I have a vivid memory of driving across the painted desert in Arizona. Dad was driving, mom was asleep in the back, and I don’t know what my brother was doing but he was along. It would be the last of our families road trips which I always enjoyed and soon I would be off to college. Some AM radio station was on and I remember commenting that if you listen to an hour of those stations, you basically heard every piece of music they would play all day long. Suddenly my observation was proven wrong with a song I had never heard before blasted through the speakers. It was strange. In American Bandstand terms it had a good beat and you could probably dance to it. The lyrics were what was strange.
In the year 2525 if man is still alive if women can survive they may find -in the
year 3535 ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies everything you think you
do and say is in the pill you took today – –
There are other lyrics about picking a baby out of a test tube and some fascinating concepts what the future would be like. My father was not a chatty person when driving, but I do remember he and I discussing this music. I was getting close to graduating from high school and we had an interesting conversation about the frame of reference of books and music. He made some remarks about the fact that most of our music was the Beach Boy surfing safari kind, or the Elvis “Love Me Tender”, “Teddy Bear” kind of stuff, or the Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” variety. If there was a frightening note to anything it was unidentified as in the Beatles “Help”, or having to do with social pressure and young romance as in “Hide Your Love Away”. This song we listened to was different in a kind of Science Fiction way that was notable even to a 17 year old. The song was a part of an album (a record that came in a paper cover and had to be played on a turntable) called “Exordium and Terminus” (beginning and end). I didn’t buy it because I didn’t have a record player but my parents did and my next door neighbor and classmate did and he was a freak about music. My father’s comments were interesting and yet when I went home and talked to my neighbor he and I decided that a freaky kind of weirdness was in the music we listened to. From the “Paul is dead” phenomenon which destroyed numerous phonograph needles from playing records backwards, to the Stones “”Sympathy for the Devil” with a backdrop of self proclaimed witches hooting creating a hypnotic kind of energy, to the Doors “Riders on the Storm”, to Barry McGuire’s. “Eve of Destruction” there was a subtext of death and destruction and anarchy. Most of us got shivers listening in the dark on the AM, or gathered with friends in an attic back tracking “Revolution Number 9”. Little did we know that while we holed up in attics and scared ourselves with backtracked music, others were holed up in deserts where the owls and jackels are dreaming up apocalyptic wars and “Helter Skelter”.
The point is that something was happening around us and monsters were unleashed. Movie monsters and men from Mars trying to destroy everything, monsters in the home, murderous gangs, Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver turned gangster and killer. The Japanese serialized their PTSD over the atomic bomb and guys coming back from the War became “Hell’s Angels”. Home and family which were refuges suddenly became alien landscapes where children killed their parents and vice versa. The word family itself was polluted by the “Manson Family”. Movies like “Psycho” made privacy and personal space terrifying, while “The Night of the Living Dead” foreshadowed the quarantining and social distancing idea of the unknown threats from outside.
Today we are drenched in concepts, games, movies, TV programs, books and all kinds of media with vampires and zombies and the terror of the night and the pestilence that walks in the darkness. These are interesting concepts to think about as we sit at home contemplating whether of not we can leave our homes without some mayor making a decree to arrest us if we go outside. That should cause real terror but we seem to be settling into a pattern where we will go along with all kinds of terrible ideas just to be safe.
In the meantime we can pray. Luther said next to the Lord’s Prayer one of the greatest prayers is the litany, a portion of which reads –
From all sin, from all error, from all evil; from the crafts and assaults of the
devil; from sudden and evil death; from pestilence and famine; from war and
bloodshed, from sedition and from rebellion; from lightning and tempest, from all
calamity by fire and water; and from everlasting death: Good Lord, deliver us. (The
Litany, circa 1529)