Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Happy Halloween, fellow mortals. The current edition of The Stranger features my second stab at the "Turn You On" column (dig Black Gladiator, circa April), a consideration of the seasonally-appropriate 1969 LP Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls by Coven. This Chicago-based rock act formed in the late 1960s and toured the hippie underground with a wild stage show that incorporated authentic Satanic rituals and a mix of brooding folk and raw psychedelia. Remarkably, they attracted major label attention and eventually earned themselves a hit record.

Do you dare to actually sample these forbidden sounds, harvested via YouTube? Make peace with your god, turn on your speakers and explore this opening track from Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, an extremely moody number that describes its subject in vivid detail:

"Black Sabbath" from Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls
(images from the 1922 film Häxan)

As the legend goes, Mercury Records withdrew Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls from stores after Esquire illustrated an "expose" on countercultural Satanism with a shot of Charles Manson holding Coven's debut LP. Apparently there is such a thing as bad publicity (and anyone with a copy of said storied photo, please speak up).

So Coven pulled up stakes, leaving Chicago for the godless city of Los Angeles to start over. They caught a break when filmmaker Tom Laughlin asked them to cover a song first performed by Canadian pop band the Original Caste. "One Tin Soldier" served as the theme for Laughlin's delirious cult hit Billy Jack, Warner Brothers released the single and the rest is history.

The song charted multiple times and became an enduring favorite of campfire singalongs, AM oldies radio and karaoke bars worldwide. This whimsical animated music video proves what a strange state of affairs this was -- the band that celebrated drinking the blood of children on its first LP eventually found itself marketed directly to America's underagers:

"One Tin Soldier" from Coven

"One Tin Soldier" was also included on Coven's second LP, a self-titled collection of songs for MGM that lightened up considerably on the Satanism. The band switched labels again for their third long player, Blood on the Snow, this time going with Buddha Records, home of artists as diverse as the 1910 Fruitgum Company and Captain Beefheart. While certainly no return to the bluntness of Witchcraft, Blood on the Snow's cover art of a fiddle-sawing Satan proves Coven's collective heart was still in the same place. Check out this suitably disturbing music video for the riff-heavy title track:

"Blood on the Snow" from Blood on the Snow

Blood on the Snow didn't hit the commercial heights of "One Tin Soldier," and Coven retired its hooves shortly thereafter. Lead singer Jinx Dawson remained active in film and music for many years, appearing in Heaven Can Help and entertaining in Hollywood clubs into the 1980s. She recently revived her career by rescuing the impossibly rare Coven LPs from the clutches of bootleggers and eBay speculators, re-releasing them on CD via her independent label Nevoc Music.

Ready to make friends? You can find Jinx Dawson and all the information you need about Coven at one of her three MySpace pages or her CafePress store (which sells Coven discs as well as Satanic t-shirts, wall clocks and tote bags).

Monday, October 22, 2007


An entire noir feature starring Mickey Rooney and featuring a young Jack Elam.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Political Silence were active in the Flint, Michigan hardcore scene of the mid-80s. Here they are live in East Lansing circa 1987. I never knew these guys personally, but the two redheaded brothers were members of the Methodist Church I attended in Swartz Creek, and their mom made the cake for my high school graduation party.

"Freedom fighters in Nicaragua? It's a contra - contra - CONTRADICTION!" Man, nothing like some Flintoid hardcore. These nerds weren't fucking around. The earnest young hippie introducing the band is Rafael, a mainstay of EL hardcore thanks to his public access TV program The 666 Club and his band Army of God. Rafael was dead sincere about his political causes, but East Lansing was more of a drunk/dropout/apathy scene, so he never rallied the troops no matter how hard he tried. Last I knew he was working in a comic store and made an awkward run at a city council position ...

Friday, October 12, 2007