish of being one of the undead.
#7: Radiohead - "We Suck Young Blood (Your Time is Up.)"
Shifting gears quickly enough to give you whiplash, Radiohead's "We Suck Young Blood" is as slow-paced and creepy as "Bloodline" is violent and bloody. Thom Yorke has said that this song is about Hollywood's desire and ability to steal the energy from people to keep itself young, and it does so by painting a solemn, distinctly funereal mural for much of the song. The track kicks into a higher (but no less creepy) pace and then just as quickly it slows back down even more than it was before. The song is as ominous as it is not just because of the music, although that is certainly a part of it; it is the seductive nature of the lyrics. The song starts off "Are you hungry? Are you sick? Are you begging for a break?" It seems to offer respite from the pains of life, and then it quickly switches to the sublimely sinister "Are you sweet? Are you fresh? Are you strung up by the wrists?" Clearly at this point the person asking the questions has some kind of nefarious goal in mind, but when he switches right back to a concerned, charitable choice of words, it still sounds somehow inviting. A line at the end, "We want the sweet meats," always reminds me of something almost Renfield-like, or some insane vampire who's completely lost his grip on humanity and doesn't even view people as living things anymore but as just an endless bounty of meat. It's incredibly disturbing whether you look at it as the metaphor it was intended to be or take it at face value.
#6: Marilyn Manson - "Putting Holes In Happiness"
As strongly as Marilyn Manson is associated with his theatrical style and horror-oriented lyrics, it might be surprising to realize that there is only one direct work about vampires. However, that work is a whole album...namely, the 2007 LP Eat Me, Drink Me, an underrated effort by the shock rocker. The album casts Manson as a vampire, a myth that has labeled as an inversion of the story of Christ. Both rise from the dead, but where Jesus offers his body and his blood to his disciples during the Last Supper, the vampire takes those very things to survive. This song is the second song off that album, in which Manson's character, having lost everything in the first song and wishing that he was a vampire, finds that exact fate awaiting him. The song is one of the best on the album and an inspired one in Manson's later career. At this point a lot of people were intimating that the music industry had passed Manson by, but he delivered an album that even if it wasn't on the level of Antichrist Superstars was still a very solid concept disc and a big step up from his previous album. If you look past some the surface of this album and this song, you'll find something fantastic underneath.
#5: Heart - "The Night"
In the early 1980s, the Ann and Nancy Wilson-fronted rock band Heart had fallen into decline. The band lost producer Mike Flicker, manager Michael Fisher and band members Mike DeRosier and Steve Fossen in short order. They quickly rose back to the top in 1985 though, and stayed there until the group decided to take a break as a unit so that Nancy could concentrate on raising a family with Cameron Crowe. During that six-year revival however they released some of their most successful albums, and one of them had a damn good vampire song on it. 1990's Brigade, known most prominently as the album from which the pop-rock ballad "All I Wanna Do is Make Love To You" came from, also had a hard rocking number called "The Night." This song, which features writing contributions from Sammy Hagar and Denny Carmassi, starts out acoustic before kicking in with some serious balls and some pretty graphic lyrics. This song is what I think of when I think of a vampire on the hunt in the inner city. This is a nice, down-and-dirty rock song that just happens to be about a vampire and it kicks some serious ass.
#4: Atreyu - "The Crimson"
Atreyu is, like Slayer, one of those groups that instantly come to mind when thinking about songs about vampires. The reason is simple: some people embrace the vampire subculture in the themes within their music. Atreyu don't just embrace it, they freaking slather themselves in it and roll around in some more just for good measure. There are many, many Atreyu songs about vampires, but in all honesty they are far from my favorite band because of Alex Varkatzas' pathological need to make his voice as incomprehensible as possible. The band has some decent-and-occasionally-great lyrics; I would like to actually hear those lyrics. Most people know the group because of "Right Side of the Bed" which also has allusions to vampirism, but in terms of songs purely about vampires "The Crimson" is clearly the better song. This is one of the band's better songs lyrically; I love lines like "When you live in sin/It's hard to look at the saints/Without them reflecting your jet black aura back on you." Atreyu clearly panders to the community and capitalizes on the fact that Varkatzas is an Anne Rice fan, but capitalizing on a trend doesn't necessarily make the music bad. A lot of the band's stuff I can take or leave, but this is one I've always very much enjoyed.
#3: Concrete Blonde - "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)"
Concrete Blonde was a band who didn't ever properly get their due, both for being a great band in general and for being a very diverse group in their sound. Most people know them for their big hit "Joey" or, in a lesser capacity, for other ballads like "Caroline" or their cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows." Fans of theirs fondly remember the entirety of the album upon which "Joey" and "Caroline" was placed, Bloodletting. There are several tracks on the album that can be considered references to vampires including "The Sky is a Poisonous Garden" and "The Beast," but the title track is the one that clearly spells it out. It's a staple of vampire rock and deservedly so, with sinister-sounding guitar work and Johnette Napolitano slinking her way through the excellent verses and chorus. The New Orleans theme obviously brings to mind thoughts of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and while that may or may not be the case, whatever your opinion of Lestat and Louis this is a great song about the undead.
#2: Bauhaus - "Bela Lugosi's Dead"
You cannot make a list of vampire songs without including this one. It's practically a law. Bauhaus' 1979 goth rock song is synonymous with vampires in music thanks to it both being Bauhaus' most well-known hit and being featured in vampire films and TV from The Hunger and The Curve to vampire-themed episodes of Supernatural, Fringe, Smallville and even Saturday Night Live. The nine-minute studio version of the song was famously recorded in one single take, which is understandable due to the relative simplicity of the song. This isn't to say it's a basic song, but it doesn't feel the need to get overly fancy and keeps things stripped down to match the somber mood. Many a goth was raised on Peter Murphy's baritone chanting "Undead, Undead, Undead." Obviously, the song references the actor who portrayed Dracula in the 1931 Universal film, which is the most famous Dracula portrayal of all-time. The Godfather of Goth didn't earn that nickname out of nowhere, and launched the band into stardom. The biggest tragedy of the group is that they would never quite equal the quality of this, their breakout track. But hey, when you've written the most iconic vampire song of all-time, you shouldn't feel too bad about never managing to top it.
#1: Annie Lennox - "Love Song For A Vampire"
While "Bela Lugosi's Dead" is the most iconic vampire song of all-time, when it comes to my personal favorites there's one that just manages to top it. One of the great appeals of vampires over zombies, werewolves or other such monsters is that there is an inherent romanticism about them. The being up at night, sleeping in charnel houses (not so far off in sound from "carnal houses") and stealing life fluids for their own sustenance; there's something sexual there and since sexuality was not as acceptable in the open during the Victorian era when the occult was all the rage, it was turned into romanticism. That's a big part of their appeal to me, and no I'm not talking about the idiotic Twilight "I sparkle in the sun and am angsty about it" variety. Look at Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of the Dracula story, which features Gary Oldman playing Dracula as a suave and exotic gentleman as effectively as he plays the creepy-ass ancient monster. This song came from that film's soundtrack and is a beautiful ballad by the Eurhythmics' Annie Lennox during her time trying out a solo career. Lennox's voice is exquisite, portraying the emotional pain and turmoil of a vampire and yet still making that voice inhuman somehow. It doesn't hurt that said voice is almost preternaturally gifted. The song's mood, which goes from tender and gentle to anguished and almost violent right back to a state of grace at the end, is done to near-perfection. It's an amazing piece of musical work and, for my money, the best vampire song of all-time.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
With all the focus on vampires, it's only fair that their eternal enemies get a shout-out as well. And who better to do it than Warren Zevon? Enjoy Zevon performing his classic "Werewolves of London" from Passaic, New Jersey in 1982:
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.