Music's Five Most Notorious Killers, Besides The Band

Categories: Miles-tones

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On St. Patrick's Day 1985, serial killer Richard Ramirez (right) murdered two women in Los Angeles, beginning a killing spree that would eventually tally over 14 people and leave him with the nickname "The Night Stalker." From a young age, Ramirez was fascinated and inspired by the occult and Satanism in music, and was a huge fan of heavy metal and AC/DC.

Before you get any ideas that Rocks Off drawing comparisons between music and serial murder, we should also point out that Ramirez also suffered a severe brain injury when he was two, huffed glue, and spent time with his Special Forces uncle, who showed him pictures of Vietnamese women he claimed to have raped and murdered, and who murdered his wife two feet from Ramirez.

It's not Angus Young's fault, is what we're getting at.

Still, it is undeniable that songs have created some notorious murderers - they just tend to stay within the boundaries of their albums. In that spirit, we present five of the most notorious killers in music history.


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Appears In: Several Alice Cooper works, including Welcome To My Nightmare

Body Count: 1 (possibly more)

The character of Steven remains one of Cooeprs's best-known and least-understood creations, owing mostly to the fact that he is rarely alluded to by anybody who is not insane including Steven himself. Even the album that is his signature story, Welcome to my Nightmare, never makes it totally clear if Steven is a boy dreaming of murder, or whether the subject the subject is an actual serial killer. The lyrics of the album do seem to strongly suggest that Steven was an abusive husband who ultimately murdered his wife while sleepwalking during a bad dream.

The character returns again in Cooper's 2008 album Along Came a Spider, which is about a serial killer collecting legs from eight victims. He is mentioned as sharing a cell with the killer, but it is quite possible that Steven is himself the Spider, still caught up in mental illness.

Frustrating as it is, the unreliable nature of the narrators make it impossible to determine how many Steven may have killed, though we can be certain of at least one, his wife. If The Spider is another personality of Steven's, he may be the most prolific killer on this list.


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Appears In: The folk song of the same name

Body Count: 1, plus a bartender if Nick Cave is telling it

This list steers clear of songs based on real-life killers, but it is entirely possible that Lee Shelton, who shot a man in 1895 over the theft of a Stetson hat, got his nickname "Stagger Lee" from an early version on the folksong rather than the other way around. Regardless, the first published version shows up in 1910 by our own John Nova Lomax's great-grandfather, and has been recorded by everyone from Mississippi John Hurt to Bob Dylan to The Black Keys.

The story rarely changes between versions: Stagger Lee, a legendary bad man to mess with, shoots a man named Billy. In some versions, the police are too afraid of Lee to arrest him, and in another he intimidates the devil himself.

The most violent version comes from Nick Cave, who also had Lee kill a bartender and force Billy to perform oral sex on him before finishing him off.

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