We’ve noticed a crazy number of songs about psychos.
It’s certainly a fascinating subject that makes excellent fodder for songwriting. But which ones are the greatest?
Take a walk on the wild side and explore our favorites with us.
Let’s jump in!
What Makes a Song About Psychos?
Psycho means an unstable and aggressive person or someone “exhibiting” those behaviors. People can indeed be born with a mental illness that can make them violent. It’s also true that some people can be driven to violence or psychosis by the behavior of others – who are usually some kind of psycho themselves!
The tunes we picked have different kinds of craziness in the verses. Some are about mental illness, while others are about people driven insane by another person. Love is often involved in the latter case.
For example, in Psycho Killer by Talking Heads, the lyrics are about a mentally unstable person about to kill a woman. In Run For Your Life by The Beatles, the words depict a man who threatens to kill his girlfriend if she cheats on him.
However, in Psycho Therapy by The Ramones, the piece is about the writer’s lifelong struggles with mental illness and the unfortunate stigma sometimes attached.
Let’s read on for more details on these songs about psychos.
#1 Psycho Killer by Talking Heads
About the Song: David Byrne started writing Psycho Killer in 1973 when he was still in school in Rhode Island. He and drummer Chris Frantz had a band called the Artistics. The inspiration for the tune’s subject was Alice Cooper, who was extremely popular at the time. Frantz had a girlfriend, Tina Weymouth, who spoke French and helped them with the French bridge.
She drew inspiration from Norman Bates in the 1960 movie Psycho. The French bridge reveals that the psycho killer targets a woman, much like the Bates character. The song was cemented in the public consciousness when it was released because the Son of Sam serial killer had been on the loose that summer. However, they had written the great oldie years before.
I can't seem to face up to the facts I'm tense and nervous, and I can't relax I can't sleep, 'cause my bed's on fire Don't touch me, I'm a real live wire
First Appearance: The band first performed it as the Artistics in 1974. As Talking Heads, it came out in September 1977 on their debut album, Talking Heads: 77.
#2 Run For Your Life by The Beatles
About the Song: This number is about a man threatening to kill his girlfriend if she cheats on him. It’s wildly misogynistic and clear in its message. “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.”
John Lennon said it’s his least favorite song and the one he most regrets writing. He based the piece on Elvis Presley’s version of Baby Let’s Play House, released in 1955. It’s also about a man who would rather see his girlfriend dead than have her cheat on him.
Well, you know that I'm a wicked guy And I was born with a jealous mind And I can't spend my whole life tryin' Just to make you toe the line
First Appearance: It was released December 3, 1965, on their album Rubber Soul.
#3 Psycho Therapy by The Ramones
About the Song: This Ramones single and record have been hailed as a return to the Ramones’ punk rock roots. It’s also somewhat biographical. Three of the four band members struggled with addiction when they recorded this album.
The guitarist Joey and drummer Marky were struggling with alcoholism. Joey had also been diagnosed with OCD and schizophrenia as a teenager. Dee Dee was getting treatment for his cocaine addiction. The band fired Marky during the recording because his alcoholism was out of control.
In the cover art, the band is posing on a subway platform, and Marky is staring out the window, separate from the rest. Johnny wanted that because he knew they were kicking Marky out of the band. Sad but true!
I'm a teenage schizoid Pranks and muggins are fun Psycho therapy Gonna kill someone
First Appearance: The Ramones released Psycho Therapy in 1983 on their album, Subterranean Jungle.
#4 Psycho by The Sonics
About the Song: The Sonics is a garage band formed in Tacoma, Washington, in 1960. Their sound is hard-driven and aggressive. In fact, many consider it a significant influence on punk and garage music. This oldie was also partly inspired by the movie Psycho.
The film inserted the phrase “Psycho” into pop culture and set a new level of acceptance for violence and sexuality. The song is about a man who claims his woman is driving him crazy and out of his head. The hard-edged music and voice make the listener feel almost as unhinged as the narrator.
Baby you’re driving me crazy I'm going out of my head And now I wish I was dead Psycho
First Appearance: The band first released the tune in March 1965 on their debut album, Here Are The Sonics!!!
#5 Every Breath You Take by The Police
About the Song: Sting wrote his smash hit in 1982. He was married to Irish actress Francis Tomelty, but he was having an affair with her best friend, Trudie Styler. It was a big scandal, so Sting retreated to Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate in Jamaica.
He says he awoke with the line “every breath you take, every move you make” in his head and wrote the words in half an hour. Sting thought it was a story of a possessive lover, but when he looked back on it later, he realized the lyrics were more sinister and dangerous. In May 2019, Broadcast Music, Inc (BMI) recognized it as one of the most played numbers in radio history, and certainly one of the most played songs about psychos.
And every move you make Every bond you break Every step you take I'll be watching you
First Appearance: The police released the song on May 20, 1983, on their fifth and final studio album, Synchronicity.
#6 They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa by Napoleon XIV
About the Song: Nobody thinks this novelty piece is that funny, but it’s certainly a song about a psycho and has a twist at the end. The lyrics are from the point of view of a man who’s being “driven crazy” by someone who left him.
He talks about how much he had cared for them, cooked and cleaned for them, but they left anyway. Now he’s dreaming of the peace he can find at a mental institution. The plot twist is that it was a dog that rejected him!
The BBC and some US radio stations refused to play the song because of how it portrayed the mentally ill.
Well, you just wait They'll find you yet And when they do, they'll put you in The ASPCA, you mangy MUTT
First Appearance: Napoleon XIV released the piece as a single in July 1966.
#7 Psycho by Leon Payne
About the Song: Leon Payne was known as “The Blind Balladeer” because he was blind in both eyes. He was born blind in one eye and lost the rest of his sight in a childhood accident.
Payne was a traditional country music singer and songwriter, best known for his hits I Love You Because, You’ve Still Got a Place in My Heart, and Lost Highway, which Hank Williams made famous.
He wrote this tune from the point of view of a serial killer who asks, “You think I’m psycho, don’t you, Mama?” Payne was interested in the mass murderers of his time, way before serial killers and “profiling” became a spectator sport. He and his steel guitar player were talking about the Richard Speck murders, and this song was the result.
Don't hand the dog to me, Mama I might squeeze him too tight And I'm as nervous as can be, Mama But let me tell you 'bout last night
First Appearance: It first appeared in 1968, recorded by Eddie Noack.
Are Songs About Psychos Learning Tools?
Songs about psychos are entertaining and enlightening because they can offer a glimpse into the thoughts of an unbalanced mind. Let’s face it. Humans are seriously obsessed with psychotic people and the things they do. There are a million true-crime podcasts and documentaries to prove it.
Do you have a favorite song about psychos? Tell us about it in the comments!