Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother - Danzig (1988)

The sub genre called "horror-punk" was an interesting one. Take punk rock with all it's attitude and add in lyrics that would feel right at home in an old-school horror film, and you have the idea. The Misfits, featuring lead singer Glenn Danzig from Lodi, New Jersey, were arguably the iconic Horror Punk band. They were, however, short lived.

After the breakup of The Misfits, Glenn Danzig formed a new band, called Samhain - a band that continued the horror-inspired idea. They occupied an awkward stylistic space that sits somewhere between hardcore punk and doom metal. This project too, burned out and dissolved.

Finally, in 1987, Glenn Danzig put together yet another band that was originally intended to be a continuation of Samhain. In order to maintain more control, and to prevent having to start over from scratch if he went through the drastic lineup changes that hurt his previous bands, he named the band "Danzig".

The new band was composed of Glenn Danzig on vocals, Eerie Von on bass, John Christ on guitar, and Chuck Biscuits on drums. The band's new sound fell clearly in the realm of Heavy Metal, although somewhat raw and stripped down. That no-nonsense, stripped down sound, coupled with Danzig's powerful, Jim Morrison-like vocal talents proved to be a strong combination.

In 1988, they released their self title debut album- Danzig. The most memorable track on the album is the song "Mother" - which is also the highest charting single released as part of any of Glen Danzig's projects- peaking at number 17 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

The song lyrics speak the influences that parents typically try the shelter their children form- and how that sheltering often increases, rather than decreases the power of those temptations. Lines such as /Mother/Can you keep them in the dark for life/Can you hide them from the waiting world/ and the repeated section /Not about to see your light/and if you wanna find hell with me/I can show you what it's like/ strongly support this idea.

The music video shot for this song is an oddity- it is shot entirely in black and white. Most of the time the camera shows a close shot of Glenn Danzig's face partially in shadow. Later in the video, other images are introduced, which, at the very end of the song, when the music reaches the peak of intensity, shows a scene of some bizarre ritual in which Glenn Danzig appears to sacrifice a live chicken, spilling the animal's blood on the stomach of a woman, with another woman's hand drawing an inverted cross shape in the spilled blood. The video seems to have little to do with the actual lyrics- other than as a depiction of a (somewhat over the top) temptation.

The real meaning behind the song is actually very literal- the song is actually Danzig's angry reaction to the Parent's Music Resource Center (PMRC) - who in the 1980s campaigned to have certain music blacklisted because of offensive lyrics, sexual innuendo, and descriptions of violence. The standards chosen my the PMRC were more or less arbitrary- based on what their leader, Tipper Gore, though was unacceptable rather than by any objective, measurable standard. This lead to many songs being unjustly targeted by the PMRC- most notably Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" - which was accused of having excessively violent lyrics. This song, incidentally, contains no references to any acts of violence- only a call to fight for what you believe in and stand up to oppression- the fact that the PMRC found this objectionable says more about the PMRC than it does about Twisted Sister- read the lyrics and see for yourself if they actually express anything other than defiance and individuality. Coupled with the PMRC's blatantly incorrect accusations of secret backmasked messages in many popular albums, they lost credibility and were all but forgotten after a few attempts to exert their puritanical standards again in the 1990s- their only remaining legacy are the warning labels that now appear on some albums- which frequently attract more buyers than they repel.

The use of the title "Mother" in Danzig's song is a direct reference to the PMRC members themselves- mostly wives of politicians, and apparently overprotective mothers. The song is Danzig's defiant gesture (you know the one I mean- it involves one finger) to them- /And if you wanna find hell with me/I can show you what it's like/ - takes on new meaning in this context. It translates to "You want to hear something objectionable? How about this!" The lines /Gonna take your daughter out tonight/Gonna show her my world/ takes this one step further...

With this context- the occult references in the video actually make much more sense- why is there a bizarre ritual involving an animal sacrifice in the video? Because it would offend Tipper Gore. It's Glen Danzig's way of giving the PMRC the finger.

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