Sunday, August 10, 2008

roots.

i have always been fascinated by thinking about the far reaching effects of the choices that people make. often i have marveled at how different things would look in our culture if we had never used slaves. apart from probably dying out early on, i wonder if we would have things like rap music. it is in this vein of thinking that these things came into focus for me. the far reaching effects of choices made, which, when added up, became something that no one at the time could have ever conceived.

if i knew more about spanish politics around 1492, i'm sure i could trace back causes further, but since columbus is so well known, i figure its as good a place to start as any.

columbus came and brought european politics with him. rather than recognize what was already happening in the land, they ignored the autonomy of the people already here, and claimed it for themselves. it is this contact that lead to further contact by other countries, namely england, who sent the first colonists over.


rather than trying to learn from the natives how to live in this "new" land, the colonists and european governments sought to subjegate and destroy them. ignoring the fact that we were the visitors and the land could not be "claimed" because it already had inhabitants. instead of trying to coexist in a symbiotic harmony with the land and begin a new story, we decided to bring the old story with us and try to recreate england here. (which seems stupid to me since it was england we were trying to escape. but that's another story.) as a result of not humbling ourselves and learning how to live here, we were almost wiped out. so when the first slave ships came, we were, unfortunately, all but too eager to justify taking that sort of "help."


which of course lead to harsh treatment of the slaves to keep them in line, adding to the pain and suffering already endured.

but this invariably lead to a style of music known as the "black" or "slave spiritual." songs of suffering coupled with a hope of deliverance. songs that tackled "dark" subject matter with unflinching honesty.

skip a couple of hundred years and this music morphed itself into what we would call the delta blues. i make mention of this man here, robert johnson, because he probably had more influence on future rock guitarists than any other. as legend would have it, he made a deal with the devil at the crossroads in order to be the best blues guitar player in the world.

it was right around this time, across the globe, that a man named adolf hitler rose to power in germany. there were several other factors that lead to what was titled "world war 2", but for our purposes here, hitler is the dominant figure.

as a result of hitler's leadership, germany attacked england. and one town, in specific, that was heavily bombed was birmingham, england. a steel town. a metal town.

the assault left the town in rubble, and left the people, eventually, to rebuild. of course, the war eventually ended, which brought about a surgence of newborn children often called "the baby boom." it is this generation of children who took the music that was begun in the blues, electrified it, and made it into the nefarious "rock n roll."

one morning, in a steel mill in birmingham, england, a young man by the name of tony iommi became permanently injured. on his last day of work (he was already quitting) he was kindly filling in for a friend on a machine he had never worked before. less than a half hour from the end of his shift, something went awry and the tips of two of his fingers on his fretboard hand were cut off. amazingly, he did not give up on his dream. his fashioned prosthetic tips for his fingers himself in order to keep playing. which invariably lead to him tuning down his guitar about a step and a half in order to make the strings looser and easier to play.


which lead to the droning, thick, booming sound that is contained within this record. written by young men playing music that was born out of misery, suffering, and pain. in a town that had been filled with misery, suffering, and pain. by a man who had endured misery, suffering, and pain to continue his art. all of this "dark" subject matter became reflected in this music and gave birth to something which, even then, they could not conceive of what it has become today. a music of catharsis for the misery, suffering, and pain in the world.

18 comments:

Erin said...

OK. So now we know. Thank you for that enlightening discourse.

George Washington --> Led Zeppelin

Katherine Gunn said...

Actually, maybe... Columbus to Ozzy Osbourne?
Hmm...

jON said...

obviously there is more to the whole of the story than i can relate here. but one night, while watching a documentary about rock music, it all clicked together for me. all the pieces just feel into place with a loud (snap!) and it just made snese and i, once again marveled at god's amazing ability to order and redeem circumstances hundreds of years at a time...

i am curious to hear your GW->LZ theory, however.

Sue said...

Umm ... yeah :)

jON said...

sorry about the time delay. with a 15 month old, i only get to blog in sparse intervals. so, i had time to gather pictures saturday, post them sunday, and now write the story here monday. hopefully you'll make it back to read the completed piece so it makes a little more sense. :-)

Erin said...

You mean your real life gets in the way of blogging? Shame on you ;-)

(Kidding of course...precious baby and child time takes the cake over anything else...trust me, I know.)

I'll read your explanations now.

Erin said...

OK I get your point(s). Seems like a bit of a stretch, but the influencing factors are definitely there.

jON said...

of course this isn't a comprehensive history by any means. and any rock based music can trace its roots back this way through baby boomers and blues and slaves.

the twist that fascinted me came in the odd coincindence that happened to tony iommi in the town he lived in. that this thing would happen to him and shape the way he made his music.

i'm not saying it was divinely inspired all the way back. i'm not settled on that. meaning, i'm not sure if god set these things in motion.

but i am sure that he has certainly used it to his advantage. and i am sure he ahd a hand in it birth. i am also sure that he appreciates having a musical style that fits a certain moral flexibility so he can communicate messages that would not be communicated anywhere else.

more on that later.

i simply stopped with black sabbath's first record as this was the beginning of metal. and there have been histories written on metal that you can find that will start from here and bring you into the present.

the main question that i wonder as i look into metal, its histories, as well as its present incarnations, is this: if satan disguises himself as an angel of light to fool people into following him, does god do the same in the opposite direction?

Erin said...

Whoa nellie...your last question was a good one. Is it possible that God disguises himself as darkness?...wow, I don't know. I think anything is possible...but then what do you think the purpose would be?

Sue said...

HEhe great question in that last comment. Yeah, I reckon so :)

I like this post. I like the way your mind works, seeing threads, like the Flying Spaghetti Monster disciple you are :)

I think that these threads run down through everything, with the opportunity for new forms of creative expression flowing out down through the years.

Meaning that power ballads, if Led Zeppelin didn't exist, could still have come into effect through one of those other threads :)

(Just through I'd end with the post that started this one. A nice little rounding effect :)

jON said...

look, i could be WAY wrong on this. i'm always open to that possibility. but one night as i contemplated this, i got a mini-vision. just a brief flash. i saw a figure in a sheet, kind of like those chinese-dragon-puppets they bring out for parades. except the mask was a classic satan mask. (you know, horns, mustache, red skin, big teeth) it was chasing people around, some were screaming and running, and some were laughing and following. it stopped, turned towards me, and lifted its mask. it was god. he smiled, lifted a finger to his lips as if to say "shhhh!", winked, then lowered the mask turned away and continued on his merry way going, "booga booga booga!" as more people laughed and more people ran screaming.

what is the purpose? i think god is looking for a certain type of being. one that is transparent, honest, kind, generous, loving. and in this post-christian world, i have found that there are some who just need a world filled with "dark" imagery and loud, brutal music. myself included. and for some reason, there is a group of people who, when they find this world, become the kindest, gentlest, most polite and loving people you've ever met.

it's really fucking weird and it goes against everything i have ever been taught, and i'm sure it goes against many things they have been taught as well. but it is true. that does not mean EVERYONE who is into metal is this way, the same as not everyone who is a christian is this way either. but some people need one as their community and some people need the other.

the great thing about this community of people, however, is that you can be really, REALLY honest. and in fact, the more honest and the more cutting and biting your observations about the world, the more people listen rather than explain you away.

since my mornings are becoming increasingly busy, i am thinking about posting some songs for thought. you may know them, you may not. they may strike you, they may not. but i've had a few on my heart that i think are worth sharing. they are obviously not for everyone. but the deeper i have gone into this genre and really listened to people say what they are saying without pre-judging them based on who they are and what they are a part of, i have found what i believe are some of the most profound thinkers of our day.

or, at the very least, people with the same questions as me.

i mean, shit. if you've got problems with organized religion, here is a genre ready made for you...

Erin said...

Well I definitely agree with you about honesty in music. Which is what is entirely wrong with Christian music as a genre. Why can't someone write Christian music that is honest? That is what we really feel? Confusion, despair, fear, etc? That I'm not sure I believe anymore, that I don't know what I ought to believe...?

jON said...

have you ever heard of the violet burning, the 77s, or mike knott?

Katherine Gunn said...

Hmm... interesting thoughts. I wouldn't be surprised. I know He has shown up in my life in the most unexpected attire.

As to Spain circa 1492, just a tidbit of history... On the same day that Columbus set sail, the last ship load of Jews (or so it is said) were sent off to points east. This was when the Spanish Inquisition was just starting to warm up and all Jews had been ordered to liquidate their assets and get out of Spain. Those that survived went mainly to North Africa, Italy and Turkey, where they were welcomed, interestingly enough. Many thousands of Jews were killed in this mass expulsion by Spanish ship captains that took their money for passage, then threw them overboard once at sea. How's that for adding to the misery factor of this thread? Columbus actually commented on this edict in his journal.

Erin said...

I've never heard of any of those bands. I looked them up but for some reason my computer is having issues with music, so I'll have to figure that out before I can hear them.

jON said...

granted they still have christian themes and answers, but they are better examples of people willing to take honest looks at their lives and faith. songs of despair and struggles with things like alcoholism are more common in their music.

jON said...

that is very interesting, KG. i know that columbus, in his journals, also praises god that "these savages should be easy to subdue."

Barry said...

Good post. Metal is indeed a great way of purging all the angry, negative feelings that can build up inside. And to think it could all have been different ...