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Bitter Melodies Turning Your Orbit Around

Rock music shows us that we are unwitting psychics and prophets.

by James Leroy Wilson
November 24, 2005

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Bitter Melodies Turning Your Orbit Around

Jesus, don't cry
You can rely on me, honey
You can combine anything you want
I'll be around
You were right about the stars
Each one is a setting sun

Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs
tuned to chords
Strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around

I am not making this up, because I wouldn't admit it if it weren't true. I once had a very disturbing dream. I was watching a legitimate documentary about how pornography exploded in popularity in the 1970's and was threatening to go mainstream and respectable. Most disturbing was a scene in which major stars were signing on, first Sydney Poitier, and then Brady Bunch mom Florence Henderson. (The dream did not get explicit.) Of all the people in Hollywood, those were the two least likely to do such a thing, and for a variety of reasons we need not get into here, dreaming about either in porn is wrong on so many levels. I woke up quite disturbed.

But I felt better about myself a few days later when I read a piece by Jesse Walker in Reason which reviewed Guess Who, the remake of Poitier's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and then the documentary Inside Deep Throat about the 1970's porn movie that enjoyed mainstream popularity. In the Guess Who section, Walker discusses the original and Poitier. So my dream was perhaps not so disturbing; it foreshadowed a link between Poitier and porn came to be when Walker reviewed Guess Who and Inside Deep Throat in the same piece. And Florence Henderson? Well, while I was reading Walker's piece, in the next room people were watching the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours, a movie that inspired The Brady Bunch. It was "psychic" phenomena, vague enough to lack predictive value obvious when the dream "comes true."

We can not consciously choose what we dream, which means our dreams come from deep within our subconscious, or from outside our bodies, or both. Things appear in our heads that we do not choose to be there, or we think of a "neat idea" but don't know why.

In May, 2001, hip-hop group The Coup shot this cover for their CD Party Music, scheduled for release that November:

After September 11, the easy decision was made to replace the cover. Member "Boots" Riley says, "Any similarities are totally coincidental, and it was originally supposed to be more of a metaphor for destroying capitalism — where the music is making capitalist towers blow up. The politics of the Coup have more to do with the people organizing each other. "

What if the CD was actually released on September 11? That would have been freaky. Even more freaky than a CD that did come out that day. As Jason W. Smith reported that October on the Slayer album God Hates Us All:

Sample song titles: "God Send Death," "War Zone," and "Payback." Sample lyrics: "Homicide—suicide/Hate heals...strive for peace with acts of war/The beauty of death we all adore," "Welcome to the horror of the revelation/Tell me what you think of your savior now...Cult of new faith fuels the devastation," "Hell is home on the concrete where the city bleeds," "Explosive you feel the impact...you want a war I'm on the front line...get ready for the pain, 'cause this is where it's going down...madness is coming your way...fuel the fire, bring another victim," and "I'm the storm/That towers overhead." After 42 minutes of pummeling, Slayer's God Hates Us All comes to a startlingly abrupt end with the line: "You were made to take the fall now you're nothing/Now you're nothing."

Smith writes further:

[The Christian band] P.O.D. have the uncanny distinction of having a Clear Channels "banned" song, "Boom," from the album released on September 11th. Among Satellite's unfortunately timely lyrics: "Who's to blame for the lives that tragedy claims/No matter what you say/It don't take the pain away," "Last day of the rest of my life/I wish I would've known/'Cause I didn't kiss my mama goodbye," "Call me blind, but I didn't see it coming/Everybody was running," and "Fear of the unknown, so scared of my style/Alert the press and address the states of emergency" (from a song called "Masterpiece Conspiracy"), plus lots of cheesy metaphors about the Evil Enemy (bad) vs. Jah (good) that come across as rallying cries for some kind of pseudo-intellectual holy war, and pretty scary in the climate of current events.

Smith reports of a couple of other instances, but they require a more forced reading. The one that Smith didn't report on, was the one that should have been, but wasn't, released on September 11.

It's a war on war
There's a war on

You're gonna lose
You have to lose
You have to learn how to die

Just watching the miles flying by
Just watching the miles flying by
You are not my typewriter
But you could be my demon
moving forward through the flaming doors

You have to lose
You have to learn how to die
if you want to want to be alive, okay?


I would like to salute

The ashes of American flags


And it makes no difference to me
how they cried all over overseas
It's hot in the poor places tonight
I'm not going outside

Yankee... Hotel... Foxtrot...

Yankee... Hotel... Foxtrot...



What's that? The story is well-known among rock devotees. Wikipedia provides a good summary:

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a critically-acclaimed album by Wilco. It was rejected by the band's record label at the time, Reprise Records, to which the band reacted by making the album's tracks available on the Internet. The album was finally commercially released by Nonesuch Records on April 23, 2002 (ironically, Reprise and Nonesuch are both Time Warner companies.) The album hit the charts at an all-time high for Wilco at #13 (topped by A Ghost is Born two years later.) It was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.

Though "Jesus, Etc." and elements of other songs (in addition to the album cover itself) are sometimes thought to have been created in memory of the September 11th attacks, the entire album was completed before the attacks; September 11, 2001 was in fact the original intended release date for the album.

The album features recordings from numbers stations, and is named after one of them: a looped recording at the end of the song "Poor Places" of a mysterious female voice reciting "yankee hotel foxtrot" over and over. The woman recorded in the clip is alleged to be a Mossad agent.

What are numbers stations? Wikipedia again:

Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin that broadcast streams of numbers, letters (using a phonetic alphabet), or words. It is not known publicly with certainty where these signals originate or what purpose they serve. The voices that can be heard on these stations are often mysterious: mechanically generated; spoken in a wide variety of languages; usually female, but sometimes male or those of children. Numbers stations appear and disappear continuously, although some stick to regular schedules, and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s.

It has been speculated that these stations operate as a simple and foolproof method for government agencies to communicate with spies "in the field". According to this theory, the messages are encrypted with a one-time pad, to avoid any risk of decryption by the enemy. As evidence, numbers stations have changed details of their broadcasts or produced "special", non-scheduled broadcasts in response to extraordinary political events, such as the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993. Others speculate that some of these stations may be related to illegal drug smuggling operations. Although no broadcaster or government will acknowledge or give a reason for their existence, a 1998 article in The Daily Telegraph quoted a spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry (the government agency that regulates radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom) as saying, "These [numbers stations] are what you suppose they are. People shouldn't be mystified by them. They are not for, shall we say, public consumption."

Time Warner, one of the pillars of the American plutocracy, pulls the plug on the Sept 11 release date, only to re-sign with Wilco and release the album seven months later. Was this a blunder by Time Warner, or a "conspiracy" it made with Wilco management to generate more buzz for the album? In any case, the album foreshadows not just the 9-11 attacks, but also the sinister, conspiratorial aspects of an event that raises far more questions than even the JFK assassination.

Oh, yeah, the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album cover:

Maybe not the Twin Towers, but twin towers nonetheless. Wilco is a Chicago band.

But for freaky "coincidences" in rock, the best place to go is Pink Floyd's classic album Dark Side of the Moon, and play it while watching The Wizard of Oz. The "Dark Side of Oz" page can help you set things up, and lists some, but by no means all, of the matches between music and movie. Most noteworthy is that the synchronicity between lyric and the on-screen action exists not just through the first play of the album, but continues by playing the album again and again until the movie ends (while you hear "Home, home again." And yes, you can be amazed by it even when completely sober.

Could Pink Floyd have striven to synchronize the album with The Wizard of Oz? It's possible to do that through one play, if there were means in 1972 for Pink Floyd to have access to the movie in the studio while they recorded. Moon's engineer Alan Parsons denies that The Wizard of Oz was ever even discussed, and adds, "There simply wasn't the mechanics to do it. We had no means of playing videotapes in the room at all. I don't think VHS had come along by '72, had it?" And then to do it again and again, with ever-changing situations and actions in the movie, until the movie ends?

It is impossible to accept that the members of Pink Floyd consciously planned an alternative soundtrack to Wizard of Oz, or that members of Slayer, P.O.D., or Wilco consciously anticipated a terrorist attack on their albums' planned release dates. They seem to be manifestations of what Carl Jung called "synchronicity" and the "collective unconscious." After all, who believed before 9-11 that everything in America will go on swimmingly for the indefinite future? There were several (ignored) commentators and academics who predicted "blowback," terrorist reprisals from the USA's unceasing interventions in other countries, particularly in the Middle East. Prophesies do not go into details. A vague sense of doom and gloom is just that - a sense. But it's something we can having without wishing to have it. It can nevertheless direct what we do or what we write.

I see the possibility of words and phrases taking on meanings not consciously intended by the author. But when something, whether it is an idea or a lyrical line, just "pops" into one's head, is that the product of conscious thought? Or does it come from a higher, more powerful Mind, and we just become its unwitting agents?

When this is done by Christians, it is called the Holy Spirit working, or answered prayer. Self-help and get-rich gurus talk about the "Law of Attraction," in which thoughts are energy, and energy attracts like energy. (The gurus say that quantum physics affirms this worldview, though I haven't checked up on that.) It isn't just conscious thoughts, but "unconscious" thoughts perhaps not created through ourselves, that attract. In a multi-dimensional universe in which linear time is an illusion, thoughts and images can "attract" each other even when separated by days, months or even decades. The themes of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot have nothing to do with terrorism, and the themes of Dark Side of the Moon have nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz. Yet they are connected all the same.

Do we live in a world of blind, unintelligent chance? Do we live in a world of coincidence? Is that the most rational explanation for things we can't otherwise explain? Or does thought exist as energy at the smallest sub-atomic energy, bringing forces together for specific purposes?

I do not believe in coincidence. We seem to be conscious agents both of our own will, but also unconscious agents of powers beyond ourselves. We receive messages that come to us in dreams or just pop into our heads. We are unwitting psychics and prophets. We do things that attract other things we do not expect or plan.

Our world is more wonderful than we can even imagine.

Comments (1)

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Paul from Boston writes:
February 24, 2006

I just listened to this album the other day and I always am struck by the lyrics of Jesus etc.

The first time I heard that song was in the early spring of '02 and the DJ on WFNX (or WBCN) in Boston introduced the song as having very prophetic lyrics considering it was recorded long before 9/11.

My girlfiend and I were dumbstruck.

Needless to day, inthe past few years YHF has become one of my favorite albums, and Wilco one of my favorit e bands, even though i do get turned off by Jeff Tweedy's muffled and indirect socialism that creeps in here and there.

There are serious synchonicities involving this album that cannot be denied: the original release date, the cover and of course the lyrics to 3 or 4 of the songs.

However, I don't think Heavy Metal Drummer carries any portents of Doom along with it, so maybe they are just coincidences.

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