"We were something you couldn’t cage. You’d get skinheads beating the crap outta each other in front of the stage." The chaotic story of Misfits’ horror-punk classic Earth A.D./Wolfsblood

Misfits performing live in the early 80s
(Image credit: Alison Braun/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images))

Little known outside of US punk circles during their original six-year run in the late 70s and early 80s, the patronage of Metallica helped New Jersey devils Misfits become one of rock’s greatest cult bands. In 2008, bassist Jerry Only talked Metal Hammer through the turbulent creation of their iconic 1983 album, Earth A.D./Wolfsblood – the record that would tear the band apart.

With their distinctive ‘devilock’ fringes, instantly recognisable Crimson Ghost mascot and obsession with the darker end of US culture, New Jersey horror-punks Misfits were a Herschell Gordon Lewis B-movie made flesh. Across their short but eventful career, they released two groundbreaking albums that would go on to inspire some of punk and metal’s biggest names - most notably Metallica – before flaming out in acrimony.

Misfits were formed in 1977 by Lodi, New Jersey native Glenn Anzalone, a 22-year-old fan of comic books, wrestling, Elvis Presley and The Doors. The band name came from Marilyn Monroe’s infamously ill-fated final movie The Misfits, while Anzalone renamed himself Glenn Danzig - reportedly a family surname, but also the former name of the city attacked by the Nazis in September 1939, sparking off World War II (known today as Gdansk). 

“When you went into New York, everybody was shootin’ dope,” says bassist Jerry Only (born Jerry Caiafa), who joined soon after the band was formed. “It was a heavy narcotic scene. I wasn’t about that. That’s why we came up with the horror thing. We loved horror films, sci-fi, B-movies. We weren’t drug-shootin’ beatnik Bowery Boys.”

Initial line-ups were fluid, with guitarists and drummers coming and going. Misfits’ 1978 debut single, the oddball art rock of Cough/Cool, featured Danzig playing piano in lieu of a guitarist. Cough/Cool was released on Danzig’s own label, Blank. When Mercury Records decided they wanted to set up their own subsidiary, also named Blank, they offered Misfits 30 hours of studio time.

Misfits performing live in the early 80s

Misifts’ Jerry Only (left) and Glenn Danzig onstage in the early 80s (Image credit: Alison Braun/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Enlisting guitarist Franché Coma and drummer Jimmy ‘Mr Jim’ Catania, the band recorded the Static Age album… only to shelve it after they were unable to find a label who would release it. Four tracks appeared on 1979’s Bullet EP, released via Danzig’s new Plan 9 imprint (named, naturally, after cult director Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space movie), and other Static Age songs cropped up on later compilations, but the original album wasn’t released until 1997, long after the original line-up had split.

Over the next few years, there were more line-up changes. By the time they recorded 1982’s Walk Among Us, they had been joined on guitar by Jerry Only’s hulking brother Doyle – aka Paul Caiafa – and drummer Arthur Googy. Released via US indie label Slash, Walk Among Us defined the goth-edged punk rock sound that set them apart – one part Ramones, one part Roger Corman, played by glowering, be-muscled gravediggers.

“We were something you couldn’t cage,” says Jerry. “Our shows got crazy. You’d get skinheads jumping around, beating the crap outta each other in front of the stage.”

Things intensified even further on 1983’s Earth A.D./Wolfsblood. Plugging into the booming hardcore movement, it floored the pedal, cramming 9 songs into just 15 minutes on its US original version (international versions added two more songs, Walk Among Us leftover Die, Die My Darling plus We Bite, taking the running time up to a hefty 21 minutes). Sessions for the album were no less rushed.

”We did it right after a show at the Santa Monica Civic Center [in December 1982], which featured the Misfits and a Black Flag reunion,” says Jerry. “We recorded all the music for that album right from midnight to six in the morning. Complete.

“Glenn slept through the entire recording session, but I woke him up long enough for him to say, ’Mommy can I go out and kill tonight?’, to start off the song of that title. The rest of us kick in right after he says that line, so we needed it down on tape for the proper timing. Glenn did do some vocal overdubs in July 1983, but in reality the whole album was done during that one session.”

The man chosen to produce the project was Spot (real name: Glenn Lockett). As in-house producer for the SST label, he’d worked with bands such as Black Flag, doom pioneers Saint Vitus and Minneapolis hardcore trailblazers Hüsker Dü.

“We all wanted to work with him, because he had done a good job on the Black Flag stuff. But Spot also worked the live show at the Civic that night; he organised the recording session afterwards, in the only time slot that was available at the studio.”

The music on Earth A.D./Wolfsblood was a breathless rush of buzzsaw punk, though their lyrical preoccupation with schlock-horror subjects remained on songs such as Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?, Demonomania, Green Hell and Die, Die My Darling, the latter two subsequently covered by Metallica.

Yet trouble was brewing behind the scenes. As plans were being laid for the new album, Danzig himself was becoming increasingly agitated by the Misfits’ situation, and was said to be plotting his next band. According to rumours, the singer actually wrote two songs specifically for this new project – Death Comes Ripping and Bloodfeast – though these were repurposed for Earth A.D./Wolfsblood

“I have to say that we had no idea Glenn was putting together this new band at all,” says Only. “Were those tracks intended for Samhain, and not for us? I don’t recall that being the case. In fact, we never got the impression that he might be deliberately holding back certain songs from us.”

The band themselves had other things to worry about. While on tour in New Orleans in October 1982, they were arrested for grave robbing. It was alleged that they’d broken into a cemetery while searching for the burial site of famed 19th century voodoo queen Marie Laveau, something Only denies.

“We spent the night in jail, and then bailed ourselves out,” says the bassist. “But we jumped the court appearance to play a show in Florida.”

All of this added to the mystery and myth surrounding Misfits. A lot was expected from the Earth A.D./Wolfsblood album when it was finally released in December 1983. There was just one problem - the band had already broken up.

The problems stretched back to the departure of Arthur Googy. A string of replacements proved to be ill-suited. When the chance to tour in Germany in the autumn of 1983, Only suggested the drummer-less band reinstate Googy. 

“Two weeks before we left, I told Glenn that as far as I was concerned it was Googy or nothing,” says the bassist. “Glenn chose nothing.”

They managed one final show, in Trenton, New Jersey in November 1983, but that was it. Misfits were deader than Dracula with a stake through his heart. Thankfully, though, Earth A.D./Wolfsblood didn’t go the way of Static Age. Danzig released the album posthumously a month after the band’s split via his Plan 9 label

In the wake of Misfits’ dissolution, the singer launched Samhain, doubling down on the ‘goth’ part of the ‘goth-punk’ equation. By 1987, they had transformed into the eponymously-named Danzig, with the man himself carving out a reputation as the Satanic Jim Morrison, or the ‘Evil Elvis’, as he was nicknamed in the press.

Jerry Only and Doyle would form the short-lived, and bizarre, Christian metal band Kryst The Conqueror with singer Jeff Scott Soto, exchanging the occasional barb in the press with their former bandmate Danzig. In 1995, the brothers relaunched Misfits with new singer Michale Graves and drummer Dr Chud.

The bassist would weather continual line-up changes – including the departure of Graves and Doyle – to keep the Crimson Ghost flag flying until 2016, when, unexpectedly, the classic trio of Danzig, Only and Doyle would put aside their differences to reunite for a series of live shows. They‘re still playing live to this day, though no new music has been forthcoming.

And what of Earth A.D./Wolfsblood, the early 80s punk classic that acted as a gravestone for the original Misfits line-up? It remains a touchstone for countless bands, from longtime Misfits cheerleaders Metallica to the likes of Killswitch Engage, AFI and Cradle Of Filth. Jerry Only himself has mixed feelings about the album.

“It’s not so much that I don’t like the record or the material,” he says. “It’s that I’ve never been happy with the mix. I know there’s a lot missing that should have been included from our original recordings. There are also things that could have been mixed differently and, in my opinion, the album we recorded could have sounded more aggressive than the one that was finally released. But it was revolutionary, groundbreaking and totally a garage type recording.”

Originally published in Metal Hammer issue 158. Updated in May 2024

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021