For decades, merch and music have gone hand in hand, countless posters of boy bands, rock stars and rappers have adorned the bedroom walls of teenagers, and iconic t-shirts such as The Ramones logo or Nirvana’s smiley face have transcended those band’s fandoms to become ubiquitous fashion items in their own right.
Other products serve as perfect, blank receptacles for just about any branding you could think of - you can get yourself a Britney Spears or even a Miles Davis Funko Pop, or play on a Jimi Hendrix slot machine.
The history of popular music is also strewn with less obvious items of merch, items that might be of dubious taste, knowingly ironic, or just downright baffling.
Kiss - Coffin
We begin in the dubious taste category with perhaps the most infamous example of bizarre merch by a band notorious for their, some would say, excessive commercialisation.
The "Kiss Kasket", a coffin emblazoned with the band's iconography, was released in 2001 and sold for $3,900, the band’s heavily-tongued bassist Gene Simmons commented, “I like livin’, but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good.”
And yes, in case you were wondering, people have indeed been buried in these, among them legendary Pantera and Damageplan guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell whose Kiss Kasket was donated by Simmons after he was tragically shot and killed by an obsessed fan in 2004.
Deadmau5 - Cat Headphones
Sometimes the things people do in the name of cuteness might actually stray into the realm of minor animal cruelty.
In 2012, Audio manufacturer Sol Republic teamed up with the star DJ/producer’s cat Professor Meowingtons, pHd - who is something of a celebrity in his own right - to create $1,000 headphones that would enable your cat to have an immersive listening experience of your choice imposed on them.
Professor Meowingtons' name became the subject of a trademark dispute between the EDM artist and a cat-themed online retailer also called Meowingtons. The dispute was settled in 2018.
One Direction - Duct Tape
An example of where the chosen item doesn't seem to be aligned whatsoever with the demographic that you'd typically expect to be fans of the band. One Direction duct tape is an object that seems to silently ask questions of itself.
Sadly there's no information on how this bizarrely mundane artefact of modern pop culture came into being, although the product description claims that you can use the tape for a whole array of "ducktivities" including but not limited to: "decorating school supplies, closing packages and creating crafts like picture frames, bookmarks, wallets and more."
Justin Timberlake - Axe
Another strangely utilitarian choice for a piece of merchandise.
The choice of an axe was inspired by Justin’s song “Livin’ Off the Land”. Although there is no mention of the word “axe” anywhere in the song's lyrics, it could be argued that if you were to live off the land, then an axe would be an essential item... fair enough.
Still, it's hard to imagine that Justin Timberlake’s online merch store would be the first port of call for a burly woodsman in need of a sharp new blade.
The Rolling Stones - Telephone
The Stones’ iconic tongue and lips logo has appeared on many pieces of merchandise since its introduction in 1971, but The Rolling Stones Telephone might be the classic design’s strangest and coolest application.
The attention-grabbing piece of vintage kitsch dates back to the early 80s and is sadly - but obviously - now out of production since no one uses landlines any more.
The famous logo was designed by then art student, John Pasche, and inspired by the tongue of the Hindu goddess Kali, a suggestion made by Mick Jagger since the band were unhappy with the designs presented to them by their label at the time, Decca Records.
Slayer - Christmas Sweater
Metal bands have long played with ironically juxtaposing the hyper-masculine, death-obsessed, Satan-bothering image of their genre with things that are more cutesy and wholesome.
Back in the 1980s, Slayer was a seriously scary band, pushing the boundaries of metal both lyrically and musically but it looks like old age may have softened them.
Nonetheless, there’s a good chance that your nan would be none-too-pleased with the Slayer Christmas Sweater, which is decorated with skulls and inverted pentagrams.
The Flaming Lips - Silver Trembling Fetus
Another festive item. Released in time for Christmas, 2009, this weird tree decoration doesn’t actually look as disturbing as the name might suggest, even so, this time, the famously eccentric Flaming Lips might have reached the apex of their own weirdness.
In a YouTube video on the band’s official channel, lead singer Wayne Coyne explains that the Fetus’ trembling emits vibrations that will help you and yours “progress toward an intelligence explosion”, something that he makes clear is not “scientifically proven”.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Video Game
Though not the first video game to be based on a popular band, the Frankie Goes to Hollywood video game - released in 1985 - is from an age where such things were yet to be common and is particularly strange and inventive.
Though it refrains from delving into such controversial (for the time) themes as the band’s mega-hit “Relax”, it still manages to pack in such oddities as the disembodied heads of Thatcher and Reagan fighting each other.
The gameplay itself sees the player attempting to solve a murder mystery, while intermittently completing surreal minigames in order to become “a 100% complete person worthy of escaping Mundanesville and entering the Pleasure Dome”.
Radiohead - Crying Minotaur Plush
Plushes are generally cute and cuddly, Radiohead’s official Crying Minotaur Plush on the other hand is - appropriately for a band known for their dour and unsettling music - like a nightmare risen from the darkest recesses of your subconscious.
The Minotaur made its first appearance in the band’s imagery on the cover of their 2001 album Amnesiac.
Each of these was a one-of-a-kind item, made from recycled t-shirts, which is certainly commendable but still, it’s probably best not to give your child one of these unless you’re prepared to factor in the costs of the resulting therapy.
Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP: 16th Anniversary Brick
Hip-hop is a genre in which its stars’ personal lives frequently ascend to musical mythology, and to mark the 16th anniversary of the legendary Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem gave his fans a chance to own a literal piece of his story.
A limited run of 700 special editions was released, each containing a brick from the rapper’s childhood home with a certificate of authenticity signed by the man himself and a cassette tape of the album.
The home, which appears on the album’s cover, was demolished in 2013 after a fire rendered it structurally unsound.