So is anyone gonna talk about it, or do I have to bring it up first? Fine. So we all saw the Coachella footage. We all saw laser zombie Tupac Shakur return from the nether realms like some undead black Obi-Wan Kenobi and inexplicably not perform How Do U Want It? Where the fuck were you KC and Jo Jo?
We all know what this means.
The end is here.
The seventh seal has been broken.
And you ask if I have scary, impossible to ignore, yet hilariously equivocal Bible passages to back it all up? And I say, pretty much. ”And the seven angels which had seven trumpets prepared to sound.” -The Bible:King James Version.
“There are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese.”
-The Fucking Bible:King James Version. (Book Of Mousekewitz)
So since the world’s ending again I figure now’s as good a time as any to make up my ultimate end of the world playlist. And just like any playlist I foist upon an unsuspecting friend or lady of current interest my list is something not asked for, something that has to be enjoyed in the exact order I have submitted it; and something which contains a Pearl Jam song much to the chagrin of just about everyone. Which is fine,
I’ve accepted that I am the only person on the planet who still unabashedly loves Pearl Jam. I mean even most of the guys actually in Pearl Jam hate Pearl Jam.
But I still think they’re swell and will never apologize for lacing every playlist with a little bit of Darth Vedder. So here it is. And like all playlists and mix CDs I make, this mix has a wonderfully horrible, unwieldily title. Examples from my Playlist list include: Rush, Awesome Nuggs, Massive Rock For Sleeping Purposes, Sad Infant Man Weep Prog Melody Collider (John Frusciante Vs. Rush), Oasis, Choice Dribbles, Butthole Collapsing Rock Collection … and one for my girlfriend entitled Tay Del Sentimental Fang Revue Pats IV-VIII. Here’s a list of songs that conjure up end of the world feelings. Be it for their lyrical quality or simply because of the ultimate death and destruction sound the song provides, these are the tracks which make think me the end is coming.
End Time Party Concern Ragnarok ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot Playset (List)
Do The Evolution, Pearl Jam:
Right out the gate when Stone Gossard starts his crunchy riff and Eddie Vedder lets loose his rooster being raped screech we know the end is nigh. But more importantly, we know it’s going to be a good time. Do The Evolution sits tucked away in the middle of Pearl Jam’s otherwise mostly zen like ‘Yield’ record and it sticks out on the album and the band’s entire catalogue. The band has never really exceeded this song in terms of crazed exuberant abandon. What the song achieves is a particular and difficult combination.
It has, like all good apocalypse songs, that feeling of impending dire doom and destruction but ‘Do The Evolution’ also sounds really excited at the prospect of complete and utter annihilation. Positively giddy at the gallows.
Whether it be a sardonically upbeat gesture or a genuine thrill at things going down fast, Pearl Jam sound like doomsday prophets drunk on their own foretelling.
Most Chilling Moment: (1:57) Vedder sings, “I’m a thief, I’m a liar, there’s my church, I sing in the choir.” Then the guitars part out mostly except for some faint finger picking and in eerie falsetto Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament sing “Hallelujah.” Afterward Vedder and Ament’s bass join in with their lower voices and the brief respite from the havoc is swept away and we’re back in the panic of the bridge riff.
Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones:
Here is a song that is almost impossible to separate from the time it was recorded. Gimme Shelter has become synonymous with the end of the sixties, the Vietnam War, and the Stone’s concert at Altamont which resulted in the murder of someone in the crowd in front of the stage by the Hell’s Angels in the middle of the show.
In short the song has become death, war and the deterioration of innocence. What a gas, gas, gas.
The tone is set from the very start with Keith Richard’s ominous and mysterious guitar followed closely by the otherworldly vocals of Richards, Mick Jagger and guest vocalist Merry Clayton. Together they sound like mourning vampires waiting for a blue punishing dawn. The lyrics are simple and visceral. “A storm is threatening, my very life today. If I don’t get some shelter, I’m gonna fade away. War, children. It’s just a shot away.” The genius of this song is that despite the fact that the song speaks so perfectly of the era in which it came to be, the lyrics are vague enough that they can be applied to any period of upheaval and devastation. Credit must also be given to drummer Charlie Watts’ tumbling drum fills sounding like bodies being mowed down by machine gun fire.
Most Chilling Moment: Tie. The opening which sounds like complete darkness, sexy, menacing and sad all the same; and the middle section (2:40) where the female vocal by Merry Clayton takes center stage. She sounds terrified as she screams out, “RAPE, MURDER! IT’S JUST A SHOT AWAY!” On a side-note, it has been rumored that Merry Clayton suffered a miscarriage arriving home after recording her vocal for Gimme Shelter
Whether or not this is true when you hear her voice cracking near the end you will believe this song could kill a baby.
Five Years, David Bowie:
This one is beautiful.
This one is like watching entire cities falling into ash in slow motion or a whole planet imploding from space. Somehow gorgeous despite all the death and screaming and fire. This song really showcases Bowie’s deft lyrical approach. His imagery and character work here are spellbinding. The song begins with the narrator watching the TV where a weeping ‘newsguy’ explains that the planet earth will be dead in five years. Bowie then runs through a huge cast including a cop kissing the feet of the a priest, a queer who pukes at the sight of this. A young woman who starts beating some children until “a black pulls her off of them.” Bowie even mentions the listener as someone the narrator catches in an ice cream parlor enjoying milkshakes “Cold and long,” oblivious of the oncoming destruction. He sings, “Don’t think you knew you were in this song?” He laments all the “fat, and skinny people. All the somebody, and nobody people.” He misses his mother’s face.
By the end when he’s chanting “Five Years” he’s singing for everyone, every single person dying on a dying planet.
Most Chilling Moment: (2:32) When he sings, “Your face, your race, the way that you talk. I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk.”
When The Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin:
Just listen to the goddamn drums!
That’s the beat to biblical floods wiping the virus we call the human race off the face of the earth. That’s the sound of the sky turning into blood and the ground burning black. The Zep song is really a take off of the Memphis Minnie blues song of the same name, which dates back to 1929, and which dealt with the The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Zep’s version relies on the massive sounding John Bonham beat and Robert Plant’s patented moaning and roaring vocals. He sings aided with phazer effect near song’s end, “The crying won’t help you, prayer won’t do you no good. When the levee breaks, mama you got to move.”
Most Chilling Moment: (6:22) The last section with Plant’s wordless howl swimming and swirling through Bonham’s cymbal crashes. This is the end of everything.
It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M.:
Great song, great lyrics. Just a little too overplayed and obvious for this list. Reminds me of Do The Evolution in that it’s sonically a very energetic and happy sounding song.
Always dug this song. Love Maynard’s diatribe against hipster trash in all their forms, “Insecure actress, gun toting hip gangster wannabes.” “Fuck retro anything, fuck your tattoos.” The part where the song calms and he sings, “I’m praying for rain, praying for tidal waves…” sounds like sunlight pushing through black dead clouds.
4th of July , Soundgarden:
“I heard it in the wind, and I saw it in the sky. And I thought it was the end, I thought it was the Fourth of July.” Cornell’s always been good at imagery. This one is one of his masterpieces.
In this song Soundgarden sound like a smarter Black Sabbath with Roger Waters writing their lyrics for them.
“Goodbye, safe, heaven, new. I’ll be waving.” This passage and the song itself sound like an acceptance and invitation to Ragnorok.
Back to the main list:
The End, The Doors:
This trance-inducing, phantasmagorical epic is known for two things mostly. One being the song used in the beginning and end of ‘Apocalypse Now,’ and two, for being the song where Jim Morrison said that he wanted to kill his father and implied that he wanted to fuck his own mother.
In between and after this stuff we have a song showcasing everything that was dark and brilliant about The Doors. The Arabic influenced guitar line, the evocative percussion. The keyboard that sounded like funeral music from a wrecked spaceship. And Jim Morrison singing and speaking his poetry, explaining the darkest reaches of his imagination.
Most Chilling Moment: (6:26) “The Killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on. He took a face from the ancient gallery, and he walked on down the hall…”
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Bob Dylan:
(Hard Rain starts at 16:10. If you have the time, watch this whole performance; it is soul expanding.) A song written after The Bay Of Pigs incident and a young Dylan and much of the rest of the world thought for a brief time that the U.S.S.R and the U.S. might actually engage in a nuclear exchange. So this was his attempt to cram in everything he had to say into one song.
The result is a piece of writing that a religion could be founded on.
Images, characters and feelings flow in and out of the narrative about a traveler who has seen and experienced all life has and come to the conclusion that a great consequence is coming. A hard rain. The song’s tone ranges from empathetic and celebratory to nightmarish and judicious. All usually within the same verse.
Most Chilling Moment: (21:30) “ And I’ll tell it, and speak it, and think it, and breathe it. And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it. And I’ll stand on the ocean, before I start singing. But I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” The poet Allen Ginsberg noted this line in particular as the moment he realized that the cultural torch held by the Beats had been passed to this new generation of rock and roll poets.
What all of these end of the world songs have in common is a sense of dread, bittersweet assessment of humanity and its shortcomings, and most of all the feelings of galvanization and white hot verve that come with knowing that what’s happening, whether it be joyous or horrifying, will be the last. And nothing will come after it.