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MonsterTalk is the science show about monsters—a free audio podcast that critically examines the science behind cryptozoological (and legendary) creatures, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or werewolves. Hosted by Blake Smith and Dr. Karen Stollznow.

Oct 19, 2020

Peter Bebergal returns (previously on episode #180 with his book Strange Frequencies)  to discuss magic, witchcraft, and the occult and how those things impacted the world of Rock & Roll music.  Check the attachment to this episode for a bunch of music links relevant to the show and Peter's book Season of the Witch.

 

Speaking of books - Karen has a new one and I made an easy to remember shortcut to it on Amazon:  http://bit.ly/OnTheOffensive
(The lettering case in that link does matter.)

Discussed in the episode:

Image of David Bowie in "Diamond Dogs" album (MOMA)

Made for TV Movie: Devil Dog - The Hound of Hell

The George Harrison "documentary" Karen mentions - Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison (There is a lot of mixed messaging out there on whether this is a serious but wacky documentary or a silly but confusing mockumentary. It was originally released as a documentary but the filmmaker has since reclassified it as "mockumentary" - was this for legal reasons?) FYI: The narration is not by George Harrison.

The UFO Club in London was a short-lived hub of early lights & sounds and psychedelic imagery. It only operated over a two-year span but had a tremendous impact on music culture - and on posters for bands.


Peter's original SOTW Spotify List (link)

Song/Album

Notes

Fire (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown)

Starts with the iconic (and parent-frightening) "I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE..."

Sacred Songs (Daryl Hall)

Daryl Hall (!?) album inspired by the work of Aleister Crowley

Cross Road Blues (Robert Johnson)

While the legend of the blues musician at the crossroads is often applied to Robert Johnson, it has earlier roots with...

Cool Drink of Water Blues (Tommy Johnson)

Tommy Johnson, not related to Robert, was the focus of an earlier version of the crossroads legend

Anthology of American Folk Music (via archive.org)

A partial selection of the 6-album (3, 2-record ea) set of American Folk Music curated by Harry Smith.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Pink Floyd)

The Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd would change a lot after Barrett's descent into mental illness, but there are psychedelic and occult themes in this eclectic early Floyd album. Interstellar Overdrive is a good long instrumental track to read Bebergal's book to.

My Sweet Lord (George Harrison)

Perhaps the most public of the musician seekers, Harrison's ode to the search for a connection to the numinous was very successful - and also (accidentally?) directly copied He's So Fine by The Chiffons.

Shankar: Dhun (Ravi Shankar)

Sitar would meet Guitar when the Beatles went to India and met gurus and traditional Indian musicians, most famously Ravi Shankar.

Lucifer Rising soundtrack (Bobby BeauSoleil)

The soundtrack to occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger's movie Lucifer Rising was supposed to be done by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, but things happened. (This complicated story is covered in Bebergal's book.)

War Pigs (Black Sabbath)

The Ozzy Osborne led band would take its name from an Italian horror film, but like Alice Cooper, the "occult" aspects of Sabbath appear to be entirely performative. Consider Ozzy's paean to Aleister Crowley in which he fails to pronounce the old occultist's name right. (Crowley rhymes with holy.) 

Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)

The Stones' "wicked" song - was it inspired by Baudelaire or Kenneth Anger? And how many times do the band sing "who? who?" in this 6-minute treat?

Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin)

Combining elements of Tolkien fantasy and drug-fueled psychedelic experiences, LZ music combined many elements of fictional and authentic occult imagery. Jimmy Page's interest in Aleister Crowley is legendary with him even buying Crowley's Loch Ness adjacent home Boleskin.

Mephisto Waltz (Misfits)

The punk band Misfits took their imagery and themes from horror movies and the occult as well.

Jack Parsons (The Claypool Lennon Delirium)

This came out after Bebergal's book, but this is an amazing modern throwback to the psychedelic era that also tells a weirdly surprisingly accurate story of Jack Parsons, occultist, and rocketeer.

Hotter than Hell (KISS)

KISS aligned itself with wild stage antics and imagery, but in the 1970s even having the word "hell" in your song titles could lead to allegations that your band's name really stood for "Knights in Satan's Service." (Narrator: It didn't.)

Life on Mars? (David Bowie)

Bowie's role in occult rock history is really quite peculiar and not what I expected. Often in drug-fueled paranoia of the occult, his off-stage behavior stands in stark contrast from the on-stage cool presence.  I wanted to include a song from him on this list and this peculiar antithesis to My Way is one I really like.

After Cease to Exist (Throbbing Gristle)

I'm not recommending this 20 min weird and disturbing soundscape - but if you're feeling a bit like Frank in Hellraiser and just wonder what the cenobites probably jam to?  Anyway, in Bebergal's book, there are some interesting tidbits about how Throbbing Gristle's members became involved with William S. Burroughs and the occult aspects of his life.

Bela Lugosi's Dead (Bauhaus)

The song that kicked off the goth scene. It doesn't take 9 mins to tell people that Bela Lugosi (the actor who played Dracula in the 1931 Universal horror film) is dead… but it does the Bauhaus way. 

Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden)

Peter doesn't write about Iron Maiden in the book, but growing up in the 80s, Iron Maiden was one of the many reasons I refused to get a 96 Rock Card. I was so not into heavy metal and it was weird catching up on that stuff in my 40s instead of my teens.

In Search Of Space (Hawkwind)

Before Motorhead, Lemmy sang about UFOs. (Well, I think that's what he's singing about?)

Door of the Cosmos (Sun Ra)

Sun Ra's jazz music isn't really rock, but it's something. And I think magician Penn Jillette mentions Sun Ra about as often as he mentions James Randi.

Witch Trial (Black Mass Lucifer)

The pioneering electronic album Black Mass Lucifer - or is it Black Mass by Lucifer? - is an album by electronic music audio explorer Mort Garson. It's occult-themed but its weird MOOG tonal tapestries, without the context of title or lyrics, would be hard to classify as specifically "magic" themed. 

The Tales of Topographic Oceans (Yes)

A friend once described to me how that in the 1970s it was common to put on long, trippy albums and just stare at album artwork and go on imaginary journeys. With a cover by Roger Dean and just four songs, each about 20 mins in length, I think this is exactly what he was talking about. I once had an angry Navy training instructor basically spit at Yes's "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and shout to the class "It ain't Yes unless it takes 15 minutes to listen to and has a 5-minute guitar solo!"

Apes**t (Beyonce and Jay-Z)

Jay-Z has played around with the imagery of the illuminati and occult. Here's an article about the imagery use in the video for this song.

Secular Haze (Ghost B.C.)

Combines ghoulish occult imagery with monk garb and skeletal makeup. Swedish in origin, but not flat-packed.