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The Five Best Songs About Satan (That Aren't By The Rolling Stones)

The Five Best Songs About Satan (That Aren't By The Rolling Stones)

by Tom Baker, 20 September 2012

That Satan eh? He's inspired more rock songs than he's had hot dinners. Although, every meal he has is probably hot. Hmm. Anyway, old pointy head has been the subject of music since Robert Johnson hung around a crossroads with a crappy six string, and with such a large catalogue of Lucifer-inspired music on offer, you could probably do with a Dante to help you travail these flame-licked compositions. Right?

So, without further ado - and putting aside the likes of The Rolling Stones, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and (regrettably) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, are the five best songs about the Devil. In my humble, blasphemous opinion.

1. Os Mutantes - Ave Lucifer

Starting at the obscure end of things: Os Mutantes were (and are again) a sort of DIY psychedelic rock band from Brazil who, lacking the resources for such psychedelic necessities like proper instruments and effects pedals, improvised with sewing machines and bug spray (I'm not sure if they employed any home-made alternatives to other psychedelic necessities). Being decidedly not-Brazilian, I don't know exactly what Rita Lee is singing in that bewitching manner of hers, but I'm pretty sure it's about the Dark Lord (the song is from the band's third album, A Divina Comédia ou Ando Meio Desligado, or, The Divine Comedy or I Am a Bit Disconnected).

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2. Beck - Devil's Haircut

I'm even less certain that this one's definitely about our chosen subject, and it's sung in English. In interviews the mysterious Beckster has explained this song from 1995's Odelay to be about selling out, but then he also once spun out a pretty great story about getting his haircut in a weird strip mall which had disappeared when he tried to go back, and that being the inspiration. The lyrics are pretty hellish, in their way, as Hansen dead pans his way through descriptions of "discount orgies" and "stealing kisses from the leprous faces." Either way, it's got "devil" in the title, and it's good song - typically weird, veering between distortion-heavy guitar and near-muzak - so here it is.

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3. Wilco - Hell Is Chrome

Jeff Tweedy has a bit of a Robert Johnson moment himself, except "When the devil came / He was not red / He was chrome." The song unfolds in a slow, relaxed, piano-lead manner (as does the majority of A Ghost Is Born), without even a sense of creeping dread you'd expect from a song about meeting the personification of evil. Instead, it sounds like the Wilco singer has been brainwashed by a cult, urging us to join him.

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4. Camper Van Beethoven - Devil Song

Weirdly of no relation to Go-Kart Mozart, Camper van Beethoven's under-two-minutes lo-fi indie-rock romp updates the star of 'Sympathy For The Devil', turning him from the evil puppet master behind blood-splattered moments in history into a bored suburban teen turning to destruction and arson; the devil makes work for idle hands.

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5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Red Right Hand

Saving the best for last. Is there anyone more qualified for singing about Satan than Antipodean misanthrope Nick Cave? The man has been giving fire-and-brimstone Old Testament sermons, backed by his Bad Seeds. 'Red Right Hand' has some Universal Horror Film-organs to make proceedings creepier. See also: 'Up Jumped The Devil'.

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