The Most Unintentionally Terrifying "Love Songs" Ever Written
From Van Halen to Dean Martin, some of the world's most beloved "love" songs are actually hideously sinister when you dig just below the surface.
Let’s face it, there is no dearth of disturbing "love songs" out there. From stalker odes to rapey hits to even murder ballads, they’re strangely all over the place. Most of these, however, are intentionally scary. The Beatles’ "Run for Your Life" is one of John Lennon’s many introspections into his own jealousy (luckily this time satirical in nature). Judas Priest’s "Love You to Death" is hardly your standard, sexy romance ballad but more of a, well, Judas Priest song. The Police have openly questioned why "Every Breath You Take" is a wedding favorite considering its theme of obsession and stalking. Alice Cooper’s "I Love the Dead" is self-explanatory. Eminem’s "Kim" is about the decidedly negative ramifications of ever saying "I Do" to becoming Mrs. Marshall Mathers.
But what about those love songs with unintentional weirdness? You know the kind that seem to start with good intentions until the lyrics flip, Freudian-like into a horrific hell that even Pinhead and his Cenobites would read and say "Okay, too much, man, too much."
Following is a list of love songs that seem innocuous (at first) enough to become big hits, but after a more thorough investigation could have you reaching for the phone to call two shrinks; one for you and one for the lyricist in question.
1. "Love Walks In" is about aliens… and that’s not a metaphor.
Van Halen reached a whole new audience when Sammy Hagar joined the band after David Lee Roth’s departure, partially because of songs like 1986’s "Love Walks In". While the band still rocked, these keyboard-infused ballads helped them dominate the Top Forty for much of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and at first listen "Love Walks In" sounds a lot like their other, similar synth hits like "Dreams", "Why Can’t This Be Love", "When It’s Love" and "I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You".
But taking a closer look at "Love Walks In", we find a much more bizarre narrative, one of alien abduction, human slavery, insanity and disturbing alterations to life on Earth. In fact, it seems that Hagar wrote a fever-dream litany of complete and total X-Files horror and then stuck the words "Love come’s walking in" inexplicably in a few places and called it a love song.
It’s not. It’s not a love song.
The very first word in the song is "contact" of the kind that causes time displacement and revelations. As the lyrics progress, Hagar actually spells out what he’s talking about, saying "Some kind of Alien waits for the opening then simply pulls a string". That’s some seriously direct and disturbing otherworldly mind control the guys are talking about there. I wish I could have seen the look on Eddie, Mike and Alex’s faces when Sammy unveiled this one to them.
Is that just an isolated event in an otherwise beautiful ballad? Yeah, like Star Wars has a few isolated moments in space. The song goes on to describe a woman in a silken gown awakened from her sleep and then abducted by a UFO with "silver lights shining down". Meanwhile the speaker of the song is sleep deprived as he "travel[s] far across the Milky Way". For what reason? The very next lyric indicates that this is so that he can become a slave to an alien master race as Earth is being altered somehow.
Does that sound like a love song? No. All that’s missing here is a chest-burster scene. The sole lyrics having anything to do with love are the incredibly incongruous "love comes walking in" phrase stuck haphazardly into the song with no connection to anything else in the story at all. A mismatch like this is tantamount to watching The Exorcist and seeing Father Dyer break the fourth wall, turn to the camera and say "And now, let’s talk about the recipe for Keebler’s Sunchero’s light and crispy tortilla chips. They’re made by Pequeños Keebleros, you know?"
Let me make this clear, Hagar and company were not simply making a crazy metaphor about how strange and "alien" it is to fall in love. Take a look at Van Halen’s own Live Without a Net home video in which Hagar proudly and un-ironically announced to the crowd that this song is "about aliens". Not romance or falling in love with some creative allusions… "aliens".
Why did he say that? Because it is, kids.
What would make a veteran rocker and songwriter like Hagar write such a bizarre song? Only the fact that he totally believes in all of that. (Note: Hagar’s first single and album after leaving Van Halen were both called "Marching to Mars"!)
Hagar firmly believes he has been visited by aliens multiple times and that he is, in fact, their puppet. Hagar has confessed in interviews with Guitar World magazine, MTV and others that he has not only been visited by Aliens "three or four times" but has actually been abducted by aliens before. He claims that he has been the subject of alien experimentation going all the way back to at least 1968.
Further, Hagar’s brain has reportedly been "downloaded" by aliens and that the implants they subsequently put into his brain have influenced everything from his music to his stage shows. This includes an infamous late '70s incident that occurred while opening for Kiss in which "Hagar the Horrible" dropped his pants, flashed a crowd of Kiss fans and then smashed a valuable Fender Stratocaster while bottomless in front of said (presumably mostly human) audience.
Hagar actually thinks that a group of inhuman beings called "The Nine" from the Ninth Dimension are responsible for "downloading" such actions into him (because, you know, it couldn’t be the drugs and alcohol, right?). Hagar even named his publishing company "The Nine Music" after his malefactors. That’s a strange thing to be grateful for, but hey, it’s Hagar, right?
Based on his reports (which he admits make him sound "crazy" and "like a nut"), it’s equally possible that Hagar sat down to write a beautiful romance ballad called "Love Walks In", but then his Alien programming took over and resulted in this bizarre data dump of interplanetary nightmares with one vague and ill-fitting repeated line about "love" lingering here and there.
So, you see, to Hagar, "Love Walks In" isn’t a ballad, it's a documentary; his version of Whitley Strieber’s Communion. So, I guess the key to a big MTV hit in the late '80s was to go stream of consciousness with the weirdest possible nightmare lyrics you can think of and then randomly shove the word "love" into the mess and call it a ballad. It worked for Van Halen because the teeny boppers came running.
I guess "I Can’t Drive 55" is actually about the fact that 55MPH is far below the escape velocity of Earth’s gravitational pull. "Love Walks In", indeed. "Love Walks In… to an insane asylum for observation and therapy" maybe.
2. "Bette Davis Eyes" is about one of Hollywood’s scariest actresses.
On the surface the hit "Bette Davis Eyes" is about a seductive and self-confident vixen who gets what she wants due to her classic Hollywood assets. To be sure, those lyrics are there and there is most assuredly a precedent for such a comparison. Way back in the '30s, cinematographer Karl Freund saved the actress’ contract at Universal by telling studio head Carl Laemmle that Davis had "lovely eyes", which led to her film debut in Bad Sister (1931). This in spite of the fact that Chief of Production Carl Laemmle, Jr. (the aforementioned studio head’s son) said Davis had about as much sex appeal as her male co-star. Throughout her subsequent career, Davis’ eyes were often the subject of close up shots and those same eyes were often called both distinctive and neurotic.
Fifty years later, Davis was so complimented by the success of the song "Bette Davis Eyes" that she sent letters to the singer that made the song famous along with the songwriters to thank them for making her a part of modern times (well after her Hollywood heyday) and for making her an idol to her grandson. When "Bette Davis Eyes" won Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1982 Grammy Awards, Davis sent roses to the singer and songwriters.
While Davis is regarded as one of the best actresses in Hollywood history, it’s hard to deny that she is best known for her later films, including a certain Grand Guignol horror movie called What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) for which she received her final Oscar nomination.
Back when her eyes were receiving those (sometimes dubious) compliments she looked a lot like this:
When she starred in Baby Jane she looked a hell of a lot more like this:
From there she went on to star in such films as Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), Robert Aldrich’s chilling follow-up to Baby Jane, Dead Ringer (1964), which sported the tagline "for ‘Baby Jane’ people!", The Nanny (1965) in which Davis terrorizes a family and psychologically tortures an already disturbed ten-year-old boy and Burnt Offerings (1976), an adaptation of the Haunted House novel that would, in part, inspire Stephen King’s The Shining.