***Chapter 8*** The Devil Is In Our Hearts
I have this radio show on campus. From 5-6 every Wednesday I play indie rock out of Mississauga’s only radio station. You can listen to it at www.cfreradio.com, if you don’t mind blurring the lines between the fictional me I present here, the fictional me I present on the show, and the real me that somehow climbs out of the gutters from time to time and refuses to be shunned by such literary trickery. I think this is a first, actually. Has anyone else in any other book invited you to hear them speak and listen to why they dig the new Metric album so much? I don’t think so. And that’s why this whole thing is special.
I don’t do this show alone. I used to try and pull that off, and while some people say my shows en uno were really great, I got really bored, really fast. Having someone else in the booth puts things on another level. What makes things interesting is that Mouna is absolutely convinced I hate all of her music, even though I own half of it. To tell you the truth I don’t really hate any music. There’s “not liking” and “not enjoying particularly” but hate? Nah. Well, except music about God and Jesus and all that non secular crap.
What we ended up talking about on the show today was Robert Johnson, the old blues singer who pretty much invented Rock and Roll. This began when I pointed out, rather uneducatedly, that the more one hears the “words” of a song rather than the music itself (as in the singer becomes basically an instrument himself) the farther one gets away from Satan and closer to God. I mentioned this because for some reason we were talking about non secular music and I mentioned how much I hate it because all it is is lyrics and shit for music. Ever been in one of your friends’ moms’ car and the only CD’s they have are filled with “Jesus is Just All Right With Me”-esque music because mom thinks it’s wrong to listen to pop music? Aren’t those just the absolutely worst written, produced, played and recorded songs ever? They’re terrible. And they’re terrible because they have nothing to do with Satan.
Satan (or Mephistophanes, as he seems to prefer) is the reason rock and roll exists. Anyone with a Black Sabbath, ACDC, or heavy metal album not titled “Spinal Tap” knows this. However, Satan didn’t begin with heavy metal. He began with the blues, and specifically with a young Robert Jonson. For those who know the legend, you can skip past this, but for those who don’t, here’s the semi-official story of the origins of rock and roll. Here’s an excerpt (this is probably illegal in some way, especially since I’m ripping off the guys’ writing style to narrate this book) from Chuck Klosterman’s “Killing Yourself To Live”:
“Just north of Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49, the soul of rock n roll was spawned from Satan’s wheeling and dealing. This is the “crossroads” where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, thereby accepting eternity in hell in exchange for the ability to play the guitar like no man before him. Satan’s overpriced guitar lesson became the birth of modern blues…and by extension, the building blocks of every hard-rock song ever produced.”
So about the point about lyrics being the barometer of good and evil? Think about it for a second. What’s the kind of music that’s only about lyrics? Folk, country, gospel, and Christian rock (the biggest oxymoron I’ve ever heard). Folk and country, while they have their rebels (Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan being the best examples, but even these two have Churchy stuff) are genres where you will find the most legitimately listenable songs about God. On the other hand, what’s the kind of music that mostly allows the singer to use their voice as simply more music (or even worse, disguise the words so that you’re hearing them but not understanding them)? Hard rock, metal, and hardcore. And what symbolic finger gesture do fans of rock, metal, and hardcore eschew when seeing a f*cking great show? That’s right. They throw up the horns.
Even if you don’t believe that Johnson made a deal with Lucifer, you know that’s not the point. As does Klosterman, who says:
“This, of course, never actually happened. Robert Johnson met the devil about as many times as Jimmy Page, King Diamond, and Marilyn Manson did, which is to say “never.” But this doesn’t mean rock n roll wasn’t invented here. Rock n roll is only superficially about guitar chords; it’s really about myth. And the fact that people still like to pretend a young black male could be granted Lucifer’s darkest powers on the back roads of Coahoma county (and then employ this demonic perversity through music) makes Johnson’s bargain as real as anything else.”
The point of rock n roll then, is the stories that are told within. And stories don’t always take the form of words. Just because you can’t understand what the singer is saying in Broken Social Scene doesn’t mean there isn’t a story there. And just because you can hear every single “Praise Jesus!” doesn’t mean there is.
The fact is, everyone who enjoys rock music on any level is admitting to enjoying the work of Satan. Fully realizing this can take a lot out of a person. Also, fully realizing that this is pretty much all you’ve got in your life can take a lot out, too. The only real love in my life is music. And that means the only real love is the devil.
I’m eventually going to have to be okay with this. I hope it doesn’t take me down a path of evil.
But I’m the good guy, aren’t I?
Shouldn’t I be? At least in my own eyes?
What happens if you know that you’re the villain in not only your own book but your own life?
Does that mean the devil finally got to me?
And what can I blame, really? The music, or myself?
I am done for. I can tell already.