Please allow us to introduce him, a man of many names and songs. Satan, Lucifer, or El Diablo has been immortalised in music more than most, and sooner or later everyone turns to the dark side for inspiration. Even eunuchs’ favourite Cliff Richard, who released ‘Devil Woman’ as his answer to punk in ’76, couldn’t resist his evil call.
And from ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (excluded here as it’s indisputedly the greatest devil song and therefore too obvious and exempt) to ‘Running With The Devil’, Beelzebub always has the best tunes. With Lordi’s ‘Devil Is A Loser’ providing the exception that proves the rule. So get behind us Satan, we’re taking Flight 666 straight to hell. The journey doesn’t end well but the in-flight audio is top notch.
10 Van Halen, ‘Running With The Devil’
Forget the fretwank abortion that is ‘Eruption’ or their mediocre cover of ‘You Really Got Me’, it was this opening gambit that really shone on VH’s self-titled debut. As introductions go, this track – inspired by Ohio Players’ ‘Runnin From The Devil’ – is up there with the best.
9 Ohio Players, ‘Runnin From The Devil’
While we’re on the subject of the filthy funk pop stalwarts, perhaps we should invite them into the party. This cut from ‘Fire’, their quasi concept album about hellfire and all things dark side, makes the battle to save your soul sound bouncier and more, well, soulful than ever.
“The devil in hell we’re told was chained / a thousand years he there remained. He neither complain nor did he groan / but was determined to start a hell of his own.” So begins Cash’s classic spoken word/soft acoustic ballad about the devil, a sparse ode that retains all its power nearly fifty years later.
7 Primus, ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’
At the other end of the spectrum, San Fran goofballs Primus (who, yes, are covering the Charlie Daniels Band) offer a more cartoony depiction of Satan with this countrified jam and accompanying stop motion video.
As anyone who’s heard the opening clarion call (“Lucifer son of the morning, I’m gonna chase you out of Earth”), or indeed The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’ or Jay-Z’s ‘Lucifer’, will know – this is a stone cold classic and far better than the evil little thing deserves.
Because songs about the devil don’t have to make sense.
4 Motley Crue, ‘Shout At The Devil’
Tommy Lee’s goofball crew deserve a spot for their ode to diabolatry, which was one of the most addictive Guitar Hero tracks and probably Nikki Sixx’s best contribution to the world.
3 Elvis Presley, ‘(You’re The) Devil In Disguise’
Why shouldn’t the devil have the odd jaunty tune in his honour? It can’t all be twin necked guitars and flaming hellfire helmets you know.
2 Mogwai, ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’
This sixteen minute post-rock workout may be instrumental, and only tenuously linked to the bassist’s religious beliefs, but its soaring and demented guitars evoke a freefalling descent in Hades like no other. Or something like that anyway.
1 Iron Maiden, ‘The Number Of The Beast’
Inspired by Damien: Omen II, featuring an intro from legendary actor Barry Clayton and the big man in cartoon form on the cover, and causing no end of controversy and consternation on its release and airtime on MTV, this is quintessential Maiden.
What are your top devil tunes? Here’s a few more to get you started:
Biffy Clyro, ‘God & Satan’
Japandroids, ‘Lucifer’s Symphony’
Primal Scream, ‘Miss Lucifer’
The Grateful Dead, ‘Friend Of The Devil’
Tenacious D, ‘Beezleboss’
Gene Vincent, ‘Race With The Devil’
Steve Erle, ‘The Devil’s Right Hand’
Reverend Horton Heat, ‘The Devil’s Chasing Me’
Danzig, ‘Devil’s Plaything’
White Zombie, ‘Devil Man’
Miike Snow, ‘Devil’s Work’
Laura Marling, ‘Devil’s Spoke’
Kris Kristofferson, ‘To Beat The Devil’
Kid Rock, ‘Devil Without A Cause’