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Blame it on the Stones

Paramount Pictures
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as cartoonist/investigator Robert Graysmith in the 2007 film "Zodiac."
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OKLAHOMA CITY --  Yesterday, I put Kris Kristofferson’s solo debut album, Me & Bobby McGee (1970 – originally released as Kristofferson, before the soon-to-be-dead Janis Joplin made a hit out of that title track) on the office turntable and was quickly reminded why Kristofferson is such a musical legend. The man wrote and sang songs that were powerful. Had depth. And true meaning. (In the middle of writing this piece, I learned that longtime Kristofferson friend and musical collaborator, Donnie Fritts, passed away).

The opening song, “Blame It on the Stones,” is Kristofferson’s keen observation of the widening generation gap between the Baby Boomer youth (counterculture) and their parent’s generation. The song, recorded in 1969, was when the Stones solidified their diabolical, bad-boy image, particularly with their song “Sympathy for the Devil,” the Beggar’s Banquet track released as a single on December 6, 1968 – exactly one year to the day before African-American concertgoer Meredith Hunter was murdered at their Altamont fiasco.

Kristofferson, who was embracing the counterculture in 1969, would have chuckled at how the “square community” frowned upon the Stones’ wild, partying lifestyle, where some viewed Mick Jagger and co. as being in league with Lucifer. The Stones certainly played it up during their "satanic period," as did bluesmen before them, telling audiences about Faustian bargains made at rural crossroads. 

But ol’ Kris saw through Middle America’s hypocrisy, singing: “Father’s at the office nightly, working all the time / Trying to make the secretary change her little mind / And it bothers him to read about so many broken homes / Blame it on those Rolling Stones.”

Interestingly, the founder of the Rolling Stones – Brian Jones – would be found dead in the swimming pool at his English farm on July 3, 1969 – the day before my parents were married and the day before Vallejo, California lovers Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau were attacked and shot by a serial killer who called himself the Zodiac. Mageau survives the ordeal while Ferrin succumbs to her gunshot wounds.

This would be the public start to Zodiac’s reign of terror which would last into the mid-to-late 1970’s, with pauses in between – pauses that seemed to correspond with likely Zodiac suspect Arthur Leigh Allen’s time in jail for other crimes.


There is a scene in the David Fincher psychogical thriller Zodiac (2007), which I rewatched today, where a radio is on in San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith’s car – in October 1969 – mentioning an upcoming concert by The Rolling Stones in the San Francisco Bay area, presumably. It’s only on for a split second. But anyone knowing their 60’s pop culture history will likely point to the infamous Altamont Free Concert held at the Altamont Speedway near Tracy, California on December 6, 1969 – the day in rock n’ roll history “when everything went perfectly wrong.”

But, it could have been two upcoming shows in Oakland on November 9, 1969 (9/11) with openers Ike & Tina Turner, B.B. King and Terry Reid.

But the IMDB trivia page on Zodiac concludes the radio promo in the film was referencing Altamont, and I can accept that, since it is often referenced as the key event – where the presence of Hell’s Angels, ample drugs and an ominous vibe of violence – that “was the death knell of the Sixties.”

That’s arguable, but I acknowledge it was a key event.

And for Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club), I think that is what he was going with by including the reference. After all, one of the key figures noted in the Zodiac film and mystery was “King of Torts” lawyer Melvin Belli, who appears on A.M. San Francisco TV show to talk to the Zodiac. Ironically, it was Belli (who died at age 88 in 1996) who represented the Rolling Stones in 1969 and helped facilitate the Altamont show (Belli is featured in the Gimme Shelter documentary). In the film – and in reality – Belli did receive a letter from the Zodiac killer.

I should note that we are now 50 years after the Zodiac killer attacks first gained interest in the press. At the time, in August 1969, the Rolling Stones were getting used to new guitarist Mick Taylor and prepping their new album, Let It Bleed, for release on December 5, 1969 – the day before the Altamont gig and the day before the year anniversary of the release of the “Sympathy for the Devil” single. Time was on their side then. But what about now? We know that the band members will live on ... as a rock on the surface of Mars. And who was the person to make the announcement this past week prior to the Stones show in Pasadena, California? Home of the late Jack Parsons and co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory? Robert Downey, Jr., the guy who plays troubled San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Paul Avery in Zodiac!?!? (Note this October 2005 article from the San Francisco Chronicle noting the filming of Zodiac there and in other parts of California).

As noted at the NASA website making the announcement, regarding NASA's InSight lander: "Actor Robert Downey Jr. made the announcement Thursday, Aug. 22 at Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium before the iconic band took the stage. Backstage before making the announcement, Downey said, "Cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing..."

Indeed. I'm sure if Jack Parsons were alive today, and had known about "rock n' roll," he would most certainly agree. And think about it, the Zodiac's first known victim, Cheri Josephine Bates, 18, of Riverside, California, was murdered on October 30, 1966 or very early in the morning of October 31, 1966 - Halloween. Two busy dates in occult circles at that time. As the the killer (believed to be the Zodiac) wrote in a typewritten letter to the media and police: "Miss Bates was stupid. She went to the slaughter like a lamb." Oh, and a broken Timex watch was found at the scene where Bates' body was discovered. The sync theme of "broken watches" keeps coming up. Watch John Landis' The Blues Brothers and when Jake Blues' items are taken from inventory, in it is a Timex digital watch, broken," as the officer states in the film. Oh, and why do I mention Halloween, rather than the day before? Because reports said the Timex watch had stopped at 12:24 a.m. So early on October 31st, it would seem. Perhaps Zodiac, realizing his watch was missing, purchased the watch that would give him his new, evil identity?

What is interesting today is that the Stones, elderly though they are, are about to play their final show for their No Filter tour, which was rescheduled due to Jagger’s heart problems. This Saturday night they are scheduled to play an outdoor show at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida as Hurricane Dorian (sync Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray - the Stones are still rockin', well after their youth has faded) heads toward the Florida Atlantic coast, possibly affecting the show. A tour promoter said “All moving ahead as planned,” this some week’s after another hurricane affected a show they performed in New Orleans. “Crossfire hurricane,” indeed! (And don't forget my recent "Holy Toledo!")


Perhaps forgotten in all of this is that it was the legendary litigator Melvin Belli who represented, pro bono, Jack Ruby, the man who would be found guilty of shooting and killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy.

Belli, history shows us, failed to convince a judge and jury that Ruby, with links to the mob, was legally insane and had a history of mental illness in his family. That effort failed. What is interesting is that in the scene with Belli on A.M. San Francisco talk show, the person claiming to be the Zodiac, who goes by the name “Sam,” complains of medical problems and “headaches.” Belli (Brian Cox) tries to offer help to “Sam” and the issues he has with health, which brought to mind his efforts representing Jack Ruby and Ruby’s alleged “mental health” issues.

Lee Harvey Oswald, for students of the JFK assassination, was “drinking a Coca-Cola” on the second floor of the Texas School Book Depository in the early afternoon of November 22, 1963 when the president was assassinated while his motorcade wheeled through Dealey Plaza.

In the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove, we see Mandrake (Peter Sellers) convincing Col. Bat Guano (Keenan Wynn) to shoot a Coca-Cola machine in order to get loose change to call the White House and talk to the President and stop a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. (Recall that Loose Change was the oddly-titled, independent “9/11 truth” documentary released in the year’s following the attacks of September 11, 2001). Dr. Strangelove's release date was moved to January 1964 because of JFK's assassination, and a reference to Dallas, Texas was removed and placed with ... Las Vegas.

Fast-forward to the Zodiac film. There is a key scene where the San Francisco investigators visit creepy character and suspect Arthur Leigh Allen at the Union oil plant. They stop to interview Allen in the break room. The manager of the plant makes sure to note that the Coca-Cola machine is out of order, just as the Coca-Cola machine in Dr. Strangelove is out of order as soon as Col. Guano shoots it and loose change spills out, enabling Mandrake to make his phone call. I noted this scene in a sync post back in February titled "Pause and refresh." 

Interestingly, while I was in Memphis this past week, having breakfast at a downtown hotel, I talked a bit with the cook making omelets. She began talking about Coca-Cola and how there is “something about it” that she likes and has always liked and has caused her (much like myself) to become a lifelong Coca-Cola drinker. 


One of the letters - March 13, 1971, mailed from Pleasanton, California to the Los Angeles Times and sent by the Zodiac referenced “Blue Meannies” (sic), which is likely a reference to the masked villains in the Beatles 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine, the title based on the 1966 song featured on the Fab Four’s groundbreaking album Revolver.

Back in May, at the ZodiacCiphers website, noted: "The March 13th 1971 Los Angeles letter stated "This is the Zodiac speaking Like I have allways said, I am crack proof. If the Blue Meannies are evere going to catch me, they had best get off their fat asses + do something. Because the longer they fiddle + fart around, the more slaves I will collect for my after life. I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there. The reason I'm writing to the Times is this, They don't bury me on the back pages like some of the others".

Everybody knows the Blue Meanies connection from Yellow Submarine, a fictional army of beings who allegorically represent all the bad people in the world. The author of the 1971 letter used this to represent the police. People's Park in Berkeley, California is a park located off Telegraph Avenue, bounded by Haste and Bowditch streets and Dwight Way, near the University of California, Berkeley. The park was created during the radical political activism of the late 1960s. The local Southside neighborhood was the scene of a major confrontation between student protesters and police on May 15th 1969. Reinforcements were called in from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, who arrived carrying shotguns and shells of buckshot. They wore pale blue jumpsuits and were quickly nicknamed the Blue Meanies. The author of the 1971 letter used the term "Blue Meannies", but notably, the letter was mailed from Alameda County rather than San Francisco. Was the author of the letter integral to the People's Park uprising, or just somebody who remembered it from the news?

In Zodiac, John Carroll Lynch's creepy Arthur Leigh Allen tells the cops that he looks forward to the day when police officers are no longer called "pigs." 

Which brings us to Summer 2019 and the 50th anniversary of both the Zodiac killing spree and the Tate-LaBianca murders, both in California, and the latter orchestrated by twisted mastermind Charles Manson, as noted in this summer's popular film Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, directed by Quentin Tarantino.

While Manson is not the focus of the film (oddly, The Beatles' "White Album" is never referenced, even though the songs were an alleged source of inspiration for Manson), his largely female "Family" does play a big role. actor Margaret Qualley plays a character named "Pussycat" who lures monied men to the Spahn Ranch,w where the Family lived with "Charlie." Before Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) picks Pussycat up, cops drive by and she flips them off, calling them "pigs," as the Manson Family did at the time, writing "PIG" and "DEATH TO PIGS" in blood, along with "HEALTER SKELTER" (misspelled, just like Zodiac misspelling "Blue Meannies" and "Christmass" and other words, something Arthur Leigh Allen's sister-in-law, in the film, says he did for fun).

"Yellow Submarine," the 1966 single pulled from Revolver, with "Eleanor Rigby" onthe flipside, was the last single the Beatles released in 1966. Both songs appear in the Yellow Submarine film, released in the U.S. in November 1968, just prior to the release of the White Album. It is the evil "Blue Meanies" who hate music and want to turn the denizens of Pepperland into statues. 

In 1980, right before John Lennon's assassination, he was asked about Manson and the whole Helter Skelter "race war" scenario. He replied, rather defensively: "It has nothing to do with me,” Lennon said in the Playboy interview. “Manson was just an extreme version of the people who came up with the ‘Paul is dead’ thing or who figured out that the initials to ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ were LSD and concluded I was writing about acid.”

Lennon's song "Nobody Told Me," released posthumously in 1984, notes "UFOs over New York," a reference to his 1974 UFO sighting in Manhattan with May Pang. While Nilsson was recording his Pussy Cats album in 1974, Lennon had his sighting and Nilsson recorded "The Flying Saucer Song," a song that was left off the Pussy Cats album, but included on the follow-up album Sandman

What is weird is that at The Manson Family Blog, a 2014 post notes a "forbidden chapter" pulled from Ed Sanders' book The Family where it is noted that an alleged exorcism of a woman named "Pussycat" took place in San Francisco at a place called "The Devil House." This "Pussycat"'s real identity was never revealed. Also, it was said Charles Manson was present when "Father P." exorcised the woman. Little else is known about this story and/or its authenticity.

Now, there is a code to break ... for those willing to dig a bit deeper. 

(Thanks to all my Sync pals and their inspiration in the writing of this sync piece).

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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