April 24, 2008

Exhibit 5: Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a British spiritualist, occultist, writer and alleged Freemason frequently cited as a philosophical influence on rock and roll musicians, especially in heavy metal and hard rock. Like the Marquis de Sade, Crowley was a hedonist and provocateur whose proclivities made him a scourge to moralists. Crowley and de Sade were also similar in that their embrace of debauchery and amorality obscured, but did not dismantle, the intellectual context of their manifest vices. Despite, or possibly because of, the legacy of Crowley's approach as societal critic, many religious and conservative commentators condemn musicians as Satanic or evil if they express an interest in him.

Crowley's own musical career was brief and uneventful. He toured England in 1900 as part of a two-man vaudeville act, Crowley And Howdy, who sang original compositions at impromptu minstrel shows in taverns and public squares. One of their dance songs, "I'm Going To Eat Blood Sausage With My Saucy Girl Tonight," was a sizeable sheet-music hit in Britain, with reported sales of 500,000 in London alone. Half of these sales were made to grade-school choir instructors. The musical team parted ways acrimoniously when Crowley ate Howdy's gall bladder at an Oktoberfest celebration in Heidelberg, Germany.

Shortly after his entertainment career faltered, Crowley began receiving mystic messages and transcribed them into doctrine as The Book of the Law, which in its time served roughly the same purpose as Tuesdays With Morrie and Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals do today. After a lifetime of some benefit to himself and major inconvenience to others, Crowley passed away in 1947. Hobbyists in the realm of spiritualism and the arts began studying his written works. Rock musicians, particularly, took interest in his espousal of hedonism, since it encouraged them to engage in wild behavior without having to settle their hotel or fishmonger bills personally.

Led Zeppelin admitted a fascination with Crowley's works, and sometimes ruminated that the occultist's ghost had "guided" their songwriting, as if by supernatural imposition of his will upon theirs. The band's belief in this matter was confirmed by this transcript of a tape-recorded songwriting session for their best-known song, "Stairway To Heaven":

ROBERT PLANT: Hey, what about this? "If there's a bugle in your pocketbook, don't be distressed now"?

JIMMY PAGE: I like it.

ALEISTER CROWLEY: Oh, come on. It's crap.

PLANT: What are you talking about? I've been working on this for hours.

CROWLEY: So what? It's crap! Sounds like crap, feels like crap, smells like crap, you hear me? C-R-A-P, crap.

PAGE: Right, then, what do you suggest?

CROWLEY: Something with zazz, man! Something the kids'll dig! You gotta have that groove, man, 'cause if you ain't got it, you're nowheresville! Listen, I got somethin' for ya… "I wanna rock the boat/I wanna root beer float/I wanna dance the twist/I wanna give you a kiss/Drink the blood from the crushed sacrificial skull and betroth yourself to the cloven hoof/Hot pants!" See? How's that? Ya gotta play to the kid at the soda fountain counter, holdin' hands with his best girl and chewin' his bubblegum! Ya gotta zing 'em, Bobby! Show that Brill Building who's wipin' its windows!

PLANT: But… but you're here because we want to transcend the physical with our art! We need you to guide us through the deadlocked passageways of metaphysical…

CROWLEY: Ah, save that guru jive for David Crosby, buddy! What you need is the beat, ya get me? That swingin', swingin' beat! That ha-ha-hotcha! Bing, pow! With a perky bounce and some wah-wah! Hey, I hear Frampton's got this great new thing that lets you talk through your guitar! I'll see if you can borrow it! Girls go nuts for it, gaga, man! Outta sight! "Do-oo, you-oo, oo, YOU! Feeel like I…"

PAGE: Aleister, I don't think you grasp what we're….

CROWLEY: Hey, mudshark man, they ain't payin' you to think! Just gimme some hooks, space boy! I gotta dance!

PLANT: I don't think this is working out, Ally…

CROWLEY: Hey, whoa! That's outta line, mister. Nobody calls me Ally. Call me that again and I'll do to you what I did to Victor Neuberg. Ya won't have an orifice left to pee outta.

PAGE: God... why didn't I just call Eric Clapton?

CROWLEY: Oh, sure. Cheap white blues licks. That's your answer for everything. Where's my goat? I'm starvin'.


viagra online said...

I think this man was a little bit crazy so that's the reason he was excellent writing books and his literature was one of the best.

4rx said...

The contrast between this biography and Francis King's 'The Magical World of Aleister Crowley' is remarkable, and in the final analysis it comes down to the authors' differing attitudes to 'magick'. Roger Hutchinson claims to be an agnostic on the matter, but it's clear that he's got no time for any occult nonsense.


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