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OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s interesting that memorable, tuneful, well-crafted pop music that was big in that synchromystic year of 1983 seems to creeping back into the collective consciousness of those of us stuck here in the grim year of 2018.

While released in 1982, Toto’s mega-hit “Africa” is as big as it was then, informing millennials that their elders had a helluva lot of talent. I distinctly remember being at Pizza Inn in Little Rock in 1983 and choosing “Africa” and a Bootsy Collins song on the jukebox while munching on slices of cheese pizza. Good times.

In fact, 90’s alt-rock band Weezer is on top of the world (or that globe spinning at the beginning of Toto's “Africa” music video, which is one of the most viewed music videos of all time, according to YouTube) with their current cover of “Africa.”

And Toto kindly returned the favor, recording a decent cover of Weezer’s 2001 song “Hash Pipe.” (which straight up quotes The Beatles’ 1964 song “You Can’t Do That” – the B-side to “Can’t Buy Me Love” - with the line “I can’t help my feelings, I go out of my mind”).

Anyway, I’ve been struck by the utter intensity of interest in “Africa” of late. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. There’s more going on here than meets the eye, as Ringo Starr says in that rigged bathroom scene in Help!

Help is what we need here. What is this script showing us? Could it have something to do with what was going on back in 1983? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We have written a lot about the events of that year.

But before I get to that, I want to highlight one of my favorite songs of 1983 (yes, pretty much every song on The Police’s Synchronicity album and Styx’s Kilroy Was Here …) – I speak of the Eurythmics international hit (number one in the U.S.) “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

I distinctly remember, in that eerie autumn of 1983, going on a Boy Scout campout with my friend Sam. He was a big, funny guy, a few years older than me. And he and I would talk about current music. Him, being older, expressed his love of “Sweet Dreams.” And we chatted for it a bit. For some reason, I’ve always remembered that moment.

After many years, I tried tracking Sam down. I sadly discovered he had died some years earlier. I hadn’t known his birthdate, but in the obituary it said he was born November 22, 1968 – the same day the Beatles’ esoterically-influential “White Album” was released, five years to the day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I mention it because there seems to be something about “Sweet Dreams” that results in things happening. Case in point: Marilyn Manson.

I first heard Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Sweet Dreams” sometime in 1995, around the time the eponymous singer (named after both Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, that possessed creature who had a real jones for the aforementioned “White Album,” reading way too much into those song lyrics.).

It was, quite purposefully, a spooky song. Marilyn Manson said his record label did not want to release it as a single, pushing for their cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You,” a song that has been coming up a lot of late.

But Manson pushed – successfully – for “Sweet Dreams,” arguing that it is so well known that Marilyn Manson’s version would likely attract more attention than the “sprawling and esoteric” Hawkins song would, which was also covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tab Benoit, among others.

Anyway, the accompanying music video for Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” is considered one of the scariest music videos ever made. It is decidedly disturbing (MM wears a tutu and rides a pig – perhaps a wink to the Eurythmics use of cows in their original video?) and was one of those doomy songs that seemed to be taking rock in a new and more shocking and disquieting direction (save for Nine Inch Nails, a group I liked). An Alice Cooper for latter-day Gen Xers and Yers? Alice Cooper of Arizona. Phoenix is the capital. And a dead senator, John McCain, is currently lying in state at the State Capitol in Phoenix. Next stop? The US Capitol.


Rewind to Sept. 30, 2017 (the 62nd anniversary of film idol James Dean’s death) and Marilyn Manson are performing a concert at the Hammersmith Ballroom in New York. The gig began with The Doors’ apocalyptic 1967 song “The End” playing over the sound system, before the band broke into “Revelation #12,” the opening song on MM’s 2017 album Heaven Upside Down, a title that takes us deep into sync territory, as the aforementioned Mr. Knowles has reminded us in these turbulent years.

Critics were mixed on Heaven Upside Down. Writing for the UK magazine The List, critic David Pollock asks: “Is Marilyn Manson the first or the last person we need to hear in these troubled times? Some will say yes, because when better to clear the fog out of the air with some cathartic, take-no-shit, heads-down rock n’ roll which holds a shattered mirror up to the face of America?Perhaps? Perhaps not?

Anyway, Mr. Manson and his bandmates gave the crowd nearly 11 full songs, before the fates somehow intervened during the performance of “Sweet Dreams” and a stage prop of two, large handguns fell on the shock rocker. This, a day (Oct. 1, 2017) before the tragic shooting and massacre at the country music festival in Las Vegas. The timing was a little too strange, not to mention the circumstances and, well, the whole damn story. I'm still trying to figure it out.

Manson admits he got off easy this time, admitting that it could have been worse, only breaking a fibula and getting a head injury.

Said MM to NME a few weeks later of the circumstances surrounding his on-stage “accident”: “I think it was possibly the whole nature, God, whatever it might be – someone was trying to put a stop to things. If you believe in one thing, you gotta believe in the other power.

No doubt about that.


So, what’s the point here? Well, as a commenter on Christopher Knowles’ The Secret Sun blog noted, the man born Brian Warner was playing a gig near Houston, Texas a little over a week ago – part of “Twins of Evil – The Second Coming Tour” with unpleasant interviewee and co-headliner Rob Zombie – and while opening song “Cruci-Fiction In Space” was being performed, Manson began “stumbling backward,” according to People magazine.

Manson soldiered on through a few more songs before getting to his cover of “Sweet Dreams.” It was during his performance of the old Eurythmics hit that he finally collapsed. The song, of course, includes the lyrics “everybody’s looking for something.”

And so are we.

The 49-year old does not appear to be in the best of health. Manson allegedly claimed his collapse was due to "heat poisoning." And playing an outdoor show in swampy, suburban Houston in August is never a good idea, particularly when you’re a goth type and wearing a lot of makeup. I saw Dave Matthews Band play at the same venue (Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, near the 94th meridian, where very, deeply weird things happen on a daily basis) on a May evening many years ago and it was hot even then.

But one wonders if Manson made the connection between "Sweet Dreams" and his being nearly crushed to death by gun props? Recall that Marilyn Manson has often talked about "Celebritarianism" in his music. I mean look at his stage name, after all.

But John F. Kennedy is a major figure in his music. Note the song "GodEatGod" on 2000's Holy Wood (actually released on November 11th - 11/11 - of that year, just 10 months before the 9/11 attacks of 2001). On that song, Manson sings of a Christ-like JFK, after his assassination in Dallas: "Dear god the paper says you were the king / In the black limousine / Dear John and all the King's men / Can't put your head together again."

This album was recorded in the months after the Columbine school massacre in Colorado. Marilyn Manson was blamed for inspiring the killers with his dark lyrics. But Manson argued The Beatles's "Helter Skelter" and "White Album" link to the Manson Murders in August 1969 link that band to inspiring a killing more than anything his group had done.

So, while re-reading my December 2017 Dust Devil Dreams post "Goin' to Ashland," which talks about Peter Levenda's Sinister Forces book and the role Ashland, Kentucky seems to play in this whole drama, my office phone rang. It said the call was from "Sulphur, Kentucky." I knew it had to be a telemarketer or something. And when I answered I asked if the caller was in Sulphur, Kentucky. The man - clearly a telemarketer in South Asia, from the sound of his voice - replied "yes." I then asked: "So, what is happening today in Sulphur?" The line went dead. No smell of sulfur was detected, thankfully.

Oh, and Levenda reminds us in great detail that Charles Manson used to live in Ashland, Kentucky, which is on the Ohio River. Sulphur, which is 188 miles west of Ashland, is a stone's throw from the Ohio River. Recall that Col. Kurtz asks Willard in Apocalypse Now how far Toledo, Ohio (Willard's hometown) was from the Ohio River. He replies: "About 200 miles."

Pretty damn close.

(One sync I had while researching this post, I was rewatching the “Africa” video where the opening shot begins with a spinning globe, which morphs to a turning ceiling fan, reminding me that opening scene in Apocalypse Now of the ceiling fan in Capt. Willard’s – played by Martin Sheen - Saigon hotel room, as The Doors’ “The End” plays, amidst the fiery horrors of the war in Vietnam. As a side note, in The Goonies, Corey Feldman’s “Mouth” character picks up coins in a wishing well recognizing presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington but confusing President Kennedy with Martin Sheen …)

And speaking of President Kennedy, once again, Marilyn Manson (as we noted in our 2015 post "Astral plane crash"), was very interested in the writings and research of Ardmore, Oklahoma native James Shelby Downard, he of the underground essay "King/Kill 33" and the utterly unbelievable autobiography of his early years, The Carnivals of Life and Death. Downard is a figure I am researching at the moment and intend to include in my forthcoming book The Stilwell Enigma.

At the time, I wrote: "Again, this dream was a day before I found myself at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The site of John F. Kennedy's ritual killing - the "King/Kill 33" of James Shelby Downard. And interestingly enough, the edgy shock rock of Marilyn Manson is hip to that notion. Standing there on the 33rd degree latitude, as this website notes: "The concept dealt with within 'King Kill 33' is reference to the esoteric rite of The Killing of the King (an ancient, radical version of the Masonic initiation ritual of the Death of Hiram), often associated with alchemy, and particularly how the enactment of this rite was the motive behind John F. Kennedy's assassination. The number 33 is the highest degree of the Scottish rite of Masonry, it is also the degree of latitude at which JFK was assassinated at the Dealey Plaza, the degree of latitude which the detonation of the first atomic bomb at Trinity (site in New Mexico) and the degree of latitude which the Temple of Solomon in Israel is to be rebuilt, as foretold in the Book of Revelation as one of the signs heralding the Apocalypse, the Second Coming of Christ."

This syncs back to the Machines of Loving Grace song "Perfect Tan (Bikini Atoll)." with the references to alchemy and atomic-bomb tests. And this morning, I had my coffee in my new "Kennedy for President" coffee mug."

I guess what I'm getting at in rehashing all of this is that old scores are still be settled. And something very ancient seems to be rising once again. What it is or what it all means is obviously unclear to me. But too many pieces seem to be coming together in rapid succession. Just look at the current, chaotic state of the world. Nobody seems to be in control, yet incongruously, it seems that a "force" or "intelligence" is choreographing the current act we find ourselves in. 

Could Shakespeare or Scorsese have come up with such a scenario? Probably not. But here we are. I think things are changing so rapidly that we don't even see it. Annie Lennox talks of how bummed out she was when her previous band The Tourists broke up. The writing of "Sweet Dreams" came out of the demise of that prior band and that song, which bandmate Dave Stewart "sweetened" up ever-so-slightly, made the Eurythmics a household name and gave Marilyn Manson a hit 12 years later.

I took an interest in Dave Stewart, personally. He played the role of the hookah-smoking, sitar-playing caterpillar in Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' 1985 hit "Don't Come Around Here No More," where Alice in this Alice in Wonderland-inspired music video first appears walking around mushrooms that reminded me of mushroom clouds. And recall at the end where Alice is turned into a cake and the Wonderland characters gleefully eat her. 

Oh, and my elderly neighbors in Wichita when I was in high school excitedly told me that they met Dave Stewart while visiting Scotland. I thought that was pretty neat.

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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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About Red Dirt Report

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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