Cosmic Cycles of Violence:
John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell
Gunned Down on December 8

© Brandt Hardin

Pantera’s furious music was propelled by guitarist Darrell Abbott’s maniacal claws ripping across a Washburn fretboard. The music was aggression distilled, warfare on vinyl, the hellish harmonics of testosterone-pumped teenagers smashing beer bottles and crucifixes, the pentatonic expression of sociopathic sexual impulse turned loose on loose pussy, power chords and possession, amplifiers and alcohol, whammy bars and whimsical youth. Pantera was pissed. And yet, no one remembers the jolly Dimebag Darrell being particularly pissed in day-to-day life. Not nearly as pissed as John Lennon was, anyway.

Behind the lead Beatle’s circular granny glasses and tireless promotion of peace burned a fury unmatched by most metal enthusiasts. Lennon was pissed at his parents, pissed at his bandmates, pissed at his stay-at-home wife, pissed at Her Majesty the Queen, pissed at America’s war machine, pissed at the world for not giving peace a chance. Lennon was fucking hostile. But neither Dimebag nor Lennon were as pissed as the two pistol-wielding schizophrenics who made them into rock star martyrs, both on December 8, twenty-four years apart.

© Brandt Hardin

To be fair, John Lennon’s youth in England was marred by parental abandonment and random death. His sea-faring father left John in 1946 when he was only five, and his eccentric mother, Julia, left her son in care of his aunt Mimi in a house full of women. His mother eventually came back into John’s life a few years later—even buying him his first guitar—only to be run over and killed by an off-duty cop one sunny afternoon when John was only seventeen.

John took his personal pain and pissed disposition to the Liverpool College of Art, where he met the straight-laced Cynthia Powell, who would become his wife, and became best friends with the brilliant painter Stuart Suttcliffe, who for a brief time would become the musically incompetent fifth Beatle during their formative residencies in Hamburg, Germany.

In January of 1962, the Beatles signed a contract with their new manager, Brian Epstein, a closet homosexual Hebrew who immediately fell in love with the young John Lennon. Epstein’s savvy negotiations would see the barely-known Beatles become the biggest band in the world within two years, and that astonishing success would see Epstein become, in Lennon’s playful words, a “rich Jew fag.” Everybody wins until somebody dies.

The Beatles returned to Hamburg in April of that year, where they were to visit Stuart and his new wife. They were greeted with the news that Suttcliffe was dead. Coroners had found a brain tumor below an indentation in his skull—perhaps inflicted when a group of thugs attacked Stuart in a pub, or else by John when he kicked Stu’s head into the pavement for leaving the band. John fell into a somber silence for days, finally pulling it together to console Suttcliffe’s widow, and then resume his raucous rock star ambitions.

In July, Lennon learned that Cynthia Powell was pregnant. Rather than getting pissed and knocking her around, as he would do during jealous rages—or paying a £200 settlement for her silence, as Epstein had done for numerous others—John asked Cynthia to marry him. Their son Julian was born in April the next year, two days shy of Sutcliffe’s deathday. Family life is usually a total cock-stopper for hard rockers, but unlike many aspiring musicians, becoming a father never stifled Lennon’s rise to ultra-mega-super-stardom. It didn’t slow his groupie-scrogging, either.

That year, 1963, Beatlemania engulfed the UK on the heels of Twist and Shout. These dazzling English chaps with their shaggy mops and spiffy gentleman’s suits rode to the top of the world on a wave of squealing pubescent girls. Twenty years later, Dimebag Darrell (then known as “Diamond” Darrell) would launch what would become the biggest, most aggressive mainstream metal band in the world. Of course, in those days the glammed-out members of Pantera dressed like, well, squealing pubescent girls.


By all accounts, Darrell Abbott and his brother Vinnie Paul enjoyed a remarkably stable childhood growing up in a working class neighborhood near Arlington, TX. Their father Jerry was a musician, and fervently cultivated his sons’ ambitions to become rock stars. Their mother was no less nurturing, working hard at a factory to support her jobless boys’ hobbies.  By this point in history, rock n’ roll was just another pastime.

Darrell spent countless hours alone in his room practicing guitar licks while Vinnie hammered away on his drum set. Unlike many disturbed metal fans, the boys didn’t immerse themselves in hard music to escape from the irritating world outside so much as escape into the powerful fantasy worlds of heavy metal. While other boys went to school, played sports, partied, got laid, got jobs, and all that normal shit, the Abbott brothers continued to rock out at their parents’ house well after most kids had gone off to college and started careers.

Darrell prostrated himself before the guitar gods of his youth until the day he died. He gauged his musical progress by phlegm accumulation—while playing a particularly difficult lick, he would arch back and hock some nostril sauce over his shoulder onto his infamous “loogie wall.” Each thick splat signified another riff under his belt. Listening to the exquisite dynamic between Eddie and Alex Van Halen, the Abbott brothers wouldn’t be satisfied until they became Van Halen.

Pantera’s first six albums were recorded at Jerry Abbott’s studio near the boys’ home. Their father actually created a label for their first releases. Pantera’s early efforts were a dripping cheese sandwich on toasted metal: Metal Magic, Projects in the Jungle, I Am the Night, and finally, Power Metal, which was written by their original singer—who was a pussy—and recorded with their newfound singer, Phil Anselmo—who was pissed. Once Phil showed up, Pantera became what they were always meant to be: cowboys from hell.

Dimebag’s blistering riffs and Phil’s endless anger—at cops, Christ, corporate trendies, and the various cock-nozzles life will throw at you—propelled Pantera to the heights of Headbanger’s Ball and around the planet on multiple world tours. But it didn’t matter where Dimebag found himself—the world was his wet bar, every new face was a new best friend, and each concert was a hysterical joke for which a smashed guitar was the punchline. Darrell rarely found time to be truly pissed. Life was entirely too fun for actual fury.


John Lennon prostrated himself before many gurus during his life, in his own swaggering manner. Through absorption, projection, and continual metamorphosis, he became the most iconic guru of the revolutionary generation. Lennon became a hero wherever a hero was needed most.

The first waves of Beatlemania saw John Lennon: Sex Icon. He had watched Elvis get all shook up, and now it was his turn. One glance could unleash a spastic spontaneous orgasm—or at least, so it seems from the grainy footage. The Beatles were like sweat-soaked vibrators buzzing across the world. The teeny-boppers lined up in droves, panting, weeping, screaming, fainting, falling all over themselves to get just one inch closer to the sly, if agonized Lennon. Of course, pretty boy Paul McCartney got the lion’s share of adoration, and for the competitive Lennon that would never do.

Fortunately, no other Beatle had the nerve to touch his role as John Lennon: Rebel Icon. Sensible, traditional, down home decent folk balked at his observation that “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink…We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first—rock n’ roll or Christianity.” Inflammatory statements like that ensured that kids would love him and parents would hate him, even if they wound up buying their kids more Beatles albums.

After turning off his mind in the mid-Sixties, he became John Lennon: Psychedelic Icon. Inspired by Timothy Leary’s enthusiastic writings and bombarded with a continuous supply of LSD, Lennon began dosing on a daily basis. The first few times were freak outs, but once he got the hang of it, tripping became his fast-track to enlightenment. The Beatles’ music shifted into another dimension. Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club became psychedelic staples. “Tomorrow Never Knows” and a sugar cube might take you across the universe. It wasn’t long before Lennon got burnt out on chemical mind expansion, though, and set out looking for a heavier trip.

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a creepy little gnome, but his Transcendental Meditation cult briefly captivated the Beatles in 1967, and inspired the development of John Lennon: Spiritual Icon. This short period of navel-gazing and chanting the sacred Om was to be an eerily pivotal moment in the singer’s life. After years of abuse and alienation from John’s life of stardom, his wife Cynthia made the decision to leave John after she was pushed back by a security guard while trying to board a train for the Maharishi’s retreat in Wales. The Beatles went on without her. Lennon’s manager Brian Epstein was wary of the devious guru’s exploitation of his clients’ fame, but Epstein died of a drug overdose while the band was meditating at the retreat, so that was that. “Now you will be able to come to India with me,” the Maharishi told them, which they did. Lennon didn’t last long in India, though, what with all the mindless conformity, bland food, and accusations that the Maharishi had sexually assaulted Lennon’s fellow aspirant, actress Mia Farrow. When the guru asked why he was leaving, Lennon replied, “If you’re so cosmic, you should know.” Lennon’s spiritual quest would not end there, however, as he would soon find himself kneeling at the Goddess’ feet.

John met Yoko Ono at one of her art shows at the same Indica bookshop where he had discovered Timothy Leary’s manual The Psychedelic Experience. He later said that lightning struck immediately, creating John Lennon: Pussy-whipped Icon. After a bizarre courtship in which the witchy Yoko basically stalked Lennon at his home and wedged herself between him and his already estranged wife, the two finally consummated their love. The day before, Lennon had held a meeting with the Beatles and core members of the Apple Corps, where he proclaimed with no hint of humor, “I’ve got something very important to tell you all. I am Jesus Christ come back again. This is my thing.” Yoko became his Mary Magdalene with which he could work on half-baked conceptual art projects, record bizarre noises that barely resemble music, release album covers and photo shoots displaying their fig-leafless flabby asses, abandon his band, his family, and his manhood, and of course, do up massive amounts of heroin.

By the end of 1969, Woodstock had made people believe in the power of music to create peace, Charles Manson had been inspired by The White Album to slaughter of Sharon Tate and friends to start the race war, Altamont had called all possibility of peace into question, the draft had been reinstated for the Vietnam War, and the Beatles had called it quits with extreme animosity, after less than a decade together.

With his leftist lover now permanently attached, he became John Lennon: Revolutionary Icon. The couple moved to New York and met with the Yippies to lend a hand in stirring up the shit. They wore bags during interviews to subvert the prejudices associated with race, beauty, and of all things, hair length. After marrying, they held a highly publicized “Bed In” as an eccentric “commercial for peace.” John took Yoko’s last name, becoming John Oko Lennon, and began calling his wife “Mother.” He wrote cynical songs about working class heroes, hopeful songs imagining no religion, countries, or possessions, provocative songs about women being the niggers of the world, doubtful songs about not believing in Hitler, Jesus, Kennedy, Kings, or Elvis, desperate songs asking people to just give peace a chance.

They projected the image of perfect soul mates, inspiring people who had given up on love to open their hearts. But in 1973, John took some time off from the marriage. He moved out of the house, got wasted every night, and perhaps most importantly, he started banging his twenty-two year-old personal assistant, the petite Asian May Pang—all at Yoko’s insistence. After a year and a half of belated bachelorhood, he crawled back to Yoko with his tail tucked between his legs. In 1975, Yoko gave birth to Sean. They both retired from public life to raise their son, and the new father settled into John Lennon: Family Man Icon for the last five years of his life.

Three weeks after the release of their comeback album, Double Fantasy, John Lennon signed a copy for a disgruntled fan waiting outside the Dakota apartment building in New York. A few hours later, that same fan shot him dead. The signed copy is presently on sale for nearly one million dollars.


Dimebag Darrell’s story isn’t nearly as complicated or convoluted. The details of his life are scant compared to someone like Lennon, whose every burp and fart was documented and filed away, but by all appearances, life was really quite simple for Dimebag. He celebrated Halloween like it was New Year’s Eve, and approached life like every day was Halloween. Special occasions called for a drink, and every moment was a special occasion. If you were invited, you had to drink, most likely a black tooth grin (two shots of whiskey and a splash of cola.) And it didn’t matter who you were, everyone was invited.

If he didn’t have a guitar in his hand, Dimebag had a drink or a bottle rocket ready to blast it in your face. He was a tireless prankster. If he caught you asleep, you were canvas. If you were looking the other way, you were a target. If you took yourself too seriously, like the time he stumbled across tedious guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen at a hotel and had his roadie accost him with a bag of donuts (“No, I don’t like donuts! I don’t like donuts!”), you were a piece of performance art for his home video collection. One of his posse’s finest productions was short skit in which a roadie gets his hand smashed off by a road case and stolen by a random passerby. Had he not been so engrossed in music, Dimebag may have been an America’s Funniest Home Videos contender.

First and foremost was family. Dimebag was fiercely dedicated to his brother, Vinnie Paul. When Dave Mustaine left Metallica, he offered Dimebag the spot as lead guitarist in Megadeth. Darrell agreed, on the condition that his brother would be the new drummer. But Megadeth already had a drummer, and Dimebag had better songs to write, anyway.

Whenever Darrell came home to Texas from touring, the first thing he did was have a drink. The next thing he did was visit his mother and pay off her credit cards. Even after he had earned a small fortune, Dimebag’s home was never more than a few miles away from the house he grew up in, which was just a few miles from his father’s recording studio. Pantera’s first six albums were recorded with his father, and the seventh, Far Beyond Driven, was recorded with another producer at their father’s new studio in Nashville, TN. Dimebag never tired of familiar places. His love life was no exception.

Darrell met Rita Haney at the age of eight when she kicked him off of his bicycle. They remained friends until they were teenagers, when he made his first move. They never looked back from that kiss, and were joined in common law marriage until the day he died. By all accounts, Rita never slowed Dimebag down. At the very least, she never asked him to wear a fucking bag during interviews. If Dime wasn’t partying at home or playing onstage, he was doing both at a strip club. How many women Dimebag slept with is not a matter of public record—it could have been one, it could have been one thousand. Considering the typical road rules of the rock star fraternity, one is inclined to believe the latter. A gentleman does not kiss and tell, but it’s doubtful that Rita would care if he did either.

When the band settled into their final four-piece—Phil, Dimebag, Vinnie, and Rex—they shed their girly outfits for regular street clothes. Pantera’s true debut was Cowboys from Hell in 1990, and it blew up like a car bomb. Vulgar Display of Power had twice the blast radius, and 1994′s Far Beyond Driven remains the most aggressive album to ever chart at #1. Any pissed off kid who didn’t want to be pissed alone gathered around Pantera. Their message was blood simple: Fight for your friends and fuck up your enemies.

Phil Anselmo wrote all of the lyrics, but of course, Dimebag sang along to every song. The message flowed through him. Phil was an archetypal warrior male, furious at the world. His words aimed the machine gun and Dimebag fed him the gain-heavy ammunition. Fuck your parents, fuck your girlfriend, fuck the cops, fuck their government, fuck the Christians, and on a bad day, fuck the Christ they stood for. Pantera’s sound was as provincial as Dimebag’s drawling Texas accent, as Southern as the Confederate flag on his custom Washburn, as damaging as the black tooth grins soaking into his liver. Funny thing is, Dimebag never stopped smiling. Everything was a laugh.

While the trials must have been many, Dimebag’s biographies only describe three traumatic experiences in his life. The first was the death of his mother, who succumbed to cancer in 1999. The second came after 9/11, which left Pantera stranded in Ireland for two weeks. Phil had been struggling with heroin addiction for years, exacerbated by degenerating discs in his spine. The tension was mounting over his erratic behavior. When the band arrived back in the States, they went their separate ways but never came back together. In 2003, they finally announced the break up of Pantera. The Abbott brothers had become the “enemy” that Phil was so intent on fucking.

So far as Dimebag was concerned, Pantera and their road crew were family, thick as blood. Nothing could hurt him like the dissolution of his tribe. The Abbotts formed a new band, Damageplan, but had fallen from playing packed arenas to filling small clubs. “The highs and lows of rock n’ roll,” was all the bitching Dimebag would indulge. To make matters worse, a war of words continued in the press between Anselmo and the Abbotts.

In December of 2004, Metal Hammer published an ominous interview with Phil Anselmo in which he unleashed his fury:

“[W]hat comes around obviously goes around, and that is definitely something that is a very powerful force in my life…Cycles on top of cycles. Revenge on top of revenge. I suggest no one do me wrong…Things don’t go so well for them…And I lift not a finger…”

When the subject moved on to the Abbotts, Phil said:

“[Dimebag] would attack me vocally, and just knowing that he was so much smaller than me, I could kill him like a fucking piece of vapor…He knows that and the world should know that and so, physically of course, he deserves to be beaten severely…

“I was…a unique, unbelievably magnetic front man…I have a devoted following that would do anything for me, anything that I say.”

One week later, a crazed fan jumped onstage and gunned Dimebag Darrell down as well as a body guard, a stagehand, and a fan, before being shot by Officer James Niggemeyer. Talk about unfortunate timing.


Happiness is a warm gun. So heavy in the hand. So easy to pull the trigger. One flick of the finger makes a tiny hole. God-like power. Any idiot can do it.

Nathan Miles Gale grew up in small town Ohio. He was batshit crazy, and pissed as all hell. He believed that Mike Judge was watching his every move, basing Beavis and Butthead off of his pathetic life. He also believed that the guys in Pantera were up to the same tricks. He listened to their music so much that the songs became his own. They were stealing his lyrics for their songs. Why wouldn’t anyone else understand that?

He saw menacing faces hovering above his bed at night. Their voices taunted him, called him a homosexual, told him to hurt people.

Nathan enjoyed drugs. He smoked dope, dropped acid, ate pills, snorted coke. When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, Nathan was alone in thinking that Marilyn Manson was behind the attacks. He joined the Marines at nineteen, but was discharged when it was learned he was schizophrenic. He moved into an apartment next to his mother. In December of 2002 she bought him a 9mm Beretta. Two years later, he took it to a Damageplan concert at Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio to find Dimebag Darrell and settle the score.

Mark David Chapman was born in Texas, but went to school in Georgia outside of Atlanta. He traveled the world from there. He also smoked dope, dropped acid, ate pills, snorted coke, and became a born again Christian. He was also batshit crazy, a god in his own mind, ruling over the voices which he called the Little People.

After cheating on his fiance, he decided to go to Hawaii where he would kill himself. He was committed to a mental facility there, but was so liked that he was hired on part time after his release. He eventually married a Japanese-American woman, just like John Lennon. He listened to Lennon’s music obsessively, just as he read The Catcher in the Rye. After reading a book about Lennon’s lavish lifestyle in New York, he was extremely pissed. He was indignant that Lennon would arrogantly disavow Jesus. And how could John Lennon: Revolutionary Icon tell people to imagine no possessions and yet live as a millionaire? He told the Little People that he would kill John Lennon. They begged him not to, but his mind was made up. The Little People fell silent.

After two previous attempts were aborted in last minute panic, Chapman arrived in New York on December 6, 1980. The last thing he did before finding John Lennon was buy yet another copy of The Catcher in the Rye, in which he would write: “This is my statement” signed—Holden Caulfield. He left the book in his hotel room, but brought a copy of Double Fantasy and a loaded .38 with him.

By demons be driven.


John Lennon gave his final print interview to Rolling Stone the day Mark David Chapman arrived in New York, but it was never published until thirty years after his death, one year ago. Many people claim that Lennon had shown foreknowledge of his death, and this interview shows an eerie prescience that makes one wonder if Yoko’s nutty New Age ideas of cosmic connections were really that far-fetched, though it raises a number of questions about the couple’s belief that projecting one’s thoughts and intentions can create one’s reality.

“They only like people when they’re on the way up,” Lennon told Jonathan Cott, “and when they’re up there, they’ve got nothing else to do but shit on them. I cannot be on the way up again. What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean. I’m not interested in being a dead fucking hero….So forget ‘em, forget ‘em.”

© 2011 Joseph Allen

John Lennon — “Woman is the Nigger of the World

Pantera — “This Love

Tupac Shakur Lived by the
Mic and Died by the Gun

© Brandt Hardin

Tupac Shakur was admired for being extraordinarily handsome, extraordinarily intelligent, and extraordinarily pissed off. On September 13, 1996, with five studio albums under his belt and a dozen bullets under his skin at the age of 25, ‘Pac was pronounced extraordinarily dead. Fifteen years later, his high ideals and low brow gangsta swagger continue to inspire the world’s disenchanted to raise up out of despondency—or at least, to raise up their weapons.

Tupac did time in prison before he was even born. His mother, Afeni Shakur, a radical Black Panther, was released just a month before she went into labor. She was acquitted for her alleged part in a Panther bombing conspiracy, but his grandfather (also a Black Panther) was convicted of murdering a school teacher and his stepfather spent four years on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. ‘Pac came up from revolutionary fire on both the East and West Coast. It only makes sense that he would climb out by becoming an actor, a ballerino, and an aspiring rapper during his years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. After his debut with Digital Underground in 1990—who took him on as a roadie, then a dancer, then a rapper—it wasn’t long before all eyes were on him.

At different times in his life, every man shows multiple faces to the world. Browsing through the hundreds of photos taken during ‘Pac’s life, we see every possible persona: Happy Tupac, Sad Tupac, Silly Tupac, Pissed Off Tupac, Sly Tupac, Romantic Tupac, Gangsta Tupac, Guilty as Hell Tupac, Intellectual with Spectacles Tupac, Reborn in All White Tupac, Confused Tupac, Concerned Tupac, Indifferent Tupac, and of course, the Always Thoughtful Tupac.

It’s hard to say what Tupac was thinking when he fumbled and dropped his loaded pistol during a skirmish at a Marin City music festival in 1992, which allegedly went off and fatally wounded six year-old Qa’id Walker-Teal as he pedaled his bicycle down the street.  Once the weight of the matter had sunk in, it was never far from his conscience. He was less apologetic about the 1993 incident in Atlanta when his driver nearly hit two off-duty police officers as they crossed the street with their wives. The cops confronted Tupac aggressively and so the rapper popped a cap in one of their asses—literally. Having spent his early years being beaten down by life’s little insults, it was a triumphant moment indeed.

Every gangsta rapper talks about “comin’ from the real” and “bein’ real.” Not content to be lumped in with the average G, Tupac left the East Coast fold and signed with the infamous Death Row Records on the West Coast, proclaiming himself to be “the realest.”

“We’re just being who we are,” he maintained. “It’s beyond good and evil. It’s Thug Life.”

Thug Life was so near to ‘Pac’s heart, he had the words tattooed on his stomach with a bullet in place of the “i.”  Jon Pareles—sounding like the biggest cracker on the cheese plate—described Tupac’s position thusly in The New York Times: “In some raps, Mr. Shakur glamorized the life of the ‘player,’ a high-living, macho gangster flaunting ill-gotten gains.”

To hear Tupac tell it on his later records, you’d think he left a pile of dead gangstas in his wake that would stack to the moon. His unique style is so impassioned, so convincing, so enthralling, that it is hard to listen without feeling the youthful desire to unleash total violence on your enemies. One envisions Wrathful Tupac, Blood-soaked Tupac, Absolutely Invincible Tupac.

Despite such brash claims, Tupac’s gangsta bona fides were called into question by ostensibly “realer” detractors. Was he a true G or just a former ballerino playing out his violent fantasies in a campy performance of The Thugcracker? While in prison on sexual assault charges, Not Guilty as Hell Tupac did a bit of backpedaling, telling Vibe magazine:

“This Thug Life stuff, it was just ignorance. My intentions was always in the right place. I never killed anybody, I never raped anybody, I never committed no crimes that weren’t honorable—that weren’t to defend myself.”

The years spent as Accused Sodomite Tupac—from the date of the alleged rape in late 1993 to his release from prison on appeal two years later—were to become a dramatic turning point in the rapper’s state of mind. Tupac claimed to be the victim of an opportunistic set up by a “dumpy” groupie; his accuser claimed to be the victim of a humiliating gang rape instigated by the rapper. No one but God can judge ‘Pac at this point, but the jury found him guilty of sexual abuse.

On November 30, 1994, the day before Tupac’s sentencing for sexual assault, he walked into Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan where Biggie Smalls and Puffy Combs happened to be upstairs. Two gunmen in army fatigues drew on Tupac and his crew, demanding their jewelery. Tupac refused, so one of the men popped five bullets into him. One of the shots went straight through his nutsack. Bloody and confused, Tupac found himself upstairs with Biggie and Puffy. Tupac later claimed that the two were completely aloof toward him before the ambulance arrived, as though they were surprised that he made it upstairs. Until his death two years later, Tupac suspected that the East Coast rappers were somehow involved in the shooting.

Despite Tupac’s pitiful, bullet-riddled, wheelchair-bound presence in the courtroom the next day, the judge sentenced him to hard time in Riker’s Island Prison—where he became the first artist to have an album reach #1 while behind bars with Me Against the World. He wound up serving only nine months before his appeal, but it was long enough for the rapper to recover his potency and return to his radical roots. He immediately began recording All Eyes on Me with Death Row Records upon his release on bail.

“What I learned in jail is that I can’t change,” Tupac told a KMEL interviewer in April 1996. “I can’t live a different lifestyle—this is it…All I’m trying to do is survive and make good out of the dirty, nasty, unbelievable lifestyle that they gave me. I’m just trying to make something good out of that.”

Despite the relentless violence of tracks like “Hit ‘Em Up”—in which he promises to rain bullets on Biggie Smalls and the whole of the East Coast in a Rambo-esque tirade—Tupac would redeem himself to liberal observers by trying to help ghetto kids turn their lives around through mentoring and organized sports. As his social consciousness and dramatic delusions of grandeur gained momentum, he began to refashion himself as a militarized revolutionary icon.

“I’ll follow any great man, black or white,” he stated in his last interview. “I’m gonna study him, learn him, so he can’t be great to me no more…

“[I'll take] the discipline, the seriousness, and the bond that the Mob has, take the enthusiasm, the morals, and the principles that the Black Panthers had…take the ‘all of us as a team’ that the police have…[take the] ‘whatever we got to do to be Number 1” that the United States has…

“That’s what makes me unstoppable…

“I didn’t get that power from guns, because there’s no guns in jail, I got that power from books, and from thinking, and by strategizin’—that’s what I want little niggas to see…

“When the East Coast, and the West Coast, and the Middle Americans get together we got power…and that’s when we closer to Armageddon…

“I’m the future of Black America.”

On September 7—coincidentally, the birthday of Buddy Holly—Tupac attended a Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with Death Row founder Suge Knight. After the fight, Tupac and his entourage spotted an alleged Crip “Orlando” Anderson in the hotel’s lobby, who had supposedly robbed one of their homies at a Foot Locker some time earlier. Anderson immediately became the guest of honor at a Death Row boot party.

'Pac's final photo op

Satisfied that justice had been served, Tupac climbed into Suge’s BMW and set out for Club 662 followed by a convoy of riders. A photographer snapped the famous last photograph—Do I Know You, Muthafucka? Tupac—about twenty minutes before a white Cadillac pulled alongside the convoy and peppered Suge’s BMW with hot lead. Suge made it out with a flesh wound on his dome, but bullets slammed into Tupac’s hand, leg, and torso, shredding his right lung. After fighting for his life for six days, ‘Pac no longer had to wonder if heaven has a ghetto.  His murder stirred up various accusations of police cover-ups, conspiracy theories, and false leads, yet his killers still remain at large.

The media unleashed a sensationalist frenzy that put the national spotlight on gang violence—stoking the mythical rivalry between the East and West Coasts—and exalted a new rock star martyr to the right hand of Elvis Presley. Three weeks later, Death Row released the first of eight posthumous ‘Pac albums under the pseudonym Makaveli, entitled Don Killuminati: The Seven Day Theory. The tracks were written and recorded in three days and then mixed over the next four days. The album’s cover is perhaps the most brazen facsimile of the Christ image ever produced by pop culture, given the circumstances. Surrounded in mystique and subject to endless synchronistic interpretations, Don Killuminati sold 664,000 copies in its first week and over four million to date.

Tupac’s story continues to inspire various disillusioned and angry youths across the globe with his tragic mythos and fierce lyrical skill, which keeps him enshrined as another secular Son of the digital God. His meteoric rise and abrupt fall reveal the grinding contradictions between empathic idealism and the craven animal impulses that arise in every human heart.  His own ideas on the nature of good and evil are poignant:

“I’m the religion that to me is the realest religion there is…I think that if you take one of the “O’s” out of ‘Good’ it’s ‘God,’ if you add a ‘D’ to ‘Evil’, it’s the ‘Devil’…

“The bible tells us that…because [God's chosen] suffered so much that’s what makes them special people. I got shot five times and I got crucified to the media. And I walked through with the thorns on and I had shit thrown on me…I’m not saying I’m Jesus but I’m saying we go through that type of thing everyday. We don’t part the Red Sea but we walk through the hood without getting shot. We don’t turn water to wine but we turn dope fiends and dope heads into productive citizens of society. We turn words into money. What greater gift can there be?”

It’s easy for uptight folks to write Tupac off as a failed messiah, a whining hypocrite, a narcissistic fruitcake, or a wannabe warlord, but we’ll let him have the last word on his legacy:

“[If] you saw a rose growing from concrete, even if it had messed up petals and it was a little to the side, you would marvel at just seeing a rose grow through concrete. So why is it that when you see some ghetto kid grow out of the dirtiest circumstance and he can talk and he can sit across the room and make you cry, make you laugh, all you can talk about is my dirty rose, my dirty stems and how I’m leaning crooked to the side—you can’t even see that I’ve come up from out of that.”

© 2011 Joseph Allen

2Pac ShakurDear Mama

Eat Shit and Die: GG Allin’s
First Name Was Jesus Christ

© Brandt Hardin

“There is only One True God,”
GG Allin told a cringing talk show audience, “and that lives within me—I am that God.” Five days later, on June 28, 1993, he was dead.

Covered in jagged scars and needle tracks, smeared with puke and his own shit, GG Allin proclaimed himself to be the King of the Underground, the Savior of Rock n’ Roll, beyond Good and Evil.

“I believe I am the highest power, absolutely. I am in control at all times. Jesus Christ, God, and Satan all in one.”

The craziest part is that multitudes of kids followed him faithfully. At his peak, the self-described scumfuc rocker bragged that his fanbase was a million strong. Jaded, alienated youth at its finest, throw away kids living out gutter punk fantasies, drunks and junkies, the maladjusted and the mentally deranged, the abused, the morbid, the lost, a sub-society of the anti-social—they needed a hero so badly, some let their superstar pee on their faces.

“I created myself inside the womb from the fires of Hell.”

According to his brother Merle, GG’s rural, religious fanatic father originally dubbed his son Jesus Christ Allin. The Allin boys were New Hampshire hicks, born and raised. Their father was an abusive recluse, at one point digging graves for his family in the cellar and threatening to fill them in the near future. Like many a hayseed in the late 70s, GG packed his bags and headed for the city in search of rock n’ roll, but he always appreciated his up-bringing. “That made me sort of a warrior soul at an early age.” By the mid-80s, he was an underground sensation.

On the surface, GG Allin appears to be a brain-damaged retard, but there is a cleverness to his songs that can’t be denied. Not surprisingly, the singer could hardly keep a backing band for more than a year. Only his brother Merle, who played bass, stood beside him to the end.

GG played at various times with the Jabbers, the Scumfucs, the Holy Men, the Texas Nazis, the AIDS Brigade, and a number of others before assembling his final band, the Murder Junkies. Nearly all of his songs were primitive punk rock, though he did a number of country tunes in the vein of the only hero he ever claimed, Hank Williams. A perusal of his song-titles shows the direction of his message:

  • Bored to Death
  • “Drink, Fight, Fuck”
  • “Anti-social Masturbator”
  • “Expose Yourself to Kids”
  • “Young Little Meat”
  • “Last in Line for the Gangbang”
  • “You’ll Never Tame Me”
  • “Castration Crucifixion”
  • “Suck My Ass It Smells”
  • “War in My Head – I Am Your Enemy”
  • “Die When You Die”
  • “Violence Now – Assassinate the President”
  • “Kill the Police – Destroy the System”
  • “I Am The Highest Power”
  • “No Room for Nigger”
  • “I Live to be Hated”
  • “Kiss Me in the Gutter”
  • “Immortal Pieces of Me”
  • When I Die

GG Allin’s albums spread through the punk scene like hepatitis germs on Sid Vicious’ syringe, but his true claim to fame was his ultra-violent stage show. “If you come to my show, you’re going to a war,” he proclaimed. “My mind’s the machine gun, my body’s the bullets, and the audience is the target.”

Going to a GG Allin show was like swimming in a sewer full of drunk Irishmen—you came out battered and smelling like shit. The singer usually took the stage in nothing but a studded dog collar. His shaved head, hairless torso, toothless maw, and thimble-sized penis gave him the appearance of an overgrown infant covered in jailhouse tattoos and throwing a temper tantrum.

“My rock n’ roll is not to entertain, but to annihilate. I’m trying to bring danger back into rock n’ roll, and there are no limits, and no laws, and I’ll break down every barrier put in front of me until the day I die.”

GG smashed bottles and sliced into his flesh like old newspaper. He would typically ingest laxatives and empty his bowels on stage, eating his own turds like a household dog before smearing the bacteria-infested feces into his self-inflicted wounds, which frequently put him in the hospital.

Geared up on dope and ear-shredding guitar chords, he tore into the audience throwing kicks and punches—along with handfuls of poo with all the fury of a pissed chimpanzee. GG even claimed to have raped both women and men on stage, although there were plenty of damaged goods in the audience who were more than willing to service their Savior.  He liked to brag about defiling girls barely in their teens.

“My body is the rock n’ roll temple,” he told Geraldo’s jeering audience, “and my flesh, blood, and body fluids are a Communion to the people—whether they like it or not.”

Some fans cheered, some puked, and more than a few beat the living damnit out of Allin. At one Texas show, fifteen kids fed him the boots at once, breaking his arm. Love him or hate him, such vile intensity has never been seen before or since.

“It’s not a performance, it’s a ritual.”

GG’s antics, on stage and off, got him arrested over fifty-two times in twelve states. “I’ve been to jail many, many times…and every time they put me in jail…I come out that much stronger.” In 1989 he did a year and a half in Jackson State Prison (MI) for assaulting—and allegedly raping—a female fan. He told Jerry Springer’s talk show audience:

“Okay, I cut her, I burned her, I drank her blood, but she also did the same to me! It was a consensual agreement, but in the courtroom they said I was to blame because I’m GG Allin. I’m the King of the Underground—they need to nail me to a cross.”

For all of his insistence that whiners should overcome their weaknesses instead of playing the victim, GG certainly groaned under the unfairness of his own cross like a true martyr. Much of his allure revolved around his repeated promises to kill himself onstage. Year after year, he assured fans that on Halloween he would off himself and take as many people in the crowd as he could with him.

“I will commit suicide on stage and the blood of Rock N’ Roll will become the poison of the Universe forever.”

There is an astonishing degree of mysticism to GG Allin’s performance art. His unconcealed indulgence of primal desires was juxtaposed with material simplicity that only a monk could appreciate.  Most rock stars make a pact with the Devil so they can enjoy lavish lifestyles and physical perfection.  Not GG.

“Pretty much everything I own [will fit] in a paper bag. To me, it seems like it’s the only way to live… So possessions don’t mean anything to me. I don’t need anything, so that way they can never catch me.”

Allin was profoundly self-absorbed, and yet his self-mutilation and disregard for things of this world are reminiscent of the fleshly mortification and renunciation common to the most stringent yogis of India, the shamans of tribal societies, or the Gnostics of the ancient Mediterranean.

“It’s like my soul is just, it’s just beyond this fucking Universe… It can’t be confined. It’s like I’ve got this wild soul, it wants to get out of this life. It’s too confined in this life, and I think, to take yourself out at your peak, if you can die at your peak, your strongest point, your soul will be that much stronger in the next existence.”

GG Allin’s turd-hurling rampage across America was conceived as an infernal ceremony.

“I believe you can make forces of good and evil work for you, to get what you want. I’ve done black masses that worked for me.”

Upon being released from Jackson Prison in 1991, he began to gather his emotionally crippled fans around him for the complete destruction of society as we know it, hastening the arrival of what Aleister Crowley would call the Age of the Crowned and Conquering Child. Talk show producers and club owners lined up to provide a soapbox for GG’s psychotic Christ complex.

“I have so much hatred because I look at these people, these robots, these conformists, these people that dress in these uniforms, and I’m sick and tired of it,” he told Jane Whitney’s disapproving audience.

“I am the Messiah, I rule the rock n’ roll underground. I’m bringing us to a revolution against the government, against the police, against any form of society that is trying to put us down and restrict us in any way, shape, or manner.”

The scumfuc kids went apeshit for his delusional rants.

In June of 1993, GG Allin went to see the culmination of his career in film, Todd Phillips’ Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies. Fired up on his own image, the 36 year-old singer appeared on The Jane Whitney Show with two 17 year-old girls who referred to him as “God.”

“I will die for him,” Wendy said to the consternation of a finger-wagging public. “He is my God, he is my daddy… On Father’s Day, my daddy gave me the great gift of letting me watch him masturbate and I got to piss in his mouth and it was the greatest father/daughter experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

All across America, hand-wringing housewives in the grip of the Satanic Panic prepared for the worst. Is this what children have become? Surely the world must be coming to an end.

On June 27, GG played a brief show at The Gas Station in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, after which he roamed the streets covered in blood with a gaggle of grubby fans trailing behind him. The only things missing were a donkey and some palm fronds. GG wound up at an apartment nearby, where he snonked a fat bag of heroin. His friends thought it would be funny to take pictures of themselves next to his unconscious body. The next morning, they realized he was dead.

The postmortem photo ops didn’t stop there, though. A few days later, GG Allin laid in his casket wearing nothing but his leather jacket and a jock strap that read “EAT ME”, which attendees pulled down to playfully diddle his wingy. They placed a microphone in one hand and a bottle of Jim Beam in the other, then crammed his mouth full of pills and tapped cigarette ashes on his discolored face as they remembered his life.

Sure, GG’s death was pretty anticlimactic for those who envisioned him cramming a stick of dynamite up his ass and blowing half the audience to smithereens, but they made the best of it.

GG Allin’s artistic career is viewed by some as the equivalent of a chronic sex offender who carries a video camera into a nursery, while others paint a more grandiose, metaphorical picture of American society eaten alive with sexual deviance and an unquenchable thirst for violence.

As I write this from a ghetto motel, listening to the sounds of tireless domestic violence above me, I am inclined to agree with the latter interpretation. GG’s work may have been decadent and disgusting, and I would undoubtedly shoot his ass and bury him in the woods if he ever moved into my neighborhood, but perhaps the artist should have the last word on his own demented legacy:

“Strip away all the shit from rock n’ roll and what you got left is me.”

© 2011 Joseph Allen

GG Allin and the Murder JunkiesBite It You Scum

Bob Marley Died Dreaming
of Babylon on Fire

© Brandt Hardin

Bob Marley shined a ray of hope upon the starved and battered denizens of the Third World with his soothing reggae rhythms. The singer rose up from the brutal Jamaican ghetto to emerge on the international music scene as a charismatic voice of conscience, shedding light on the bitter legacy of European colonialism to the shame of well-fed “baldheads.” He sang an apocalyptic song of freedom, tapping Rasta prophecies that promised the return of Africans to their homeland, Zion, and the total destruction of decadent Western society, or Babylon. As the tumultuous 1970s drew to a close, Marley and his fellow Rastafari were certain that the end was nigh.

Bob Marley’s world ended in a Miami hospital bed on May 11, 1981, while the First World’s marketing gurus captured and framed his image in ganja green, blood red, and merchandising gold. Despite the best intentions of international charities and the impassioned diatribes of pot-smoking college students, thirty years after his passing the Third World continues to groan under the weight of commercial exploitation and crushing poverty. Perhaps Jah smoked one spliff too many and forgot all about Armageddon.

If Heaven is peace and plenty, then sweltering Caribbean ghettos are Hell on earth. Even sheltered tourists can’t help but notice the desperation and violence that seethes beyond the putting green. Jamaica’s African slaves were officially set free in 1838, which meant that masses of peasants had no jobs and the white aristocracy had little vested interest in providing adequate food or shelter. The 20th century saw a few enterprising individuals—mostly foreign investors—turning a profit by mining bauxite and growing bananas, while the rest of the island’s 2.5 million inhabitants were left grasping for dreams and submachine guns.

Bob Marley was born in the tiny Jamaican village of Nine Mile in 1945, the son of a poor, earth-hued woman who nurtured him to his dying day and an aging, lily-white seaman who set sail when Bob was a baby. The boy grew up in Trench Town, a shanty-strewn slum of Kingston, the nation’s capital. According to Timothy White’s romantic biography, Catch a Fire, young Marley was a respected streetfighter—his favorite jab was “Me got de handle, focker, yuh gon’ get de blade”—and soccer-playing rude boy who could also belt out a captivating tune.

Knowing that idle hands are ol’ Screwface’s plaything, Bob’s mother put him to work as a welder, but after a stray steel splinter lodged itself into his eye, music became his life. Though his earliest songs were dancy pop tunes, by the late 60s Bob Marley and the Wailers would shed their sharp suits and ties for the Rasta-inspired reggae style that would make them legends.

When he was a boy, the dusty, dreadlocked mendicants who wandered barefoot from the Dungle to the jungle struck fear in Bob Marley’s heart. At that time, the cult of Rastafari was still an obscure offshoot of Marcus Garvey’s militant “back to Africa” movement which gathered only the most austere adherents, but by the 60s much of Jamaican society embraced rebellious Rasta mysticism as the symbolic antithesis of the white ruling class they despised.

The sect’s belief system is an amalgamation of biblical prophecy and Afrocentrism, taking its name from Ras Tafari, who was crowned Ethiopia’s emperor in 1930 and thereafter known as Haile Selassie I. This was heralded by many of Marcus Garvey’s followers as a fulfillment of prophecy, citing Psalm 68:31: “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” The Ethiopian press called Selassie “King of Kings” and the “Lion of Judah,” which fueled the fire.

Rastafarians came to believe that His Majesty Haile Selassie would gather the lost tribes of Africa to the mother continent and establish God’s Kingdom on earth. Many believed him to be God incarnate. When the Emperor visited Jamaica in April 1966, over 100,000 fervent believers flocked to greet him on the tarmac, hoping that the divine king would finally liberate them from Babylon and bring them home. The Emperor was dumbfounded by this bizarre reception. While Selassie never denied his divinity, he suggested that the people of Jamaica pursue freedom on their own island rather than pour into Ethiopia.

Bob got married that same year, and his wife, Rita, witnessed Haile Selassie’s procession through Kingston. She was sure that the Emperor looked directly into her eyes and waved his hand—which bore a stigmata. It was not long before she became a devout Rasta, bringing the word back home to her husband.

Bob was not an instant convert. He had always been inspired by moralistic proverbs and enjoyed a nice puff of reefer now and again, but it was not until he met Mortimo Planno in 1967, the only Rasta elder to have direct contact with Haile Selassie, that Marley came to follow the Rasta path. During a heavy smoking session, Bob told Planno about a strange dream in which a khaki-dressed man gave him a ring with a black stone. Planno covered all angles, telling Bob the dream was a sign that he would either grow spiritually or “ketch a fire.” Preferring the former possibility, Bob began to grow out his dreads and “reason” with the Rastas.

During a disastrous, if serendipitous international tour in 1972, the Wailers found themselves stranded in London, where they met Chris Blackwell, founder of the rock label Island Records. Blackwell would go on to provide the capital and promotion behind the group’s phenomenal success among rock n’ roll fans, bringing reggae into the mainstream. After the remarkable critical reception of the back-to-back albums Catch a Fire and Burnin’ in 1973, Bob Marley and the Wailers became the Rastafari’s representative to the world.

Rastafari’s reputation for marijuana and sexual license has often overshadowed the rigid discipline of the sect. The commandments of God, or “Jah,” are to be followed rigorously. Drawing on Old Testament law, Rastas abstain from eating pork and shellfish—or any meat for that matter. Even salt is considered unclean. Their dreadlocks are inspired by the biblical decree that men are not to take a razor to their heads.

Of course, the cultivation, sale, and constant smoking of ganja is a central activity for Rastafarians. The Bible is regarded as the word of truth, but Rastas also hold that it has been corrupted by the editorial work of the wicked white man. Therefore their biblical study is to be assisted by inner visions, and there is nothing like a fat joint to inspire a vivid imagination.

The Rasta community generally survives on the squatter fringe of society. Material excesses are shunned, as well as the unnatural technologies of their white oppressors. Both capitalism and communism are generally held in contempt, the former for its exploitation of the People of Jah, the latter for its condemnation of religion. Despite their abiding faith that Jah will soon inaugurate an age of peace, Rastafarians are willing to defend their property, family, and honor by any means necessary.  Even those Jamaicans who find the Rasta beliefs to be nonsensical will generally show dreads the respect that any potentially violent earthly power commands.

In 1975 Haile Selassie was deposed—and most likely assassinated—by Marxist revolutionaries in Ethiopia, yet many Rastas refused to believe that His Majesty had actually died. How could God die? It had to be more lies from the Babylon press. It was just another sign of immanent Armageddon, and they would wait patiently for the return of their king.

The absolute kingship of Haile Selassie notwithstanding, Rastafari generally eschew all earthly hierarchies among men. However, women are not included in important activities—eg. the smoking of the sacred chillum—particularly during their menstrual cycle, when they are completely segregated from the men. Traditionally, Rasta women are there to have sex, bear children, cook meals, perform household chores, and keep their mouths shut unless asked for an opinion. They are to maintain the highest standards of modesty, wearing no makeup but “the beaded gleam on their brows and the dust on their necks, their only fragrance that of perspiration.” You know, a good woman.

Rita Marley was such a woman. While Bob shined in the spotlight, Rita sang backup. While Bob took countless beautiful lovers to bed—including Miss World ’76—Rita waited faithfully for her man to come home (most of the time, anyway.) And when Bob brought his numerous illegitimate children home for a visit, Rita bestowed her blessings, as Rasta women consider themselves to be mothers to all children. She even took a bullet for her husband.

1976 was a turbulent year for Bob Marley. He was riding the recent international success of his “No Woman, No Cry” single, and had acquired a luxurious house in a wealthy neighborhood in uptown Kingston. To the chagrin of his wife and fellow ghetto Rastas, Bob was drawn into the fold of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, an elitist splinter sect of the Rasta movement led by the charismatic Prophet Gad.

Bob’s close friend Skilly Cole became a Twelve Tribes disciple as well. The former professional soccer player was a man of many talents.  Aside from terrorizing and occasionally beating Jamaican DJs to get Bob Marley records on the air (which he admitted in court,) Skilly was also involved with a crime syndicate known as the Concrete Jungle.  One of their scams was to rig horse races by kidnapping and threatening jockeys, but when the deal went sour, Skilly’s gangster associates came after Bob. The thugs extorted Bob for Skilly’s debt, to be paid off two thousand dollars a day.

To top it off, Kingston was in the throes of a political frenzy.  Jamaican elections were often marred by shootouts between the hired thugs of both major political parties—the conservative Jamaica Labor Party and the socialist People’s National Party—but the 1976 elections were particularly riotous. With the global oil crisis crippling the economy, the streets stirred with discontent and the possibility of popular uprising. Prime minister Michael Manley sent an envoy to Bob’s house to ask him to perform at the state-sponsored Smile Jamaica concert before the December election in an attempt to calm the agitated public. Bob agreed, despite the threat of becoming entangled in the political violence.

One week before the concert, the PNP provided 24-hour security at the Marley house. As a result, the Concrete Jungle’s money collector was repeatedly turned away. On December 3, two days before the Smile Jamaica concert, seven thugs descended upon Marley’s house with guns blazing. His manager, Don Taylor, was shot in the legs and spine. Rita was hit in the skull while running out of the house with Bob’s children, and one of the gunmen popped Bob in the chest, barely missing his heart. The shooters escaped before police arrived. Somehow no one was killed, and Marley played an extended set at Smile Jamaica, famously saying, “De people trying to make dis world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”

There are no official confirmations of the assailants’ identities, but according to Timothy White’s biography they were brought to justice. Two were shot in the head. Two had their throats slit in the jungle, Rasta style. The remaining two went insane, wandering the streets muttering about flaming ghosts and snakes in their heads—one hung himself, and the other simply disappeared. Years later, manager Don Taylor—who also claimed that Marley had beat the shit out of him on multiple occasions after he took a bullet for Bob—testified that he had witnessed some of the men being tried and hung in a back alley by a lynch mob.

Bob disappeared for a month while things cooled off, emerging with the release of Exodus the following year, calling for repatriation in the face of persecution on the title track:

Walk, through the roads of creation
We’re the generation
Who trod through great tribulation

Exodus, movement of Jah people…

It was that year, 1977, that Bob met with Haile Selassie’s exiled successor, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen. The men talked for hours, but before they parted, Wossen presented Marley with a token of his esteem. It was the late Emperor Haile Selassie’s ring, bearing a black jewel and an image of the Lion of Judah, which Wossen slipped onto Marley’s index finger—just like in his dream. Marley was dumbfounded. His fate was sealed.

That same year, Bob Marley incurred a soccer injury on his toe, but the wound refused to heal. He was diagnosed with melanoma. Doctors advised amputation, but Marley refused, as such procedures were considered a bodily desecration by Rastafarians. He would put his faith in Jah and carry on.

For the next three years, Bob Marley released three brilliant albums, including his final revolutionary call to Jah’s people, Uprising. In 1978, he embarked on a sweeping Babylonian world tour of the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan. Jamaican expatriates in London, New York, and Miami were enthralled, as well as Aborigines in Australia and, oddly enough, rebellious Japanese youths.

That same year, Marley’s most telling statements came in an interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal, considered a political prisoner by the radical left after being convicted for murdering a white police officer. Their candid conversation is rarely mentioned in Marley’s glowing retrospectives.  Incredulous Babylonians would never understand.

[translation here]

“Once you smoke herb, you all must think alike,” Marley explained to Abu-Jamal, “Now if you thinking alike, dat mean we ‘pon the same track. If we ‘pon the same track, that mean we gonna unite….

“Exodus means coming together…the movement of Afrika, of Black people. Exodus from Babylon, we’re in Babylon, and then a physical exodus to Home. But what we really a say is dat, we waan Black people to unite, with one another, seen?…

“Because, what [Haile Selassie] say is true. Until the philosophy that hold one people higher than the other one is no more, then if it continue, ya gwanna have war! When it done, problem over, seen?…

“Because Christ government shall rule the earth, ya know? And Christ is Rastafari! Over a period of time, people think, and hafta get over thinking that Christ was White. But Christ a Black mon! Just like the Bible tell ya, say Christ Black, Solomon, say him Black, Moses, tell ya, say him Black, Jeremiah, say him Black, Haile Selassie Black. So Christ no white. Christ Black, you know?…

“[The Church in] Rome is the enemy, you know? Rome is the enemy of the people. Dem is the Anti-Christ, and dem walk around and tell people dem a deal with Christ. But naturally, dem is Anti-Christ, for Christ is Haile Selassie…

“Capitalism and communism are finished. It Rasta now! The Blackmon way of life. That’s what we a say now dread. We a say: give the Blackmon fe him way of life now. Mek him show you how government run and how people care for people….

“Cause the white man not living good, you know. The China man naa live good, either. Why? Because the Blackmon is not united. Because the Blackmon, him are the cornerstone pon earth! When time him shaky, the whole earth shaky. You see? When him solid, everything solid. And it a long while since we have been solid….”

In April 1980, Bob Marley appeared at the Zimbabwe Independence Day ceremonies before returning to New York. He knew that his time was short. Though kept a secret from the public, the cancer had metastasized from his toe to his lungs, liver, and brain. That September he played two final shows in Madison Square Garden, but collapsed the next day while jogging with Skilly Cole in Central Park. He was rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke, where he immediately began receiving radium treatments in the Cancer Center.

Marley clung to life with all of his might. He flew to Germany to receive the contraversial treatments of Dr. Josef Issels, whose “whole body” theory held that nutritional deficiencies and toxic impurities were responsible for cancer, but life was slipping away.  En route to Jamaica, Marley was taken to the Cedars of Lebanon Hosptial in Miami, where he finally succumbed to the creeping illness on May 11, 1981.

The whole of the Third World and the fringes of the First wept at the death of their prophet. There was spiritual confusion.  If Jah’s blessing bestows health and happiness, why had His tortured disciple died in such a fashion, his body eating itself whole, his sacred dreadlocks falling away?

Bob Marley’s body was interred in a tomb near his hometown after a dramatic state funeral. The Twelve Tribes of Israel were left reeling, but their Prophet Gad was sure of one thing. He wanted the Emperor’s black-stone ring bearing the Lion of Judah, and hectored Marley’s mother in her time of mourning. Bob Marley was his disciple, the Prophet Gad insisted, and by rights the precious ring was his. The End Times were upon the land, and Gad was chosen to lead Jah’s people.

“De ring gwan back from whence it came,” Marley’s mother told the so-called Prophet. “It back on His Majesty’s mighty hand. And yuh know neither de day nor de hour.”

Marley’s message of freedom has since spread to the ends of the earth. Cynical Westerners may mock the ridiculous and generally superficial manner in which Bob Marley’s Rastafarian way of life is adopted by white kids lacking their own racial identity, but the sense of collective suffering and redemptive hope that Marley’s music inspires in the poorest corners of the earth is mind-blowing. From Carribean shanty-towns to New York tenements to the most squalid African village, revolutionary reggae presents the glorious possibility that one day all of God’s children will be invited to the table, while also tantalizing the listener’s vindictive desire to see Babylon and all of her whorish children burn like fields of sugarcane.

One Love, mon.

© 2011 Joseph Allen

Bob MarleyExodus

Marilyn Manson — Holy Wood
(In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)

In case you weren’t watching TV that day—any channel, at any given moment—on April 20, 1999, two black-clad teenage boys walked into their high school in Littleton, CO with an action hero’s arsenal of guns and homemade explosives. They had prepared for over a year, alternately referring to their plot as “Judgement Day” or “NBK”—after Natural Born Killers. The bombs were set to destroy the entire cafeteria, but when they failed to blow, the two boys proceeded to shoot and kill twelve students and one teacher in a sixteen minute rampage. Over two dozen others were wounded. A few are crippled for life.

After a brief standoff with the police, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold sat down side-by-side in the school library, lit one last Molotov cocktail, and blew their brains out in turn. Marilyn Manson wrote an entire album about it. He called it Holy Wood.

It bears repeating here that Marilyn Manson’s name was taken from Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, the most popular sex symbol and murder icon of the Woodstock Generation. Marilyn Manson was conceived as a collective symbol for America, combining polar opposites: male and female, beauty and ugliness, Eros and Thanatos, God and Satan.

His early persona was like a luciferic Cat in the Hat taunting Jerry Falwell on a Saturday morning cartoon. The sleeve of his 1994 debut album features the singer’s face grinning on a television set above a young boy smeared with make-up and holding a revolver.

As a sort of disclaimer in his first newsletter, Mr. Manson made it clear to his growing cult of adoring adolescents that killing one’s parents or oneself “has no place in our movement.” He wasn’t building an army to fill a graveyard. He wrote:

“When WE become the majority, we will decide who ‘doesn’t belong.’ As misanthropes and throw-away kids we will not submit to mainstream. We will become it. And America should be very, very afraid.”

Small-town parents were horrified to see their kids wearing playful t-shirts that read WE HATE LOVE—WE LOVE HATE, and the classic:

Warning: the music of Marilyn Manson
contains messages that will
in your impressionable teenage minds.
As a result, you could be convinced to
and eventually in an act of hopeless
rock and roll” behavior you will
Please burn your records
while there’s still hope

With the release of Antichrist Superstar in 1996, Manson’s following grew exponentially. The album is a satire on the self-righteous shit-flinging between America’s polarized moralists. Playing upon the premillennial tension of the late 90s, Manson describes the so-called Antichrist as a hateful force lurking within each of us. The story’s protagonist is an alienated boy who becomes so infected with his culture’s megalomaniacal intolerance that he is ready to destroy the whole world in a sort of suicide/apocalypse:

I went to God just to see
And I was looking at me
Saw Heaven and Hell were lies
When I’m God, everyone dies

The album went platinum. Liberal politicians called it sick and offensive, while Christian protesters swarmed to arenas with picket signs, driving ticket sales through the roof. In concert, Manson stood on a podium reminiscent of Nuremberg or The Wall, tore pages from the Bible, and instructed his fans to spit loogies all over him.

“They want you to go to church,” he screamed, “but this is your church, motherfuckers!”

The message of his sermon?

“Be yourself.”

In 1998, Manson finally broke into the global mainstream with Mechanical Animals, a glam-inspired concept album poking fun at the bland MTV rock culture of the day. An androgynous alien descends to Earth lookin’ for love, only to find a dying world populated by doped-up, dumbed-down automatons “as hollow as the ‘o’ in God.” The album debuted at #1, and “the world spread its legs for another star.” The Rock is Dead tour sold out arenas, with Manson poised to become “bigger than Satan.” But there was trouble popping off behind the scenes.


Throughout Manson’s rise to superstardom, school shootings ramped up at an alarming rate. All across America, small-town white boys were arming themselves and waging war on the world:

  • October 12, 1995Blackville, SC. A 16 year-old shot and killed two math teachers before shooting himself.
  • November 15, 1995Lynnville, TN. A 17 year-old shot three people, killing a teacher and an 8th grader before he was tackled.
  • February 2, 1996Moses Lake, WA. A 14 year-old came to his algebra class in a long black coat. He shot and killed two students and a teacher, saying “This sure beats algebra, doesn’t it?” The line came from Stephen King’s novel Rage. The killer said his outfit was inspired by a scene in Natural Born Killers.
  • February 8, 1996Pala Alto, CA. A 16 year-old drove his car onto an outdoor basketball court, tossed dollar bills out the window, and unloaded on the kids running up to grab the money, injuring three before killing himself.
  • February 19, 1997Bethel, AK. A 16 year-old went on a twenty minute spree, killing his principal and a student, injuring two others. He held the gun to his own head before surrendering to police.
  • October 1, 1997Pearl, MS. A 16 year-old self-proclaimed Satanist and Hitler fan smothered his mother with a pillow, beat her with a baseball bat, and stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife. He then went to his school and shot his ex-girlfriend before firing at random, ultimately killing two and wounding seven.
  • December 1, 1997West Paducah, KY. A 14 year-old tried to impress the goth crowd by shooting up a prayer circle at school, killing three and injuring five. A copy of King’s Rage was found in his locker.
  • December 6, 1997Stamps, AR. A 14 year-old hid in a treeline and fired on students walking to class, injuring two.
  • March 24, 1998Jonesboro, AR. Inspired by the Stamps shooting, two boys—13 and 11 years-old—stole various firearms and a van, then drove their arsenal to their middle school. The younger boy pulled the fire alarm, then ran to the woods to join his friend. As the students filed out, the pair fired 30 rounds, killing four preteen girls and one teacher, injuring ten others.
  • April 24, 1998Edinboro, PA. A 14 year-old shot and killed a teacher and wounded two classmates at a graduation dance.
  • May 21, 1998Springfield, OR. A 15 year-old killed his parents and booby trapped their bodies with homemade bombs. He then went to school, where he fired on 400 students in the school cafeteria, killing two and wounding twenty-two.

In each of these cases, the shooter was a rural (or suburban) white male. It was like a psychopathic version of Revenge of the Nerds. None of the shooters were high up on the school pecking order—many were at the bottom of the food chain. All of them were either bullied (typically called “faggots”), sexually abused, compelled by a desire to prove their masculinity, suffering from feelings of persecution, desperately suicidal, or some combination thereof. It goes without saying that they all had access to guns.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had been watching these tragedies unfold on television. “Every day news broadcasts stories of students shooting students, or going on killing sprees,” Eric wrote in an English paper. “It is just as easy to bring a loaded handgun to school as it is to bring a calculator.”

“Thorough and logical,” his teacher remarked.  “Nice job.”

Eric was particularly taken by the meticulously planned massacre in Jonesboro, AR, and was itching to top the young pair’s body count. A competitive egomaniac, Eric even aspired to top the 168 deaths caused by Timothy McVeigh. Eric and Dylan’s “Judgement Day” was originally planned for April 19, 1999—the 4th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing—but due to a delay obtaining ammunition, they settled for Hitler’s birthday instead. They dreamed big, and even discussed hijacking a plane to crash into a building in Manhattan, but their high school was more realistic. They constructed numerous propane bombs intended to collapse the columns in the cafeteria, which would send the library upstairs crashing down. They hoped to kill at least 500 students, and would shoot any survivors running out of the building.

“it’ll be like the LA riots, the oklahoma bombing, WWII, vietnam, duke and doom all mixed together,” Eric wrote. “maybe we will even start a little rebellion or revolution to fuck things up as much as we can. i want to leave a lasting impression on the world.”

In the end, they killed thirteen people and then themselves—undoubtedly, the impression was lasting. News teams descended on Littleton in droves. CNN and Fox News charted the highest ratings in their history, and proclaimed Columbine to be the bloodiest school shooting ever recorded—and recorded live, to boot. Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, arrived with Amy Grant by his side to lead the mourners in prayer. Pop psychologists built entire careers around the shooting. Souls would be saved. Psyches would be probed. History would be made.

Before the day was over, Marilyn Manson became an instant scapegoat, carrying the sins of America’s homocidal youth. Headlines read: KILLERS WORSHIPPED ROCK FREAK MANSON and SHOCK ROCKER WHO FILLED PAIR WITH A THRILL TO KILL. He certainly looked the part.

Of course, the original claims that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were dressed like Manson were completely false, but first impressions tend to stick. Eric was obsessed with KMFDM, and Dylan listened to Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral again and again. It is certainly possible that they listened to Marilyn Manson as well, as some students claimed—or maybe they always thought he was “a joke,” as the killers were later quoted as saying.

Manson watched in horror as his contacts in show business and the music industry turned their backs on him one by one. Anonymous death threats began arriving soon after.

About a month after the shooting, Manson published an article in Rolling Stone entitled “Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?” He held violent human nature responsible for such tragedies, played upon by religion and mass media:

Christianity has given us an image of death and sexuality that we have based our culture around. A half-naked dead man hangs in most homes and around our necks…The world’s most famous murder-suicide was also the birth of the death icon—the blueprint for celebrity…

[The media] just created two new [folk heroes] when they plastered those dipshits Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’ pictures on the front of every newspaper. Don’t be surprised if every kid who gets pushed around has two new idols.

Manson does take on some of the blame, however, by virtue of his membership in the intrinsically violent human race:

In my work I examine the America we live in, and I’ve always tried to show people that the devil we blame our atrocities on is really just each one of us.

That said, the singer crawled into his attic for three months, where he wrote Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). The record was released on November 14, 2000—just before the deathday of JFK—along with this on Manson’s website:

Is adult entertainment killing our children?
Or is killing our children entertaining adults?


Holy Wood approaches these questions with morbid curiosity rather than definitive answers. In some ways, Marilyn Manson shows more empathy for the troubled kids gathering in his shadow than on any other album. The narrative is cohesive and lucid as the inner world of a teenage killer unfolds with each song.

The album opens with a child’s prayer. God is Jesus Christ hanging on a cross. God is John F. Kennedy shot in the black limousine. God is John Lennon in the happy gun. God is a child killed on camera. God is dead, and so everybody loves him.

Manson elaborates on “Lamb of God”:

If you die when there’s no one watching
Then your ratings drop and you’re forgotten
If they kill you on their TV
You’re a martyr and the lamb of God

Columbine, the 2009 exposé by Dave Cullen, explores Eric and Dylan’s aspirations to televised deification in uncomfortably vivid detail, as well as providing heart-wrenching accounts of the victims, the survivors, and their families. Cullen draws on documents that were sealed during much of the media circus surrounding the tragedy, including the boys’ journals.

Eric Harris proudly entitled his writings The Book of God. The first line reads: “I hate the fucking world.” Further on, he writes:

“I feel like God. I am higher than almost anyone in the fucking world in terms of universal intelligence…ever wonder why we go to school? its not to obvious to most of you stupid fucks but for those who think a little more and deeper you should realize it is societies way of turning all the young people into good little robots.”

Despite these god-like flights of fancy, Eric was an avowed atheist disgusted by the megachurch-attending Christians that thrive in Littleton. “its just all nature, chemistry, and math. you die. burn, melt, evaporate, decay.” From this standpoint, he adopted a Nazi-like view of evolution.

In Eric’s twisted peanut, natural selection has been hijacked by medical care and special ed programs, leaving him surrounded by retarded automatons who not only refused to bow down, but had the nerve to insult him continually. Among his proposed solutions was to imprison the human race in an Ultimate Doom game and pick us off one by one. Another option, meticulously detailed in his writing, was “Judgement Day.”

“I know I will die soon; so will you and everyone else.”

Despite the constant irritation, Eric revelled in his ascendant position as the highest lifeform on Earth. For Dylan Klebold, being unique was depressing.

Dylan called his journal Existences: A Virtual Book. It’s pages are filled with sadness creeping toward suicide. “My existence is shit,” he wrote.

Dylan lamented his inability to shake society’s droids from their torpid ignorance. Early on, he only wanted to set “the zombies” free. While Eric was a hater who still managed to get laid now and again, Dylan was a lover who pined after girls in vain. The pages of Existences are filled with sketches of floating hearts surrounded by stars. He doted over the smallest details of his highschool crushes. These girls would never understand the universe opening up in his teenage mind.

A firm believer in God, Dylan tortured himself with the struggle between good and evil, Heaven and Hell. He frequently purified himself of vices such as playing Doom, watching porno, drinking booze, and notably, making fun of other kids—which he and Eric did relentlessly. Dylan’s soul was threatened with damnation, while on earth his fragile ego was menaced by the persecution of his peers. The slightest insult could send him spiraling into a vicious, overly-defensive tantrum. Again and again, he wrote, “the screws are tightening.” In the end, he followed his friend Eric to the only freedom he could imagine: NBK.

Holy Wood’s primary narrator is Adam Kadmon, who embodies the universal innocence of mankind. The naive Adam wants to change the world—to start a revolution that will free its inhabitants. He pursues the love of humanity, personified as his Eve (called Coma Black.) But in the end, she is just another plastic doll “the color of TV,” and so Adam decides to end the world that refuses to be saved on his terms.

The climax of the album is the frantic industrial track “King Kill 33°”. The title comes from James Shelby Downard’s freaked out conspiracy theory tract of the same name, which reconstructs the Kennedy assassination as a ritual sacrifice orchestrated by the Freemasons in order to harness the public’s emotional response through sorcery.  In the song, the rejected Adam Kadmon turns against the world in fury, then becomes a dying god in his own mind:

But I have to show you that you played a role
And I will destroy you with one simple hole
The world that hates me has taken its toll
But now I have finally taken control

You wanted so bad to make me this thing
And I want you now to just kill the king…

And I am not sorry, and I am not sorry,
This is what you deserve


There is always the question of blame whenever blood is spilled—without an answer, a killing becomes meaningless. Eric held the world responsible for its own destruction—people were just too stupid to live. His t-shirt on the day of the massacre read “Natural Selection.” (How ironic that he selected himself out of the gene pool.) Dylan blamed God for being so indifferent to his suffering. His t-shirt said “Wrath.”

After Columbine, evangelical Christians were quick to claim that Satan kills kids for lack of Jesus. Gun control advocates kept their sites on “the great equalizer” that allows anyone with a strong finger to end someone else’s world. Anti-bullying activists and minority advocates insisted that if everyone was just nice to everyone else all the time, kids would have no reason to kill. Various pop psychologists and political action committees pointed fingers at violent video games, violent movies, and yes, violent music as being the examples from which killers learn their behavior.

Dave Cullen promotes the FBI’s conclusion that, in the case of Columbine, neurological predisposition was to blame. Criminal psychologists determined that Eric Harris was a textbook psychopath—a sadistic manipulator and compulsive liar without the biological prerequisites to feel empathy. His sidekick Dylan was just a chronic depressive for whom the vacuum of despair opened a space for murder. In this reductionist view, Nature simply produces diabolical genetic aberrations here and there, making human reproduction into a game of Russian roulette that will periodically put a murderer under the firing pin. For Cullen, Eric Harris was a natural born killer, no matter what kind of music he liked.

Media coverage of the Columbine shooting sensationalized the link between rock n’ roll and violence, as they did with Charles Manson and The Beatles’ White Album, or Richard Ramirez and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Maybe the borderline retarded Seung-Hui Cho unloaded clip after clip—killing 32 fellow Virginia Tech students—because he listened to Collective Soul’s “Shine” a hundred million times.

So what album was 23 year-old Wellington Oliveira listening to earlier this month when he systematically executed twelve small children at his old elementary school in Rio de Janeiro? That is uncertain, but we do know that he was inspired by Cho and a previous Brazilian school shooter, calling them his “brothers” in the fight against the bullies of the world.

Cho considered Harris and Klebold to be “martyrs” for the cause, and Eric Harris was inspired by the school shooting in Jonesboro, AR—just as that incident was an imitation of a previous school shooting in Arkansas. Like Harris, Klebold, and Cho, Oliveira left rambling video messages which put the blame for his murderous rampage on the world that persecuted him. “Each time you see someone making fun of someone else for their physical appearance, the clothing or any reason…remember that type of person is responsible for all these deaths, including my own.”

By their bloodthirsty nature, the news media then broadcasted each losers’-call-to-arms to the next psycho turning in the pistol’s chamber.  Loren Coleman’s research into “the copycat effect” gives strong evidence that mass shootings and suicides come in clusters, beginning with one widely publicized incident.  It seems that at any given moment there are a handful of wackos ready to snap, and seeing a gruesome news story validates their rage.

Despite recent claims that school shooters are typically not bullied outcasts, the most notorious school shooters complained of being disrespected, shunned, insulted, and/or beaten up by their peers. Whether they were just being hyper-sensitive whiners or were viciously attacked, in their own minds they were backed into a corner. Taking it on the chin was not an option. The indignities of life stuck to their souls, and revenge was the only purification.

In the early days, Marilyn Manson often spoke of his resentment at being bullied in school. He was tall, gangly, and weird, so naturally kids beat the shit out of him. For him, becoming a rock star was the greatest revenge he could have on his tormentors. He realized his vindictive impulses through art rather than with a gun, and kept his dick wetter than most for the effort.

Amplifiers cranked Brian Warner’s otherwise soft spoken murmer up to Marilyn Manson’s ear-drilling shriek, drowning out parents and priests.  Recording technology allowed him to break free from the ancient male pecking order by catching the camera’s eye and enticing the kiddie Id with taboo urges.  It is no surprise that people would find links between Manson’s music and hate-filled teenagers—they occupy the same spiritual space.  No salvation.  No forgiveness.

Show biz is a dirty business.  For all of his accusations that the media exploits tragedy for profit, Manson has sold over 9 million copies of Holy Wood to date.

Civilization has provided numerous ways to get around the rulership of brute force, including intelligence, cooperation, rhetoric, and art. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold utilized a relatively new technological alternative to liberate themselves: the gun.

For millennia, evolution selected for males endowed with physical prowess. Tribal leadership was granted to the greatest warriors. By the dawn of written history, mankind had created swords to maintain worldly power.  This gave some smaller men an edge, but a sword still requires strength and dexterity to wield. The revolver is a kid’s toy.

The rough-and-tumble environment of the schoolyard mimics the ancient environment, where the strongest muscles command the most respect and the frail are casually knocked out of the way. I imagine that weaklings have resented the blows dealt by stronger hands since vivid cerebral memory overtook blessed animal forgetfulness, but they were always powerless to do anything about it.

Today, the availability of guns provides an avenue to subvert this carnal hierarchy, granting power to the weak and the despised. In the blink of a scowling eye, any idiot with an opposable thumb and an itchy trigger finger can momentarily claim the ultimate right of an earthly King: the power to deal death as he chooses.  The popular media then line up to give voice to this whimpering proclamation of sovereignty.

In typical amoral fashion, Manson screams:

This is evolution
The monkey, the man
Then the gun

The possibility that unhinged individuals might draw destructive inspiration from such dismal visions should be unsettling—but not nearly so disturbing as the human condition that these expressions describe.  Sadly, as long as there are cameras, guns, and psychotic discontents, Holy Wood will continue to be a relevant piece of art.

© 2011 Joseph Allen

Marilyn MansonThe Nobodies


Coleman, Loren.  The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tommorrow’s Headlines. New York: Paraview Pocket Books, 2004.

Cullen, Dave.  Columbine. Boston: Twelve, 2009.

Newman, Katherine S.  Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings. New York: Basic Books, 2004.