Coven was formed in the late 1960s in Chicago, Illinois.
While studying at North Central High School in Indiana, future lead singer
Jinx Dawson had begun singing opera and delving into the occult. Given her
excellent singing voice, she got involved in the local rock music scene.
She and some classmates began to form rock groups and perform locally. Nothing
much came of this, although after graduating high school, Jinx attended
Butler University, where she remained involved in the local rock scene. Shortly
thereafter Jinx broke away from the local scene, and Indianapolis itself,
with two of her bandmates, Steve Ross and Oz Osborne, and headed to Chicago
to form Coven. The name obviously had its origins in the medieval
superstition of witchcraft; a coven of thirteen witches was a parody of
both the nun's covenant and Christ with his twelve disciples. While Coven
was not made up of thirteen members, the name aptly described the lyrical
content and interests of the band members. Jinx recalls, "The satanic thing
actually was something we were interested in and were studying at the time.
When you're younger, you're looking for answers, and a lot of members of
the band were looking into the same books at the same time. We studied it,
we practiced it, but we only went so far. We didn't do anything bad."
The music Coven played was not far removed from the music of bands
of the era like Jefferson Airplane, a connection made even more evident
with the lead female vocals in both bands. But instead of the peace &
love ideals of the turn on, tune in, drop out generation, which other late
60s bands were embracing, Coven's lyrics dealt with Satanism, witchcraft,
curses and evil. Aside from the celebrated legend of Robert Johnson, and
the occasional song like "That Old Black Magic" by the likes of Frank Sinatra,
Satanism and the occult had never been dealt with by popular musicians.
The Stones are usually cited as a Satanic band (at least in the later
60s), but their Satanic Majesties Request was a gimmick with no "evil"
songs and, despite it's threatening title, "Sympathy For the Devil" had less
to do with Satanism and more to do with Mikhail Bulgakov's classic novel
about Satan and religion, "The Master and the Margarita". The song's infamous
reputation from Altamont (probably) came after Coven's album was released.
Black Widow did have music out under the name of Pesky Gee!
but it was not Satanic. Coven performed locally in the Chicago area
until they attracted the attention of Mercury Records in the fall of 1969.
Before the Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls LP, Coven had
a 7" single out, the A-side being a cover of Dylan's "We Shall Be Released"
and the b-side, "I've Come." Their press release from Mercury Records mentioned
a previous album they recorded for another label that was shelved and never
When singing their recording contract with Mercury, the band reportedly
signed in blood (a common motif of soul-selling stories, a la Faust, Theophilus,
etc.) but this was just a hint of the theatrics to come. After securing
the deal, Jinx, Oz and Steve, along with a handful of session musicians,
recorded what is probably the first album of purely Satanic songs ever recorded,
LaVey's Satanic Mass notwithstanding. The LP was entitled Witchcraft
Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls. While the occult and Satanism were in
the public eye, with LaVey's founding of the Church of Satan in 1966 and
a slew of occult books (including The Satanic Bible) an open promotion of
the subject had not been attempted, The Stones coming the closest,
but even they backed off before they seriously offended people.
About the session musicians: In 1967 a band called Aorta released a self-titled
album that is now regarded as a psychedelic classic. A man named Jim Donlinger
was the leader of Aorta and Coven chose him to mix their Witchcraft
LP. He not only arranged the album, he wrote or co-wrote the majority of
songs on it as well, played guitar and also sang background vocals. Another
member of Aorta, Jim Nyeholt, played piano and keyboards. Adding to
the Aorta family was Bill Traut, who produced not only Witchcraft
but Aorta and Shadows of Knight. Donlinger and Nyeholt were
members of a Christian band called The Exceptions who recorded an EP
in 1966. Apparently, Donlinger went on to perform more Christian music (!)
under the name of James Vincent. What he was doing with Coven is anyone's
guess and on his webpage, he does not mention Coven or Witchcraft
in his "resume." In any case, Mercury took off with the band's Satanic theme.
Among the promotional advertisements for the album was "Coven. They
just made one hell of an album. They'll destroy your mind and reap your soul."
The songs themselves were good, but standard acid-rock songs. In fact,
unlike later bands such as Black Sabbath, Coven's music was
just not particuarly atmospheric. Granted, speaking from a 2002 perspective,
where we've seen the rise of Black Sabbath, Slayer, the whole
black metal genre - I'm sure Witchcraft raised quite a few eyebrows
at the time. It is speculated that the musical theatrics were kept to a minimum
in order to emphasize Jinx's voice, which is of course possible. What was
striking about the album was the overall theme. The album art was as sinister
and Satanic as the lyrics to the songs; the front cover featured Jinx, Steve
and Oz against a black background, all three wearing inverted crosses, crowded
around a skull. The inside gatefold, however, featured a naked young woman
on an altar, a chalice strategically covering her sex. It was bizarre enough,
but not illegal - even Playboy was not allowed to show pubic hair in the
magazine because it was considered obscene at the time. Incidentally, the
woman is not, as popuarly assumed, Jinx. Jinx refused to do it because, according
to Donlinger/Vincent, she felt she was too overweight. Women... Also
stated is that the album was filled with what appeared to be "authentic"
images from the 16th century.
The first side of the record was comprised of Satanic acid-rock songs,
while the second side was even more bold, featuring one 15-minute track
entitled "Satanic Mass." The band claimed it was an actual recording of a
Satanic Mass. Although the liner notes claim that it is the first such recording
the band was aware of, Anton LaVey had released an LP (which has since made
it to CD) a year earlier entitled Satanic Mass. The inside jacket
of Witchcraft cautioned listeners to the potential dangers. "To the
best of our knowledge, this is the first Black Mass to be recorded, either
in written words or in audio. It is as authentic as hundreds of hours of
research in every known source can make it. We do not recommend its use by
anyone who has not thoroughly studied Black Magic and is aware of the risks
and dangers involved." It also says, "For further information and source material,
write: Coven, in care of Dunwich Productions, 25 East Chestnut, Chicago,
The album become an underground hit and while it never made any headway
on the mainsteam rock n' roll charts, the band received plenty of notoriety
for their image. In Chicago, the police forbade the band to say anything
in between their songs, although other venues were much more lenient, giving
Coven ample room for an elaborate stage show. Quoted in "The Lords
of Chaos" by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind, Oz Osbourne recounts
Coven's outrageous stage show. "We did a lot of our album and other things
as our stage show, intermixing the Black Mass, or Satanic Mass, as kind
of a segueway between the songs. Behind the stage we had an altar and on
top of the altar we had what we called a Christian cross and we had one of
our road people hanging on the Christian cross as Jesus, and he kind of
just stayed there doing the whole show. Our stage was lit with obviously a
lot of reds, and we had candles and that kind of thing. Then we would do our
whole album and other materials that all dealt with interesting stories of
witchcraft. Of course we were costumed ... right at the end of our set we
did a Procol Harum song that was just appropriate, called "Walpurgis."
And right in the middle of it we break into the "Ave Maria." At that point
Jinx would do the benediction of the Black Mass and she'd recite the Latin
bits and she would go, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,"
which is Crowley ... She'd say the Crowley bit then would hail Satan and would
turn around and scream, "Hail Satan!" at the cross and altar, at which point
the guy (Jesus) would pull his arms off the cross, get down, invert the
cross into the Satanic symbol and would go dancing off the stage while the
music was still playing." As Coven became more notorious, they attracted
the attention of Anton LaVey. They became a sort of in-house band in the
Church of Satan in California, and LaVey planned to form a "Satanic Woodstock"
in Detriot on Halloween, wherein Coven would play before LaVey addressed
the crowd. It was, unfortunately, cancelled due to controversy.
After a couple months on sale, Coven's Witchcraft album
was recalled. Why? Because of an article Esquire magazine was running, entitled
"Evil Lurks in California," shortly after the Manson murders. It was about
the whole psychedelic Satanism scene in late 60s California, of which Manson
was, by that time, the most (in)famous. The article also discussed Head
Shops selling Satanic jewelry. To hype the article, Esquire ran a cover with
a picture of Manson standing outside a record store in L.A. He had a record
under his arm. Guess which record he had? Yup - Witchcraft Destroys Minds
and Reaps Souls... As 1970 dawned and Coven had yet to break into
the mainstream market, the band signed with a management crew and moved out
to California to pursue their now Satan-less career. Their next two albums
are therefor not included on this page.