These days, vampires are mostly associated with books, movies and television series, but there’s a long history of sexy blood suckers turning up in pop music. Here’s a variety of takes on vampirism in pop music – from sexual and political metaphors to giddy expressions of horror movie fandom.
Bauhaus arguably invented goth rock with "Bela Lugosi's Dead," their debut single from 1979. The intense, dub-influenced song is a salute to horror star Bela Lugosi, who established the look of cinematic vampires to come in the 1931 movie Dracula.
Neil Young uses vampirism as a metaphor for the greed of the oil industry in "Vampire Blues," a number from his 1974 classic On the Beach. "I'm a black bat, babe," Young sings. "I need my high octane."
Concrete Blonde's 1990 track "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)" revels in its vamp glamour, slinking along with a sexy groove and slashing horror-movie guitars as frontwoman Johnette Napolitano sings entirely unambiguous lyrics about New Orleans blood suckers straight out of an Anne Rice novel.
The Toadies' 1995 alt-rock hit "Possum Kingdom" plays up the seductive side of vampire mythology, with its narrator using the promise of eternal youth and beauty to score with a girl by a lake. This is pretty much the only occasion when "Do you wanna die?" is actually a compelling pick-up line.
The vampire in Kings of Leon's 2008 hit "Closer" is a 200-year old creep who doesn't feel even a trace of remorse when he bleeds his victims dry. Even still, Caleb Followill sings the song with an anguished tone that pushes the listener to identify with the plight of this monster in spite of themselves.
"We Suck Young Blood," the most gothic tune in the Radiohead discography, is a creepy piano-led number in which Thom Yorke portrays old, powerful people as vampires out to suck the life from the young and weak. It's hard to tell what is more sinister: Yorke moaning "we want the sweet meats," or the slow, sickly clap that punctuates the piano chords.
"My castle may be haunted, but I'm terrified of you," Andre 3000 sings in "Dracula's Wedding," underlining the main theme of the tune. Vampires and monster may be scary, but for some people, they aren't half as frightening as falling in love.
"Bullet With Butterfly Wings" isn't really a song about vampires – like most Smashing Pumpkins songs, it's mostly about frontman Billy Corgan's grandiose angst and alienation – but the song kicks off with one of the most memorable vampire-related lyrics in rock history: "The world is vampire sent to draiiiiin!" Why is the world a vampire? Because it sucks, duh.
Slayer are usually focused on singing about serial killers, Satanism and hell, but they were inspired to write about vampires in "At Dawn They Sleep," a morbid and unrelentingly heavy cut from their 1985 album Hell Awaits.
My Chemical Romance's debut single "Vampires Will Never Hurt You" immediately established the New Jersey rockers as a band eager to merge the melodrama of emo with images lifted from horror and sci-fi. More recently, the band wrote "Vampire Money," a snarky tune making fun of bands jumping on the vampire bandwagon to score lucrative spots on Twilight soundtracks.
Long before Mary Timony teamed up with Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss to form Wild Flag, she was the frontwoman of the Nineties indie band Helium. Helium's first EP Pirate Prude featured multiple songs referencing vampires, the best being "Baby Vampire Made Me," a tense rocker in which Timony sings from the perspective of a ravenous blood sucker out to devour and infect everyone in sight.
New Jersey punks the Misfits made their name on fast rockers about monsters and horror movies, so it comes as no surprise that one of their best songs happens to be a gleeful celebration of vampires. "Vampira," a quick number from their debut album Walk Among Us, finds frontman Glenn Danzig outlining his fantasy to hook up with vampire lady in a cemetery.
Blue Öyster Cult's creepy rocker "Nosferatu" is another fanboy tribute to Dracula, with lyrics that play up the creature's relationship with the lovely Lucy Harker. "Only a woman can break his spell," sings frontman Eric Bloom. "Pure in heart, who will offer herself…to Nosferatu." It's kinda like a love song!
The Birthday Party's "Release the Bats" is prime gothic punk, with a young Nick Cave singing hysterical lyrics about an encounter with a girl who is either totally turned on by vampires and bats, or is actually a vampire herself. Either way, it's awesome to hear Cave wail stuff like "sex vampire, cool machine!"
Roky Erickson's "Night of the Vampire" is the cult rocker's earnest ode to classic Vincent Price horror movies. Set to a sinister, wailing riff and eerie pipe organ, Erickson informs the listener about Dracula like an excited little kid telling you all about his latest obsession.