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The red flower (JUNGle BOOK)

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C'mon Mowgli, more cowbell!
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OKLAHOMA CITY – My soon-to-be released book, Rock Catapult, focuses on the importance of the rock music that was recorded-and-or-released in 1966, one of the most important years in rock music history. Ever since I was young, I found myself drawn to the music and TV pop culture touchstones of 1966, as the music of that year and the TV reruns of my 70’s-80’s childhood formed my interests that last to this day.

My original title was actually Sowing the Seeds of the Summer of Love, acknowledging how the music and culture of 1966 set the stage for the more culturally-acknowledged music of the following year, 1967, when the “hippie generation” hit its stride with the Monterey Pop Festival and the release of groundbreaking albums like The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Aquarian love beads and hippie “love-ins” would last only so long, as we all know. By 1968-69 the whole thing was falling apart, although some great rock music came out of these years and the years to come.

Last week, I revisited the work of Christopher Knowles at The Secret Sun blog. He had some great insights into the Netflix series Stranger Things. Dead on stuff. And the post title? "Read us the book of the names of the dead."

But it was an earlier post that really stuck with me, only because within 48 hours of reading it I was having all sorts of things present themselves to me in relation to the post, which deals with the classic-rock band Blue Öyster Cult and their song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” from their 1976 album Agents of Fortune.

The front and back sides of Blue Öyster Cult's 1976 album Agents of Fortune. (Columbia Records)

First of all, this band has a certain occult power about it. The band had manager/producer/lyricist/guru Sandy Pearlman to thank for that, considering his penchant for conspiracies and the whole Imaginos storyline that were first crafted in the mid-1960’s and took on a life of its own over the years, before becoming Imaginos

The first song on Agents of Fortune is the menacing “This Ain’t The Summer of Love.”

This ain’t the garden of Eden / There ain’t no angels above / And things aren’t what they used to be / And this ain’t the summer of love.”

Nearly a decade later the blowback was in full force. The Aquarian dream was dead.

But it’s the third track, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” that everyone knows. And while it played on classic rock stations for years after it got as high as number 12 on the pop charts in 1976, the same year Rolling Stone magazine named it the song of the year. It also makes a notable appearance in the horror film Halloween and a source of inspiration for Stephen King to write The Stand.

It was in 2000 that the song really got its due thanks to a sketch titled “More cowbell” where Christopher Walken plays record producer Bruce Dickinson (based on occultist Sandy Pearlman) who is trying to get percussionist Gene Frenkle (Will Ferrell) to “really explore the studio space” with his wild cowbell playing on “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” a song that he feels will be such a huge hit that the band will soon be wearing “gold-plated diapers.”

Christopher Walken as "Bruce Dickinson," producer for Blue Öyster Cult. In the 2000 Saturday Night Live sketch.

Writes Knowles: Speaking of Christopher Walken (who portrayed Whitley Streiber in Communion), one of Pearlman's best-known lyrics for the Oysters was "E.T.I. (Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence)", a personal favorite of mine in junior high school:

I hear the music, daylight disc
Three men in black said, "Don't report this"
"Ascension," and that's all they said
Sickness now, the hour's dread

All praise
He's found the awful truth, Balthazar
He's found the saucer news

I'm in fairy rings and tower beds
"Don't report this," three men said
Books by the blameless and by the dead
King in Yellow, queen in red

From daylight discs to fairy rings to The King in Yellow. Are you still wondering why I'm writing about this guy?

--END--

I was a fan of The Byrds' "Mr. Spaceman" (from 1966, naturally). And that bit about the "king in yellow"? Holy shit. After my trip to New Orleans last year and my visit to "The Yellow Store," next to the site of Fort Macomb where the "portal" scene was filmed in "Carcosa" in True Detective? It just gets stranger and stranger.

I point you to Zachary Houle’s 2013 post at Pop Matters, “Looking back at Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘Career of Evil,’” where we learn more about this amazing, influential and wild band. Lester Bangs, noted critic, loved BÖC!

THE RED FLOWER

It’s remarkable how my last Dust Devil Dreams post, “Tusk-oh!”, notes the prevalence of tusks, as in elephant tusks. Elephants have been coming up quite a bit lately. But a few days after reading the post about Blue Öyster Cult and Christopher Walken, I see a large painting of Walken in a hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas (next to a painting of Men in Black actor Tommy Lee Jones). Within an hour, a T-shirt saying "fear the tusk," due to the popularity of local college football team the Arkansas Razorbacks. And in a day or so, someone calls in the local radio station requesting Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk."

C. Walken painting in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

So, quite coincidentally, the fam wants to finally watch that new, live-action-and-CGI Disney film The Jungle Book, based on the story by Rudyard Kipling.

Directed by Jon Favreau, the film features Neel Sethi as the boy Mowgli and the voices of Bill Murray (as Baloo), Idris Elba (as Shere Khan), Ben Kingsley  (as Bagheera) , Scarlett Johansson (as Kaa the snake) and, incredibly, Christopher Walken as the enormous orangutan (Gigantopithecus) King Louie, who isn’t actually featured in the original Kipling books.

As Mowgli is kidnapped by King Louie’s massive monkey army, and brought to the crumbling, ancient Hindu temple, he passes by tusked elephant statues and is led in to the inner sanctum, where King Louie awaits. When he speaks, Walken gives King Louie a mafia don type vocal pattern, with a mix of humor and menace. You know King Louie means business when he demands Mowgli, the man-cub, to bring him the “red flower,” or that tool of man that the animals fear – “fire.”

King Louie (Christopher Walken) demands "the red flower" (fire) from Mowgli in The Jungle Book. (Disney Pictures)

This sequence, naturally, brings to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey, which premiered the in 1968, the year after Disney’s original, animated The Jungle Book, first appeared. There is a sense of desire for fire in that film as well.

But Walken’s King Louie repeatedly mentions man’s “red flower.” In an online article noting the symbolism and imagery of “the red flower,” it is what animals call fire, something humans can create, but they cannot. ‘No creature in the Jungle will call fire by its proper name. Every beast lives in deadly fear of it, and invents a hundred ways of describing it.” They fear it, due to its destructive power - but desire it.

And right before that, as Mowgli takes in the scene, with the monkeys and apes skittering about, he spies a pile of objects. And on the top of the pile is … a cowbell. Picking up the cowbell, Mowgli proceeds to shake it – the sound ringing up and rousing Walken’s enormous (and power-hungry) King Louie. I couldn’t believe it. A Walken/cowbell reference in The Jungle Book! Sandy Pearlman (who died this summer) would indeed get the last laugh.

And with that, one wonders if Pearlman’s investigations into conspiracies and the occult opened some portals? Maybe we should ask Bob Dylan?

Also in 2013, Joseph Stannard, writing at The Quietus, writes about BOC’s 1988 album Imaginos, under the title “A Disease With a  Long Incubation: Blue Öyster Cult’s Imaginos.”

Check this out: "As a university student in the late 1960s, Pearlman devised an epic fable entitled The Soft Doctrines Of Immaginos. Within it, he blended elements of Lovecraftian horror, science fiction and conspiracy theory to form a metanarrative spanning centuries and continents, populated by characters real and fictional from Dr John Dee to Victor Frankenstein. This “random access myth” was described by Pearlman as "an explanation for the onset of World War I, or a revelation of the occult origins of it" and centred around the character of Imaginos, a “modified child” born in New Hampshire at the turn of the 19th century. Leaving home to seek adventure, Imaginos travels far and wide until a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico washes him up at death’s door."

And it gets even weirder from there. This seems to tie to the spiritualism and occult ideas that were taking place in the late 19th and early 20th century which were influencing (consciously or not) luminaties like Kipling and Carl G. Jung.

William B. Dillingham wrote of Kipling’s interest in spiritualism and the occult. In Kipling: Spiritualism, Bereavement, Self-Revelation, and ‘They,’ Kipling’s father is noted to have had contact with Madame H.P. Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy, when she came to India in the late 19th century, when the British firmly controlled that subcontinent.

And while Kipling’s father considered Blavatsky and imposter, Rudyard would later note that he referred to his personal “Daemon,” which some believe first contacted the noted writer via “automatic writing.”

Later, in his autobiography Something Of Myself, Kipling (who died in 1936), "My Daemon was with me in the Jungle Books, Kin, and both Puck books and good care I took to walk delicately, lest he should withdraw. I know that he did not because when those books were finished they said so themselves... When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait and obey."

This brings to mind the work of Carl G. Jung, who, around this same time, in the early 20th century, referred to his “guide” Philemon, who helped him through his times of personal investigation and reflection on matters related to what would become known as “synchronicity.” I point to Jung’s Red Book (oddly featured in The Shining, as we have noted) and how the words JUNG and BOOK are in bold in a book with the word RED in it. Think JUNGle BOOK and RED flower. Synchronicity, too ... 

The cover of Jung's The Red Book, in the Red Dirt Report library. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

In my June 19, 2014 Dust Devil Dreams post "Strange eyes fill strange rooms," I note a conversation Jung and Philemon have regarding "magic," (note the Agents of Fortune album cover earlier in this post):

CJ: “Well, I must confess that that is new and strange. So nothing at all about magic can be understood?

P: “Exactly. Magic happens to be precisely everything eludes comprehension.”

CJ: “But then how the devil is one to teach and learn magic?”

P: “Magic is neither to be taught nor learned. It’s foolish that you want to learn magic.”

CJ: “But then magic is nothing but deception.”

P: “Watch out – you have started reasoning again.”

CJ: “It’s difficult to exist without reason.”

P: “And that is exactly how difficult magic is.”

Oh, and this Sunday – September 11th – Blue Öyster Cult opens up for Bad Company at the ZOO Amphitheatre, next to the zoo where the secret TUSKO LSD/elephant experiment went horribly wrong back in 1962.

Tusk-oh, indeed.

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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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