Danse Macabre Fever
July 23, 2010 7:11 AM   Subscribe

What songs would Death put on a mix tape?

I'm looking for songs that you might hear if the incarnation of Death were strolling around town playing his boombox. Ideally, the songs should take mundane lyrics and fill them with macabre double meaning. Bonus points if it's danceable, but all genres are great.

The first examples that came to my mind were "Why Waste Your Time/You Know You're Gonna Be Mine" by Bizarre Inc and "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, but I feel I've only scratched the surface of the possibilities.

This AskMeFi about songs about dying is also yielding some possibilities, but I'm not necessarily looking for tunes that are about death, merely ones upon which Death would groove, to the dismay of mortals.
posted by itstheclamsname to Media & Arts (96 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Non stop Sunn o))) and Flaming Tusk, surely.
posted by mkb at 7:15 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Last Dance" by Donna Summer comes to mind. Plus, it's got a beat the kids can dance to.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:15 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fly on the Windscreen by Depeche Mode?
posted by workerant at 7:15 AM on July 23, 2010

Death Opened a Boutique - Future Bible Heroes
posted by griphus at 7:15 AM on July 23, 2010

Oh, and I don't think anything would dismay me more than the Grim Reaper showing up with a boombox blasting Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky.
posted by griphus at 7:17 AM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is a Light that Never Goes Out by The Smiths?
posted by workerant at 7:18 AM on July 23, 2010

When the Day is Done, by Nick Drake, for when Death is feeling a little more pensive.
posted by norm at 7:22 AM on July 23, 2010

Death probably doesn't like The Smiths. When you bring up The Smiths with Death, he probably rolls his eyes (such as they are) and says "Everybody says that."
posted by CRM114 at 7:22 AM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Satan Said Dance!
posted by amethysts at 7:23 AM on July 23, 2010

Death's mix tape would have nothing but Slayer on it.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

this isn't death trying to woo someone with a romantic mix tape?

That would have been awesome.

Ralph Stanley, "Oh Death" gets my vote. Yes, it's a song to death, but I think he would like hearing it. Since it's pleading. Also, I like the twang.
posted by bilabial at 7:26 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm terribly amused by the image of a chase scene involving death, some hapless fellow, and Hello, Goodbye playing. I imagine lots of peaking from behind buildings, chasing around trees and the like.
posted by SugarAndSass at 7:27 AM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Last Dance - The Raveonettes
posted by griphus at 7:29 AM on July 23, 2010

My love must be a kind of blind love ... I can't see anything else ... but you ...

I only have eyes ... for youuuu

posted by adipocere at 7:29 AM on July 23, 2010


- I'll be Watching You (Sting/Police)
- Come Fly with Me (Sinatra)
- Can't Wait to See You (Eurogliders)
- I'm Gonna Getcha Good (Shania Twain)
posted by greatgefilte at 7:31 AM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Free Four by Pink Floyd (from Obscured by Clouds)
posted by rainy at 7:31 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Dammit, the small caps looked good on preview, what happened?)
posted by greatgefilte at 7:32 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think Ace of Spades kind of has to be on there, doesn't it?
posted by BZArcher at 7:34 AM on July 23, 2010

There is an early Pulp song called Death Goes to the Disco (actually a remix of a song called Death Comes to Town). Jarvis sings as the Grim Reaper. You can hear a bit of it on Last.fm, and the whole thing on Spotify. I imagine it's the sort of thing Death might put on if he was quite into 80s electronica. Best line: "You've got such a beautiful body, and you'll make such a beautiful body".
posted by featherboa at 7:35 AM on July 23, 2010

The Mercy Seat or Stagger Lee, both by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
posted by torisaur at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2010

oh you metal fans are so cute with your death metal youtube links. typical! when death is not out on the job, he's wearing a fedora and a zoot suit.

i humbly submit Mephiskapheles, 'cause really, what's better than a little satan in your ska:

Satan on the Beach
Satanic Debris
posted by Mach5 at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I always thought he'd play "Take Me To The River." Probably the Al Green version, but maybe the Talking Heads version.
posted by jeffmshaw at 7:38 AM on July 23, 2010

1999 - Prince
Stayin' Alive - BeeGee's
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:38 AM on July 23, 2010

T-i-i-i-i-me in on my side
posted by 256 at 7:41 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies -- Can You Dig It

I don't know what meanings the song is supposed to have, but if Death was boomboxing this song when he rolled up, I'd likely go willingly. Well, maybe if Death were capable of singing this song convincingly, too.
posted by Phyltre at 7:42 AM on July 23, 2010

Death digs Teenage Tragedy songs. Especially Dead Man's Curve and Tell Laura I Love Her.

Maybe also try Songs About Killers?
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:42 AM on July 23, 2010

"The End" by the Doors.

"Is That All There Is?" by Peggy Lee.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:45 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Adolphus Gretch lived a long, miserable life. He stole from the poor and gave to himself. He betrayed the few who were loyal to him for self gain. He eschewed love for wealth. But now, alone in his vast mansion, Gretch is dying. His liver spotted hands clutch silk sheets, drawing them up to his chin. Outside, the wind howls. The only other sound he can hear is the rattle of his own breath in his phlegmy throat.

Just as he starts to drift off to sleep, Gretch hears a new sound. Music? His heart skips a beat. Yes. Music. Indistinct now, but getting louder.

"Who's there?" he calls, his breath fogging in the ever colder room. "Who?"

There is no answer but the music.

Gretch panics. He knows Who is coming. He knows what the price will be for a life of sin and greed.

"Please..." he whispers, but his voice is drowned out as the music crescendos, filling the room with its finality.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:45 AM on July 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

One Way or Another - Blondie
posted by litnerd at 7:46 AM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nothing but Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. BoC had turned out some of the most baleful tracks I've ever heard.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:47 AM on July 23, 2010

"Goodbye Sky Harbor" - Jimmy Eat World
posted by punchtothehead at 7:47 AM on July 23, 2010

I have it on excellent authority that Death enjoys "Fake Blood" by Sifl & Olly quite a bit.
(and also "Steal My Sunshine.")
posted by mintcake! at 7:47 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hotel California by The Eagles
posted by wmeredith at 7:48 AM on July 23, 2010

I don't know. I'm sure Death has enough darkness in his, uh, life. So I think he'd be listening to I'm Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves.

Sort of like in Reservoir Dogs, when Vic Vega cuts off the cops ear while listening to Stuck in the Middle With You.
posted by adamrice at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wammo - Hell Is a Disco
posted by nomisxid at 7:50 AM on July 23, 2010

One Way or Another - Blondie
Excellent! Along the same lines: Every Breath You Take by the Police
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:52 AM on July 23, 2010

Grar! Took to long to type!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:52 AM on July 23, 2010

There are lyrics to You Spin Me Right Round that would certainly get my attention if The Dude With The Scythe was bopping down the sidewalk with them on his boom box, never mind the band's name.
posted by Mooski at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

A Quick One, While He's Away, by the Who.
posted by rumposinc at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2010

Hell In a Bucket -- Grateful Dead
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2010

I think Death would play Nick Cave & The Dirty Three's Jesum Transeuntum, for when he is feeling mellow at the end of the day.
posted by haplesschild at 7:56 AM on July 23, 2010

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks
posted by Flood at 7:57 AM on July 23, 2010

Time by David Bowie

The Funeral by Band of Horses

Red Right Hand by Nick Cave
Jack the Ripper by Nick Cave

Actually...pretty much anything by Nick Cave, come to think of it.
posted by tetralix at 8:02 AM on July 23, 2010

The Doors
-Break on Through, When the Music's Over

Tenor Saw
-Ring the Alarm (never understood the lyrics, but hearing this meant the party was over)

Serj Tankian
-Lie Lie Lie

-Enter Sandman
posted by MrMulan at 8:03 AM on July 23, 2010

1-800-Suicide by Gravediggaz.
posted by anansi at 8:04 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Komm, süsser Tod - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCLoNOYcVQU
posted by valadil at 8:06 AM on July 23, 2010

Satin in a Coffin- Modest Mouse. Isaac Brock's laugh is exactly how I imagine Death's laugh to be. Possibly Tiny Cities Made of Ashes as well, though if Death was feeling pensive (as referenced above), maybe the Sun Kil Moon version.
posted by questionsandanchors at 8:06 AM on July 23, 2010

If I were death, I would wander down the street rubbing my hands together and doing the Dance of the Dream Man. The whole Twin Peaks soundtrack would be great for some moody reaping.
posted by bcwinters at 8:13 AM on July 23, 2010

Gourd, do I ever know ten zillion songs about death.

- Modest Mouse: Parting of the Sensory
- David Vandervelde: Murder in Michigan
- Sufjan Stevens: Casimir Pulaski Day
- John Cale: Paris 1919
- Norman Greenbaum: Spirit in the Sky
- Tilly & The Wall: Nights of the Living Dead
- Beatles: Eleanor Rigby
- Beth Orton: Pass in Time
- Johnny Cash covering Bonnie "Prince" Billy: I See a Darkness
- Cat Stevens : Oh Very Young
- Dar Williams: The Ocean
- Indigo Girls: Galileo
- Iron & Wine: Passing Afternoon
- Lou Reed: Cremation
- Magnetic Fields: The One You Really Love
- The Postal Service (also covered brilliantly by the Shins): We Will Become Sillhouettes
- R.E.M.: Try Not to Breathe
- Kristin Hersh: Your Ghost
- Sarah McLachlan: Angel (I believe Death would have a sappy side.)
- The Specials: Ghost Town
- Tom McCrae: A Day Like Today
- Tom Waits: Cold, Cold Ground
- Tori Amos: Playboy Mommy (also, Happy Phantom)
- Tracy Chapman: Cold Feet
- The 6ths: The Dead Only Quickly Decay

... and those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I may think of more.

(No, I'm not OBSESSED with death, why do you ask?)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:19 AM on July 23, 2010

Already remembered one I forgot:

- Eels: Last Stop, This Town

Which really, is a brilliant song and I can't believe it slipped my mind.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:20 AM on July 23, 2010

A few off the top of my head:

The '59 Sound, by Gaslight Anthem; kind of rocking, explicitly about young people dying:

Did you hear the '59 Sound coming through on Grandmama's radio?
Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
Did you hear your favorite song one last time?

Psalm For The Elks' Lodge Last Call, by The Weakerthans; meditative, explicitly about the time of evening referenced in its title:

Let the waitress put the chairs up. Let the glasses that you broke
Form a picture of our leader, with a halo made of smoke.
Let the golden oldies station crackle and come through.
With a final benediction we'll hum along to.
Before we say goodnight.

Holmgard and Beyond, by Turisas; kick-ASS Viking-metal, explicitly about setting sail for parts unknown:

Many dangers lie ahead; some of us may never return.
Rather sold as a slave to the Saracens than chained to your bed, chained by your life!
Holmgard and beyond! That's where the winds will us guide!
For fame and for gold! Set sail for those lands unknown!

posted by Greg Nog at 8:23 AM on July 23, 2010

American Pie.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:24 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Alphaville's Forever Young?
posted by en forme de poire at 8:30 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Beth Orton: Stars all Seem to Weep
Beatles: Blackbird
Garbage: Only Happy When it Rains
XTC: Dear God
posted by ShadePlant at 8:40 AM on July 23, 2010

Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
posted by Busmick at 8:41 AM on July 23, 2010

PiL - Death Disco
Black Sabbath - Hand of Doom
Bobby Conn - Passover
Curtis Mayfield - (Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go
posted by hydrophonic at 8:56 AM on July 23, 2010

Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt.
posted by mercredi at 9:01 AM on July 23, 2010

The Court Of The Crimson King, Wave Of Mutilation (Pixies), Bela Lugosi's Dead (the Nouvelle Vague cover of Bauhaus), Black Tongue (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
posted by lhall at 9:02 AM on July 23, 2010

Also, Just Like Heaven by the Cure.
posted by lhall at 9:03 AM on July 23, 2010

PJ Harvey - Meet Ze Monsta!
posted by ifjuly at 9:07 AM on July 23, 2010

Off with your head! Dance till you're dead!
Heads will Roll by The Yeah Yeah Yeah's

I guess my Death is just a straightforward kind of guy.
posted by amethysts at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2010

Without You - Badfinger, covered by various (Harry Nilsson here)

And When I Die - Laura Nyro (the Earth, Wind & Fire cover is probably best known)

Rock and Roll Suicide - David Bowie

Let's Go Crazy - Prince

Burning Down The House - Talking Heads

My Way - various

In Dreams - Roy Orbison
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:12 AM on July 23, 2010

Faith No More - Surprise! You're Dead

Coil - The First Five Minutes after Death, or maybe Ostia. (Lots of things by Coil, really.)
posted by Su at 9:22 AM on July 23, 2010

Easy. "Death" from the recent Kids in the Hall mini-series had his own theme song. Its called "Job to Do" & you can hear it here.
posted by bricksNmortar at 9:23 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I'm Looking Through You" by the Beatles has some of that macabre double meaning.
You were above me, but not today
The only difference is you're down there
I'm looking through you, and you're nowhere

posted by amethysts at 9:28 AM on July 23, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
posted by patheral at 9:42 AM on July 23, 2010

"Coming Home", the theme from Superjail.
posted by umberto at 10:09 AM on July 23, 2010

Dust in the Wind - Kansas
Cheeseburgers in Paradise - Jimmy Buffett
Still - Lionel Richie
The Gambler - Kenny Rogers
Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks
My Sweet Lord - George Harrison
Spirit in the Sky - Norman Greenbaum
No Time - The Guess Who

Partly I imagine Death preferring the moribund hits of the past, and partly I like the idea of otherwise innocuous songs having a different meaning in Death's playlist.
posted by ardgedee at 10:23 AM on July 23, 2010

Any album by Nekromantix (without a doubt the greatest Danish psychobilly band to feature an upright bass shaped like a coffin).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2010

Takin' Care of Business.
posted by widdershins at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2010

SugarAndSass : Sam & Dave - Hold On, I'm Comin'

Most definitely. Also seconding Ralph Stanley's O Death. It's powerfully good.
posted by quin at 10:39 AM on July 23, 2010

I think it depends on the mood Death is in.

LSD Overdose: Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones

Smiting a small village: Ride of the Valkryies by Wagner
posted by John Frum at 10:43 AM on July 23, 2010

My vision of Death has been heavily influenced by Neil Gaiman, and I now imagine that she'd peddle about town with the following in her wake:

Do Re Mi
or insert any other jolly show tune, maybe mashed up with house beats like the DoReMi vid from Belgium, that causes spontaneous dancing.

For causing dismay? Probably sing The Song That Doesn't End.
posted by CancerMan at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2010

Unless I missed it, no Sympathy for the Devil yet?

Was also about to suggest Spirit in the Sky, but was beaten to it.
posted by TedW at 11:02 AM on July 23, 2010

This is The End by The Doors
posted by Neiltupper at 11:03 AM on July 23, 2010

I think Satan would get a kick out of Uncle Sinner's "When Jesus Comes".
posted by new brand day at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2010

When Death wants to feel like he's in a Bergman movie, he listens to Joy Division/New Order, notably Atmosphere and In a Lonely Place. And maybe New Dawn Fades, Insight, and Atrocity Exhibition.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:06 PM on July 23, 2010

Ice Cube, "The Predator"
posted by norm at 12:28 PM on July 23, 2010

My Death - Jacques Brel as performed by David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.
posted by elendil71 at 1:44 PM on July 23, 2010

Take Me With You, by Prince
Last Caress, by the Misfits
Live and Let Die, by Wings
Candle in the Wind, by Elton John
I'm Still Standing, by Elton John
Someone Saved My Life Tonight, by Elton John
My Generation, by The Who ("I hope I die before I get old")
So Alive, by Love and Rockets
Alive, by Pearl Jam
I Don't Want to Wait, by Paula Cole ("I don't wanna wait for our lives to be over")
How to Save a Life, by the Fray
(I Just) Died in Your Arms, by Cutting Crew
Killing in the Name, by Rage Against the Machine
(I've Had) The Time of My Life, by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), by Green Day
Beth, by Kiss
posted by 23skidoo at 1:54 PM on July 23, 2010

Mary Jane's Last Dance by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. That video is FTW!

Also, Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds keeps coming to mind.
posted by Spyder's Game at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2010

Even Death is creeped out by Country Death Song by the Violent Femmes.
posted by rube goldberg at 2:42 PM on July 23, 2010

Mad World....the Gary Jules version.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 5:07 PM on July 23, 2010

Tomorrow, Wendy concrete blonde
and yes yes yes, as su mentioned above, ostia by coil
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:07 PM on July 23, 2010

"It's the End of the World as We Know It" - REM
"Killer Queen" - Queen
"Pretend We're Dead" - L7
"We Die Young" - Alice in Chains
"We Don't Exist" - Meat Puppets
"Do You Realize??" - The Flaming Lips
"I Will Follow You Into the Dark" - Death Cab for Cutie
"Sarah Said" - Death Cab for Cutie
"Old People in the Cemetery" - Of Montreal
"Maxwell Murder" - Rancid
"Maxwell's Silver Hammer" - The Beatles
"Run For Your Life" - The Beatles
lots of Metallica songs (previously)
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:21 PM on July 23, 2010

This sweet song?
(Not currently religious in any capacity, but raised Roman Catholic)
MercyMe "I Can Only Imagine"


Alphaville - "Forever Young"
posted by will wait 4 tanjents at 10:44 PM on July 23, 2010

Ace of Spades - Motorhead
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:37 AM on July 24, 2010

These are phenomenal suggestions. I'm still sorting through them, and there are far too many shining examples to mark them all up. Thanks to everyone for your contributions, and if you ever see death with a boombox, I hope he's playing your song.
posted by itstheclamsname at 5:46 AM on July 24, 2010

West Ryder By Kasabian
posted by Tavern at 6:24 AM on July 24, 2010

GAH! How could I forget?!?!?!?!?!?
Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:39 PM on July 24, 2010

Older by They Might Be Giants.
posted by anthy at 2:52 PM on July 24, 2010

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