Within my circle of psychonauts, something unexpected was brewing. One of the guys — a huge fan of Led Zeppelin — began to uncover bizarre occult themes in the music. No, I’m not talking about backward masking. This was much less subliminal. Lead guitarist Jimmy Paige was known to have a fascination with the black arts. Not only did he own an occult bookstore, he purchased Aleister Crowley‘s Boleskine House, on the shores of the Loch Ness. Crowley was considered one of the foremost practitioners of the magical arts in the world. He fancied himself as the Beast of the Book of the Revelations, the anti-christ, and referred to himself as the most evil man in the world. What interest would the Crowley’s house have for Paige?
Normaly, this stuff wouldn’t phase me. I mean, it’s not like Satanic symbolism was new to rock. But, for some reason, after my brush with death and headlong surrender to chemically-induced enlightenment, this info troubled me. And it would only get worse.
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Lots of oddball details began to pop out at us. Like the Zeppelin logo of a fallen angel. As we discovered, Lucifer was a fallen angel. Coincidence? Later we learned that Paige was initially pegged to compose the soundtrack for iconoclastic occult director Kenneth Anger’s film, Lucifer Rising, a film eventually scored by The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger.
Another tidbit was in the movie, The Song Remains the Same. The footage from Zeppelin’s Madison Square Garden concert was spliced with fantasy sequences, one of which involved Jimmy Paige, sitting before Boleskine House, cranking a musical box. As the camera approaches, Paige looks up and his eyes are glowing. The musical box he is playing is a hurdy gurdy box. Interestingly enough, Paige was initially listed as the guitarist for Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man. We broke the song out and re-listened to it.
Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I open my eyes to take a peep
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquillity.
‘Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love. . .
Histories of ages past
Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity.
‘Tis then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Donovan wrote the song while in the Himalayas studying under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It contains various eastern instruments. But what is the song about? Who’s the hurdy gurdy man? We traced the concept back to the Book of Revelations where, after “histories of ages past” and “the crying of humanity,” the Hurdey Gurdey Man rises out of the sea. Sound familiar? In the midst of the Great Tribulation, the Beast rises out of the sea “bringing songs of love.” Needless to say, I was starting to look over my shoulder.
The harder I gazed, the clearer (or darker?) things got; an intricate puzzle seemed to be falling into place. Jim Morrison considering himself a shaman, or Brian Jones’ study of tribal trance music, the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesty’s Request and Sympathy for the Devil. Was there more to this occult connection than met the eye? Could something — no, someone — be working to delude me?
Then the hammer came down.
I’d begun to listen to a program on a local college station, every Sunday night, entitled Rock and Religion, hosted by Warehouse Christian Ministries. It was not preachy and contained lots of rock info. The show explored spiritual trends in rock music. At the time, they were interviewing Kerry Livgren, lead singer for Kansas. Well, I loved Kansas, had several of their albums, and had recently seen them in concert. Livgren was their founder and main songwriter. But, to my horror, he was describing his conversion to Christianity.
Up to that point, I viewed Christians as a shallow, narrow-minded, irrelevant bunch. But Livgren’s testimony hit me like a spiritual sledge. He had been studying the Urantia Book — a book believed to have been written by extraterrestrials — and through a series of debates with another musician, was convinced the Bible was the genuine Word of God. His eyes were opened and he came to see all his talents as having been twisted toward some evil end. And then he said something that struck at my core: “I didn’t like the fact that I was being used.”
For some reason, that statement haunted me. I was being used. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was writing and drawing, and had a reputation for being a creative person. But I began to see my works in a new light. The themes had become decidedly dark — spirits, phantoms, death and dying. Was it possible I too was being used?
The final kicker was reading Hal Lindsey’s Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. The book is about the reality of Satan, his nature and tactics, and his work on earth. At times during the reading I would weep, awestruck by the fact that Someone could be watching out for me. At other times, I was gripped by paranoia, feeling that the drugs, the music, the mysticism were portals to an insidious evil; that I was in the clutches of the devil.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was Pink Floyd’s, The Wall. I went to see them in concert and they performed the entire album. The experience pushed me over the edge. It’s a concept album about a man who goes insane. He battles a doting Mother, a monstrous Judge, and eventually the Worms. During the show, a giant wall is constructed on the stage as the protag retreats into insanity. But I was hardly entertained. Not only was I convinced an ominous Judge was waiting to sound the gavel on my life, I too faced the worms and was dangerously close to my own personal Wall. I left the arena spent and convicted; I could not live in this hell any longer. It was the last secular concert I would attend for a long, long time.
I had walked enough Stations of the Cross to know the Story. Lindsey had outlined the steps in his book, so I had no excuses. Several of my stoner — now ex-stoner — buddies had attended Calvary Chapel Riverside. To my surprise, the church had rock concerts on Sunday nights. I went with the understanding that I would make a public profession of faith. So in March of 1980, I went forward at an altar call and publicly confessed Christ. That same week I destroyed my rock albums, my drugs and my occult paraphernalia.
That event was only the beginning — which is another long story — but it’s why spring is my favorite time of the year: winter is past and new life is in the air. So yeah, the hard road will get you home. You’ll just arrive bruised and bloodied. But in my case, I’m no worse for the wear.