35 Years Ago: Misfits Take Over Horror-Punk With Their Debut LP ‘Walk Among Us’
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Horror-punk took a creepy step forward when the Misfits released Walk Among Us in March of 1982. To date, it’s the only album they ever released while the Lodi, N.J., natives were still a functioning unit with the classic lineup of Glenn Danzig on vocals, Jerry Only on bass and his younger brother Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein on guitar.
Clocking in at less than 25 minutes, with the majority of the 13 tracks two minutes or less, Walk Among Us is a breakneck-paced album full of head bobbing sing-a-long “Whoa, whoa, whoas.” The happy, cheery catchiness of the songs belie the twisted lyrics about hacking heads off little girls and hanging them on the wall (“Skulls”), destroying the human race (“Astro Zombies”) and having brains for dinner and for lunch (“Braineaters”). A large part of the Misfits’ appeal was precisely that contrast between sick and sweet.
“The songs were pretty much all about being in your face and over just as quickly,” Danzig told Ultimate Guitar years later, adding that he played most of the guitars and drums on the record along with handling production.
The production was lo-fi, common at the time for punk rock of all deviations, and the songs were meant to grab the listener straightaway. The only time it slows down is for the briefest of seconds on a live version of “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” taken from a New York show the previous December and inserted into the middle of the track listing. Leading into the chorus, the band stops playing as Danzig poses the title of the track as a question before diving headlong into a frenetic churning of sonic speed.
“Walk Among Us is very just, I wanna say – not pop, but really fast and catchy,” Only said, adding in a separate interview, “When we were working on Walk Among Us we were shooting to be the horror-punk gods – I mean that was the angle. We were in a league all by of ourselves.”
And though Walk Among Us was officially the first full-length Misfits release, timeline-wise it was third recorded behind Static Age (1978) and 12 Hits from Hell (1980). Like the numerous singles and EPs before it, the album was initially to be released on the band’s own label, Plan 9, but there was a sudden interest from independent labels on the West Coast, and it ended up on the Slash imprint Ruby Records.
“I.R.S. [Records] heard that we were doing the record and approached us about putting it out through them,” Danzig said. “And then we got a call and a letter from Slash Records saying they wanted to release it and that we should not do the deal with I.R.S. because I.R.S., they felt, were terrible and wouldn’t pay us. While if we did the deal with Slash it would ensue that we would be paid. But in the end, it was all bulls— anyway.”
Danzig was also unhappy with the cover art, which depicted the trio (as well as drummer Arthur Googy) sporting the patented devil-lock, with the rat-bat-spider from The Angry Red Planet and spaceships from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, two late-50s science fiction B-movies. Despite the pink and later purple variations having taken on iconic status over time, the pressings were intended to look quite differently.
“I remember I flipped out on our label because it was supposed to be in all these different colors such as red, black and orange but the way it came out was truly awful,” he said. “But they had already printed them anyway though they had not shown us any proofs beforehand.”
Years later, when Caroline Records set out to release the definitive Misfits box set in early 1996, one which would ostensibly feature all of the group’s singles, EP and LP material collected in one place, nothing could be used from Walk Among Us as Warner Bros. had acquired the rights from Slash.
To mark the 30th anniversary of Walk Among Us, Rhino Records released three colored-vinyl versions of the album for Record Store Day 2012 with the pink cover. It was limited to 3,000 total copies in the U.S. and pressed on red (1,250 pieces), blue (1,250 pieces) and clear (500 pieces) vinyl. There was also a purple vinyl pressing released internationally that was limited to 1,500 copies.
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