Monday, August 25, 2008
The Decline of Devil Worship
The year was probably 1983. I, a 13-year-old rocker (or "freak" as we were known at my place of schooling), with frosted hair combed and sprayed into wings and a quarter inch of black liner beneath each eye, shuffled through the Target checkout line after my mom, who was likely slightly blitzed at the time. She paid for her stuff and I somewhat boldly but with no small amount of trepidation placed Ozzy Osbourne's "Diary of a Madman" LP (shown) onto the familiar red counter, fully prepared to pay all my week's babysitting wages for the thing. The checkout girl, who was probably only a few years older than me but considerably more mainstream in her level of conformity gawked at the tattered, blood-spattered Englishman on the cover, then at me, then at my mom, all in disgust. A sense of delicious rebellion flooded through me, multiplying with every second she disliked the album, and myself for buying it.
A short time later, my father (who may well have been on the doob that fine day) offered to get me something I wanted at the mall. Passing up the clothes and makeup, I went right for Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil" album, which sported a simple matte black cover, undecorated except for the red lettering of the band's name and an inverted pentagram, done in a shiny clear coat so that it was invisible unless you tilted the cover just right. My father noticed that, but didn't stop me from buying it. It may not have been good parenting, but it certainly fueled my young musical fire.
Both of these albums had, at least as a theatrical ingredient, the presence and possibility of devil worship behind and within them. Count the sinister elements on that DoaM cover: inverted cross, insane kid, dead ravens, black cats, red candles, some evil spell in a runic hand posted on the wall, spiderwebs, bloodstained Englishmen... and the list goes on. Now, we look at this and find it ridiculous, but back then, particularly in the Bible Belt burbs, there was a suspicion that it might actually be real. These musicians might actually be in league with the devil, and if you listened, you might be too. It was something akin to the creeping suspicion you feel on Halloween night as a kid. That's probably a shadow, but if I linger here, it will turn into a vampire.
Of course, I took a typically teenage position of justifying this possible alliance with dark forces as not really all that bad. Motley Crue were saying, "Shout AT the Devil" not shout WITH him, and Ozzy's upside-down crosses were, um, well.... ok, I didn't have a good justification for that. I did attend an Ozzy show where a church group demonstrated with a giant cross outside and picketed the place. Can't say as it made me change my evil rock 'n' roll listening ways, though. I seem to recall shouting back at them as we passed.
Though there's even more insidious music and stage shows going on now (i.e. Marilyn Manson parading in tits and creepy contacts, and bands like Cradle of Filth making videos for their atonal wailings that leave a taste like dead flies in your mouth and Cookie Monster-like vocals ringing in your ears), no one thinks twice about accusing them of actual worship of Satan. Hell, Tenacious D have even made a career out of demon nostalgia.
The question is, were we paranoid then, or oblivious now? Satan could still be walking amongst us, propping up Justin Timberlake's career with no one being the wiser. Why? Just because we've stopped paying attention to him.
"Clap your fuckin' hands!!!" -- O. Osbourne