After last week’s songs about being good, here’s the flipside.
/Subject /Evil, Bad
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /538/Who’s Gonna be the GOAT? /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/135 /Used Prior/9 /Unique Songs/110 /People Suggesting/62
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/53:15
Quite what it says about my friends and contributors that nearly twice as many songs were suggested for “evil” than “good”, I perhaps shouldn’t ask. Anyway, thanks to all that contributed as ever.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/I Want To Be Evil
/That Bad Eartha
Eartha Kitt was a beautiful, enchanting singer, whose image was clearly relatively carefully crafted, but this song from around 1953 suggests that she was either frustrated with what was being projected, or simply wanted to have some fun. Maybe the latter is more accurate, as this glorious song depicts a sense of abandon, Kitt delivering the fantasy of being bad with a glint in her eye, and an edge to her voice that suggests she is fully in on the joke. She was, of course, Catwoman in the original Batman series, and had a lot of fun being bad there…
/Heart Shaped World
The retro glory of Chris Isaak’s monster hit, coming to wider attention some months after release, thanks to featuring prominently in Wild At Heart (and that sizzling video with Isaak and a barely-clothed Helena Christensen on a Hawaii beach can’t have hurt, either), remains quite the song – and still resonates, judging on the seemingly never-ending list of artists who’ve covered it. It’s a song about bad choices in love, really, as Chris Isaak lists the various ways that his paramour does bad things to him, but how that he can’t tear himself away from her. This is perhaps less evil and more bad, but it’s definitely, definitely a toxic relationship.
Among many other milestones, The Beatles were a key point in the development of the nascent heavy metal genre with Helter Skelter. A loud, raw and dirty track that with the heavy riffs and howled vocals sounds a world away from what we might normally associate with The Fab Four, this four minutes is a wild, thrilling ride – and listening to this, it’s not hard to see what was to come next from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in particular.
The song itself isn’t evil, but the interpretations of it that followed were. Charles Manson claimed that this and a few other songs from the album were coded prophecies of a race war in the US. On the night of 08/09-August 1969, four of Manson’s followers perpetrated the Tate–LaBianca murders and killed five people, and two more were killed the following night. Endlessly repeated in popular culture since, Manson finally died in late 2017: and there is no doubt that he was utterly evil.
/The Young Gods
/Play Kurt Weill
One of the great theatrical villains, who we mostly know these days as Mack the Knife has a lengthy history. The modern take is from the Kurt Weill/Berthold Brecht musical The Threepenny Opera (and has been covered/re-interpreted by basically everyone), but is originally from John Gay’s 1728 work The Beggar’s Opera (as Macheath), and was based on real-life London thief Jack Sheppard, who’s reported rather short life story is quite something.
The Weill/Brecht take is a much more violent, unpleasant man than the original folk hero, one of “a shark who has teeth”, and rapes and murders his way to the top – and The Young Gods turn the tale into a thrilling song, one of their best.
/Lord of the Flies
Could you get much more evil than Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies? Originally understood to be a Philistine God, then later adopted by the Abrahamic religions as a demon – effectively as the cause of distrust, dismay, violence and temptation. So the big evil, if you want, something to hang everything else on.
The third Cubanate album, the rampaging violence of Barbarossa, saw Marc Heal embody the concept of the Lord of the Flies in the epic, eight-minute closing track, a song that builds slowly into an explosive force – probably Heal’s best-ever vocal performance – and was the opening track to their spectacular live return at Cold Waves V back in 2016.
/New Model Army
/No Rest for the Wicked
One of the early NMA classics, and one of a number of songs from them that pulls back the curtain on smalltown life, and reveals the ugly truth of poverty and the consequences. The thundering charge of No Rest tells a tale from the perspective of an innocent family (presumably parents), as they stay awake deep into the early hours, wondering what’s happened to presumably their son(s) as they continue a life of crime and violence. They even try blaming themselves for what has transpired, but it is made clear that such evil is the fault of the system as much as the people.
/Am I Evil?
/Lightning to the Nations
One of the perhaps less initially successful bands of the NWOBHM movement of the late-seventies/early-eighties, but like some of their peers, their influence was vastly greater than their success. This song was covered – and frankly became better known as a result – by Metallica, probably Diamond Head’s best-known fans over the years, but I’m sticking with the original here. A near eight-minute epic piece, of galloping drums and mighty riffs, it tells the tale of a man avenging the death of mother (put to death for being a witch), and while there’s a question in the title, there is no doubt whatsoever as to the answer as the song unfolds…
/Rappaport’s Testament: I Never Gave Up
Long before Chumbawumba became unexpected popstars thanks to Tubthumping, this anarchist, fiercely political band had much to say, but Slap! was the album where the more electronic-based sound began to appear. This song was inspired by Primo Levi’s book Moments of Reprieve, which looked at people he met while interned at Auschwitz in 1944 and 1945. The extermination of the Jews in the Second World War remains one of the most evil things humanity has done, and the stories that came out of the extermination camps routinely reveal extraordinary triumphs of spirit and survival, in unimaginable circumstances, and this song pays tribute to that.
/Dead Men Don’t Rape
Not a cover of GGFH, amazingly, but another song with the same title. Inspired by the overturning of Roe vs Wade in the US last year, this is Delilah Bon raging against the – yes – evil subjugation of women that this decision meant. Who the fuck do these lawmakers – and any others who deny women freedom of choice – think they are, particularly if they are men? Why should men be making those decisions? This track actually kicks even harder than the dense electro of GGFH, as Bon’s rage is absolutely real and seethes out of the speakers.
/George Thorogood and the Destroyers
/Bad to the Bone
/Bad to the Bone
Something of an iconic blues-rock track, that follows the blues tradition of building on the past (in this case, revisiting parts of Mannish Boy by Muddy Waters, which was itself a response track, and so on…). Here, Thorogood tells a tale as old as time, that he was born under a bad sign, he was seen as bad as a kid, and as a man, he’s still just as bad, perhaps even worse: promiscuous and bad news for every other man. The song itself is a classic twelve-bar blues pattern, with that unforgettable stuttered “b-b-b-b-b-bad” in the chorus that has seen it used in many, many adverts, TV shows and films over the years.