[Today: Apocalyptic guitars…]
Kim Jong Il scares me. His nuclear ambitions can’t be a good thing, and his failing health, combined with the destitute state of North Korea, make him a guy who’s got little to lose by pushing the big red button. And North Korea’s just the tip of the armageddon iceberg – all over the world there are hot spots that we’re supposed to be concerned about: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Honduras, Darfur, Georgia, the list goes on and on.
But none of these countries and their tinpot dictators put the fear into me nearly as much as the Russians did when I was a kid. Many a night during the early-80’s I went to bed expecting to be awoken by a mushroom cloud that was airmailed in from Moscow. Before the Internet, and with cable TV in its infancy, Ronald Reagan was able to use cold war rhetoric to make the Russians seems like blood-thirsty communist automatons from another world. Russians were also routinely cast as the bad guys in American popular culture – from James Bond to Rocky to Hawaii Five-O to the Olympics, and well beyond.
But strangely enough, the most apocalyptic record cover in my parents’ collection didn’t involve the Red Army marching down Hollywood Blvd or a mushroom cloud hanging over America, it featured a painting of a giant robot scooping up people and crushing them like ants. Queen’s News Of The World is funny to me now, but it gave me the willies when I was younger. That single drop of blood about to drip from the robot’s finger, and the terrified looks on the faces of the fleeing mob on the inside gatefold cover? These are some of the things that a 9-year old’s nightmares are made of.
A few weeks back I was browsing through the racks at Laurie’s Planet Of Sound in Chicago, and I came across a used LP that features my kind of apocalypse. The 1972 Columbia compilation The Guitars That Destroyed The World does show an army marching down Main St, USA, but it’s an army of giant guitars that look like they walked right off the Loony Tunes assembly line. The tiny little people on the cover scream and flee, but I wouldn’t be moved by those guitars one bit – I’ve lived through Ronnie Reagan, the Russians, killer robots, and Kim Jong Il. Bring on the giant guitars…
Here’s what the apocalypse really sounds like…
Listen: Stain Of Mind [Slayer]
Listen: Jesus Built My Hotrod [Ministry]
Listen: Thirteen [Johnny Cash]
Listen: Danger Zone [Kenny Loggins]