April 20, 2019 / 11:17 AM

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Bobby Darin, "Mack The Knife" and a Slew of Songs About Actual Murderers...from Slayer, Animal Collective, Phil Ochs and More


We're sure you've seen all the Cracked.com lists about how the music your grandparents listened to was totally screwed up. One more mild example was "Mack The Knife" by Bobby Darin, describing a serial stabber in an atypical swinging tone. That track made Darin's career, topping the Hot 100 for nine weeks 55 years ago and landing the vocalist a gig at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. He was the youngest headliner ever at the venue, at 23 years old.

All because he covered a song about a killer.

You don't have to go far to find a song about a murderer however. At least "Mack" was a fictional character from The Threepenny Opera. The performers listed below have all done their due diligence singing about real killers.

NOTE: We opted to leave extreme metal bands such as Cannibal Corpse out of the running because that's one of their primary sources of inspiration. Heck, it's tough to find a murderer not idolized by the group Macabre.

"An Execution" by Siouxsie and The Banshees

Siouxsie Sioux is one of the earliest demagogues for the goth movement so it makes sense that she'd be into vampires. We say that because Elizabeth Bathory is one of the primary sources of the vampire legend, having murdered upwards of 650 individuals and was rumored to bathe in the blood of virgins to retain her youth (a rumor that's been largely debunked). This piano-led piece features the vocalist just reading a description of the title occurrence, presumably attributed to Bathory.

"Notown Blues" by The Black Lips

The Black Lips are from Georgia so they apparently didn't feel any reverence for the "Hillside Strangler" killings in Los Angeles. Nor did they consider that the murders happened during the late '70s, not the late '60s, which makes the psychedelic pop vibe of this firsthand narrative somewhat confusing. The shrieking feedback that's part of the Lips' normal performances adds to the terror that should probably be present.

"Ted, Just Admit It..." by Jane's Addiction

You may have guessed from the title but this track is about Ted Bundy. This track is the one on Nothing's Shocking that provides the album with its title. It also features clips from an interview with the originator of the term "serial killer," which may have been the band further pushing the notion that "nothing's shocking." The narrative seems to come from the mind of Bundy himself, as Perry Farrell laments "showed me everybody, naked and disfigured, nothing's shocking."


"Murder" by David Gilmour

Pink Floyd's David Gilmour was so put off by Mark David Chapman's murder of John Lennon that he addressed the killer in this track from his solo album About Face—somewhat a rarity on this list...most of the songs are either fascinated with the criminals involved or use them as a metaphor for some other message. Gilmour goes straight for Chapman's throat (figuratively, of course), calling him out for carrying out a pointless act that couldn't have possibly fixed what was wrong in him.

"213" by Slayer

We're claiming an out in that Slayer is not technically an "extreme metal" band, and they probably deserve credit for being among the first acts to tackle this kind of subject matter. There's nothing metaphorical about this track: Tom Araya and company describe the the whole grisly process behind Dahmer's actions and hypothesize as to the weird sexual obsession he had throughout. The title is a reference to the apartment that Dahmer held in Milwaukee during the ordeal.

"Clownin' Around" by Deer Tick

Sighhhhhhhhh another fairly shameless play off of the modus operandi of the killer in question (John Wayne Gacy), who worked as a clown at charitable events when he wasn't...you know. This track takes a somewhat uncomfortable first-person approach to the narrative (although it skips the actual murders and ends with his execution). The Gacy in the song claims to be possessed by Satan and the tune starts to experience "too soon" when the clown theme kicks in at the end.

"Skinned" by Blind Melon

Ed Gein might not have been the most prolific of serial killers—if you can technically even consider him a serial killer—but he was among the most influential, inspiring Norman Bates, Leatherface and more. This two-minute short from Blind Melon takes a folky, upbeat approach to what Gein could potentially do with various body parts. Melon doesn't get the "too soon" treatment because the real Gein had been caught nearly 30 years earlier.

"Unknown Mysteries" by Animal Collective

A song titled "Unknown Mysteries" could discuss any number of topics: The Loch Ness Monster, The Bermuda Triangle, The weather-forecasting methods of Farmer's Almanac. Instead it delves into the identity of Jack The Ripper, the world's most famous murderer. More specifically, it tells the tale of some unfortunate maid who landed with Jack before coming to her end. Alas the title of this track is no longer applicable: Just last month scientists confirmed that Jack The Ripper was Aaron Kominski after a series of DNA tests.

"Mein Teil" by Rammstein

Rammstein is often accused of rather unsavory things just because they happen to be the biggest rock band in Germany and the Western world is still scared of the German language for some reason. "Mein Teil" actually is actually as screwed up as we make it out to be. The narrative is a reference to Armin Meiwes and Bernd Jürgen, who agreed to let the former kill and eat the latter. "Mein Teil" might translate to "my part," but the hook juicily hints that "you are what you eat and you know what it is." The controversy in Germany helped the song nearly reach the top of the charts.

"The Ballad of Alferd Packer" by Phil Ochs

Phil Ochs is probably the most straight-shooting performer on this list—he's a huge inspiration for Neil Young among many—but this tune takes a rather humorous approach to the first case of cannibalism in the United States. Packer and his crew got stuck in the mountains during a snowstorm in 1873 and he was forced to eat the deceased members of his crew to survive the trip. Although Packer claims he never killed any of those he consumed, he was still convicted of murder and put to death. Ochs takes some cheap shots, alleging "that county had six democrats until that man arrived/Well only one lives on today, he ate the other five."

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