How Many More Misfits Reunion Shows Will There Be? According to Legal Documents, Probably Just One.
In September 2016, the impossible happened: The main founding members of the Misfits reunited as The Original Misfits after decades of legal and verbal blood-feuding.
The original band was a controversial presence in the American punk scene from 1977 to 1983. They did as much as anybody to fuse punk, rock, hardcore and metal into one unholy ball of cool-looking, melodic crossover. But the Misfits story was no love-in. The ‘Fits saga is one of rock n’ roll’s great Behind the Music stories, filled with 35 years of lawsuits, twists, turns, betrayals and reversals. And the story isn’t over yet. The full depths of the long-running conflict still haven’t been fully revealed — and probably never will be.
The conflict has generated an intriguing paperwork trail that sheds light on how the current Original Misfits reunion came to be and how long it might last. How many more Misfits concerts will we see? MetalSucks has the answer: probably just one.
The reunion shows were staged to commemorate the iconic band’s 40th birthday, which was in 2017. But the concerts were staged for reasons that were much more cold and practical. The 40th Fiendiversary gigs were the result of a pricy, protracted lawsuit between Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only.
In 2016, Riot Fest pulled off the score of a lifetime, luring the Misfits to play two shows, one in Denver and one in Chicago. Tickets sold like hotcakes despite many fans’ disbelief that the concerts would even happen.
Based on previous exchanges in the press, as far as anybody knew, Misfits frontman/founder Glenn Danzig hated bassist Jerry Only. Riding with the O.G. Misfits was classic lineup guitarist Doyle, a.k.a. Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, Jerry’s little brother, whom Jerry had unceremoniously banished from the band; Doyle later went on to play for team Danzig. So the shows were booked. Tickets were sold. The stage was set. Would the shows actually happen? Who knew?
But The Original Misfits played. And slayed. The Chicago set seemed like it would be one last caress before the members went their separate ways once again. And what a way to go out. It was probably the best concert ever: Somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 fiends, fans and onlookers witnessed a frothing general-admission crowd the size of a football field screaming along to pretty much every word of every song.
Then, improbably, Original Misfits shows kept coming: December 2017 at the L.A. Forum and the Vegas MGM Grand Arena. All the shows sold out or came close, with The Forum concert selling out in under a minute. A sold out arena show in New Jersey in 2018 and a 2019 reprise in Chicago followed. As music historian Steven Blush keenly observed, those shows made the Misfits the first old-school American hardcore/punk band to headline and sell out full-sized arenas in the U.S.
All of those shows were so well-received that the Misfits recently announced three more for the upcoming months — one in June at Los Angeles’ Banc of California Stadium (capacity 22,000), and two in September: a return to Denver at the Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre (capacity 18,000) and a stop at Seattle’s White River Amphitheatre (capacity 16,000).
Despite the steady stream of concerts over the past three years, everyone from civilians to radio hosts have endlessly asked, “How many times can this happen again?”
A brief history lesson to catch everyone up on the events that led to the lawsuit and, subsequently, the reunion.
The Misfits formed in early 1977, with Glenn Danzig as the founder and driving creative force.
Bassist Jerry Only joined a month or two later.
Jerry’s brother, Doyle, joined in late 1980.
Through many changes to the Misfits’ look, sound and lineup, Danzig remained the bandleader, author of its lyrics and music.
Meanwhile, Jerry — and, later, Doyle — worked in their dad’s machine shop to finance the band and its various endeavors, from merch to international tours.
The band broke up in 1983, having gradually evolved from melodic punk to metal-infused hardcore that would influence countless bands to come. The Misfits’ legend grew in the grave.
A watershed moment for the Misfits came when Metallica covered two songs, “Last Caress” and “Green Hell,” on their 1987 release, The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited, marking the turning point when the The Misfits name became more than just an underground cult. Over time, the Misfits’ adapted Crimson Ghost Fiend skull became one of a handful of iconic graphics that was synonymous with punk itself, especially after the Hot Topic aesthetic gentrified the genre in the early years of the 21st century.
After the Metallica covers hit, Jerry Only decided he wanted the Misfits name back. Danzig was busy with his new band, Samhain, which was metamorphosing into Danzig. With the help of mega-producer Rick Rubin, Danzig had a hit and sold a bunch of records.
After some legal wrangling with Danzig, Jerry revived the Misfits band and brand as a reliable draw on the club circuit. All those skulls were cash cattle. And all that time, Jerry stoked interest in the Misfits by telling the world he was ready for a reunion whenever Danzig was. Danzig always publicly scorned the idea. Danzig and Jerry had conflicting agendas, but some mutual interests.
In the 1990s, they settled a post-Metallica lawsuit by splitting rights to various aspects of the Misfits catalog. Jerry got the name. Danzig got the songwriting money. And, to our point today, they both had claims on the merchandise. As Danzig described in his lawsuit, according a 1994 agreement, Danzig and Only would “share ownership of The Misfits’ name, trademarks, logos, and artwork that existed during the Classic Misfits era.”
In 2014, Danzig sued Only and his company, Cyclopian Music, over some Misfits merchandise issues, alleging three claims: 1) breach of contract, 2) breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and 3) interference with prospective business advantage. The complaint amounted to this: Danzig claimed Jerry was selling Misfits merch, and Danzig wasn’t getting his cut.
The lawsuit almost ended in a settlement, according to Misfits biographer James Greene Jr. Only proposed Danzig reunite with the Misfits for one new studio album and six-to-ten live shows. That round of talks collapsed, but the negotiations continued as the case worked its way through the courts. Only took an early lead and emerged triumphant. It looked like Danzig was out a lot of money. Fortunately for everybody involved, Jerry wasn’t out for blood. He wanted something bigger.
After a year of expensive legal grappling, Danzig had — according to sundry claims in various legal documents — between 75,000 and two-million reasons to wash away thirty years of bad blood. Early into the proceedings, the United States District Court Central District of California (Western Division − Los Angeles) dismissed the first two of Danzig’s claims. In April of 2015, the court ruled against Danzig on the third. Jerry had Danzig over a barrel. The legal battle limped on for nearly another year in the form of various appeals, negotiations, motions and applications.
In January 2016, a pivotal meeting ended the legacy of litigation. “We went in there wanting to cut each other’s throats,” Only told Rolling Stone reporter and card-carrying serious metal dude Kory Grow. “It was turning into another court battle and it turned into a reunion. We walked out the door knowing we were going to play together. It’s a very cool thing.”
The lawsuit Glenn Danzig v. Gerald Caiafa and Cyclopian Music, Inc. was finally dismissed on May 12, 2016, the same day a settlement was filed with the court. Many of the court documents are sealed and redacted. The last publicly available draft of a Memorandum of Understanding on Material Settlement Terms was filed February 17, 2015, shortly before the lawsuit took a final turn against Danzig. That unsigned draft of the settlement included the following legal provisions, which, to be clear, may have changed in the subsequent year of legal back-and-forth. According to that draft…
– The parties would co-own the classic Misfits graphics (1977 through 1983), including the Crimson Ghost Fiend skull and the Misfits horror-font logo. Jerry Only would receive 100% of the income from “Fiend Skull derivatives” relating to his time leading the band without Danzig after the 1995 settlement, with Danzig retaining 100% ownership of his Misfits designs during that period as well.
– Official Misfits shirts would be available via a high-powered cabal: Live Nation would produce Fiend Skull T-shirts and sell them to Hot Topic.
– Jerry Only and his company would continue to have the exclusive rights to perform and record as The Misfits. For the reunion shows, according to this draft, Danzig and Only would partner 50/50 as The Original Misfits, pay the rest of the band as hired guns, and split the profits.
– This is the important part: according to the draft of the settlement, “The parties agree to perform no fewer than ten (10) Misfits reunion shows to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the band.”
So if you’re keeping track…
The Misfits have announced nine (9) reunion shows so far, the last of which is scheduled for September 14, 2019. That’s nearly three years into the band’s “40th birthday celebration.”
Halloween is a big day in the Misfits mythos. If they were going to end this unprecedented run of shows with a bang, October 2019 would be one helluva a time to do it.
Tickets for this recent round of three shows are selling at a brisk pace, on par with the previous reunion gigs.
The band would be passing up massive paydays if they don’t play European festivals later. But, as it stands, the stage is set for one more show, and what better way to do than a massive Halloween send-off? And that would be it.
But who knows? As history has shown, anything is possible with these guys.
D.X. Ferris wrote Metal Sucks’ “Defending Danzig” series (though he has since updated his opinion). He’s the guy who broke the news before the lawsuit that Jerry Only scuttled previous talks for a Misfits reunion. He also wrote two books about Slayer. He’s #TeamDanzig, though he loves American Psycho and thinks Famous Monsters has its moments.