Go Ride the Music


Do you see the music?

When I listen to certain songs, they always summon strong, clear images or fantasies. Sometimes it has to do with the music video or where I first heard it…but often not. For example, London Symphony Orchestra’s cover of “Smooth Criminal” sounds to me like the Nazis marching into Paris, kicking down doors and clearing out undesirables. Here are some of the others:

Redskunk Jipzee Swing Band’s “Arctic Blue”: A John Constantine figure, selling his soul to Hell to save a woman’s life. He knows exactly what he’s buying, and he knows he’s damned anyway. According to Molly Reeves, she saw similar imagery while they were composing the song…even though the lyrics have nothing to do with it.

Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”: The Battle of Teutoborg Forest, gone very, very wrong. Something dark and amorphous has swallowed the Germans, and the lonely Roman legion is in the middle of the darkness, around a feeble lantern. A black rain that should not be falls from the sky, staining faces and dulling armor. Shadows mass to swarm and attack out of the darkness, to douse the light. The one lantern may be the only light left in the world. The Romans are almost certain to die. But they are going to defend that flicker of flame, because every moment it remains alight is a victory.

Bob Dylan’s original “All Along the Watchtower”: A companion-piece to “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” The night before the Chinese Battle of Red Cliffs, where Zhuge Liang performs a grand Taoist ceremony for fair weather.

Bet you thought I forgot about these!

Bet you thought I forgot about these!

It’s debatable whether he had the whole three-day ceremony set up because he knew the winds would change in his favor in that time, or whether his ceremony actually changed the weather…but in this case, black rain falls. I see the man with the wispy beard look up in horror, because this is not of the Tao. Thunder strikes, and a lightning made of darkness destroys the altar. There is scattering and chaos as blackness seeps into the world…

Kongos’ “Come With Me Now”: Specifically, the accordion piece at the beginning. I always picture a massive Mayan god, done in the traditional artistic look, rolling back and forth with his face always forward and chuckling like a 90s video game boss. The rest of the song descends into chaotic postmodern fistfighting. As it should be, really.

Neil Young’s “Ohio”: The Stand. All of it. Mostly Stuart Redman, admittedly, and his trip back to Boulder with Tom Cullen, mixed in with the four messengers of Mother Abigail making their way west to Las Vegas and the confrontation, earlier in the book, with the Menagerie. Tired, dusty men on the road through the vast flat West.

Those are some of the strongest images I get from music. How about you? Do you see visions when you listen to certain songs? If so, what are they?


About R. Jean Mathieu

They say he speaks five languages, was conceived on a chess board, and once seduced a tong boss' daughter and lived to tell the tale. All we know is, he's called Roscoe. You can find more scurrilous lies at rjeanmathieu.com and buy his books at fedoraarts.com. View all posts by R. Jean Mathieu

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