Five Great Moments In Horror-Rock History

Halloween is around the corner, and while plenty of Halloween revelers will fire up "Monster Mash" as part of their holiday soundtrack, but rock history has seen some great theatrical moments that rival most scary movies for many decades now. Now is an opportune time to look back at some of the best horror moments in rock!

Jalacy Hawkins was an R&B musician who really got noticed when he and his band got blackout drunk and recorded the raucous and spooky-sounding 1956 tune "I Put a Spell On You." Soon after recording the song, Hawkins developed an over-the-top theatrical image and stage show, dressing as a cartoon version of a voodoo priest and emerging from a coffin. Needless to say, his show made an impression, and Hawkins is still considered an early pioneer of shock-rock.

In the late '60s, The Alice Cooper Band was one of a small number of bands extending a big middle finger to the peace-and-love image crafted by so many of their contemporaries. They were also undoubtably the most important band when it came to popularizing scary rock-show theatrics, and forged territory that modern bands are still mining today. By 1971, their onstage performance climaxed with Alice Cooper being "executed" in an electric chair; over the following years, the singer met his temporary end in numerous ways — being hung from a gallows for the 1972 tour, and eventually losing his head to a guillotine each night on the 1973 "Billion Dollar Babies" concerts. Besides basically creating modern shock-rock and forging a lasting bond between hard rock and horror movies, Alice must hold the record for "person killed the most often as part of a performance."

KISS is one of those "love them or hate them" bands: the people who don't like them tend to really hate them, while their fans are some of the most dedicated in the world. It would be ridiculous to create a list such as this without giving the band its due — KISS probably stole a lot of their ideas from Alice Cooper, but they expanded on the idea of theatrical stage shows in way no one else matched in the mid- to late '70s. While KISS tended to sing mostly about goofy sexual subjects instead of the darker material Cooper tended to tackle, Gene Simmons created his persona of "The Demon" with enough gusto to creep out quite a few of his fans' parents. With a costume that was equal parts leather S&M and kabuki devil, the bass player also "flew" like a bat to the top of the stage beginning on 1979's "Dynasty" tour, and had been already begun spitting blood and blowing fire onstage, solidifying his band's sinister image.

In the late 1970s, several bands emerged from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal musical movement that charged hard out of England. The most popular and longest-running of those bands has to be Iron Maiden, still going strong and playing enormous shows 40 years after they formed. Their mascot "Eddie" is such an icon that I would bet more people recognize this heavy-metal zombie than they do most of the members of the actual band. At some point during every Iron Maiden concert, Eddie makes his way onstage, and fans eagerly await the unholy creature's appearance. I'd knock a few beers back with him; he looks like a fun dude.

Founded in New Jersey in 1977 by Glenn Danzig, this band essentially created the horror-punk subgenre. Building a catalogue of mostly catchy punk-rock songs that celebrated horror films, and dressing up in outfits that made the members look like they were straight out of a monster movie, it's clear that The Misfits were one of the most important bands to merge scary themes with punk rock. By the late '80s, their T-shirts were worn just as often by metalheads as punks, after bands like Metallica gave them their blessing. The Misfits were plenty of spooky fun, and a lot of their songs still hold up today, even if some of Glenn Danzig's shenanigans recently make him look more like a jerk.

These five artists, have all contributed greatly to the scarier side of rock music, but there are many others. With Halloween rapidly approaching its a good time to spin some old records and get in the mood.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.