Saturday, November 24, 2012

27 Songs about the End of the World

The world was suppose to end in 2012.  Disappointed?  Here are twenty-seven songs to cheer you up.

REM – I’m Gonna DJ
According to the lyrics, REM singer Michael Stipe plans on DJing at the end of the world. An admirable goal if there ever was one.

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
Disjointed lyrics symbolizing the devil, sex, shame, death and according to everyone the end of the earth is mentioned somewhere in there too. I never liked Soundgarden or this song. I don’t hate Soundgarden and I don’t hate “Black Hole Sun,” but this is a very immature song and the only reason I am convinced it’s about the end of the world is it would follow from the dark themes blatantly brought up in the beginning. I may not love it, but it still counts as a song about the end of the world and it still makes the list.

Muse – Apocalypse Please
The end is coming but Muse is surprisingly hopefully about the whole ordeal. Something will “pull us through” and “change the course of history.” It’s a nice song, not Muse’s best, but a good one, and definitely one of the more optimistic songs on this list.

Josh Ritter – Temptation of Adam
“Temptation of Adam” is the first of many songs about world war three ending everything. Josh Ritter is a great guitarist and light rocker, and he can’t help himself but be romantic and sing about love even when the end of the world is coming. If you have ever heard Josh Ritter before you know what to expect here, it’s another heartfelt, well written, rock ballad, only this one is about the end of the world too.

Metallica – The Four Horsemen
“The Four Horsemen” of the apocalypse, that’s pretty straight forward. Metallica have a lot of songs about death, destruction and dismay, but this was the only song of theirs I could pinpoint as being specifically about the end of the world. Off of their first studio album “Kill ‘Em All,” like many musicians Metallica’s first album was their rawest, and I believe this was the album that focused the most around death, so how fitting their only true end of the world song be there.

Elvis Costello – Waiting for the end of the World
How do you cope with the end of the world? Understandably Elvis Costello would be somber and sad, he would also pray. There should be no surprise the biblical reference and hopeful prayers are a reoccurring theme on this list. If you believe all of that it would make sense to pray to god to save us since he would technically be the cause of the end as well as the beginning. “Dear lord I hope you coming, because you really started something,” there is a couple different ways to interpret that line.

Barry McGuire – Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire? I thought this song was by the The Turtles, oh they covered it, McGuire wrote it, cool. There is maybe a dozen or more cold war and fear of the reds references in this song. This is the second song about the cold war or world war three ending the earth on this list. McGuire is politically topical in this song, he mentioned the reds in China, the space race, southern racism, and probably a bunch of other important events I am too young and/or ignorant to get. No wonder this song was so popular in the sixties.

Eels – End Times
The end is coming and no one realizes it, except Eels lead man Mark Oliver Everett, and now does Mark take the news? Reflections are made by drawing parallels between the “ends times” and “she is gone now,” how do most people deal with a lover gone, somber sadness and eventual acceptance; “I don’t feel nothing now, not even fear. Now that end times are here.” Very nice, arguably more of a poem then a song, if such a distinction exists.

The Thermals – Here’s Your Future
Arguably a song that is not about the end of the world, “Here’s Your Future” is more about biblical violence, but I cannot escape the feeling that god proclaiming “Here’s Your Future” after laying out the horrors of past biblical destruction wrought by him could imply anything other than the violent end of all things as describe in “Revelations.” The Thermals are a modern punk band, interpret that however you want, but “Here’s Your Future” is a fast hard hitting song that does a good job of depicting god as a bully killing us and torturing us with fear.

The Temper Trap – Soldier On
Best known of their hit song “Sweet Disposition,” not everyone knows Australia’s The Temper Trap have an entire good album in “Conditions.” The world is slowly dying and what we must do is soldier on. This song is awesome for a few reasons; first of all it is a really good song just in general, second the message to tough out the end of the world is just so badass. The Temper Trap is not a loud hard rock band so this message of incredible toughness and resolve is for some reason somewhat unexpected, it’s like stealth badassier, which is not a real word.

Pink Floyd – Two Suns in the Sunset
“Two Suns in the Sunset” is off of Pink Floyd’s twelfth studio “The Final Cut” (1983). The second sun rising in the east is meant to be the explosion of a nuclear bomb the sign of the beginning of the end. This is not the first song about nuclear war destroying everything on this list and it won’t be the last. This is Pink Floyd, the song is great, and if anything I’m surprised they don’t have more songs about the end of the world.

Tom Lehrer – We Will All go Together
Finally a funny song about the end of the world!

Tom Lehrer may have received an AB in Mathematics from Harvard where he lectured for several years but he most likely will be best remember for his witty commentaries about politics through song. Nuclear war is coming, but don’t fret we will all leave this world together like one big happy family. Sure puts things into perspective.

Nena – 99 Luftballoons
“99 Luftballons” is one of the best known popular radio songs that happen to be about the end of the world, and like any pop song with subtext most people don’t know what it’s about. What are the 99 red balloons? If you still have to ask after actually paying attention to the lyrics to this 1982 German pop song than you may be an idiot.

Credence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon on the Rise
And all these years I thought this song was about werewolves. The appropriate inclusion of this song on the classic horror film “An American Werewolf in London” gave me and others the false impression that CCR front man John Fogerty had written “Bad Moon on the Rise” specifically for the movie, however in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine John Fogerty explained that the song was inspired by the movie “The Devil and Daniel Webster” in which a hurricane destroys a town. Fogerty thought it would be something if a storm destroyed more than just a town, how about the world. So that settles that, “Bad Moon on the Rise” is about the end of the world.

WWE – Armageddon Theme
Who could get forget promos with the Undertaker proclaiming himself the “angel of darkness and reaper of wayward souls,” or Triple H promising to stain New York City with Mick Foley’s blood? Ah the good old days of professional wrestling when the pretenses of it being real were replaced with overtop impossible characters and situations. Wrestlers have been predicting the end times since Wresltemania five when Hulk Hogan declared that when he and the Machoman Randy Savage battled the earth was going to open up and devour the audience and presumably the rest of the earth would be destroyed when the mega powers explode. As comical as wrestling has become there was something charming about the old Armageddon pay per views and how they advertised it as if the world would actually end because two strong men were going to wrestle, but what really sold those trailers was the song they used often called “The End.” I could not find any information about who wrote the song so I do not know who to credit, but whoever did write and perform this song was clearly influenced by The Doors, and their song “The End.” The voice sounds a little like Jim Morrison, the atmosphere of the song is forbidding and dark, and even the lyrics seem like something that would have fit in with the rest of The Doors end times song. Despite being created under very different circumstances the WWE Armageddon Theme has always sent chills down my spine.

Alan & Lande – Judgement Day
What happens when Symphony X guitarist Russell Alan and Gamma Ray/Masterplan lead singer Jorn Lande collaborate? We get great metal of course. To this day “Judgement Day” appears to be Alan & Lande’s biggest hit, and rightfully so, out of all the songs I have heard by the duo this is definitely my favorite. Once again we hear biblical references in this song and a sense of knowing what is to come. The message of this song seems to suggest that waking up surprised to find judgement day may be more of a consequence of misdeeds or lost spiritual awareness. All in all “Judgement Day” by Alan & Lande is a great song.

Morrisey – Everyday is like Sunday
I could argue that this song is not about the end of the world since it is set in a post apocalyptic setting, which would imply that the earth still exists and so does some remnants of humanity. However I would be probably be splitting hairs if I did that, and besides like I could resist putting this song on the list. World War Three has come and gone but here in the seaside town they forgot to bomb people linger on. Morrisey brings the severe sadness that is emo to the Armageddon in this song, and I suppose if there were ever a time to be morbidly sad it would be the end times, it is an appropriate fit and the end result is a very good song.

Prince – 1999
No Prince’s “1999” is not a pop cliché it is actually a meaningful song. People who actually bothered to listen to the lyrics of “1999” will quickly identify the song as one that is about the end of the world. The lyrics explicating state that the world with end in the year 2000, so we might as well make the best of it till then and party like it’s....

REM – It’s the End of the World as we Know it
Perhaps the most famous end times song ever recorded. REM struck gold when they wrote “It’s the End of the World as we Know it,” a humorously fun and infections song accepting/celebrating the end of the world, as far as we know it anyway.

Black Sabbath – War Pigs
The war pigs in question are those pesky politicians that start wars and send men off to die, but when the ultimate war unfolds and we began the end of days what will god think of them? War Pigs is something of a combination of end of world themes insofar that there is a huge war destroying mankind and also the apocalypse foreseen in revelations. Just when you think the war couldn't possible get any worse the fucking four horse men show up.

Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral
Ozzy predicts if the four horsemen don’t get us first the nuclear bombs will. Like so many songs earlier on this list the end of the world comes in the form of nuclear war, but this song is the most “metal.”

The Rolling Stones – Gimmie Shelter
Not exactly a song about the end of the world since the song is about surviving in a post apocalyptic world, however as stated earlier for “Every Day is like Sunday” that’s close enough. This song would have made the top five since it maybe the best song on this list but since it is not explicitly about the end of the world it only gets sixth. On an additional side note this song always reminds me of Mad Max.

Johnny Cash – When the Man Comes Around
Revelations again. Johnny Cash is a badass and I like his method narrating, very matter of fact. I also like Cash’s word choice is referring to god as “the man,” as if god is more like some kind of badass alpha male/top hierarchy corporate political champion, and when he comes around... we’re fucked. When god comes to clean this mess up, he’s going to be pissed. It’s a fun story and a great song.

Zager and Evans – In the Year 2525
In the 2525, if man is still alive, and if woman can survive, they may find....

And so on we count the years while foretelling the strangeness of millenniums past, until everything is dead.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

Prism – Armageddon
Out of all the upbeat songs about the end of world Prism’s “Armageddon” has to be the best. A unusual and truly unique song that wins the hearts of all who have ever heard it.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

The Doors – The End
The ultimate end of the world song, The Doors “The End.” Not only is this song simply fantastic in quality and in poetry but it captures every possible interpretation and reaction to the end, not just the end of the earth, or the end of humanity, this is the end of everything.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

David Bowie – Five Years
This is the greatest song about the end of the world ever written, David Bowie “Five Years.” Like The Doors “The End,” Bowie’s “Five Years” means a lot to me. This is a song I have been listening to with perked interest and deep love for the better half of my life. There are so many memories attached to songs like “The End” and “Five Years” they mean more to me than just amazing songs about the end times, these songs even transcend the greatness of the historical and cultural impact on music, they are totems of our culture and species. The fear of death, the original conflict, the original antagonist, the endless battle between life and death sang to us by arguably the greatest song writer ever capturing all our fears and predictable reactions in one perfect song. “Five Years” is the greatest end of the world song.

Way back in May of 2007 I reviewed “Five Years,” and it shows just how much things have changed, in my writing, in my life and in me. That was five years ago....

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Doors - The End

I often wonder what it must have been like attending some of the early concerts of the great classic rock bands. I wonder what the atmosphere was like sitting in a club in Las Angeles in the 1960s and hearing The Doors play live for one of their first sets. Can you imagine trying to make sense of the erratic actions of the incredibly high Jim Morrison, or the strange new sounds coming out of Ray Manzarek’s keyboard? How would the average 1967 person have reacted to Jim Morrison screaming the line in “The End” about wanting to kill his father and fuck his mother? Badly I assume.

I do not think there has ever been a more perfect song to end a live set then The Doors’ “The End.” The simplicity of it all is seemingly such an obvious maneuver, but that is easy to say in hindsight; the song to best to end the night is “The End.” Appropriately “The End” is also the last song on The Door self titled debut album. “The End” is in every way a song about the end of all things, the end of the set, the end of the album, a personal end of everything and an external end of everything.

“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again”

Morrison opens the song by establishing the theme, the end of our plans, our surroundings, time, and each other. This is no mere song about a closing set, or an untimely death, Morrison sings about the end of all things, physical and non physical.

The main body of lyrics strongly hints to the drug use of Mr. Morrison. He refers to a great many confusing things; Roman wilderness, insane children, riding west, a blue bus, and a ride-able snake. Having read a lot of Jim Morrison’s poetry and having spent an entire childhood listening to every Doors song I have something of a special insight understanding what he is referring to with these strange examples.

“Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand
In a...desperate land

Lost in a Roman...wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah”

“Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain” is to be lost to an ancient chaos, removing mankind from civilization, suggesting an end to civilization, and the youth of tomorrow degenerate into primitive animals, or are insane. The youth of people is lost, along with civilization, the end.

“There's danger on the edge of town
Ride the King's highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby”

“Riding the King’s highway west” is clearly a reference to going to Morrison’s home of Las Angeles, but a king’s highway? Well Jim Morrison is the lizard king and he can do anything, perhaps he has inherited Las Angeles and its roads in the collapsed future, perhaps he considers himself the monarch of the city now. Also a king is a backward regression in political democratic advancement, yet another suggestion of the collapse of civilization, the end.

“Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake...he's old, and his skin is cold”

From reoccurring imagery in Morrison’s poetry it is safe to assume riding a snake is a sexual innuendo. “The snake is long, seven miles” this could be a humours exaggeration of Morrison’s own member, but my best guess is that it is a reference to a stretch of road as that would tie into not only riding a snake across some distance but also the earlier lyrics about riding the highway west. A highly sexualized quest to the ancient lake does sound like a tripped out adventure our friend Jim would go on, but how does this tie into the end of anything? The final lyric in this verse, “he’s old, and his skin is cold,” the snake is dying, but the sadness of the imagery is that sex and lust are dying, and with it procreation, and therefore the end of humankind.

“The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here, and we'll do the rest

The blue bus is callin' us
The blue bus is callin' us
Driver, where you taken' us”

When Jim Morrison says “the west is the best” he is basically saying “there is no place like home.” Morrison clearly sees Las Angeles as an extremely spiritual place, and he is strongly suggesting in this song that home, in the west, is where he is most comfortable, at peace, and safe, at least as safe and happy as one could be at the end times. I have no idea what the blue bus might be referring too, but I understand the frightful lyrics “driver, where you taken’ us,” I think we all know the final destination of the blue bus, it is the end.

“The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and...then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door...and he looked inside
Father, yes son, I want to kill you
Mother...I want to...fuck you

C'mon baby, take a chance with us
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin' a blue rock
On a blue bus
Doin' a blue rock
C'mon, yeah

Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill”

“Doin’ a blue rock” is such an obvious drug reference. These lyrics are deep but fail to tie in well to the theme of the end, at least as far as I can see. The killer lacks a clear identity, so he chooses a face from the ancient gallery. It is highly suggestive the reason this man has the title “killer” is that he has murdered his siblings and intends to finish with his parents. Perhaps these grim lyrics are the final destination of the driver, a scene far more graphic and relatable then the strange scenes described to us earlier; this is the end that is death, death through murder.

“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end”

The most common criticism I hear regarding The Doors is the attack on Jim Morrison and his ridiculous drug abuse and how it affected his music. Ironically this criticism is actual one of The Doors’ greatest strengths. Jim Morrison was more a poet than a musician and it shows in the depth of his words, furthermore you could argue that Jim Morrison was more of a philosopher than a poet, he was a very spiritually man searching deep within and far without for answers to the most confusing abstract questions the human mind can conceive. The allure of drugs for Morrison had everything to do with expanding his mind, and if the drugs harmed his work, it is was probably his work as a philosopher not as a poet, and subsequently not as musician. If drugs clouded Morrison’s mind to greater truths that is unfortunate but it was those same drugs that granted him unique insights as well. The goal of art is to express, and you would need to be a fool or belligerent to miss the multiple layers of thought and feeling that is so powerfully present in every psychedelic Doors song. The mission of philosophy and science is the pursuit of truth, the mission of art is personal expression, but with The Doors we got a lot of the later and some of the former.

“It hurts to set you free”

Of course it does. It always hurts to lose someone. In Morrison’s mind there were planes existence beyond the physical, there was something profound and virtually unknown through the doors of perception, and in the end, when all that we are is lost, Morrison believed we would step through those doors and be free of so many things we never even realized binded us.

This is the end.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prism - Armageddon

Prism is something of a troubled band. Prism has had twenty members and the current lineup does not have even one of Prism’s original five. How does that even happen? Why even call yourselves Prism at this point? The band formed in 1977, I am not even sure if the current line up was alive when they first formed. So when I tell you Prism was something of a troubled band I think you can see why.

Prism existence is divided into two active runs, the initial formation and run of the band with a somewhat consistent lineup consisting mostly of original members from 1977 to 1984 and a second and somewhat confusing run from 1988 to present. It should come as no surprise that all of Prism’s best work was created during that first run, most notable in 1979 with the release of their third and perhaps most popular/famous album “Armageddon.”

The album Armageddon remains a topic of interest for a variety of reasons. Armageddon’s producer Bruce Fairbairn won producer of the year in 1979 at the Junos. Bryan Adams assisted in the song writing for two of the tracks on Armageddon, “You Walked Away” and “Take it or Leave It.” I do not know for certain but as far as I can tell this was Bryan Adams’ first professional song writing gig, so I guess we have Prism to blame for Bryan Adams. Most note worthy, as far as I am concerned, is the title track “Armageddon” which has to be the most fun song about the end of world ever.

In the long standing history about singing about terrible things in the most upbeat way imaginable, Prism accomplishes the perfect mood for cheerful party music while singing about total war and the end of the world. There are other happy songs about the end of the world, but most of them are a mixed message. The typical format you see about happy Armageddon songs is partying in spite of the end approaching, like Prince’s “1999” or REM’s “I’m going DJ.” Prism’s “Armageddon” does not invoke partying or happiness in its lyrics, no, it accomplishes that through mood alone. The best comparison I can think of is Nena’s “99 Luft Balloons” but Prism’s “Armageddon” rocks out, so it is the better song.

All bemusement about the happy end times aside, “Armageddon” still holds up as a great song. In fact the eccentric use of seemingly out of place lyrics in what is an otherwise positive energy song is one of the least notable aspects of attributes of “Armageddon’s” quality. The mood is great in “Armageddon” there is a lot of positive feeling coming out of the melody and expression, and while I like to consider Prism a pure rock band and “Armageddon” a pure rock song I would be wrong to deny the pop elementals of dance like joy that exist in this song.

The best part of “Armageddon” is the opening and closing instrumental. Following the classic canon method “Armageddon” opens with the drums playing rhythm and is accompanied by what I believe to be a slow slide from the bass playing the accompaniment. Then the melody hits, with what sounds like violin but I am pretty sure it is a keyboard, and it is beautiful. Then most subtle of all is the harmony on guitar, and once the guitar hits the melody begins to flux in the most perfect way. There is something so pleasing about the canon method, it always gives you time to absorb all the sound being given to you and your mind has an easy time falling into the pattern of the song. There is a reason why this is like the sixth time I've mentioned the canon method, it is simple and highly effective. To bring the song back to continuity, the song ends with the same introductive pattern it opened with, drums and bass as rhythm and accompaniment, keyboard on melody, and guitar on harmony. It is the best part of this nearly eight minute song.

“Armageddon” does not feel like a seven minute forty-six second song. It flows so swimmingly, and so pleasantly that time just seems to fly by. That’s the sign of a really relaxing song, which makes it all the more charming that it is about the war and the end times.

“Armageddon, carry me home.” Is home heaven and since we are all going to die we are going home to heaven? Or is war humankinds’ natural way, so fighting in Armageddon is in a sense returning home to where we belong? Is there some kind of spiritual message here or a cleaver gag? I do not know, and I don’t care, it is a silly song, it could even be a stupid song, but that does not change the fact it is a great song and one of the best songs ever recorded about the end of the world.

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zager and Evans - In the Year 2525

In 1969 David Bowie released his first big hit “Space Oddity” and he was then accused of ripping off Zager and Evans and their big hit “In the Year 2525.” The history of classic rock of course remembers Bowie for so much more than just “Space Oddity” and very few people even remember the once spoken comparison between Bowie and Zager and Evans, however at the time the comparison was not entirely unfounded. “Space Oddity” is a psychedelic science fiction rock song about a man going into outer space and not wanting to come home, while the earlier released Zager and Evans hit “In the Year 2525” was a tripped out science fiction rock song about the far off and far out future.

The moon landing happened in 1969 and this stirred everyone creatively. Both “Space Oddity” and “In the Year 2525” came out in 1969 and this may not be a coincidence. At the time they must have been thinking if we could land on the moon in present day what could we do in the future, or how about in fiction? Since dreams about tomorrow and fantastic science were on everyone’s’ mind it should be no surprise that musicians at the time were experiencing some degree of parallel thinking regarding the topic, and I highly doubt Bowie was ripping off Zager and Evans, grim science fiction in music would quickly become common in the seventies psychedelic music scene.

“In the Year 2525” is perhaps the first original grim science fiction song, I cannot think of one that predates it. It is simple story telling, countdown the years to Armageddon, briefly explaining the changes to humanity as they occur, unusual and horrifying changes. Every verse is special, as every verse tells the listener something new and uncomfortable about the potential future, also every verse is a step in the countdown to the end. Every lyric is valuable;

“In the year 2525
If man is still alive
If woman can survive
They may find

In the year 3535
Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie
Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today

In the year 4545
You ain't gonna need your teeth, won't need your eyes
You won't find a thing to chew
Nobody's gonna look at you

In the year 5555
Your arms hangin' limp at your sides
Your legs got nothin' to do
Some machine's doin' that for you

In the year 6565
You won't need no husband, won't need no wife
You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

In the year 7510
If God's a-coming, He oughta make it by then
Maybe He'll look around Himself and say
"Guess it's time for the judgement day"

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake His mighty head
He'll either say "I'm pleased where man has been"
Or tear it down, and start again

In the year 9595
I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
He's taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain't put back nothing

Now it's been ten thousand years
Man has cried a billion tears
For what, he never knew
Now man's reign is through

But through eternal night
The twinkling of starlight
So very far away”

I can only begin to guess at the variety of science fiction stories that have influence on the lyrics in this song. For example in the year 3535 using a drug to determine your personality was a major theme in L.P. Hartley’s “Facial Justice,” Henry Slesar’s “I Remember Oblivion” and John D. MacDonald’s “Trojan Horse Laugh” all stories involved using drugs for the purpose of manipulating people’s personalities in some way or another. Also in the year 5555 the idea that humans no longer do anything for themselves and rely on machines for everything was a common fear in darker science fiction and still prevalent today in movies like “The Matrix” and more light heartedly in “Wall-E.” Also in the year 6565 the dissolving of the family unit, an abandonment of romance, and the production of children in tubes, are all present themes in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

Zager and Evans ended up being a one hit wonder, I actually have no idea what any of their other songs are, but it is still an honour to be remembered at all, and “In the Year 2525” is such a fantastic song. “In the Year 2525” has so many levels to it, it is a retro rock song, it is a grim narrative about mankind’s future and the end of time, it is full of science fiction references and reoccurring themes within that genre, also and perhaps most importantly it is an effective, creative piece of art that thoroughly succeeds at being both entertaining and invoking.

Be invoked.

- Colin Kelly