Classic Albums: W.A.S.P. – The Headless Children

I was always one of those guys who liked, but didn’t love W.A.S.P. True, there were many good songs on the self-titled debut, The Last Command, and Inside the Electric Circus, but at the same time there were quite a few throwaways. This band really didn’t hit their stride and put out a complete record until 1989 when they unveiled The Headless Children. Gone were the shock-rock antics from before. This was a band letting the music stand on its own. I applaud them for that, and I also take my hat off to them for putting out such a killer release. And for these reasons, this is the latest entry in our Classic Albums.

It was early May of 1989 and the weather was just right. Not too hot, not too cold. I guess you’d say it was the porridge Goldilocks chose. Anyway, at that time I was newly employed at King Kullen, and much of my time was spent doing shopping cart round-ups. I didn’t mind because I had my trusty Walkman with me, so this gave me plenty of time to rock out. And when I bought this W.A.S.P. tape it was cool to get some alone time with it. As soon as “The Heretic (The Lost Child)” started I knew right away I was in for something special. And at the 3:36 mark I was proven right in spades!! This is one of those moments when Blackie Lawless (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Chris Holmes (lead guitar) were in perfect sync, and it’s priceless.

Next was “The Real Me”, a cover of THE WHO song that quite honestly is way better than the original, so good job there, guys. I can still remember mowing my lawn at the Massapequa house I grew up in and hearing title track “The Headless Children” come on. If it wasn’t readily apparent earlier, then with this tune the band was making a statement, and that statement was, “This ain’t the W.A.S.P. of old!”, which suited me fine. Hell, having Frankie Banali come in and play drums was a stroke of fucking genius. He and bassist Johnny Rod play off each other so well it’s a shame we didn’t get more albums from them. Either way I was grinning ear to ear as I emptied the lawnmower bag.

“Thunderhead” is such a kickass song both lyrically and musically, and it is definitely one that’s in the upper pantheon of all W.A.S.P. tunes. Featuring guest vocals from Lita Ford, and a strong anti-drug message, this track is one that has always resonated with me, believe it or not. And Chris Holmes’ solo is soul-wrenching. “Mean Man” is just one of those tunes that makes you wanna kick someone in the nuts while spraying beer in their face. I can remember being 16 and rocking out to this one in my room, doing the double middle finger salute in my mirror, as I’m sure many of you did, too.

I can also remember hearing “The Neutron Bomber” and being blown away in my bedroom. Once again, this was a much deeper W.A.S.P. than we were all used to, but I sure as fuck wasn’t complaining. “Forever Free” was the band’s foray into the ballad game, and you know what? It worked. And it worked well. It was a hit on Dial MTV and only broadened the band’s appeal. Hell, this is one that stopped me dead in my tracks when I first listened to it (before it was a single), and I still smile when I hear it now, thinking of certain people. Banali really anchors this one, and I don’t think anyone else could do the job he did.

“Maneater” is one of the heaviest W.A.S.P. songs imaginable, and it just goes full speed from first note to last, while album closer “Rebel In the F.D.G.” caps off the record perfectly. Once again, this was a very different band than the one that released Inside the Electric Circus, and the fact that they chose to stop fucking around and get more serious is what made me want to buy this album. The Headless Children is one of those lighting-in-a-bottle releases that we the record buyers are lucky to hear, and in the spring of 1989 this tape was on my person at all times. And that my friends, is why it now resides in the Hall of Classic Albums.   ~dc

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