Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9: Danzig, "Mother"

Artist: Danzig
Song: "Mother"
Album: Danzig
Year: 1988

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If there is one thing that history has proven, it is that within the world of music, one of the riskiest things a musician can do is attempting a solo career after being a part of a band that reached a certain level or notoriety.  In a majority of cases like this, the artist in question has become so closely affiliated with the band as a whole, that their solo efforts are almost seen as a slight against the group, and many of the most dedicated fans will turn their back on these solo albums.  Yet there are a handful of cases where an artist is able to find some amount of solo success, even in the light of their storied past.  However, in a majority of these cases, the truth of the matter is, the solo success almost always occurs when the artist in question finds a way to crossover into another demographic, and it is this "new" audience that brings them solo success.  Truth be told, there are very few frontmen in history who hold the mystique and respect as the man who was in many ways the heart and soul of The Misfits, Glenn Danzig.  As one of the most important groups in the history of punk and hardcore, they also played a massive role in the development of the "goth" scene, and their music (and logo) remain major parts of music culture to this day.  After The Misfits called it quits in the early 1980's, Danzig went through a handful of new projects and lineups, until around 1987, when the band took his last name as their name, and the "classic" Danzig lineup was formed.  It was on the groups' first record, 1988's Danzig, that their biggest hit would be found, yet it would take nearly five years for the world to find the awesome power that is the song, "Mother."

In reality, a majority of people believe that "Mother" came from the bands' 1993 EP, Thrall-Demonsweatlive, as the studio version was notoriously buried as "track 93" on the record; yet this is completely incorrect, and once one learns the true history of the song, the fact that the live version on the EP is titled "Mother '93" makes far more sense.  The song found at the end of the EP is, in fact, the exact same as is found on the bands' first record, and that is why the live version is noted on the record, while the studio version is "hidden."  The song itself perfectly represents everything that always made the music of Glenn Danzig so fantastic: powerful guitar-based music supported by his own amazing vocal work.  There are few songs in history that contain as memorable and powerful and opening riff as one finds on "Mother," and this simple, unmistakable piece, played by John Christ, almost perfectly resembles a death bell tolling.  As the song kicks in, it becomes one of the most "accessible" hardcore/metal songs ever composed, and the rhythm section of bassist Eerie Von and legendary drummer Chuck Biscuits provides the perfect support system for what would become one of the most famous songs of Danzig's career.  It is clearly Biscuits' years of playing in the likes of Black Flag and The Circle Jerks that keep a strong hardcore/punk feel to the song, and finding a balance between this and Glenn Danzigs' heavy metal roots is one of the many aspects that makes "Mother" a song like no other in history.

As fantastic and powerful as the music is on "Mother," there is rarely a moment that the focus of the song is on anything other than Glenn Danzig's amazing vocal work or the wonderfully veiled lyrics that he penned for the song.  Though during his years with The Misfits, the awesome power of his voice was often a bit buried in the mix, as a solo artist, one cannot deny the fact that Danzig has a vocal talent far beyond nearly any other performer in any of the punk/hardcore/metal genres.  With a strong voice that delivers every part of the vocal spectrum, the fact that Danzig is able to sing in octaves where most must yell gives his music a certain flare and power that instantly sets it apart from the music of his peers.  Furthermore, the swagger that pervades every song on which he sings gives the music an intimidating, almost sinister feel.  This mood and sound is very obvious on "Mother," and it helps to give the songs' true meaning even more force and power than one might expect.  While many take the lyrics as little more than a warning from a "bad boy" to keep their children away, the fact of the matter is that the songs' lyrics were far more socially aware, as they were written as a rallying cry against the PMRC and the biggest enemy in the history of music: Tipper Gore.  Responsible for the "Explicit Lyrics" label that was beginning to taint records across the musical spectrum, Glenn Danzig used the song as a fighting point, and one can clearly understand what he meant by lines such as, "...can you keep them in the dark for life?  Can you hide them from the waiting world?"  The power and conviction found throughout "Mother" makes it unlike anything else, and the song soars to greater heights once one understands the true, deeper meaning behind the words.

Given his reputation and band history, the fact that Glenn Danzig was able to have a song make it "into the charts" on both sides of the Atlantic makes it almost impossible to argue that "Mother" is one of the greatest heavy metal songs in history.  Combining powerful chords, sharp lyrics, and the unparalleled power and sound of Danzig's voice, there are few songs that can even remotely compare, and in many ways, it almost overshadows much of his seminal work with The Misfits.  "Mother" fuses together the punk and heavy metal genres like no other song in history, and this enabled the song to gain a wider following, and the confrontational "bad boy" lyrics overtop certainly appealed to yet another different group of listeners.  Furthermore, the fact that it took the song so many years to "catch on," makes it even more impressive, and this is much the reason that more than twenty years after the song was first released, one can still find it in regular radio rotation.  In truth, "Mother" perfectly embodies the term "crossover" as it works just as well in a heavy metal environment as it does in a "standard" rock world, and this is largely due to the superb musical arrangements, as well as the overall spirit of the song.  Though nearly all are well aware of the song and can instantly recognize it, few are aware of its "true" meaning, and even fewer know that it was released so many years before the general public "discovered" the song.  Yet the fact that it remains in regular rotation and is unquestionably one of the most instantly recognizable songs ever written serves as a testament to the musical perfection that can be found in Danzig's 1988 classic, "Mother."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a great article that gives this song meaning and purpose and depth I never knew was there. Thanks man