Terror Tracks: "Killer Klowns" Was the Summer Anthem We Deserved

TERROR TRACKS is a column that will have you cranking your volume to 11 and pulling the covers over your head as we lead you through the aisles of pressed wax and spooky tracks, uncovering the gems of horror-themed music!

The beginning of summer 1988 was an interesting summer. First of all, it’s the first summer of my life so #BLESSED, but second of all it was an incredible summer for film! Friday the 13th Part VII! Willow! Big! Beetlejuice! Poltergeist III! Coming to America! WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?! Seriously, each weekend is just hit after hit (DIE HARD!), but the music world was a bit different. While May started off strong with “Wishing Well” by Terence Trent Darby, the following weeks on the Billboard charts were steeped in slow ballads which is fine, but in the summer you want to JAM! Beaches! Pool parties! Late Night Sodas! Not the soothing sounds of Rick Astley.

But we had one song, and we didn't even know it. We had the summer party jam of 1988, it just was hiding in the Chiodos Brothers film Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

All Music Guide describes The Dickies as “the clown princes of punk”, which if you know their music you’d see how fitting that is. Through a mixture of original compositions and speed pop-punk covers of childrens show theme songs, in 1978 they became the first L.A. punk band to sign with a major label. Yet throughout the ‘80s the band was plagued by drug and alcohol problems resulting in numerous line-up changes and band hiatuses, but by 1988, with a new line up around the original singer and guitarist, Leonard Grave Philips and Stan Lee, they found themselves back in the studio recording the lead single for the upcoming film Killer Klowns From Outer Space. A more melodic sound from The Dickies, “Killer Klown” was an infectious pop-punk ditty for all the dark hearts on the dance floor. Philips warbly tenor mixes perfectly with Lee’s shredding guitar picking out the opening arpeggio’s of Julius Fucik’s “Entrance of the Gladiators”, and who of all people is on drums?

Clif fuckin’ Martinez, composer for films such as Drive, The Neon Demon, Solaris, and The Knick. (*Insert head explosion sound here*).

But beyond that there isn’t very much information surrounding the song, at least as far as my own internet investigative journalism can gather. Even the film has some shaky numbers regarding the box office grosses. But that’s fine because “Klowns” is a lyrical playground! Let us revel in the words!

“PT Barnum said it so long ago,
There's one born every minute, don't you know,
Some make us laugh, some make us cry,
These clowns only gonna make you die.”

We hit the ground RUNNING! First we name drop the king of the circus, PT Barnum, and his most attributed quote, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” And then they just drop that big ol’ reminder that this song is about killer freaking clowns. ILOVEITILOVEITILOVEIT!

“The ring master shouts "Let the show begin”,
Send in the klowns, let them do you in.
See a rubber nose on a painted face,
bringing genocide to the human race,
it’s time to take a ride on a nightmare merry go round,
you'll be dead on arrival from the likes of the killer klowns from outer space.”

The film initially was just called Killer Klowns but the “Outer Space” was added later as to ensure audiences didn’t think the film was yet another slasher film. And like the story behind the film’s title, here to the “from outer space” comes almost as an afterthought as well. Though the word your ears will certainly perk up to is “genocide” which is coming to the “human race.” We knew that the Killer Klowns were Big Bad’s but not THAT big and bad. You think humans just tasted good mixed with cotton candy, but NOPE. Genocide.

“There’s cotton candy in their hands.
says the polka dotted man with a stalk of jacaranda
They're all diabolical bozos.”

This line is important sheerly for the fact that The Dickies were able to squeeze in the word “jacaranda”, an obscure flower, into a song about “diabolical bozos”.

All look around what do you see?
Tell me what's become of humanity!
From California shores, to New York Times Square,
Barnum and Bailey everywhere.
If you've ever wondered why the population's going down,
blame it on the plunder of the likes of the killer klowns from outer space…”

The Dickies theorize here that the Killer Klowns will reach an apocalyptic point on both coasts of the States. Phillips cry for humanity. Sheer majesty.

While “Killer Klowns” may not have been the hit summer jam we got, it was definitely the silly fun one we deserved. At the end of the day, it’s just damn catchy and makes you want to MOVE! What more can you ask from a song? I hope your answer is an amazing music video, because you’re about to get your wish!