27 May 2012

Songs for Sunday Suggested by John Wesley White

Following Tuesday's post about John Wesley White's Thinking the Unthinkable.

Pastor White is a rock 'n' roll revisionist, a fearless man who strays far from conventional thought and expression. Billboard be damned. In Arming for Armageddon (1983), White put it that Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" not only topped the U.S. singles chart, but was part of a satanic effort to lure listeners into accepting the Antichrist.

Thinking the Unthinkable (1992) has Laurie Anderson allied with Kiss in playing the devil's music:
"The Elder", the bands's all-time top album, was "concerned with a group of god-like figures who've watched over the planet since its beginnings in primordial ooze." The Elder is "an orphan boy who, through a succession of events, comes to save the world"*
See... just like Kal-el.

During the nine years separating the two books, White has come to believe that the Antichrist is an orphan (hence the dropping of King Juan Carlos from contention); otherwise the pastor's thinking is unchanged: "Britain's successors to the Beatles were the punk rock groups. Most notorious was Sid Vicious..."

Here White continues to be confused about Sid, whom he describes variously as a man and a band. Eventually, he settled on a the former with a sentence lifted from Arming for Armageddon: "His theme song was "Anarchy in the U.K.", in which he boasted of being an 'anarchist' and 'antichrist'."

I take issue. Sid was no role model, but I can find no evidence that he appropriated "Anarchy in the U.K.", a song he didn't write, performed here by a band of which he wasn't yet a member.

White is never so interesting, nor surprising as when he writes about popular music. I was taken aback in reading that in 1993 teenagers were being drawn increasingly to old chestnuts about ending it all:
Elton John sings about contemplating suicide; Elyse Wineberg says he is mortuary-bound; and British rock group Tin Lizzy belts out 'Suicide'.

Emboldened by the pastor's wavering over Sid Vicious, I challenge his assertion about "British rock group Tin Lizzy" through verse:
Lizzy was thin,
Not made of tin,
And came from Dublin.

Phil Lynott, the man who sang "Suicide", was long dead when Thinking the Unthinkable was published, but not by his own hand.

I admit, Elyse Weinberg was a mystery to me. A bit of digging reveals that Elyse is not a fella, as the pastor believes, but a woman. "Mortuary Bound" features on her 1968 debut album Elyse, which was released on the obscure Tetragrammaton label:

The same album peaked at #31 in the United States, and failed to chart in Canada, which pretty much explains why I'd never heard of Ms Weinberg.

The same album features a song with Neil Young on guitar:

Nineteen-sixty-eight was, of course, the year Young left Buffalo Springfield. He struck out on his own, playing intimate venues like Canterbury House, a small Anglican – sorry – Episcopal chapel in Ann Arbour Michigan.

Pastor White doesn't think much of the Episcopal Church.

Wonder how many people showed up for the free eats.

* The album – correct title: Music from "The Elder" – was a commercial failure. Released in 1981, it holds the distinction of being the worst-selling album in the band's 39-year history.


  1. Alas, Phil did die by his own hand.

    1. True, drugs and alcohol did him in, but the spoon and bottle weren't used in place of revolver or blade. What I meant was that he wasn't a suicide.

  2. "...god-like figures who've watched over the planet since its beginnings in primordial ooze"

    This sounds a lot like H. P. Lovecraft who called all of his mythical figures "the old ones." And later Lovecraft acolytes called them "the elder gods" after August Derleth created even more. I'm sure there's an entire subgenre of heavy metal (music I cannot listen to even for a few seconds) that could be called Cthulhu Metalos.

    1. And here's where I admit that Music from "The Elder" is the only Kiss album I've ever bought. As I recall, I paid $2.99 after coming across a stack in a cut-out bin. Why? I read somewhere that Lou Reed had something to do with one of the songs.

      The album is still shrink-wrapped. Older readers will know what that means.