Today, June 23, 2015, is Glenn Danzig’s 60th birthday. Danzig, of course was the founding vocalist of the cartoonish New Jersey horror-punk band Misfits and the similar Samhain, and he moved on from those bands’ B-Movie lyrical tropes when he founded the eponymous metal band he’s led since 1987. Nothing about him is understated—his stage persona combines gothic affectation with some pretty ridiculous macho posturing, an unswervingly and grimly imperious mien, and grandiose baritone singing.
And it’s that distinctive singing voice that makes Danzig’s signature song “Mother” so damn sticky. It was initially released in 1988, on Danzig’s self-titled debut LP, and it saw an unlikely rise to hit status years later when a live version on a stop-gap E.P. called Thrall-Demonsweatlive suddenly started getting radio and MTV play. The videos for both the original studio single and the 1993 live version were treated to the ministrations of Beavis and Butthead (“These guys are pretty cool but this lead singer looks like Patrick Swayze”), which back then actually helped.
Danzig discussed the song with Jeff Kitt of the short-lived Flux magazine:
FLUX: Why do you think “Mother” became a hit six years after its initial release?
GLENN DANZIG: We wanted to put out an EP after Danzig III, but the record company told us we were crazy because EP’s don’t sell. As far as I was concerned, it was too soon to do another studio album or record a live album, so I thought an EP with four live tracks and three studio tracks would be the best thing to do. So we went into the studio and recorded “It’s Coming Down,” “Violet Fire” and “Trouble” in one day. We put them together with some live tracks, and put it out as Thrall-Demonsweatlive.
“Mother” was one of the live songs, and it just started getting airplay. So we decided to shoot a live video for it. MTV had to play it because it was doing so well on radio. It was kinda cool because no one called us a “sell-out” since “Mother” was already six years old when it became a hit. [laughs]
FLUX: Is it possible that when Danzig was first released back in ‘88 the mainstream music scene just wasn’t ready for a song like “Mother”?
DANZIG: That’s exactly what happened to us. When we first came out, we were doing things that few bands did - we had to go up against all the hairspray/glam bands of the late Eighties. A lot of people liked “Mother,” and some deejays played it, but people called us Satanists and all kinds of crap - they just didn’t understand us. That’s not to mention the fact that the first “Mother” video freaked MTV out and they pretty much banned us from the station for the next few years. Hell, MTV had a heart attack when they saw our video for “It’s Coming Down” - and that was just us on stage! [laughs]
FLUX: Did you notice something special about “Mother” when you first wrote it?
DANZIG: Yeah, I did. I remember calling [producer] Rick Rubin in the middle of the night and telling him that I wrote an incredible song - probably the best song I’d ever written. It was the song I always wanted to write. The first time we played it, people went crazy. But I never wrote that song to make it a hit - I never wrote that way, and I still don’t. I write songs so that they say something and do something, and if people like ‘em, great - and if they don’t, they don’t.
More after the jump…