Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Music of the Ripper.

 The Music of the Ripper.

    Since 1888 there have been many songs, ballads and poems concerning the unknown entity that was Jack the Ripper, they started as the murders were being committed and are still going strong.
    Songs such as “The Whitechapel Polka” and “Who killed cock Warren” (Lyrics) were favourites amongst music hall audiences in the late 19th century, also popular was the song sung by Mary Kelly on the night she died “Only a Violet from my Mother’s grave”, a song covered by many folk artists ever since.
Nemisis of neglect - music of the ripper

    Children even had rhymes about the Ripper, this one dates from around 1889;

                “Jack the Ripper's dead
                 and lying in his bed
                 He cut his throat
                 With Sunlight soap
                 Jack the Ripper's dead.”

    A poem of dubious origin, but certainly of some age is “Eight Little Whores” (author unknown);

 “Eight little whores, with no hope of heaven,
  Gladstone may save one, then there'll be seven.
  Seven little whores beggin for a shilling,
  One stays in Henage Court, then there's a killing.
  Six little whores, glad to be alive,
  One sidles up to Jack, then there are five.
  Four and whore rhyme aright,
  So do three and me, I'll set the town alight
  Ere there are two.
  Two little whores, shivering with fright,
  Seek a cosy doorway in the middle of the night.
  Jack's knife flashes, then there's but one,
 And the last one's the ripest for Jack's idea of fun.”

    In the early 20th century we still find the odd reference to the Ripper in music halls, like “The Caretaker” (1912) and “Cohen is arrested for exceeding the speed limit” (1915,1920 recording by Joe Hayman.). But it was not until the late 1950’s that popular music found the Ripper.
Link Wray - music of the ripper

    In 1959 American guitarist Link Wray recorded “Jack the Ripper”, Wray was a master of the early “garage” sound that would become popular in the mid to late sixties and this instrumental was very much ahead of it’s time, also covered by The Surfaris, Del Toros, Surf Trio, Los Twang! Marvels!, Darrin Stout Band, Insect Surfers, The Raybeats and many more!) (Link Wray).

    Two years later British singer Screaming Lord Sutch released his song “Jack the Ripper” (Screaming Lord Sutch),

“There's a man who walks the streets of London late at night
The Ripper, Jack The Ripper
With a little black bag that's oh-so tight
The Ripper, Jack The Ripper
He's got a big black cloak hangin' down his back
The Ripper, Jack The Ripper
Well, that's a one big cat I just a hate to fight
The Ripper, Jack The Ripper”

     Sutch would appear on stage wearing a long black cape, top hat and carrying a Gladstone bag from which he’d produce plastic kidneys and other body parts! Many bands have since covered this song including; The Gruesomes, The White Stripes, The Horrors, The Sharks, The Fuzztones, Clarence Stacy and Group, Johnny Knife and his Rippers and many many more!
Screaming Lord Sutch

    Surf rock band The Mustangs from Rochester Minnesota released "Jack the Ripper" in 1964, this track was used on the opening of John Waters B movie "Mondo Trasho" in 1970.

    Casey Jones and the Governors, a German beat band gave us another "Jack the Ripper" in 1965, it was re-released in 1973.

    The film A Study in Terror was released in 1965; in May 1966 Kathy Keegan released the song "A Study in Terror" which was the B side of "You Send Me Silver Bells".
    This was the theme tune from the film but with lyrics added, the song has a wonderful James Bond feel about it. It was arranged and produced by Don Costa who, with his own orchestra, released as a single "Theme From A Study in Terror" in June 1966.

     During the 1970’s we find "Jack the Ripper: The Musical", with  lyrics by Ron Pember and music by Dennis DeMarne packing out theatres and heavy metal act Judas Priest latched onto the Ripper’s infamy releasing “The Ripper” in 1976; (Judas Priest)

            “You'll soon shake with fear
             Never knowing if I'm near
             I'm sly and I'm shameless
             Nocturnal and nameless
             Except for "The Ripper"
             Or if you like "Jack The Knife"

    John Cale (of Velvet Underground fame) tried to release his single "Jack the Ripper at the Moulin Rouge" in 1977 but because of the Yorkshire Ripper scare it was shelved until 1994 when it was released on the "Seducing Down the Door" compilation album.

    John Miles released his "Zaragon" album in 1978, on it is "Nice Man Jack" an eight minute prog rock classic. The song deals with the notion that Jack was a well liked aristocrat with a deeply dark side. The track is in three parts "Kensington Gardens", "Mitre Square" and finally "Harley Street" John Miles, Nice Man Jack.

    Entering the 1980's we remain in the world of heavy metal with Iron Angel blasting out "Maniac of the Night" from their 1985 album "Hellish Crossfire", and 1987 brought us Tyrant's Reign with "Jack the Ripper" from their "Year of the Tyrants" EP.

    The centenary year of 1988 saw two more metal bands add to the genre, Manilla Road gave us "Whitechapel" on their "Out of the Abyss" album and Australian thrash metal band Hobbs' Angel of Death gave us a murderous track "Jack the Ripper" on their "Hobbs' Angel of Death" album. Even hip-hop artist LL Cool J released a track called "Jack the Ripper", it was on the B side of his "Going Back to Cali" single.

    In 1992 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released their "Henry's Dream" album with a track called "Jack the Ripper", covered by The Japandroids (Nick Cave) and Morrissey also released a song in this year called “Jack the Ripper” this track was later covered by My Chemical Romance, Colin Meloy and AFI. (Morrissey) Also during this year Motorhead released their "March or Die" album which featured the track "Jack the Ripper." (Motorhead)

Morrissey - music of the ripper
     Heavy metal band Benediction brought out "Down on Whores" in 1995 on their "The Dreams You Dread" album. Also in 1995 French band Jack the Ripper began, they took their name from the Nick Cave song but no songs (I believe) about the killer.

    Another musical was staged in 1996 this one was called “Yours truly; Jack the Ripper” with lyrics by Frogg Moody and Dave Taylor. The musical includes one of the most authentic renditions of "Only a Violet From My Mothers Grave", very haunting. The play is still touring and well worth seeing.

    Entering the 21st century celtic rock band The Town Pants released their "Piston Baroque" album (2001) included was the song "Dark Annie", this is a jaunty tribute to Annie Chapman. (The Town Pants)

    Macabre released the very dark thrash metal song "Jack the Ripper" which is a very fast reading of the Dear Boss letter, it was included on their 2003 album "Murder Metal"
    The Servant released a bouncy track entitled "Jack the Ripper" on their 2004 album "The Servant" and in 2005 a concept album by Vince J. Wilson called “1888 Jack the Ripper: A Factual Account”, was released and it saw the finger of blame being pointed at……that would be telling!

   British Ska band The Riffs released a track called "Jack the Ripper" around (I believe) 2006, I'm really struggling to find any information about this track but it's very good! (The Riffs).

  In 2007 an American metal band Whitechapel, (it’s obvious by their name where they get inspiration from), released  their debut CD. “The Somatic Defilement” is a concept album concerning the Ripper’s murder spree. Also in 2007 Goth band Uninvited Guest featured a Ripper song “Jack Dandy” on their “Malice in Wonderland” album. (Uninvited Guest)

              "On the streets of London town
               in Whitechapel and around
               is where my visceral adventures did begin
               in the service of the Crown
               I did hunt my harlots down
               and quite literally get under their skin."

    Italian Black Metal band The True Endless added to the genre when in 2008 they released the CD “1888 From Hell”, it included such charming tracks as “My knife is so nice and sharp”, “London 1888”, “From Hell” and “Eight little Whores” (a take on the famous poem.) (The True Endless).

    Towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century a new genre of music was becoming popular, Steampunk. The Steampunks take their inspiration from Victorian sci-fi and history so it comes as no surprise that the Ripper also makes an appearance.
Paul Roland - music of the ripper
Paul Roland.

     In 2008 Paul Roland released his “Nevermore” CD which includes the song “Eight Little Whores” and in 2010 he released his “In Memoriam 1980-2010” album which features previously unreleased tracks including the excellent “The Ballad of Mary Kelly” which unusually sees the plight of being on the streets from a victims point of view, Paul Roland also wrote the book “The Crimes of Jack the Ripper (Paul Roland), also in 2010 British Steampunks Savile Row released their “Tales of Villainy and Wickedness” CD on which we find a Ripper song “My Secret Life”.
Saville row - music of the ripper
Savile Row.

    From America, San Francisco based Steampunks Vernian Process released their CD “Behold the Machine” which features the song “The Curse of Whitechapel”. (Vernian Process) and Australian pop punk band Short Stack released the album "This is Bat Country", this included the track "Jack the Ripper".
vernian process - music of the ripper

    The Cretins, an alternative/experimental band from New Jersey released their “Clock Rock ‘N’ Roll” CD also in 2010, on it there is the song “London 1888” a two and a half minute rocker about the Ripper.    Another Steampunk band that needs mentioning are The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing who take their name from the Goulston Street graffiti allegedly left by the Ripper after the 4th murder, their record label is “Leather Apron Records” and their guitarist Andrew O’Neil is a stand up comedian who regularly does Ripper walks around the east end and does a show called “Winston Churchill was Jack the Ripper”. Andrew O'neill, Ripper Tour.
The men that will not be blamed for nothing - music of the ripper
TMTWNBBFN, Andrew O'Neil is on far left.

     The Misfits, from New Jersey, delved into the genre with the track "Jack the Ripper" on their 2011 album "The Devils Rain" (The Misfits).
The Devil's Rain

     Abrasive punk band Yet To Define from Canton Ohio released their Think Twice EP in 2012, on it you will find the three minute rocker "Jack the Ripper".

    Chris Bolister, a very talented singer/songwriter who's influences include traditional Irish and old Est End Cockney music wrote "Foggy Night in Spitalfields"in 2012. It is a song dedicated to and about the victims and their hard lives, Foggy Night in Spitalfields.

    2013 saw the track "Jack the Ripper" released by Irish rapper Rob Kelly, he reprised this theme in 2014 with "The Ripper Returns" featured on his "Black Irish Rogue" CD.

    In 2014 the darkly whimsical Steampunk Miss Von Trapp released her hauntingly beautiful "Stabcurdle Jack" Miss Von Trapp, 2015 saw Cephied (feat. Gumi) an English alternative metal band release "Jack the Ripper", it is a melodic almost Gothic track with fine female vocals.
    February 2015 saw Australian death metal band From Hell release their CD "Autumn of Terror", this seven track album is everything you would expect form a death metal band, it's raw and noisy.

    Towards the end of 2015 Karliene released her Mary Kelly EP, this concept EP contains five songs about the rippers last victim. The tracks are "Girl from Limerick", "Miner's Wife", "Black Mary", "Jack's Five" and "Mary Kelly". It has a great folk feel to it and is definitely worth a listen.

    In 2016 dark Steampunk band Gladstone gave us the rather disturbing "Purple Reefer Nemisis"  a song based on the Punch cartoon The Nemisis of Neglect, which is only available on the Steampunk Records compilation volume 4. (Steampunk Records)
    This year brought us the crazed instrumental "Jack the Ripper" by Sasakure.UK on their mini album "Mertojackz".
    Yet more thrash metal added to the genre in 2016, Creeper hailing from Dallas Texas brought us "Ten Bells"

"The night you step into the Ten Bells
There's not a lot in this world that bothers me
But they're at the top
When I erase every trace of them from this Earth
Is when I'll finally stop
At the corner of Commerce and Fournier
Is where you'll meet your fate."

    2016 also saw the release of the album "Cloak and Dagger" by British band Fear Incorporated, they describe themselves as a "theatre macabre avant garde band" and they are truly disturbing as their song "Jack the Ripper" clearly shows. Fear Inc. Jack the Ripper Video.
    Rock band Volbeat realeased their album Seal the Deal and Let's Boogie in 2016, on this album is a tribute track called "Mary Jane Kelly", it's well worth checking out.

 So as we see interest in the Ripper goes unabated, we have an endless list of books being published every year, T.V documentaries, films, tours and (of course) music all dedicated to the one that got away...............

Saturday, 7 April 2012


    Dracula the stage play, adapted by Hamilton Deane and J.L Balderston, opened at the Palace Theatre, Leicester on Monday 30th July 1951 and it starred the great Bela Lugosi reprising his most famous role. 
    The play was on a six month tour of England, during which Lugosi also starred in the film "Mother Riley Meets the Vampire".
 On stage the star worked very hard as each night saw two performances, one at six o'clock and another at 8.15. 
    The Palace Theatre management took no risks with squeamish patrons, as a note in the programme shows; 
    "The management cannot be responsible for patrons who may faint or feel unwell, but first aid attendants are in the theatre throughout the performance."
The Palace Theatre, sadly demolished in 1959.

    "Old John" (a Leicester Evening Mail correspondent) went to see Mr Lugosi for a piece in his "Round the Clock Tower" column on 31st July.
    His first impression of Lugosi was that just as Dracula sleeps by day, so does Bela Lugosi, as he took a look around the city well into the night and in the morning he went to bed.
    When Old John eventually got to speak with the star Lugosi confided that "after 24 years of Count Dracula I am waiting for someone to find me a comedy role." 
    Old John writes "The hypnotic eyes lit up as he admitted a partiality for blood oranges and raw steaks", and notes "off stage Lugosi is a quiet charming man who collects stamps in his spare time and is accompanied everywhere by his wife Lillian......but when I ask his age.....ah the artist's temperament appeared then and I changed the subject hastily, fearing a Lugosi scowl."

    Another local newspaper, The Illustrated Leicester Chronicle, sent reporter Douglas Goodlad to interview Lugosi on 4th August.
    He begins his article by informing his readers that Lugosi hardly wears any make-up on stage and he achieves his "horrific countenance" by facial expression.
     To Lillian Lugosi he asks "does he frighten you?" to which she answered that he did not.
     Lugosi said "I love the part, it's fascinating. In Transylvania there are such things as Vampire bats and blood thirsty is easy to see how legends have grown up about creatures half-human, half-bat."

    As they said goodbye, Goodlad noted "he didn't give me one of those sinister `goodbyes` we've heard from him on the screen, nor did he disappear in a  cloud of white mist.
    Instead his wife said `Bela your tie's crooked, let me fix it` and that little domestic touch banished the un-dead Count as effectively as a stake through the heart. Bela smiled and said `thank you` and it was a warm human smile."

   Sadly Bela Lugosi would fail to resurrect his film career and he was destined to end his days with parts in low budget films.     His last being the wonderfully bad "Plan 9 from Outer Space", directed by Ed Wood, which is well worth seeing and now has cult status.
   After divorcing his wife Lillian in 1955 and marrying again, Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack in his Los Angeles home on 16th August 1956, aged 73.