Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Music Can Be Murder - songs about killing

Rock and roll lifestyle eh? It's one thing throwing a telly out of a hotel window, but the business sure is obsessed with songs about the ultimate crime, that of killing and murder. Here's 20 of the best.

1) Roberta Flak - "Killing Me Softly"
The grandmammy of them all, Roberta's purring delivery slays me every time. So sweet, there's almost no hint of the menace behind the lyrics.

2) MC 900ft Jesus - "The Killer Inside Me"
This guy was so criminally overlooked as a performer that it kills me (see what I did there?) Lots of dark undertones in his delivery have jaunty, half really sinister. Genius.

3) Talking Heads - "Psychokiller"
Can't remember if this was their debut release, but what a song to announce your arrival with. New York art-punk, with French in the lyrics just to underline the artiness of it! From when they were still you know, like good.

4) Neil Young - "Cortez The Killer"
I was never a big Neil Young fan, his voice a bit too reedy for my tastes. But plenty swear by him so I honour that. An American singing a song about imperialism, what are the chances?

5) Barrington Levy - "Murderer"
This has the uncanny feel of someone discovering a body, and screaming murderer, murderer into the air to announce it to the whole community so they come running. I love it so much, I used it in my novel "Time After Time". The French call and response audience aren't really up to the challenge!

6) 999 - "Homicide"
Another overlooked minor classic, this is a rare British example of the genre. Musically pretty sophisticated for what was essentially a punk band. Don't you just love the scratchiness of the video? Ah punk nostalgia...

7) Mekons - "Kill 1980"
Actually scrub that, as the next few show, there are plenty of British examples of the kill song genre. Post-punk-turned country-folk-punk Mekons this song saw the introduction of the violin to their line up and to good effect I can't help but feel.

8) The Cure - "Killing An Arab"
This song gets into many of my charts, as it was seminal to both my musical and literary development. An older cousin of mine suggested that I listen to this song and then read Camus' "L'Etranger" both of which I duulky did and was blown away by both. The 'cool' points at school I was initially seeking after from consuming both just no longer seemed to matter...

10) Robert Cray - "Killing Floor"
Classic blues, there are lots of versions of this from Howlin Wolf to Led Zeppelin, but most weren't live & in colour!

11) Bodycount - "Cop Killer"
Yup, that song that caused all the furore in the US. A very average bit of thrash metal, elevated to legendary status by the outrage. Will the authorities never learn? As John Lydon once sung, "Ignore it and it will go away"

12) Dead Kennedys - "Kill The Poor"
... or the other way is to do it with lashings of humour and irony. Mind you I think this still managed to upset some folks who thought the sentiments were real.

13) Angelic Upstarts - "The Murder Of Liddle Towers"
Liddle Towers was a minor professional boxing trainer who died after being arrested by the Police. Two different bands (The other being Tom Robinson Band) penned songs demanding the truth about his death to be investigated, possibly something of a record, but one of those moments when music tries to advocate for something useful.

14) Adam And The Ants - "Killer In The Home"
When Adam Ant suddenly hit on the formula for chart success in both music and look, this song was the only one from that period that I actually liked. Mind you he still slipped in one of his trademark pirate/red Indian/highwayman references in that trite way of his.

15) Carter USM - Midnight On The Murder Mile
For a duo, this band sure made a racket. They signed my copy of their album when they did a set in the record shop I was working in. Since all their songs were paeans to South London, I asked them to sign it 'to a North Londoner'. Nice chaps.

16) Muse - Assassin
The idea of Muse being angry enough to kill anyone makes me snort! Still, fair song musically.

17) John Lee Hooker - I'm Gonna Kill That woman
... unlike blues singers who you entirely believe they're capable of murder. Awesome. One of the few songs Nick Cave hasn't been able to do justice to in his cover versions.

18) The Bug - "Murder We"
Lots of The Bug's songs are exceedingly angry no matter who the guest vocalist is. An angry man clearly. And dubstep is usually so mellow...

19) Rage Against The Machine - "Killing In The Name Of"
I dunno, I always found this song a bit too bloated to get its sentiments across, but when it was hijacked to prevent some crappy UK TV talent show winner becoming the Christmas chart topping number 1 that was just fine by me. Still didn't go out and buy it though.

20) Snoop Dogg -  Serial Killa
Hima so bad he drop 'is 'aitches when  he raps. Can't take this seriously though I probably should


James Everington said...

I was convinced they'd be something from Cave's "Murder Ballards" here...

Sulci Collective said...

I scoured Cave's entire oeuvre, including Birthday party days, for a song with kill/killer/murder in the title, but amazingly found none!