Picture sleeve for "Cough/Cool" b/w "She"
The Misfits were formed in January 1977 when Glenn Danzig, who had been in several garage bands such as Talus and Whodat and Boojang, decided to form his own band. For weeks he wrote songs and played with friends and old bandmates, trying to find a suitable lineup for the new band. The first Misfits lineup consisted of Danzig (electric piano, vocals), Jimmy Battle (guitar), Diane DiPiazza (bass guitar), and Manny Martinez (drums). After only about a month of practicing, Battle and DiPiazza left the band, and Martinez suggested his friend, Jerry Caiafa (a.k.a. Jerry Only) as the new bass player. Although Caiafa had only been playing bass for two months, he was added to the lineup, and the trio entered the studios to record their first single: “Cough/Cool” b/w “She”. This is today’s featured single.
“Cough/Cool”, true to punk form, runs only 2 minutes and 14 seconds, and starts off with Danzig playing a monotonous-sounding one-note melody on his electric organ (apparently connected to a fuzz box), joined a few seconds later by Manny Martinez’s drums. Although the track could have benefited from better production, The Misfits deliver a raw yet powerful performance here. The lyrics are barely decipherable, but Danzig’s tuneful bellow still penetrates the rather muddy-sounding mix. The dystopian lyrics seemingly describe a city suffering a disease epidemic, and were undoubtedly inspired by horror movies: “Cover your face when you walk by/Drench your visions in darkness”. The electric organ dominates the sound mix, while Jerry Only noodles around on his bass guitar. And then there is the chorus: “Spit up blood when you cough/Cool, cool, cool/Cough, cool, cool, cool”. There is an interesting-sounding keyboard solo towards the end, before the song comes to an abrupt end. Although the musical accompaniment is spare (there is no lead guitar on the track), The Misfits nonetheless get a lot of mileage from Danzig’s electric piano and Manny’s drum-playing. Listening to the track, one begins to understand the band’s initial appeal, if not the renewed interest that has developed in the 1990’s and beyond (an interest that prompted Jerry Only to form a new Misfits lineup in an attempt to cash in on the band’s cult status).
“She” is an even shorter track (1 minute and 22 seconds), and moves along at a fast pace, making it seem even shorter. This time, Jerry Only’s bass dominates the sludgy sound mix (although Danzig’s electric piano is also quite audible), and the melody is not something that seems hard to play: a grand total of 3 chords are used (A, G, and FF), as The Misfits play a simple-yet-catchy tune. The song reminds me of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” in the way in which the melody and the lyrics move along quickly, as if the musicians are constipated. [In fact, before forming The Misfits, Glenn Danzig sang in bands where, according to him, he sang “mostly Black Sabbath songs”, so the idea that “She” was inspired by Black Sabbath doesn’t seem all that farfetched.] The lyrical content is about a woman (the “She” of the song title) that seems to be skirting the line between virtue and vice, with lines like these: “She walked out with empty arms/Machine gun in her hand/She is good and she is bad/No one understands”. And this: “She was virgin vixen/She is on the run”. In fact, the seemingly oxymoronic phrase “virgin vixen” can be seen as a sign that even at this early stage, Glenn Danzig had a lyrical flair which was in evidence more fully during his work as a solo artist. The Misfits pack quite a sonic assault into this brief song, and in spite of the low production values, “She” is a great punk song.
The single (catalog #: 101) was issued on the band’s own Blank Records in August 1977 (it was recorded in June 1977). The single was recorded at the Rainbow Studio and mastered at Spectrum Sound in Brooklyn, New York by Rich Flores. Only 500 copies of the original single were made, and copies of this single are said to fetch about $2,000 on eBay. The image shown here is of the picture sleeve of the reissue of the single. The original release apparently had a picture sleeve as well, although I’m not sure if it was the same picture sleeve used for the reissue. This is also the only Misfits release on which Jerry Only is credited under his original name, Jerry Caiafa. After his name was misspelled on the liner notes of this single, he adopted the stage name Jerry Only. The band would undergo many personnel changes over the next six years, eventually adding a guitarist (Franche Coma, who would be the first of several guitarists), and replacing Manny Martinez with a succession of different drummers. Danzig and Jerry Only would be the only constants during this period, and the band broke up after playing a final concert in Detroit, Michigan on October 29, 1983. In 1995, Only reformed The Misfits without Danzig (after reaching a legal settlement with Danzig that allowed Only to use The Misfits’ name and images, but splitting merchandising rights between Only and Danzig), this version of the band has also seen several personnel changes, with Jerry Only remaining as the one constant through the revival era.