Friday Five: Jack the Ripper

Ken Morton, Jr. | August 31st, 2012

In keeping with our occasionally macabre Friday Five themes, today we’ll be talking about songs that mention Jack the Ripper, because today is the anniversary of the first murder he committed: on the morning of August 31, 1888, the body of Mary Ann Nichols was found in the Whitechapel area of London. Anyone who follows the site on Facebook knows that we frequently feature a different song on the most depressing fake holiday ever, Murder Ballad Monday. We’re just stretching it out a bit this week.

Enjoy these cuts. Do any other famous evildoers appear on your playlists?

5. The Town Pants – “Dark Annie”

This Vancouver-based Celtic roots band sings a song about Ann Eliza Smith, one of Jack the Ripper’s victims: “Did you know that the hand at your back would be the one to take your life?”

 

4. Bob Dylan – “Tombstone Blues”

“The ghost of Belle Star she hands down her wits/To Jezebel the nun she violently knits/A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits at the head of the Chamber of Commerce.”  It made sense in the 1960s. Probably.

 

3. The Kentucky Boys – “Jack the Ripper”

This European rockabilly group covers a Screaming Lord Sutch song done many times over, but mostly by punk and rock bands.

 

2. The Mustangs – “Jack the Ripper”

This 1964 release features The Mustangs playing an instrumental number inspired by the mysterious murderer. Considering the surf culture influence on this particular piece of music, they may have mistaken Ripper for rip tide.  Director John Waters used this tune in his film, Mondo Trasho.

 

1. Grateful Dead – “Ramble On Rose”

Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter penned this rootsy song together: “Just like Jack the Ripper, just like mojo hand/Just like Billy Sunday, in a shotgun ragtime band/Just like New York City, just like Jericho/Pace the halls and climb the walls and get out when they blow.”  At just over seven minutes, this is a long trip if you know what I mean.

 

  1. Juli Thanki
    August 31, 2012 at 8:24 am

    A good list here, Ken. My favorite song that fits the topic is Link Wray’s instrumental, “Jack the Ripper”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8wO1EplWww

  2. nm
    August 31, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Just tell me — was this list hard to choose? I mean, are there a bunch of other songs with Jack the Ripper in them that you discarded?

  3. Jack Williams
    August 31, 2012 at 9:29 am

    “Jack the Ripper” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

  4. Ken Morton, Jr.
    August 31, 2012 at 11:08 am

    NM, Juli and I do challenge ourselves and one another with some pretty obscure song topics once in a while. Interestingly enough, there are lots of Jack the Ripper songs in punk music. In country/bluegrass/roots music, they’re a little harder to come by.

  5. nm
    August 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I would sort of expect that blues would have the fewest, but I’m kind of surprised that you could come up with 5 roots music references at all.

  6. Adam Sheets
    September 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Suggestion for a possible future topic if this hasn’t been covered before: songs about DJs or radio.

  7. Jon
    September 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Really? A Bob Dylan impersonator?

  8. luckyoldsun
    September 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    It appears that the Elvis impersonator quota was already filled.

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