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Sleepwalk (Gnik nus)

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A few weeks ago, Fleetwood Mac rolled into town and gave the Oklahoma City audience just about every single Mac hit imaginable. And while there were a few that were overlooked, like “Sara,” most folks went home feeling pretty content.

In my review, posted the following day, I made a reference to some Fleetwood Mac songs that I would have loved hearing, even though they were from the pre-Lindsey Buckingham guitar days.

I wrote: “Yes, this was pre-Nicks and Buckingham, but the guitar of guys like Peter Green, Bob Welch and Danny Kirwan are not to be overlooked. Of course I can understand why we weren’t treated to more obscure faves like 1968’s oceanic instrumental ‘Albatross’ (which inspired The Beatles’ ‘Sun King’) and 1973’s spooky, jazzy ‘Hypnotized.’

I was reminded of my “Albatross” reference when I learned something extraordinary today: Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis is releasing a film in October 2015 – this fall – titled The Walk, a film starring  Joseph Gordon-Levitt as French wire walker Phillipe Petit and based on the remarkable 2008 documentary Man on Wire. Petit successfully walked - covertly - on a wire connecting the north and south towers of the World Trade Center.

It was in Man on Wire that Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” was featured. (And recall that Lindsey Buckingham's "Time Bomb Town" was a signature song in the original Back to the Future). Of course it was in October 2015 where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) finds himself in the future, therefore, further syncing Back to the Future and 9/11 with Robert Zemeckis and his forthcoming Twin Towers high-wire film The Walk).

The news about this film, The Walk, has apparently been out for over a year and it had eluded me somehow. The director of Back to the Future, who seems to allude to the future attacks of September 11, 2001 in his trilogy, has taken on the role of symbolically resurrecting the Twin Towers by showing them in all their glory back in 1974, a year or so after they were completed?

Not only was “Albatross” (again, this song inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s instrumental “Albatross,” with Beatles guitarist George Harrison saying in 1987 of Lennon’s “Sun King,” “Let’s be Fleetwood Mac doing ‘Albatross,’ just to get going … that was the point of origin.”

“Sun King” is the second one in the Abbey Road medley. But it recently showed up reversed as "Gnik Nus."

On the 2006 Beatles compilation Love, used for a Cirque du Soleil show, Beatles producer George Martin had his son Giles Martin help him preparing the songs for the album. As Giles Martin noted in the liner notes: “Early on in the (Love) project, I had turned the cymbal backwards on ‘Sun King’ for an effect for ‘Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows’ and I realized I’d turned the vocals around as well. My dad loved the melody line that this created and said that it’s exactly the sort of thing that John would have gone for. From this, ‘Gnik Nus’ was born.”

And the point of “origin” for Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, who wrote “Albatross”? Santo & Johnny’s 1959 steel-guitar based instrumental “Sleep Walk.” A song that was featured to great effect in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, when advertisements for traveling to the Florida Keys played on the TV in the mental institution. Santo & Johnny recorded “Sleep Walk” at Trinity Music recording studio in Manhattan, not far from where the future Twin Towers would be built.

As for the inspiration for “Sleep Walk,” it was recognized as a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, who died in a plane crash earlier in the year near Clear Lake, Iowa. Twelve years later, folk musician Don McLean would score a major hit with “American Pie,” which talks about “the day the music died,” the day those three early rock musicians died in that plane crash in snow-covered field. Perhaps Buddy Holly's ghost is trying to remind us of something.

That event hung heavy over America. Just as rock was really taking off, it suddenly dropped off, and the pop crooners of 1960-63 really took hold – until The Beatles and the British Invasion took over.

As we noted, the band Fleetwood Mac, formed in the late 1960’s, featured a troubled but talented guitarist in its line-up, the aforementioned Peter Green. He embraced the albatross in “Albatross” – inspired by “Sleep Walk” and inspiring The Beatles and “Sun King.”

Think of the albatross metaphor. The symbolism. Of course, we go back to the 18th century and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner who uses the bird as a symbol for someone who has a burden. Sailors thought it was good luck to be followed by an albatross and bad luck to kill one, so when one did, it was to say one had an “albatross around one’s neck.” Some might say the events of 9/11 are an albatross around the neck of America and the world, trapping us in a karmic time loop of hopelessness.

Writes Coleridge:

"Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung

In the 1952 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Water, Water Every Hare," (a reference to a line in the aforementioned Coleridge poem) which I examined here, Bugs is dreaming. Or is he? He was definitely "sleepwalking," if that is what we can call it. Perhaps we have been collectively "sleepwalking" for nearly 14 years, since 9/11. Everything has taken a dreamlike quality.

Anyway, watching the trailer of The Walk was quite … eerie. The shot of the trident-shaped steel racing up the side of the tower, all the way to the top where we find Gordon-Levitt’s character preparing for his August 1974 wire walk is breathtaking. Psychologically, I can imagine, seeing the towers in their infancy will likely have an impact.


As I noted earlier, Santo & Johnny's “Sleep Walk” (along with Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill”) really strike a chord (pun intended) in 12 Monkeys, a film based on Chris Marker's 1962 film La Jetee, released in the time period between Buddy Holly's death and the arrival of The Beatles, stateside, in 1964.

This powerful time-travel film features some very deep themes. And regarding that, I was quite interested in the research of Egyptologist Lynn Gibson, who is intemately familiar with ancient Egyptian religion and its esoteric meanings. She, along with Vedic expert Sunthar Visulvalingam, write how the ancient mysteries of Egypt are alluded to throughout Gilliam’s brilliant 1995 sci-fi film (recently relaunched as a SyFy TV series).

Gibson and Visuvalingam wrote, aat “We felt that 12 Monkeys might serve as an excellent introduction to archaic, particularly Egyptian, religion through an apocalyptic science-fiction theme that's sure to resonate with contemporary viewers.”

Regarding the core, esoteric structure of 12 Monkeys, the researchers note: “12 Monkeys begins to make complete sense only as a (re-)scripting of the death of Osiris, his re-union with Isis, and his rebirth from her womb. Though there are allusions to other (including, like psychoanalysis, pseudo-) religious traditions, the plot, naming-conventions, dialogue and symbolism as a whole has been mined from and systematically constructed around the specifics of ancient Egyptian eschatology, such as expressed in The Book of the Dead. Like those of the pharaoh in the after-life, the adventures of James Cole translate into states of consciousness that an initiate would undergo under the supervision of the priests.”

For instance, the title of the film, 12 Monkeys, “is probably inspired by the twelve baboons portrayed on the west wall of the tomb of Ay, the vizier of Tutankhamun, who replaced the latter as pharaoh.”

They write that adventurer Giovanni Belzoni (noted in a recent Twilight Language post “Philae name game: Isis and obelisks”) , who fled his native Italy after Napoleon invaded it in 1798, and that Gilliam's choice of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the setting of 12 Monkeys was deliberate, noting, "Philadelphia is today's equivalent of the sacred temple island of Philae in the upper Nile, the last bastion of Egyptian religion that was patronized by the Roman emperors before the ancient worship, including the writing of hieroglyphs, were forbidden. Famous for its temple to Isis, the goddess of rebirth, island itself amounted to a primordial mound within the womb of the Nile. The temple contained a birth-house (mamissi) for Horus where his birthday was annually celebrated. Here the king re-enacted the mysteries of death and rebirth before his people, the temple-body of Isis being assimilated to the tomb. Since it was there that the (Egyptian) world ended, it's only fitting that the suppressed animal-gods be released again in Philadelphia."

It is also interesting that a European Space Agency probe, Philae, successfully landed on a comet late last year. It was part of the Rosetta spacecraft. The lander, now on the Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet, is in "safe mode" right now, until solar power is expected to reboot it sometime this summer. We shall see if that happens.

As noted at “Belzoni did make some discoveries while in the Valley of the Kings, though in many instances, because hieroglyphs had not yet been deciphered, he had no idea who or what he had found. He almost literally stumbled into the tomb belonging to King Ay, but only noted a wall painting of 12 baboons, leading him to christen the chamber "tomb of the 12 monkeys." Or is that "moonkey"?

The year 1968 has been coming up a lot lately. August 1968 was when construction of the WTC's North Tower began. It was the year Back to the Future's Marty McFly was born. It was a time of strife and change in America and around the world. The most recent TIME magazine (always prescient, along with Newsweek) featured a cover of baton-wielding police chasing an African-American man down the street with the cover reading "America, 1968, with 1968 crossed out and 2015 added. "Hello 2015!"

In late 2013, here at Dust Devil Dreams, I wrote a piece called "Existentialist elements in 'Jacob's Ladder' and '12 Monkeys' sync/link both." I felt that Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) in Jacob's Ladder and James Cole (Bruce Willis) in12 Monkeys play very existential roles in their respective films.  In my sync piece I ask, "Is there something to do with the karmic wheel?" This, because Jacob's Ladder was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who considered the story a modern interpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, while it would seem that 12 Monkeys is a modern interpretation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, something I hadn't clued into in that earlier post.


Back to Man on Wire and the upcoming Zemeckis film The Walk.

I was thinking of the word "wire" much of last week, due to the riots in Baltimore and its connection to the HBO series The Wire, which I noted here.

And with that, I was thinking of the 1973, dystopian sci-fi film World on a Wire (Welt am Draht), directed by the late West German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a film considered "ahead of its time" by critics and dealing with a Matrix-like computer simulated world where it is not entirely clear if the human-like "identity units" are really human or if all of us here in "reality" are actually "identity units" believing we are human but actually controlled by outside forces. It raised - and continues to raise - a lot of questions, particularly as we examine popular culture from a synchromystic perspective, particularly as virtual reality gains interest and we are all more "wired," as it were.

It was also in 1973 when Marty's father George is killed, according to Back to the Future Pt. II, when Marty arrives in an alternate "1985." Perhaps we are in alternate 2015 and the universe is a hologram?

Back in 1981, when Steven Spielberg was filming E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, it was his friend Robert Zemeckis who suggested that the friendly alien hide in Gertrude's closet amidst stuffed animals. That film, of course, starred Henry Thomas as the boy Elliott. It was Thomas who appeared as one of the logging workers who encountered a UFO in the 1993 film Fire in the Sky.  Questions are raised, in respect to Travis Walton's alleged alien abduction, if it really happened. Walton and the other loggers are repeatedly questioned and the truth is never entirely clear. In the film, Thomas's character Greg, wears a Fleetwood Mac T-shirt.

Somehow, it all comes back to Fleetwood Mac. That Stevie Nicks knows something.

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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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