Uglier than Alice Cooper: Five forgotten shock rock bands from the 1970s
Much like Zior, Chicago’s Coven were a band that had an authentic interest in the occult. In fact, their debut album, 1969′s Witchcraft Destroys Minds And Reaps Souls, is still the most overtly Satanic record album ever released, and clearly paved the way for 80s black metal.
Consider the evidence. The band signed their contract with Mercury records in their own blood. The first song on the album is called Black Sabbath (coincidentally, their bass player was named Oz Osbourne!). The inside gatefold features a photo of a gorgeous blonde woman (not, as is often assumed, Coven’s gorgeous blonde frontwoman, Jinx Dawson) lying naked on an altar, surrounded by the band, who are wielding upside down crosses. On the back cover, the band are throwing the goat horns, years before Ronnie James.
The songs – acid rock-y in the Jefferson Airplane vein – are as lyrically demonic as anything King Diamond ever conjured up. The album ends with a 15-minute recording of an ‘authentic’ black mass that the liner notes warn the listener not to listen to, unless they’re prepared to deal with whatever horrors might await them afterward. Hell, even the blood-red font on the album was later appropriated by Venom and Witchfinder General!
Not surprisingly, the album was pulled from the shelves shortly after its release, when the Mercury label was pressured by an article in Esquire magazine that tenuously linked the Manson murders with California’s burgeoning interest in all things occult, including Coven. Looking back, it still seems incredible that a major label would release such a controversial album in the first place.
The album’s withdrawal naturally hobbled the band’s momentum, although they scored a surprise hit in 1971 when their folky protest song One Tin Soldier was used as the theme for popular revenge flick Billy Jack. The band fizzled a few years later, and Jinx went on to an acting career. She resurfaced recently to fly Coven’s black flag once more, and remains as bewitching and unrepentent as ever.