The Misfits are a Horror punk band formed in 1977 and led by singer and songwriter Glenn Danzig (born Glenn Anzalone) and later, bassist Jerry Only (born Gerald Caiafa). They were highly influential on the genres of heavy metal, punk rock and rock music in general. Though they ceased recording and performing in 1983, a new version of the band (led by Only and without founder and former frontman Danzig) began operations in 1995.
The early Misfits were often quite melodic, featuring Danzig's versatile singing, which had a style rooted in Italian tenors such as Mario Lanza and in 1950s doo-wop. Musically, the band has also displayed some rockabilly influences (but not as much as psychobilly bands). Early Misfits songs tended to have catchy, sing-along choruses, initially backed by Danzig's distorted keyboard accompaniments (circa 1977), and later by willfully crude guitar-rock. The band began as a largely untrained ensemble. After several lineup changes and increasing international acclaim, Danzig disbanded the original Misfits in 1983.
The band often wore ghoulish makeup when performing, and bassist Jerry Only reputedly invented a hairstyle called the devilock, with the bangs coming to a point in front of the nose or chin, a style still worn by fans today and contributed to the foundation of Horror Punk.
When the band originally reformed, it featured Michale Graves on vocals, Jerry Only on bass, Dr. Chud on drums, and Jerry's brother Doyle on guitar. Doyle is currently estranged from the group and is working with a new group named Gorgeous Frankenstein, which formed in 2005. Doyle recently reunited with Glenn Danzig's band Danzig to perform special sets of Misfits songs on Danzig's Blackest of the Black 2005 and 2006 tour.
A third, "touring" incarnation of the band, without original singer Danzig, is presently led by the only other "constant" original member, bassist Jerry Only. Members of the touring group have included Marky Ramone (of the Ramones), and both drummer ROBO (who was a member of the original band), and guitarist Dez Cadena of Black Flag fame.
In January of 1977, after singing in several garage bands such as Talus and Whodat and Boojang that mostly played Black Sabbath songs, twenty-one year old Glenn Danzig decided it was finally time to create something serious and original. As a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, he named his musical project after her final movie, The Misfits.
The Misfits, circa 1977.For weeks, Glenn wrote songs and practiced with friends and old band mates, trying to find a suitable lineup of musicians to bring his vision to life. The first complete Misfits lineup consisted of Jimmy Battle on guitar, his old band mate Manny Martínez on drums, Diane DiPiazza on bass, and Danzig on electric piano and vocals. However, after only about a month of practicing, both Jimmy and Diane left the band. In need of new band mates, Manny suggested that his friend, Jerry Caiafa, should audition for bass. Jerry, a young football player who had been voted most popular in his senior class at Lodi High School, had just received a bass guitar for Christmas and had only been practicing with it for two months. Despite Jerry's fledgling bass talents, Glenn accepted him into the band and offered to teach him how to play.
After three months of practicing, the trio headed into the studio to record their first single, "Cough/Cool". The single contained two keyboard-driven songs (the B-side was a version of the song, "She") that were quite different from the music they became known for. The title track was somber and poetic, and reminiscent of The Doors. The band released the single themselves through their own label, Blank Records.
Over the next several months, Glenn, Manny, and Jerry (who had adopted the stage name Jerry Only after a misspelling on the single liner notes) played a handful of gigs (their first two at CBGB in New York City) as they continued to practice and forge their own sound. Their experimental art rock style was met mostly with confusion.
By October 1977, British punk bands such as The Damned and New York punk bands like The Ramones began to have an influence on The Misfits. They decided to take the band in a more punk direction by adding guitarist Franché Coma to the band and ditching the keyboards, allowing Danzig to engage in antics typical of a punk frontman.
At this time The Misfits caught their first big break. Mercury Records wanted to use the name Blank Records for a subdivision, but Danzig had secured a trademark on the name. They contacted Glenn and offered him thirty hours of free time in a professional studio, in exchange for full use of the Blank Records title. Danzig accepted the offer and in January of 1978, The Misfits headed into a New York studio to record their first full length album.
Seventeen songs were recorded, featuring a unique combination of their early art rock material and a hard driving direction, akin to the powerful sounds of punk at that time. Excluding the songs "Teenagers from Mars" and "Return of the Fly", they wouldn't draw on B-movies for lyrical inspiration for at least another year, and at this point their lyrics instead portrayed a futuristic dystopia of television saturation, automaton-like submissiveness, and glamorized sex and violence. As 1977 drew to a close, Glenn and Jerry decided that Manny was too unreliable and asked him to leave the band. He was replaced by Jim Catania, aka "Mr. Jim".
Once the album was complete, the band shopped it around to various labels but no one was interested in releasing it (it would later see the light of day in 1997 as Static Age). The album was shelved and would remain (for the current time) unreleased. With no labels interested, the Misfits decided to take four tracks from the album and release them as an EP. In June 1978, the Bullet EP was released on their new label, Plan 9, which Danzig had named after the infamous Ed Wood movie Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The birth of Horror Punk
The Misfits, circa 1979.Around this time, both Glenn and Jerry decided they wanted to take the band in a more horror-themed direction. Glenn began to write more songs inspired by low-grade horror and sci-fi movies, and both he and Jerry began to adopt ghoulish appearances, with Jerry applying dark makeup around his eyes and Glenn painting bone designs on his clothes. The band started to play more frequently and began to go on small tours in support of the Bullet EP. In October of 1978, during a small tour through Canada, Franché Coma decided he couldn't handle touring and quit the band before the tour was complete. Guitarist Rick Riley stepped in temporarily to fill out guitar duties for the rest of the tour. Mr. Jim wasn't fond of the horror direction the band was heading in, and opted to leave the band once the tour was over. Within two months, Glenn and Jerry had recruited two new band members, drummer Joey Image, and guitarist Bobby Steele. Around this time, Jerry Only began to comb his hair in The Misfits signature hair style, which would later be dubbed the devilock.
In December of 1978, after less than two months, the new Misfits lineup began playing shows together. Over the course of 1979, The Misfits further evolved the horror elements of their music and their imagery, influenced by The Damned, who had recently regrouped in the proto-Goth lineup of the Machine Gun Etiquette album. Glenn and Jerry adopted a skull mascot for the band from an old poster they'd come across for a 1946 Republic movie serial, The Crimson Ghost (aka Cyclotrode X). Two more records followed on their Plan 9 label, the Horror Business EP and the "Night of the Living Dead" single, respectively. They began to establish a small but loyal fan base and decided to start their own fan club, which they called the Fiend Club. Glenn operated the Fiend Club from his mother's basement, where he would print out t-shirts, assemble records, mail out merchandise catalogs, book gigs, and respond to fan mail, making the Misfits exemplary practitioners of the DIY ethic.
As their popularity slowly began to increase within the underground American punk movement, many people started to consider The Misfits as the American equivalent of The Damned, whose singer, Dave Vanian, adopted the look of a classic vampire and sang in a brooding baritone. On June 26, 1979, The Misfits opened for The Damned at a gig in New York City. Before the show, Jerry spoke with Dave Vanian about the possibility of The Misfits doing a tour of the UK in support of The Damned.
In November of 1979, The Misfits flew over to England for their tour with The Damned. However, Dave Vanian had not taken Jerry seriously and was surprised when Jerry showed up at his front door. Instead of turning The Misfits away, Dave tried his best to arrange for them to take part in the tour, but The Misfits weren't happy with the situation. After playing only two gigs, The Misfits dropped off the tour. Their return flight back to America wasn't until late in December, and so The Misfits were forced to kill time in England. Jerry spent some time with Sid Vicious' mother, who he had befriended after Sid's death. On December 2, Glenn and Bobby went to see a gig by The Jam in London, where they were harassed by skinheads while standing in line. Glenn broke off a piece of glass and used it to fend off the skinheads while Bobby ran to get help. However, when the cops arrived, they arrested Bobby and Glenn, for what they described as "threatening behavior". In an interview with Revolver in the October 2005 issue, Glenn went into greater detail about the event. He said the police found a knife in his possession and accused Glenn of being a "ripper" that had been stalking the area at the time. The police began to beat him, and Glenn fought back. He claims he did considerable damage to the police before they were finally able to subdue him. Glenn and Bobby then spent two nights jailed up in the London district of Brixton, during which time Glenn wrote the lyrics to the future Misfits song, "London Dungeon".
After the failed European tour, Joey Image decided to leave the band, and later formed the band The Mary Tyler Whores. Upon their return to America, The Misfits released the Beware EP and decided to take a short hiatus from the band in order to recover from their bad experience in England. After a four month break, Arthur Googy was recruited as the new drummer. Around this time, Jerry's younger brother, Doyle, who had been a huge fan of the band since the beginning, started learning to play guitar with help from Glenn and Jerry. The Misfits began working on a full length album, which they planned to release through Plan 9. In August of 1980, they went into the studio and recorded twelve songs. Jerry began to persuade Glenn that Doyle would fit into the band much better than Bobby Steele. Doyle began to practice with the band and even entered the studio to record his own guitar tracks for the twelve songs they had recorded. Bobby has said that during this time period, Jerry would purposely neglect to inform him of practices, in order to make Bobby look bad. Jerry denies these accusations. Regardless, in October of 1980, shortly before the band's annual Halloween show, Jerry informed Bobby that he was being replaced by Doyle, who was only sixteen at the time. Bobby Steele went on to form his own punk band a few months later, called The Undead (not the San Francisco band of the same name, also friends of the Misfits). On Halloween of 1980, what many people consider to be the classic Misfits lineup made its debut.
After only playing a few shows with the new lineup, they took a six month break from the band. During this time, instead of releasing the entire album they had recorded, they selected three songs from it and released it as the 3 Hits from Hell EP (in 2002, Caroline Records finally released the entire album, which they called 12 Hits from Hell), but the release was cancelled at the last moment at Jerry and Glenn's request. Throughout the year of 1981, The Misfits continued to go into the studio to record tracks for a full length release, which they planned on calling Walk Among Us. Although they had planned on releasing the full length themselves through Plan 9, they got an unexpected offer from Slash Records to release the album. They accepted the offer and decided to rework the album before releasing it. On Halloween of 1981, The Misfits released the "Halloween" single through Plan 9, which consisted of two more tracks from the shelved full length they had recorded the previous summer.
Sometime in 1981, Glenn wrote the song "Archangel" for The Damned vocalist Dave Vanian to sing with The Misfits backing him. However, due to scheduling conflicts, Dave never recorded vocals for the song and it was set aside until 1983, when Glenn decided to re-record it with his next band, Samhain.
After the demise of the Misfits, Glenn Danzig focused on his new band project, Samhain, which was darker and more experimental than The Misfits, with more emphasis on creating a grim atmosphere and less on poppy melodies. Meanwhile, Jerry Only and his brother Doyle moved to Vernon, New Jersey, where they went to work full time in their father's machine parts factory.
During this time, Only became more focused on his family and his baby daughter, Kathy. He became more serious about his Christian faith, and regretted some of the things he took part in during his time with the Misfits. He watched as Danzig continued to grow in popularity with Samhain, a band that Only viewed as Satanic. In 1987, Only decided to start a new band, one that would oppose the "dark path" chosen by Danzig. Together with Doyle, Only (who changed his stage name to "Mo the Great") started writing songs for a Christian heavy metal band with barbarian imagery, called Kryst the Conqueror. They then created the "Doyle Fan Club" to help spread the word about their new band. Despite Only's efforts, Kryst the Conqueror failed to gain a following. Although they released one limited edition EP, the band never played live.
Also in 1987, Samhain, after touring extensively and releasing two full-length albums and an EP, were signed to a major label and the band's name was changed to Danzig. Although the Misfits had gone mostly unnoticed during their seven years as an active band, by the late 80s, they were becoming icons of the underground music world, thanks in part to word of mouth, Metallica's public adoration for the band, and Danzig's success with Samhain. The Misfits' back catalogue had been reissued and was selling extremely well. Around this time, Only contacted Danzig about getting a cut of the Misfits' royalties, beginning a legal battle that lasted several years. Only concedes that Danzig wrote nearly all the lyrics and most of the music, but he contended that he and Doyle "wrote 25% or maybe 30% of the music," and deserved compensation. Danzig, on the other hand, insisted that he himself wrote all songs, and that the other Misfits' creative input was minimal at best.
In late 1988, Danzig, the band, released its eponymous debut album, the first release on star producer Rick Rubin's new Def American record label. Seven years later, in 1994 Danzig broke into the mainstream when the live video for its first album song, "Mother", became a hit on MTV, introducing thousands of new fans to Danzig's back catalog, and to his work with Samhain and the Misfits.
Around this time, many older punk bands began to do reunion tours, earning often hefty paychecks in the process. In 1994-95 Jerry Only and Doyle approached Danzig about reuniting as the Misfits, and they even went to his hotel room after a Danzig show in New Jersey. In interviews Only jokingly remarked that security escorted them from the property, and "we took that as a 'no'". Only decided to cease his pursuit of songwriting credits, and instead tried to reach an out-of-court settlement that would allow him to use "the Misfits" name and images. In 1995, Only and Danzig finally settled, with Only gaining the rights to record and perform as the Misfits, but sharing merchandising rights with Danzig.
A New Beginning
Jerry and Doyle reformed The Misfits immediately, retaining Kryst the Conqueror drummer, Dr. C.H.U.D., and after Danzig rejected their offer to return as lead singer, they held open auditions for a new vocalist (Jerry had approached Damned vocalist Dave Vanian about filling the open position, but he declined the offer). Michael Emanuel, a nineteen-year-old New Jersey native, impressed them with his audition, and was soon established as the new vocalist, taking the stage name Michale Graves.
This new incarnation of The Misfits (sometimes referred to as "The Newfits", "MisfitsTM", "The Jerry Only Band", or "Misfits 95") released their debut album, American Psycho, in 1997. The album was fairly well received, introducing The Misfits to a new generation of fans. However, many fans of the original Misfits had trouble accepting the band's renewed existence without its founder and key songwriter, Glenn Danzig, who usually refuses to acknowledge the new band's existence, and does so only with derision. Detractors also took issue with the new band's focus on a more "cartoony" image, and Jerry Only's apparent desire to make the band more family-friendly, by refraining from the use of vulgarities in their new songs. These issues became hotly debated amongst fans of the Misfits, resulting in many choosing sides between Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only. The fact that both Danzig and Only repeatedly criticized each other in interviews served to further divide the fan base.
In May of 1998, Michale Graves went on hiatus from the band. The Misfits were then briefly fronted by lead singer Myke Hideous of the New Jersey goth/deathrock band, The Empire Hideous, during their subsequent South American and European tour. Hideous was purportedly forced out by Jerry and Doyle for an unwillingness to "pump up" by lifting weights (The Misfits with Graves and Chud were featured as Characters in WCW wrestling), and left the band after the European tour. Hideous recounts details of his stint singing for the Misfits in his book "King of an Empire to the Shoes of a Misfit". Michale Graves rejoined the band later that year.
In October of 1999, The Misfits released Famous Monsters, a diverse album that further established their own sound apart from the Glenn Danzig era of the band. In 2001, The Misfits released Cuts from the Crypt, a collection of rare and unreleased "resurrected" Misfits tracks. On October 25, 2000, after months of internal band turmoil, Michale Graves and Dr. Chud officially quit the band during a performance at the House of Blues in Orlando. Doyle then took an indefinite hiatus from performing, effectively putting an end to another era of the band.
Walk Among Us (1982)
Earth A.D. (1983)
Static Age (1997, recorded in 1978)
12 Hits From Hell (2001, recorded in 1980, not properly released)
Horror Business (1979)
Night of the Living Dead (1979)
3 Hits from Hell (1981)
Die, Die My Darling (1984)
Beware EP (1980)
Legacy of Brutality (1985)
Collection I (1986)
Collection II (1995)
Box Set (1996)
American Psycho (1997)
Famous Monsters (1999)
Project 1950 (2003)
Untitled New Album (2007)