“I like dressing up. I like drinking wine. I enjoy loneliness. I like romance. I like being in control. I like being submissive. I like reading poetry aloud. I like absinth. I like Parisian prostitutes from the early 1900s, true ladies. I like tattoos. I’d like Nick Cave to sing to me as I bled to
death. I like making up stories. I like to lie, it makes life more interesting. I kill people and sell the bodies. I'm in a band, but then who isn’t?”
- Betty Curse, Myspace
No-one really knows how Betty Curse pounced into the world, or from whence she crept, but the legends are legion. Some say she’s
some venom-pretty monster cloned by mad scientists from the spittle of Siouxie Sioux, the tears of Christina Ricci and the shotgun brain mulch of Dead from Mayhem. Others claim that she wandered out of a graveyard mist, naked and feral, gnawing on the innards of a hand-slaughtered wolf. The more Hammer Horror-inclined say that she crawled fully formed from a smoke-spewing rent in a
cathedral crypt wall somewhere beneath Vienna; the cyber-creeps reckon she chewed her way out of a computer wire downloading
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’.
Myths, half-truths, whispers and lies - Betty herself fixed you with her wishing well eyes and giggles, dark and devious.
This much, however, we know to be true.
Some nineteen cold winters ago, in the wind-ravaged province of Liverpool, a girl called Megan Burns - her given name, although she was secretly someone else entirely - was dragged into a poor but charmed life. Megan wasn’t like the other children running on the
tainted terrace streets of her town - those who knew her well could see the angel on her shoulder; those who knew her better saw the devil in her iris. At first it seemed like the devil would eat her from the inside: at three years old her father walked out and little Megan became sickly and withdrawn, a sad-eyed princess lost in Merseyside’s neon catacomb of hoodies and vagabonds. At school she was
friendless, at home a recluse. They say, jokingly perhaps, that she slashed her wrists for the first time at six months old.
But Megan had a secret. Megan had powers over people. Megan could enthral, lure and devour. Megan was hypernatural.
Her grandmother saw it and, aged eleven, sent her to drama class to help her (she said) battle her crippling shyness. The people at the drama classes saw it and sent her to see some big important movie people in London. The big important movie people saw it and cast her in a film called ‘Liam’. Some even bigger and more important movie people saw it and flew her to the Venice Film Festival to be
given a Best Actress award. Danny Boyle saw it and put her in his big important scary film ‘28 Days Later’ and then the whole world saw it and poor, shy little Megan Burns from Liverpool was a full-on, fairy tale star.
“I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been,” says the girl who used to be Megan Burns, slapping fairy godmothers from the shoulders of her military black lace corset. “So many people try their hardest for it and I’ve never truly fought for it. I think it comes more naturally if it’s
just a passion within you rather than an aspiration. There’s some kind of weird road laid out and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”
It was, it transpired, a blood-red brick road and it led to the darkest of pop palaces. Because, you see, there never really was a Megan Burns; or at least not the ordinary, tame-haired Megan Burns that to this day gazes glumly out of the ‘Spotlight’ page. No, this tiny frame was only ever home to the vampiric seductress with the angel-child’s face that is Betty Curse; delicate yet sinister, romantic yet
doomed, beautiful but bloodthirsty. Haunting the Liverpool streets and rock clubs, Betty was an exaggeration of Megan, a persona that allowed her to clamber out of her shyness and live. And from whence did Betty Curse evolve? She’s the product of a Britpop
basted childhood dragged screaming through a nu metal adolescence and left to ferment in a teenagedom drenched in the effluent of Nick Cave, The Cure, and The Cramps. She crept out of the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe and …., crawled out of the screen of a TV playing
‘Donnie Darko’, ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and ‘The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari’, and was cemented in young Megan’s psyche by the semi-paedo “fan” mail she received after ‘28 Days Later’. This broken Brechtian Baby Jane in its black plastic heels, spider hair, funeral baby-doll
dresses and morgue palor was the real Megan Burns that, for “casting purposes”, the audition room never saw.
So what, pray tell, is Betty Curse really like? Betty licks her cracked black lips. “She’d drain you of your life’s blood but you’d always be
offered the chance of immortality. She’s the kind of person you’d find lurking around in a graveyard wishing one of the ghosts would come and talk to her. She’s the darker side of everyone. You’ll find me in the darkest places. Death is a big fascination of mine. What can be more beautiful than something so mysterious?”
So Betty already existed. She just needed to be found.
In the winter of 2004 the circus came to town. To London’s Fortress Studios to be exact; a fire-breathing, dwarf-piercing freakshow of
a circus helmed by The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. In the throng one Steve Ludwin - a snake-charming rock svengali, late of Little Hell; famed for filming himself shitting on the NME, attending industry events in full drag and regularly injecting himself with the venom of rattlesnakes which he believes will keep him young forever - was eyeing the scene and, considering himself too old to front a rock band anymore, hunting out younger flesh to sing for him.
“I was talking about how I needed to find someone different,” Steve hisses, “and I turned around and said ‘she needs to look just like that’.“ And there was Betty Curse, drawn to the seedy city from Liverpool that very day having drunkenly bought tickets the previous
night, stood blackly radiant by the beer-pumps. “There was a light on her, or maybe I saw a light.”
He had no net, but he child-caught her. The pair found a bond in the bleaker seams of the mind and together they hatched a plan to contaminate the world.
“With my obsession with death and Steve’s fascination with the macabre,” Betty explains, “we take that and write a song about it with pop sensibility, so the parent listening to it will think ‘isn’t that sweet, a love song’, but the kid listening to it will get that the love
song isn’t as sweet as it sounds, usually there’s quite a malevolent undertone to it.”
So in the underworld labyrinth of studio burrows beneath Brighton, ministered by the song writing talents of Eugene Kelly, Davey from The Crimea and the skull-hung guitar of Eighties Matchbox’s Andy Huxley, they forged a deceptively doe-eyed rock album that’ll have the same effect on the nation’s youth as the face melting ghoul masks in ‘Halloween 3’. Listen, but not too close. ‘God This Hurts’ is a punk pop sweetmeat laced with poisonous revenge (“I really really want your blood/Make you pay/For my pain.”). ‘Thin Ice’ is suicide note disguised as a gambolling, hand-clapping ‘love song’ (“Please take me while I’m young and fit/You gotta spread my ashes thin.”). ‘The Look On Tony’s Face’ wraps biting political satire in the language of the prom date (“(You should’ve seen the look on
Tony’s face/When the President went all the way/Kissed, kissed/Kissed on a first date… SLUT!”). And dig through the chartbound Pixie-esque sugar-riffs of ‘Rot In Heaven’ and ‘Excuse All The Blood’ and you’re elbow deep in images of crucifix masturbation and
“’Excuse All The Blood’ was inspired by Dead from Mayhem,” Betty grins hungrily. “He slit his wrists and shot himself in the head and his suicide note just said ‘Excuse All The Blood’. Everyone thought he had no sense of humour so his suicide note proved everyone wrong. We thought that was just hilarious, to leave it until that point to let everyone know what you’re like, and to have such a gruesome death. There’s a photo of it, you can actually see this pink brain.”
And so, like rotting lake scum tweezered from the bloated flesh of a drowns victim, Betty Curse’s gruesome scheme is gradually
exposed. She intends to flutter and coo her way into the charts before unravelling her tendrils and infecting our children with her diabolic viruses. But will there not be outrage when the elders work out what she’s singing?
“I think parents aren’t really that clever,” Betty giggles. “They’d be outraged if they were listening to Marilyn Manson because the music’s so heavy and they’d look at his picture but they probably don’t listen to what he was singing because it’s not that different to a pop song. Whereas with the image we’ve got, gothic but in a more romantic way, and because I’m not trying to be sexy, I’m not coming on like Christina Aguilera, so I’m not a threat to the kids and I’m not a threat to the parents. I’m not outwardly saying ‘go cut yourself’, instead I’m just singing a song and if they read into it the right way then it’s their choice. No-one could ever say I’ve influenced anybody.”
We’ll see, when people start killing themselves…
“I’d hold my hands up to it. And fingers in boxes, yeah, as long as they’re still bloody.”
Are you ready for it, Betty?
“I think I’m ready for it.”
She smiles sweetly, Princess Megan at the pinnacle of her fairy-tale life.
Then her eyes flash crimson, just for an instant.
“The question is are they ready for me?”
Call in the exorcists. You’ve been Cursed.