Crime Pop?


I was listening to Skydaddies’ “Murder in the Park”, a fine Beatlesesque — no, really more Rutlesesque! Not because it’s a parody, but because it knows how it’s being Beatlesesque, if you know what I mean — tune about a girl who takes pictures of a murder in a park and it struck me that there’s a good amount of crime music in unexpected places. Not in rap songs about poppin’ caps in someone’s arse or thrash metal about KILLING! but in more unusual places.

There’s the odd novelty one-off like The Buoys’ “Timothy” (Rupert Holmes, you have so much to answer for), but I’m really thinking about surprising eruptions among the more unlikely folks. Like Kate Bush: national treasure, lovely woman, secretly morbid film fan. Of course there’s “Hammer Horror”, that paean to the famous film studio, but there’s also delicious “Coffee Homeground” — a sort of Arsenic & Old Lace adventure. Wonderful lyrics include:

Pictures of Crippen / Lipstick-smeared / torn wall paper / have the walls got ears here?

In a similar fashion, you might be surprised to find how morbid Sir Paul is throughout his career. While John might have sung “Run for Your Life” it was Macca who dwelt on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” with its jaunty-yet-bloody chorus,

Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer comes down upon her head / Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead…

And it wasn’t just youthful exploits; his Flowers in the Dirt LP (well, it was an LP when I bought it >_<) features a truly morbid song, “Don’t Be Careless Love” in which the narrator pictures all the horrible fates that might befall his beloved because “something could be terribly wrong”:

Saw your face in the morning paper / saw your body rolled up in a rug / chopped up into tiny pieces / by some thug!

Probably the ultimate example is the a capella song “Me and a Gun” by Tori Amos, which details her survival of an abduction and rape at gun point. There’s no way to convey the power of being in a rapt and silent audience when Amos sings this song. Harrowing.

Ah, but let’s end on a jauntier note with some Hank. I write a lot of stories that have their genesis in lyrics, but who knew it went the other way, too. What “crime pop” songs would you suggest?

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5 Comments

  1. Delilah, sung by Tom Jones.

  2. Suggestions via Facebook:

    From Must Read Mysteries: The Raconteurs “Carolina Drama” and the Avett Brothers “I Killed Sally’s Lover”

    From Jason Michel: Rowland S Howard, Golden Age of Bloodshed and anything by Barry Adamson

    From Alan Savage, Nick and Kylie, “Where the Wild Roses Grow” — which has to also be the most unlikely pop pairing since Bowie and Bing.

  3. Kate, thanks for the heads up, for those that are interested, I am currently working on a re-recording of “Murder In The Park” that will be ready shortly. The lyrics were inspired by Antonioni’s brilliant 60’s film “Blow Up”, and they were written by my writing partner in The Skydaddies, Phil Close.

    • I love Blow Up. The song really catches the feel of the film well. Looking forward to hearing the new version.


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