Like most guys my age in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I discovered The Misfits through the usual channel: Metallica. They had this EP out that was all covers and on it they did Last Caress and Green Hell (an interesting juxtaposition of a track from their first studio full length and a track from their last studio full length). I asked the punk kid who sat in front of me in Algebra if he knew who The Misfits were and the following day he sent me home with a copy of Walk Among Us. From the very beginning of 20 Eyes, Suicidal Tendencies had been unseated as my favorite band and The Misfits have sat on that grim throne ever since. I’ll consume anything with The Crimson Ghost on it, that is everything except for these new Jerry Only albums because I happen to think that they suck a dog’s cock but everything having to do with that golden Glenn Danzig period is something special to me. I’ve processed the volumes of information on Mark Kennedy’s exhaustive biographical site of all things Misfits, Misfits Central, and I thought that I had all the data in my noodle. While my knowledge of The Misfits/Samhain/Danzig might be described with such titanic words as voluminous, encyclopedic and complete I was missing the finer details that can only fill the gaps by a series of anecdotes and photos from someone who was both there and a trustworthy source. There is no finer subject for this kind of information than Eerie Von, Doyle Caiafa’s wingman and Lodi, New Jersey icon who managed to infiltrate that ghoulish horrorpunk scene and remain a pivotal copilot during Glenn Danzig’s ascent to metal greatness.
Though Eerie Von’s tome is meant to be a coffee table style book of his outstanding photography of The Misfits during their last couple of years to the transformation of Samhain into Danzig, Misery Obscura is also a bit of a document similar to my other favorite punk rock memoir, Henry Rollins’ collection of photos and journal entries covering his six year stint as Black Flag’s longest running screamer, Get In The Van. It’s a series of exciting photography capturing the chaotic moments of one of punk rock’s most original and vital acts in their most propulsive element, the stage. Though The Misfits look great in these photos, anyone who has seen those live bootlegs from The Channel in Boston and that Michigan public access show can attest, Evilive, as marginally listenable as it is, is actually a fluke as most Misfits live engagements seem to be godawful exercises in public performance. Among Eerie Von’s fantastic stage shots and candid photos that have never been seen until this time, are stories filling in the background of a band that is nothing short of legendary. He keeps mum on the circumstances surrounding the acrimonious breakup of the band and the succession of Samhain but those with a good understanding of the band will get a good idea of what actually happened in that time. It also humanizes the band. Glenn Danzig has done a tremendous job of selling himself as an incredibly intimidating and threatening pesonality in rock but Von’s stories of Danzig, a man he clearly grew to idolize and remained loyal to to a fault, paint a picture of a reasonably nice guy with a wicked sense of humor and tendency to fuck around.
However, the photography takes a hit as Eerie Von goes from Misfits photographer to drummer, then bass player for Samhain and other people begin taking over as band photographer. Von’s stories of being in the band help chronicle the evolution of horror rock but his personal touch and eye for photography is gone. Continuing through the days where Rick Rubin became involved and transformed the group, the stories stay tight but going into the Danzig days, Von rushes the tale and his stories become a catalog of “we played here and there and hung out with Metallica…” until his final exit from the group following the departures of Chuck Biscuits and John Christ. Maybe it’s a translation of what it’s like to go from the DIY ethic of the early punk scene to the upper tiers of rock stardom, the final act of Eerie Von’s book is a little stale as excitement of his teenage years in a fledgling punk scene gives way to a series of boring tales of being on the road with huge touring bands but the ride from start to finish is compelling and aided by pages upon pages of inspiring photography that puts the Lodi punk scene in its own place on the punk rock timeline, a punk scene that embraced theatricality and infused the glam of rock and roll in the 70’s with the cheesy vibe of a saturday afternoon horror matinee.
Misery Obscura is out now from Dark Horse Books and comes to you with the official Cinema Suicide seal of approval. Get your copy now!