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Misfits: 10 Best Videos From the Glenn Danzig Era

Alison Braun, Michael Ochs Archive

Like many who were born between the release of The Godfather and the end of the Vietnam War, I never had a chance to witness the ‘classic’ incarnation of those kings of horror rock, the Misfits, which ran from 1977 to 1983. Ever since I was a teenager, all I’ve ever known of that era of the band in the live realm are the choppy VHS tapes me and my nerd punk pals collected throughout high school.

Fast forward a million years later and the internet is a crimson cornucopia of footage of the band throughout that time period. To commemorate the release of the bands’ third live full length last week – entitled DEA.D.ALIVE – we’ve assembled ten of the best videos from the Misfits’ early days available on the web. I know all you old enough to witness the band at this time will say ‘You hadda be there’. Well…I wasn’t. So please let me and my age bracket enjoy ourselves while we couch dive along to these videos, OK?

Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only ‘and friends’ 1979 at Studio Zero in New York City, N.Y.

Technically, this isn’t the Misfits; just vocalist Glenn Danzig and bass player Jerry Only playing with some friends in the basement of a NYC club circa ’79. But are you really going to nitpick such details with footage of this vintage? Others I have shown this video to have labelled it ‘A bit much’, but I could watch this thing all day. What that says about me, I have no idea.

Misfits at Bookies in Detroit, Mich. 9/12/81

It’s a shame this video is of such poor quality, as it’s pretty important historically. This is the show where the band discovered the following they had in the Midwest courtesy of the editors of Michigan’s sole hardcore punk fanzine at the time, Touch & Go. It is here that the bonds were made between the Misfits and that ‘zine as well as with future tour mates from Maumee, Ohio, the Necros.

Performance on Dearborn, Mich. cable access show Why Be Something That You’re Not - 1983

As stated above, the Misfits loved the early ’80s Midwest hardcore scene and this footage certainly proves they loved ‘em back. This set is a mishmash of the material that would be released later on in ’83 as the Earth A.D. LP as well as the songs from their previously released material amped-up to an almost comical pace; their ode to JFK – “Bullet” – is almost unrecognizable it’s played so fast.

Misfits cover Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above’ – The Channel in Boston 3/20/83

The bands’ cover of this Black Flag classic is still a staple of their live shows, but nothing compares to the chaos the song ensues in this footage. Try to count the amount of early ’80s Boston hardcore scenesters in this clip; it’s nearly impossible.

Misfits play an Eagles Lodge in Kalamazoo, Mich. 9/26/82

Can you even fathom what it would be like to walk into a Bingo parlor and see the Misfits playing? Certainly some of the most mind blowing footage from this era. I don’t know what I love more; the toddler on the young punkette’s shoulders or the fact Jerry starts to make-out with her mid-set.

Misfits at Goleta Valley Community Center in Goleta, Calif. 1/21/83

Some nights, the boys encountered a crowd that wasn’t so accepting of their ghoulish ways. Case in point: this footage from a show in Santa Barbara from the winter of ’83. The crowd animosity could be pinned on an incident that occurred the year before up in San Francisco when the band and crowd clashed at a show at the Elite Club which ended with Misfits guitarist Doyle splitting open the head of a 14 year old skinheads’ skull with the butt end of his instrument. Nonetheless, the band pulls through this set with both their chins and guards up.

Misfits at Love Hall in Philadelphia, Pa. 10/23/82

All the videos shot at this infamous Philly Hardcore venue are amazing. Shot from a balcony with a birds’ eye view on all the action; it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen.

Misfits at Santa Monica Civic Center in Santa Monica, California 6/11/83

Legend has it this is the show where Danzig confided in Henry Rollins he was planning on leaving the band. You wouldn’t know it from the energy both he and the rest of the band propels from the cavernous stage in this footage.

Misfits ‘final show’ at the Graystone in Detroit, Michigan 10/29/83

It’s a shame that the quality of this footage is so rough, since it’s obviously a historical show. Fed up with the band, Glenn already had plans for his next project Samhain by this show. Check out the encores of “Rise Above” and Negative Approach‘s “Can’t Tell No One” featuring NA vocalist John Brannon himself.

Samhain’s first show at the Rock Hotel in New York City, N.Y. 3/31/84

And so we end the same way we began; with a video that is not technically a Misfits video, but is still an important document in their legacy with being a hell of a watch to boot. Freed from the wham-bam velocity of the Misfits, Glenn went out to get a more textured, moody sound from Samhain. This footage from their first ever show with the short lived first line-up featuring guitarist Lyle Preslar (Minor Threat, The Meatmen, etc.) sheds light on the beginning of his quest for that sound.

Tony Rettman is a freelance music journalist whose work has appeared in The Village Voice, Vice, Philadelphia Weekly, Arthur, Swindle, Signal to Noise and Mean. His 2010 book Why Be Something That You’re Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985, is a must-read for any fan of heavy music and can be purchased on Amazon.

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