I hate love songs. I just do. They are about a dime a dozen, and your average love song can be broken down to “Baby, I love youuuuuuuuuuuu! Yer hot an’ I love to watch yer booty when you waaaaaaaaaalk!” Open mouth, insert finger. Eventually, they all start sounding this way. Except for Sweet Caroline. It takes a hard heart and an iron will not to sing “Bah-Bah-Baaaah!” with the rest of the crowd.
So, as you could tell from a recent post, I start paying attention to the lyrics for added interest in the songs being played some time ago. I suddenly discovered that some of my favorites were crime-related songs. Really good songs about being really bad. Maybe because if you’re singing about getting away from the cops, you rarely have time to sing about how blue your girlfriend’s eyes are. The funny thing was I thought I was alone on this, and suddenly what started out as a top five turned into a top ten, fifteen and finally twenty. Apparently I’m not alone on this. And that’s AWESOME! So sit back with me and lets count down some of the best naughty songs around.
Top 20 Crime Songs
20. Murder, Conspiracy, Cult Mentality- Helter Skelter, The Beatles
You may not remember Charles Manson from the late sixties, but he was the cult head of the Manson family, who were responsible for killing several people including Sharon Tate, a successful Hollywood actress who was pregnant at the time and the other four people at her house. The Manson family believed that there was an imminent apocalypse coming due to financial and racial inequalities. This core concept that caused so much murder was called Helter Skelter. The Beatles song came out before the Manson Familie’s crimes, but it was a definite influence on their philosophy. That brings The Beatles in at #20.
19. Resisting Arrest, Evading Arrest, Misc. Other Crimes- Renegade, Styx
I’m not rightly certain what the protagonist has done in this song, but it’s worthy of capitol punishment. Depending on what time frame you place this song in, it could be anything from horse theft to murder. Either way, you will always catch me playing steering wheel drummer to this song every time it comes on. At one point I was afraid I hurt something in my hand.
18. Misc. Crime, Assault- Behind Blue Eyes, The Who
It’s really hard to hear this song and not assume it’s anybody but Butch Cassidy, Billy the Kid or some random out west criminal living between the cities and heists. You just know not to get on this guy’s bad side. I do like the perspective where he’s trying to explain that he knows he has problems. He’s just not going to deal with them. You know, because he’s a bad man.
17. Gambling, Likely Assault With a Lethal Weapon- House of the Rising Sun, The Animals
Another ambiguous song where you’re not quite sure what the protagonist has done, but you know it wasn’t very nice. He concentrates more on what his dad was like (again, not very nice) and despite his mother’s best efforts (She had to be a good mother, she sewed his new blue jeans), he probably followed in his old man’s footsteps. The most striking line is when he warns the mothers out there not to let their kids to grow up like him, to “Spend (their lives) in sin and misery.” When society wants to question what sin really is, you know this guy is fully aware of what sin is, and it brought him here. Plus, this song gets extra points for being the creepiest song to ever grace the show Supernatural in the episode Roadkill.
16. Enjoying Your Prison Sentence Way Too Much- Jailhouse Rock, Elvis Presley
When it’s Elvis singing, do we really care what he did to get into prison? We just know that wherever the King goes, it’s probably going to be a party. And I’m sure aside from the Sodomy, rape, gang activity, shiving and solitary confinement, it’s not nearly as bad as the papers make it out to be.
15. Fraud, Theft, Embezzlement, Tax Fraud- We Can Do It, The Producers
Mel Brooks penned this fantastic Broadway musical to compliment his 1967 hit of the same name. And how can Matthew Brodrick and Nathan Lane not sell us on? From the get-go, Bialistock (Nathan Lane) lets you in on the con, and throughout the song tries to tempt Bloom (Matthew Brodrick) into a life of crime. And though the musical is filled with sex jokes, it’s a lot of fun and a guilty pleasure.
14. Conspiracy, Murder, Espionage- Twilight Zone, Golden Earring
A great song that screams 1950’s Noir, the protagonist has been set up for a murder he didn’t commit, and the bad guys are on to him. The real crime here is the cheesy dance sequence performed by the S&M girls in leather swimming suits and police hats.
13. Murder- Fulsom Prison Blues
You know your a bad, bad man when you have “Shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” Despite its happy tune, this song really makes you feel bad for the protagonist. He really is going somewhere horrible for the horrible things he’s done. I guess if you’re going to commit the crime, yada yada yada.
12. Conspiracy, Espionage, Mob-Ties- The Goodbye Look, Donald Fagan
The Nightfly is easily my favorite album of all time. Every song is a story, and the music, lyrics and ambiance of each song set up a perfect background to a fruitful imagination. This song is another 1950’s Noir classic where the protagonist is set up on a Havana-esque island where a lot of bad things happen behind the Casino on the beach. One of the tributes to its perfect lyrics and how they describe the situation with a minimum of wordage is the line “I know a fella with a motor launch for hire, a squeamy man in two-tone shoes.” Can’t you just imagine what that guy looks like? One way or another, he’d better get off the island in a hurry.
11. Murder, Lynch Mobs, Hate Crimes- Strange Fruit, Billy Holliday
A very sad song by a very sad woman about a very sad period in American history. Strange Fruit is about the lynch mobbing of black folks in the deep South. Her tone is unusually melancholy (Billy Holliday usually kept an upbeat tempo through most of her songs), she leads credence to how serious the situation was.