Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” has never been more resonant than it is now, in the year of Ebola hysteria.
Blood was its Avatar and its seal –the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men.
So this being All Hallows’ Eve, why not give it a read, or better yet a listen. I’ll give you two versions to choose from. Either the classic, classy British-accent version by Basil Rathbone:
Or the extra-twisted version read by old Uncle Bill:
After reading a piece on Dangerous Minds the other day where they posted the various individual tracks of “Helter Skelter” (thanks to Lady E for pointing that out), I was inspired to create my own mix in GarageBand. I’m reasonably pleased with the results; it ended up sounding very 90s somehow, with touches of early Nirvana grind, Pixies loud/quiet/loud dynamics, and Sonic Youth dissonance. See what you think:
P.S.: It was only after posting this that I found out today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, and now I feel a little guilty for putting so much focus on a Paul song. Although you can hear John playing very raw and aggressive bass on “Helter Skelter” – which is, let’s be honest, Paul writing in a consciously Lennonesque vein. I can just picture him stamping his little feet and wailing, “I can rock out too, y’know, it’s not joost John who can do that.”
P.P.S.: Then he probably would have said something about the fridge-a-dilly.
P.P.P.S: For some thoughts about the Lennon shooting, read here.
The third installment of anything is usually a mistake (see: Godfather III, Spider-Man 3, Return of the Jedi, etc.), but I can’t help myself from taking one more trip back to the place where I grew up. This suite of songs continues more or less on the theme of the previous installment, i.e. disconnection, alienation, getting lost, etc.
As so often happens, this thing started out small and rapidly grew out of control. But it certainly sounds good to me. You may feel similarly, you may not, how am I to know? In any case, here it is:
A recent 80s-centric post got me on a bit of an 80s kick, and in listening to a bunch of that music I noticed a pervasive theme that had previously escaped me: a general sense of things not connecting, getting lost, breaking down (interesting that this ran side-by-side with the shiny sense of newness reflected in the previous post). A lot of songs express this in the form of transportation metaphors: cars crashing, planes not arriving, and so on.
Hence, this podcasty nugget of transmissions from the Golden Olden Days. Most of the artists represented here are English, I’m not sure why. Perhaps because their national decay was slightly more advanced than ours at the time; where things stand in 2010, I don’t feel qualified to say.
To lighten things up a bit I’ve included a couple of clips from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Though not a career highlight for anyone involved, this 1987 John Hughes film fits the theme and has a phenomenal cast, including Steve Martin, John Candy, Michael McKean, Ben Stein, and the chronically undervalued Edie McClurg. If nothing else, it connected all these people to Kevin Bacon, who has a cameo as the guy who steals Steve’s cab.
As a general rule I detest 80s nostalgia, because it tends to focus on the aspects of 80s culture that I liked the least. But there is no denying that they were the Good Old Days. In the privacy of my own mind I often time-travel to that now-somewhat-long-ago era, and I always have a good time there.
One of these flashbacks was triggered the other day by the distinctly post-80s technomagic of my iPod. I like to listen to the songs on it in alphabetical order, as I am all too happy to discuss with anyone who will listen. Lately I have been in the Ns, and when a bunch of songs starting with the word “New” came up, it was hard not to notice that almost all of them were from the 80s. I guess we were kind of obsessed with newness back then—it was Morning in America after all, and while I never cared for Ronald Wilson Reagan 666, I have to admit that his version of America was pretty fun. There was a lot of energy in the air in them days. We were all going to be rich and excellent and sexy and cool… smash cut to Rodney Dangerfield on the back patio at Bushwood Country Club shouting “We’re all gonna get laid!”
And it was all bogus of course, all a big delusion that would come crashing down soon enough. But what a delusion. I don’t know if the kids today are still capable of feeling that way about the future. I hope they are, because everybody deserves the chance to be stupidly grandiose and optimistic until they are at least 18.
So anyway…won’t you join me in a quick 31-minute trip to the magical land of yesteryear? This may be a little heavy on the technopop for some people, but then that was the 80s in a nutshell, wasn’t it? Playlist and notes after the jump. (more…)