Apocalypse Playlist

As my brother and I texted back and forth during the Walking Dead premiere on Sunday night, we got into a conversation about what would be a good playlist about the apocalypse. Granted, you almost certainly would not be listening to any tunes in the event of a catastrophic world event, instead focusing on any route of survival. So, I leaned more towards songs about the end of the world and ended up having to cut my list down to accommodate the end of the world as we know it.

No, I did not include anything by R.E.M., although I hope my brother does. I don’t think the world is actually going to end in December of this year 2012 because most simply, we don’t have all the information even to know what the whole clock even means. When the Spaniards came to the New World, they burned much of the written record of the Mayans after witnessing a human sacrifice complete with the heart being taken still beating out of the victim’s chest.

I mean come on, what use could the history of a people who are so obviously heathen homicidal maniacs possibly be? (If it’s not obvious, this is sarcasm) It’s really too bad because there is much information we could have used and I don’t think we have a real grasp on who they were as a people so this end of the world thing pertaining to their calendar is probably bullshit.

Unless our sun does burn out or we are hit be some giant celestial object or some massive nuclear war, the end will probably be a very gradual ordeal that no one generation will remember. Rarely does anything huge happen in history quickly. Nevertheless, the end of the world, or conception of it at least, has inspired a lot of good music

1. “The Weight”- The Band

Hard to believe this beloved anthem of the hippie generation is about the end of the world, but it is one of the themes. Robbie Robertson has said it is about that and the impossibility of always being a good person. It may not seem obvious, as it is an upbeat song, but think about it.  Some guy named Luke is waiting on the Judgement Day and the Devil is floating around.  It never occurred to me until I read into it a little.

I always associated this song with Easy Rider and my father, a former motorcycle enthusiast and eternal hippie. It’s interesting also that the song talks a lot about asking other people for help, favors being traded for favors. In an apocalypse style situation, you would have to depend on whoever else was around and I’d imagine the currency system as we know it would go right to shit.  Even now in the rural area I live in, I often trade labor for labor with friends but I think this is a dying thing in the hectic 24/7 over-connected and electronic society we live in. Unfortunately, I think it would take an ending of the world as we know it to get people to work together.

2. “Electric Funeral” Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is one of my top five favorite bands. I really don’t talk about them enough on this blog and how awesome they are. I know Ozzy made himself look like a fool on MTV a few years back and his solo work never did much for me, but Black Sabbath is the real deal. They created heavy rock as we know it, obviously with help from a few other bands, and basically all metal and heavy rock now is Sabbath in some respect.

For coming out in the afterglow of the swinging 60’s and singing about dark scary things in down tuned jams that lurch along, they deserve some type of medal. Nobody sounded like them and I just love that they put this stuff out not caring if anyone even wanted to hear it. This cheery little number is about atomic bombs and the chilly aftermath of nuclear winter. I love the guitars in this and the tempo break near the end. This is a mainstay of their music, the long and slow climb and then a kick up into a faster time with an ill guitar solo. Never gets old for me and I hope that if you haven’t ever tried Sabbath out, that you go ahead and give it a whirl.

3. “Pink Moon” Nick Drake

I never had any idea that this song was about the end of the world and it probably isn’t. I was having difficulty coming up with a different song so I googled “songs about the apocalypse  and this one popped up. Nick Drake is really great if you don’t know him, kind of like Elliott Smith but from way earlier and with less of an output. Exceptionally pretty songs but very morose.  Is this about the end of the world? I think Drake’s world anyway because he did die accidentally through a lethal combination of medications.

The couplet “None of you stand so tall, Pink Moon will get you all” is quite a bit more ominous than the melody would suggest. Is the pink moon a result of nuclear winter like in “Electric Funeral”? Who could be sure but I really dig this song. Great for summer nights at the end of the world.

4. “The End” -The Doors

The classic break-up tune and what a jam it is. I loved this song from the first time I heard it as the jets napalmed the hell out of the jungle in the opening scenes of Apocalypse Now. Although definitely about a break up, this is a great song about the end of the world as well. I think Morrison always wrote lyrics open to interpretation and this is one of the best. Like the Sabbath, it slowly builds through cool jazzy riffs and Morrison’s stoned poetry full of images of despair and Oedipus. I absolutely love the jam at the end, it feels like some type of tribal dance thing and it inspires me to take my clothes off and bang my chest like a chimpanzee. I think that would help in the high stress of an apocalyptic event.

5. “Santa Monica” Everclear

Another song about suicide and certainly the only one I like by this band. But what a song, from the very beginning fuzzy guitar riffs to the ending lines of “Let’s swim out past the breakers and watch the world die” Some thing about that really makes me happy like, ok it’s the end of the world but at least we have each other.

In some respects,  our world is pretty cluttered up right now so maybe we could use some massive cleansing to work out the kinks. I don’t hope a bunch of people die or anything but just from watching the nightly news it’s clear we need to make some serious changes in the way we treat each other. The word apocalypse, from the Greek, means revelation of something hidden. Perhaps we need to swim out past the breakers, watch the world die and find whatever it is inside of us to come alive. I look forward to re-posting this in December of this year and think we will be around quite a bit longer after that.


(if you think there’s more to say, my brother does too: he wrote his own damn list)

17 comments on “Apocalypse Playlist

  1. professormortis says:

    Santa Monica makes me think of three things: the gym my freshman year of college, because it seemed to always be on, the girl that, at the time, was toying with me to make a friend jealous (“I don’t want to be your downtime/I don’t want to be your stupid game” and so on), and, maybe most importantly, the (spoiler alert) ending to one of my favorite Film Noirs, wherein the leads end up out in the surf while a MacGuffin that characters dub “Pandora’s Box” and “The Head of Medusa” is opened and the house blows up. Apparently in some cuts they cut out the part where the hero and heroine escape the house as it’s blowing up in a little mini-mushroom cloud and swim out in the surf to watch it blow up. I always liked the idea of the film just ending with the explosion, because, after all the hype about the box, you kind of assume it’s actually something that could end the world.

    I think it all depends on how humankind ends; if we have forewarning and it’s an unavoidable kind of thing, I imagine a lot of people will cope with music. Even during a less ambiguous ending, I’d imagine people would be singing and making music if they have any kind of down time, or, hell, even under stress.

    As to 2012, it’s basically a bunch of BS New Agers made up in the 80s; yeah, the Mayan’s calendar will come to end around December 21, 2012, though there’s debate about the exact date, but it’s not the “end of time” by their standards: http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=686

  2. professormortis says:

    Also, I’d completely forgotten about Electric Funeral…thank you for the reminder. Love that freak out near the end.

    • theyoungerj says:

      Right? They get crazy.So many songs have that same slow build, like “Snowblind” and ” Warpigs” and a million others.

  3. theelderj says:

    You know, I always thought that “Santa Monica” was a break-up song. But now you tell me that Everclear was singing about the end of the world and Jim Morrison was singing about a relationship? This is seriously FUBAR.

    I have many more songs to add. I think I’ll post them on Tuesday.

    But the Mayan calendar thing i is just the latest thin claim. I remember seeing a late night video in the 90s swearing that when, at some point soon, all the planets in the solar system aligned, the gravitational pull would force the Earth to flip on its axis and end all life as we know it.

    The thing that is screwed up (and isn’t) is that, sure, it will all end some day. Suns stop working. A mere fraction in percentage change of heat in the Solar system could end life on Earth. Errant asteroids? Forget it. Fear the radiation from unexpected solar flares.

    The depressing part when contemplating this, if the inevitability doesn’t piss you off, is (1) we are hastening our own demise on this planet and (2) given even the certainty of Earth being uninhabitable one day, we have no plans as a species to do anything about it. We need a redunancy plan. We need to expand off this planet. I know that it is impossibly difficult, but, hey, when I look around at mankind, I think, here are about 6 billion people who need a hobby.

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  5. caylinjanae says:

    I disagree with one thing… If it was the end of the world I would absolutely spend time listening to music, because it is the best thing to represent everything that is important to me and reflect on what my life was like. I’d spend the apocalypse listening to music and saying goodbye to everyone I love. I’d much rather a clean shot to the head with a bullet than being eaten alive… Just sayin…
    P.S. The Walking Dead: Best show ever.

    • theelderj says:

      I think that my wife’s sentiment is the same–if the end is here, get it over quick and easy.

      I guess, though, that we’d probably not know it was the apocalypse. Things might happen gradually…

    • theyoungerj says:

      I hear you loud and clear. I also certainly would not want to live in a world without music. Being a zombie could be fun though. Maybe you could listen to jams at night on headphones so as not to attract more zombies and have others watch and switch off?

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