The Bells Toll on Rock & Roll

Posted November 5, 2007 in Music

Gather round grand-laddies for a yarn o’ the musical kind. The Cauldron’s a-bubblin’ stew, the record player’s a-spinnin’ our hits and the neighborhood ghouls are a-hauntin’ (hope them kiddies appreciate SWAG!), so that rockin’, err, spookin’ time’s near and these ramblins’ will surely 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 them sky-high penthouses. Some never did wanna biz-nify music, but near stopped trustin’ intuition and got lost. So . . .

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 and never mind the damage done. This jangle plays louder’n words. Listen closely, ya’ll, hear?

Now, the King went down to Georgia in summer ’67 to strike himself a career-revitalizin’ deal. But a quick soul swap off Route 666 left him shakin’ in blue suede shoes. See, he had 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 a few fiery chords from an Ouija-made Fender. 

A what, Grandma?

He darn fashioned that gee-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, now, 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. Sure didn’t grasp the name’s implications, but he’d find out soon ‘nuff. All that man-child knew then was, where he was going, he might as well be God. Whole shebang was evil with an “s,” ask us.

Bet your life, King grieved the first death—one Jimi Hendrix, lost to this world 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. Sittin’ 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’. Suppose he’d been thinkin’ that hippie was gonna kiss the sky sooner o’ later.

Either way ya go, Jimi rode on up in 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. This woman, Janis Joplin, lived like a scientific hypothesis; never realizin’ one failed experiment would make the last at 27. Took a piece of our King’s heart with that Big Mama voice, she did, and drugs—hallucinogens, heroin—took a piece of hers. A fool would’ve sensed a pattern, but King was down deep in his own hole, merely ponderin’ on two simple ‘nuff matters: Could he be saved? And would she voice his revival?

Know this fo’certain, dearies—Janis rolled into holier things, Mercedes-Benz included. Jimi motioned her on through and she, no cry baby, laughed, revealing a throat color ‘o liquid gold. “Forget the past, foxy lady” he said. “Things ain’t what they used to be.”


Lookie here—music makers at the door. Give’em Petty treats right quick; a few stickers, an all-access pass—

Who’s Petty, Grandma?

We’ll crawl on back to him another day, sonny, just you wait.  But do be sendin’ him birthday blessins’. Sure was our King’s finest admirer.

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, they called him—had departed. Reeked of mystery, fo’sure, but addiction wasn’t secret. The lonely poet, he thought, a songwriter most permanently? And his age…only 27…did they deserve it, his forever friends?

‘Course, Jim Morrison had already walked that line in lizard boots, cartin’ a notebook—havin’ just left some sorta porcelain throne (a toilet, a bathtub, never quite confirmed which), he hardly glimpsed its 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. His fame posthumously multiplied, naturally; look-alikes at every corner, today.

He showed in heaven pre-washed-out state—white cat-suit, scarves, everything.  That grand band was there too.  “I’ve been waiting for ton-” he began, but seein’ those golden players’ skills gone-to-grave, misery overcame.  Got to know the meaning of forever good ‘n’ solid over time, but he’d made his bed, might as well play in it.

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

‘Round then, King was content; his band matched—well, in heaven—and he couldn’t bear provokin’ 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’d be left sufferin’.

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

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

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



Be the first to comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.