Blood on the Tracks

Smoke on the Water

Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and a notorious concert fire

A rock ‘n’ roll song with a killer riff and a sinister backstory.

robert johnson devil myth

The two songs at the heart of Robert Johnson’s devil myth

A pair of tracks that helped to build on the myth of the devil at the crossroads.

best intense album closing tracks slint

The haunting of Slint’s “Good Morning, Captain”

How the Louisville indie rock legends launched some grim legends of their own.

springsteen johnny 99

How Bruce Springsteen’s “Johnny 99” ended up an unlikely political statement

“Born in the U.S.A.” wasn’t a message of conservative optimism, and neither was this.

Jim Sullivan’s “U.F.O.” and the story of his strange disappearance

How the California singer/songwriter’s 1969 song possibly foretold of his disappearance six years later.

Bobbie Gentry Ode to Billie Joe

Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” captured cruel detachment in the face of tragedy

Blood on the Tracks returns with a Southern gothic tale of suicide and unconscious cruelty.

Pharmakon Bestial Burden Blood on the Tracks

Pharmakon’s “Bestial Burden” is a harrowing dirge of survival

The sound of a struggle for survival against one’s own body.

Jesse Presley Nick Cave Tupelo

The Firstborn is Dead: Two musical epics about Jesse Presley

When two similarly twisted songwriters dive into the same story of dark Americana.

Lisa Germano A Psychopath

Lisa Germano’s “A Psychopath” is an arrangement of real-life horror

A song that could very likely keep you up at night, because what it depicts is real.

Nick Cave Stagger Lee murder ballad

The murder ballad of “Stagger Lee” created a gruesome legend

A tale told over and over again for 100 years kicks off our new series.