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Times are gone for honest men

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OKLAHOMA CITY – When your synchromystic musical wishes come true, take notice.

Such was the case today as I mused upon the 1994 song “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden, a favorite of mine from the 1990’s and one released just a month after the untimely death of fellow Seattle musician Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

Living in Michigan at the time, Cobain’s death was a real blow to me and fellow Gen X’ers. I had particularly loved Cobain’s fun-loving take on early 60’s variety shows with the ’92 “In Bloom" video while he takes on a Buddy Holly-ish appearance. A doomed man donning the clothes and demeanor of a doomed man

Yet, there was something in the air that UFO-infested spring, 20 years ago.

Part of it, on reflection, was “Black Hole Sun.” A decidedly heavy, psych-ballad featuring cryptic and ominous lyrics written by Cobain friend and Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell:

"Stuttering, cold and damp, steal the warm wind tired friend 
Times are gone for honest men and sometimes far too long for snakes 
In my shoes, a walking sleep in my youth I pray to keep Heaven send Hell away, no one sings like you any more 

Black hole sun, won't you come? 
And wash away the rain Black hole sun, won't you come? 
Won't you come?"

Dwelling on this song today, I watched and re-watched the video on Vevo. Indeed, as critics noted, there was something sinister and Beatlesque about it, something White Album-ish.

And the video – unforgettable. Ominous. Freakish. The distorted, doomed denizens of a pleasant valley Sunday have nowhere to run as the molten, hellish black hole sun swallows up these contorted-faced monstrosities wearing Joker-like grins.

So driving down a local highway, thinking about Buddy Holly and then thinking about Kurt Cobain and his Buddy Holly-ish performance on the “In Bloom” video, I segued in my mind to the “Black Hole Sun” video.

Every single image – aside from the band shown performing in a field – is designed to be unsettling. The Barbie-on-the-spit, the dead beekeeper, the crazed “End is Nigh” zealots, the lizard-tongued Reptilian girl, sunning herself by the pool … all as Kim Thayil offers an absolutely wicked guitar solo against Matt Cameron’s “lumpy, Ringo Starr-style drumming.”

Driving, it dawned on me that “Black Hole Sun” would be on the radio at that very moment. I turned to the channel I felt it would be on – Lithium – and the last half of “Black Hole Sun” was playing, just as I knew it would.

Could I believe it? Yes I could. Just as I happened upon a post from last month’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer website which notes that – 20 years to the month – a black “square hole” has been discovered on the sun by NASA. In fact, the reporter writes: “We’ve all heard of ‘Black Hole Sun,’ in song and as pubic (sic) art in Seattle, and now NASA has footage of a square ‘hole’ sun ...

“(Square) hole sun / Won’t you come / and wash away the rain …” Okay, it doesn’t have quiet (sic) the same moody feel, and well, it’s nonsense now …”

The story goes on to say that a “coronal hole,” according to NASA is “almost square in shape” and is an area “where high-speed solar wind streams into space. It appears dark – in extreme ultraviolet light – as there is less material to emit in these wavelengths. Inside the coronal hole you can see bright loops where the hot plasma outlines little pieces of the solar magnetic field sticking above the surface. Because it is positioned so far south on the Sun, there is less chance that the solar wind stream will impact us here on Earth.”

A square hole sun? Kurt Cobain pretending he's a "square" on the "In Bloom" video? 

Later in 1994, another Seattle band – Pearl Jam – released an album called Vitalogy. On the album (where they worked with Brendan O’Brien, just as Soundgarden had with their album Superunknown) where Eddie Vedder sings on the telling song "Immortality":  “A truant finds home … and a wish to hold on … But there’s a trapdoor in the sun … immortality.”

Meanwhile, during the Age of Enlightenment, occultists of the time sought to create the philosopher’s stone in an effort to attain immortality. With the occult “black sun” imagery, as noted in Soundgarden’s powerful song, immortality is sought, particularly in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death. And we speak of Cobain – forever 27 – to this day. 

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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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