Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine by The Killers
We took a walk that night but it wasn’t the same
We had a fight on the promenade out in the rain
She said she loved me but she had somewhere to go
She couldn’t scream while I held her close
I swore I’d never let her go
I was pretty surprised to find out that this song was about an actual murder. Being a teen in the early 2000s, of course I was a fan of the Killers and their seminal debut album “Hot Fuss”. The opening track always sounded fairly ominous and the narrator was CLEARLY a murderer but you know what else killed? THAT BASS LINE OMG.
Anyway, in August of 1986, the half-naked brutalized corpse of Jennifer Levin was found by a cyclist biking through Central Park. (It’s always the cyclists and the joggers who find these bodies! Never exercise, people.) She was covered in cuts, bruises, and scratches — some of which appeared to be defensive wounds.
Police were directed to Robert Chambers, who was ID’d leaving a bar with Jennifer the night of her murder by apparently that bartender from “Law & Order” who recognizes every patron he’s ever seen before. When they showed up at his apartment to question him, Chambers had fresh scratches on his face and arms. Red flag, anyone?
After a sensationalized case and being dubbed “The Preppie Killer”, Chambers eventually pled guilty to manslaughter with a sentence of 5-15 years, which he served most of. His initial defense echoes through The Killers’ song all these years later: he claimed he had no reason to hurt Jennifer, because she was his friend.
Lookout, Lookout by Perfume Genius
Guinea pig hair
and a twisted mouth
Through a hole to the railway
And Brian’s face down
Keep your wits
He will not be missed
He didn’t have a family to begin with
Mary Bell… what a peach. On the day before she turned 11 years old, she lured Martin Brown into an abandoned house and strangled him. He was 4.
But she wasn’t done. That summer, Mary and her friend Norma Bell (no relation) cornered Brian Howe (mentioned in the above lyrics) in another remote area and murdered him, also by strangulation. They then went on to mutilate his body and leave behind notes to taunt the police, including one that read “I murder so that I may come back”.
Mary had a twisted childhood but Jesus Christ, the level of malice and lack of remorse in these killings is insane. Because she was so young, Mary only served 12 years in prison and went on to live a life of anonymity — probably because no one wants to live next to a former child serial-murderer. Also, in 2009, she became a grandmother. Yay…?
John Wayne Gacy Jr. by Sufjan Stevens
Look underneath the house there
Find the few living things
Rotting fast in their sleep of the dead
Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God
There’s not much to say about this one. It’s haunting and doesn’t beat around the bush about John Wayne Gacy’s multiple murders — just expresses the same horror we all feel when we think about those boys under Gacy’s house. It’s featured on Sufjan Stevens’ album “Illinoise”, the murders having taken place in Chicago.
It ends with the singer asking himself: underneath it all, is he just like the Killer Clown? The answer: “Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.”
Skinned by Blind Melon
Hey, I could really use a couple of hands
To complete one hell of a plant stand
Oh, and don’t you know that I’m caught here in the middle
Making rib cages into coffee tables
This song is all about the infamous Ed Gein, a murderer who skinned his victims and used said skin (plus other bones and body parts) to make furniture for his house of horrors. And not just furniture! Gein was apparently quite the craftsman and also created other such treasures as bowls (skulls), leggings (skin), and a belt (female human nipples).
I think I pretty much covered it with “ew”, right?
Cassie by Flyleaf
All heads are bowed in silence
To remember her last sentence
She answered him knowing what would happen
Her last words still hanging in the air
In the air
One of these things is not like the others. “Cassie” isn’t about murderers per se; it focuses more on Cassie Bernall, on of the more famous victims of the Columbine Massacre. Supposedly, Cassie was asked by Eric Harris, at gunpoint, whether she believed in God. She answered “Yes” and Harris fatally shot her.
There are conflicting reports about whether this exchange actually occurred — or if, possibly, the quote actually came from another student — but Bernall was known for her faith, and many people rallied around the anecdote.
Whether the story is true or not, one can’t deny it’s a powerful image: someone being brave enough to answer that loaded question honestly, knowing they would likely die… and maybe even knowing that any answer couldn’t save them.
I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats
The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload.
And nobody’s gonna go to school today,
She’s going to make them stay at home
Brenda Spencer was 16 when she asked her father for a radio for Christmas. Instead, he bought her a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle with a telescopic sight and 500 rounds of ammunition. It was not a good idea.
About a month later, on a chilly Monday morning, Brenda opened fire on children waiting for the gates of the school to open. She killed a principal and a janitor while injuring eight children and a police officer. Upon her subsequent surrender and arrest, she was asked the reason for her sudden, brutal crime.
“I don’t like Mondays,” Brenda said. “This livens up the day.”
What. The. Hell.
Brenda, now 53 years old, is serving an indeterminate sentence — and based on her behavior at parole hearings will likely never leave prison. But The Boomtown Rats got a one-hit-wonder and you have to admit… it’s a pretty catchy song.