The Bells Toll on Rock & Roll

Posted October 26, 2007 in Music

Gather round grand-laddies for a yarn o’ the musical kind. Cauldron’s a-bubblin’ stew, record player’s a-spinnin’ and ghouls are a-hauntin’ (hope them kiddies appreciate swag!), so that rockin’, err, spookin’ time’s near and these ramblins’ will make yer wonder. See, in days of yore LPs spoke a track-by-track language, relaying unspoken undertones upon repeated frequency. Yep, it’s true, rockers heldfast to that venerable album concept, rarely surrenderin’ singles to the Billboard 100 or—

Don’t go gettin’ carried away, Grandma J.

Shhh! As I was sayin’, songs told stories and Oh! The stories they could tell. Still ‘member how that music made us smile—  


O-kay! Grandma K, lift that needle. This jangle plays louder’n words. Listen closely, hear?

Now, the King went down to Georgia in summer ’67 to strike a career-revitalizin’ deal. But a quick soul swap off Route 666 left him shakin’ in blue suede shoes. See, he summoned the angel of death—who dressed real dark-like with the eyes of someone who killed a man just ‘cause, resembled Johnny Cash—with fiery chords from an Ouija-made Fender. 

A what?

He darn fashioned that gui-tar from a hollowed Ouija board, kiddo. Seems awakening the devilish takes more’n three knocks.

There’s a price for messin’ with lower forces and this pompadour-ed man maxed his soul on a regretful promise. ‘Course, he’d be forced to fade on uppers and downers instead of classically burning-out, but would make-out in rock heaven, have a grand band called the Forever 27’s. All that man-child knew was where he was going, he might as well be God. Whole shebang was evil with an “s,” ask us.

King grieved the first death—one Jimi Hendrix, lost in 1970, only 27. He’d seen him at Monterey Pop, hell, excuse my language children, the sucker was journeyin’ there before Georgia tempted. Seemed drugs done Jimi in good. Truth told, Devil was all over that in the summer of love. Sitting in his Graceland room, he reckoned he’d been bitter that faithless deal-strikin’ day, a tad cocky even, but ‘twasn’t time for second-guessin’.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Jimi rode up on a suave lifter—whole contraption was wrapped wall-to-wall in purple velvet. Confused from the haze, he barely noticed his electric gleamed gold. But boy knew music was religion there—and was hella experienced.

Wasn’t a half-song later, ‘nother pearl got buried in blues. Janis Joplin lived like a scientific hypothesis; never realizin’ one failed experiment would make the last at 27. Her Big Mama voice took a piece of our King’s heart, and drugs—hallucinogens, heroin—took a piece of hers. A fool would’ve sensed a pattern, but he merely wondered if she’d voice his revival.

Janis rolled into holier things, Mercedes-Benz included. Jimi motioned her through and she, no crybaby, laughed, revealing a throat color ‘o liquid gold. “Forget the past,” he said. “Things ain’t what they used to be.”


Lookie here—music-makers at the door. Give’em Petty treats right quick.

Where were we, now? Right. King went to Vegas; musically died there, a has-been with adoring fans. A self-medicated year passed, his marriage crumbled. Soon learned another weary genius—a poet—had departed. Reeked of mystery, but addiction wasn’t secret. The lonely poet, he thought, a songwriter . . . permanently? And his age . . . did they deserve it, his forever friends?

Jim Morrison walked the line in lizard boots, cartin’ a notebook—havin’ just left some sorta porcelain throne, he hardly glimpsed gold-leafed pages. “Finally broke on through,” he heard, saw Janis and Jimi waitin’. The music done died and he half-expected Lester Bang’s laughter.

Six years shortly, yep, that ironical Devil, our King was borderline-obese, self-conscious and fadin’ fast. Had Vegas shows scheduled by dozens, but returned to Memphis, stopped in Georgia for a final countdown. O’course, his fame posthumously multiplied; look-alikes at every corner, today.

He showed in heaven pre-washed-out state—cat suit, scarves, everything. That grand band was there too. “I’ve been waiting for ton-” he began, but seein’ those golden players, misery overcame. 

So they holed up in some sky-studio, practicin’ and waitin’. And even come time John Bonham arrived, forever 32, a drummer wasn’t the deal-breaker.  

‘Round then, King was content; his band matched in heaven and he couldn’t bear to cause further upheaval on earth. But Hell boy’s known for tricks.  

Still, our King began thinkin’ he’d won, Ouija-riffed sin into submission. He watched his former Graceland, sending Forever angels down that Georgia highway to lend inspiration in bouts of rockin’ despair. Gang even jumpstarted a ’90s revolution. But, just when grungy glory flamed, finely tuned prodigies began cavin’ domino-style. First ‘twas a loverocker, the Wood, then Kurt Cobain.  

Kurt was 27, only meant one thing—destined an eternal Forever-er (they’d dropped the “27” years before). Died more tragically, this one did. Lucifer’d grown darker, if possible. 

King wanted the best and he’d got the best, ‘course we’re left sufferin’.

Kurt and Pearl fronted that heaven band; became just as good as imagined. But on earth, rock was burnin’ bad.

Shannon Hoon and Layne Stayley went next. Then on, things turned off . . . like the player done now. 

Oh, Elvis continues sending angels down that road—hailed “King’s Highway” nowadays—to brighten the industry, but Ryan Adams can’t be fixin’ everything and, as you children know, we’re itchin’ for musical salvation. Maybe someday we’ll traverse that highway fo’real babies, but for now, this is the end. 



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