Archive for Rock & Roll

I Believe In Father Christmas

I was listening to some festive Holiday music tonight, when a thought struck me to look on the Web for info about Emerson, Lake & Palmer‘s classic Christmas song, I Believe In Father Christmas. I was rather surprised by what I found. It isn’t an “ELP” song after all! This song was actually a solo effort by founding member Greg Lake. And…he made a video of it–several different edits are available on YouTube and other sites. But the gist of what I found out was…Greg Lake, with the help of his Lyricist friend, composed this song as a protest of the commercialization of Christmas, particularly in the United States.

Now, Wikipedia has very good information about the song, including quotes from Greg Lake and others; but I also looked up the song on Songfacts…this is often an excellent site to find obscure facts about a song, it’s history, and maybe what it was intended to be about. It’s also fun to browse through user comments, as people are often touched by certain songs in certain ways, and many of us have unique and interesting interpretations of a song–often quite different from what the author(s) intended or thought they were saying.

What struck me as notable–and the reason I am posting this entry–is that several people commented (or implied) that either Lake himself or this song is Anti-Christian. On the contrary, in interviews he has asserted that this song is NOT anti-Religious at all. Instead, Lake stated that this song was a protest against the Commercialization of Christmas.

In the United States, especially, we are bombarded with deceptive advertisements, television shows, and motion pictures that “inform” us that “Santa Claus” and big Uncle Macy at the Department Store are the ones we should REALLY be worshiping…and serving with our Almighty Dollars (Which, themselves, have become a False God in my country, by the way.) Jesus Himself said that a man cannot serve two masters, and yet I personally do not know of a single Christian who is not also a slave to the power of the Almighty American Greenback Dollar! This is wrong! Very, very wrong!

I’ll even throw in my own bit, that December 25th was NOT the true date of Christ’s birth to begin with; the early Christians celebrated it somewhere around January 6th–and that was on the old Julian calender besides; today’s Gregorian calender would put it around Jan 16th. And that’s only if older Greek historical sources are not correct; as some of those put the actual time of Jesus birth somewhere during the months of May-July. The actual celebration of Christmas we observe on Dec 25 originated with the old Germanic ritual of Yuletide–which, by the way, was a Pagan Fertility Rite.  Yes, you knew sex had to come into Christmas somewhere, didn’t you?

The church, in the 4th-10th Centuries AD polluted itself even further by re-inventing and absorbing Pagan celebrations into “holy” rituals…this practice culminated in nothing less than the Inquisition and the Bloody Dark Ages! Have you ever wondered why Jesus, in the Book of Revelations, refers to the Church of Rome as “The Great Whore of Babylon“? Trust me…the description is very clear. It’s talking about ROME!

Now…all of this certainly contributes to the “Great Lie”/”Fairy Tale” that is Christmas in Europe and America. But, oddly enough, “Santa” is not a lie! At least, not entirely. Reindeer were an invention…as was the North Pole, Elves, and his apparent Omniscience about children being good. The man whom our “beloved Church” perverted into this Comic Book-grade joke was actually a real person. His name was Nikolas, and he was a priest in the Greco-Roman province of Lycia, which is now a part of Turkey. He was known to be a very generous man–having come from a rich family–and he performed so many miracles during his lifetime, he earned the title “The Wonder-worker”. His service during the 4th Century actually pre-dated the church’s bogus adoption of December 25th as “Christ’s Mass”. He is known as a patron of Sailors, Merchants, Archers, Thieves oddly enough, Children, and Students. He’s considered the Patron Saint of Greece, too.

Now, like many other saints, angels, ghosts, and sundry other “things that go bump”–night, OR day, in this case–Nicholas has never been content to just be “Dead“. Nearly every “Saint” in the Catholic Church’s repertoire of Venerable Beings has made appearances. I can cite the repeated, and widely reported sightings of Saint Mary, for example, in Lourdes, Guadalupe, Fatima, and most astonishingly, in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia–an event that was televised by CNN and other news organizations, and is apparently still going on. Well, “Jolly Old St. Nick” was up to his old miraculous tricks very quickly after his bodily “Death”, and I have actually, PERSONALLY met him! The Nikolas of history and supernatural reality bears VERY LITTLE resemblance to the red-suited icon of the American “Christmas Scene”. The reality is, he is down-to-earth, he encourages others to love one another (the very message Jesus taught us, BTW), and…where no other hero or miracle is available, he arranges to have unlikely benefactors do things that ultimately help those who are poor and downtrodden. Yes, this sometimes includes charitable gifts from the rich, like R. H. Macy and Andrew Carnegie…but I’ve also seen incidental events, such as when the construction of a bridge in my hometown hit a snag; and as a result of the necessary redesign, several thousand square feet of land suddenly became available to become the new home for the Union Gospel Mission, a shelter for the homeless. Nor can I discount the haunting similarity of voices on emergency 911 calls played back on Reality shows like “Cops” and “Homicide: Life n the Street” to that of the gentle old man I met those many years go. In each case, a life was saved because of that anonymous 911 call. Yes, ghosts CAN AND DO use modern technology–there are numerous case studies on TV, the Internet, and in print. Of course, I can’t be sure those stories are Nikolas’s handiwork…but that is the spirit of Saint Nicholas, the “real” man behind the “Santa Claus” myth.

So, here, in “I Believe In Father Christmas”, we have Greg Lake’s reaction to the deceitful commercialization of the Christmas Holiday. I mean…there is so little that is actually “Honest” about Christmas presents, lights on the tree and our houses, and even the Nativity itself. Not even the day we celebrate Christmas is true to its origins! What we have is a magical Fairy-Tale, that one day can and must come crashing down around us in a hail of debt, anxiety, and a shortage of parking, that we faithfully endure for the sake of our children. What can I say? Growing up in the Cult of Christmas SUCKS! In the end, no wonder so many of us become depressed, disenfranchised, and detached from the true spirit of Christmas. What we need, is to step back, and take a look at what really started it all:

Somewhere, at some unconfirmed date, in a stable in Israel, a child was born to a young girl who had never had sex with a man. That child grew up to be a great teacher, miracle-worker, and leader. He was murdered by his own people for his unconventional beliefs; and three days later, he THREW OFF THE CHAINS OF DEATH to prove Himself to be not only the Son of Almighty GOD, but to have been the perfect, and final sacrifice, for all of the Evil that we humans have learned to commit.

Oh, and a few centuries later, a wise and humble priest espoused the ideals of this Christ, and was remembered for it.

That’s it! The Truth of Christmas…this is all there is left! No wonder Greg Lake calls it all a Fairy Tale. Buried in literally centuries of fables and falsified ritual and doctrine, the Christmas “Holiday” bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to what is true and holy in honoring the birth and life of Jesus Christ. And so it may have been, that with no small measure of Disgust, Greg Lake bids us “Hallelujah Noel, be it Heaven or Hell“. And, as I have seen so many times myself, we really do get the kind of Christmas that we have earned for ourselves. Perhaps we deserve even worse. As the years progress since Lake wrote this song, I certainly believe our country is getting worse.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you all, on this…by most accounts, the “TRUE” birthday of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

SASS has Spoken. Goodnight.

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Sunday, and a Terrible Premonition

I was listening to music today.  One of my favorite songs happens to be U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, and it played.  But I’ve never really gotten into the story behind the song–how it came to be.  So I checked it out on Wikipedia.  Here is the Wikipedia article I read … it originally refers to two incidents in Northern Ireland, one in 1972, and another in 1920, both called “Bloody Sunday,” in which people were killed in clashes with British authorities over the status of Irish Autonomy.  The song tries link the sacrifices of these people to the death and resurrection of Jesus, which also took place on a Sunday.

But it was a specific version of the song that really caught my attention … and that Wikipedia article sealed the deal:  their song, written in the early 1980s, was bizarrely apocalyptic, a pseudo-prophetic riff that would explode right under the hands of Bono on a Sunday very much like those others … on November 8, 1987.  U2 was scheduled to play at Red Rocks in Denver, Colorado.  Back in Ireland, it was “Remembrance Day.”  In both places, it is a day Rock & Roll will never forget.

The foundation for the Remembrance Day Bombing lay in part of the factionalization of the IRA and other Irish revolutionary forces.    One such faction, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a left-wing faction of the IRA, had intended the bombing as an apparent protest against the British government using Irish nationals as cannon fodder during war.  The bombing not only backfired, but it so marginalized the IRA even in the eyes of the Irish, that the “revolution” fizzled over the next few years to virtually nothing, and the rish have mostly enjoyed a lasting peace for many years.

But in November, 1987, all Bono knew was, the song that he’d been singing for half a decade was now front page news.  “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” was today, and he had a concert appearance that night.  Opening up before a massive crowd at Denver, Colorado’s “Red Rocks” ampitheatre, Bono introduced his and the Edge’s famous piece:

“Well here we are, the Irish in America
The Irish have been coming to america for years
Going back to the great famaine,
When the Irish were on the run from starvation
And a British government that couldn’t care less

Right up to today you know,
There are more Irish inmmigrants here in America today than ever
Some illegal, some legel
A lot of them are just running from, high unemployment

Some run from the troubles in Northern Ireland
From the hatred of the h-blocks, and torture
Others from wild acts of terrorism
Like we had today in a town called Inniskillin
Where 11 people lie dead many more injured
On a sunday bloody sunday…”

And then he went into the most powerful rendition of Sunday, Bloody Sunday ever recorded, a song that made it onto the Rattle And Hum album and CD, and has become a mainstay of classic rock on the airwaves ever since.  Who can forget Bono’s powerful, pleading, almost agonized scream of “Fuck the revolution!” or the cheer that arose from the crowd that gathered to hear that very song.  Fuck the revolution indeed.  These events were so powerful, and the performance so stunning, that Bono couldn’t bear to play the song again, and it would be another ten years before it began to reappeasr in their live performances.

Until I read that article in Wikipedia, I knew none of this.  I knew I had the lyrics from the Denver performance – I’d tucked these away in the Lyrics3 tag of my copy of the song, complete with the opening passage, which does not appear on the Rattle And Hum audio CD.  But I never knew how that the song had become so dramatically real, so spectacularly NOW for these people–until today.  Today, I listened to the song again, from a new perspective … and I wept.

And then I went looking for the video.  It’s not too hard to find–from Google I made my way to a link to the file using BitTorrent, and I started to download the DVD of Rattle And Hum–all 4.3 GB of it–but that wasn’t what I wanted.  I just wanted that 1987 performance of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”  But after a bit of searching, I found it on YouTube; and I embedded it here: 

In fact, after  little tweaking and digging throu my cache, I snatched it from YouTube, and tucked it away forever with the rest of my ill-begotten pirate gains.  (I won’t tell you how I did that, though, because, first of all, I support YouTube, and second, it’s illegal, wrong, and a pretty dirty thing to do when I can just embed the YouTube player right here, neh?  But if you know how to poke around in your browser’s temporary file storage, you probably don’t need me to help you steal streamed video content anyway.)

And now, I’ve watched and listened to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” more than a dozen times.  I’ve cried out with Bono when he screams “Fuck the revolution”; I’ve nodded in agreement when he says “Where’s the glory in” killing and injuring innocent people who’s only crime was to commemerate their participation in two world wars, and the sacrifices of their people.  And I have reaffirmed my own stance that there are good, valid reasons to fight–and there are plenty of reasons to fight and kill that are neither good nor valid.

When British oppression leads to harship and suffering, as it did in Ireland in the 1920s, anbd again in 1972, and also as it did on our own shores in the events leading up to July 4, 1776, fighting is probably good if it ends the oppression and the suffering.  But when violence begets only more suffering and death, whether from terrorism, poor coordination and planning, or just a false sense of what’s right and valid, then that violence is invalid and wrong.

In short, I’m talking here about the opression of the Palestinians by Israel, the war in Iraq, and the violence in Northern Ireland.  Next to nothing has come from the violence, and in each case, great strides have been achieved through negotiation and good faith cooperation.  As Bono sang, “No more – No more – Wipe your tears away.”  This violence has got to end.  Sunday, Bloody Sunday should ALWAYS be a memory–not some horrific pseudo-premonition, as this song ultimately became, under the tutelage of Edge, Bono, and the men of U2.  “Wipe your bloodshot eyes”–it’s time to end this.

SASS has Spoken.

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