[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
Have you heard? Real live flesh-eating zombie freaks are on the attack! In Florida, a man named Rudy Eugene attacks and eats Ronald Poppo's face before policemen shoot Rudy the zombie to death. (Bullets work … for now.) Again in Florida, Brandon De Leon is arrested and thrown in the back of a police car as he screams, “I'm going to eat you!” Other incidents include violent acts directed at law enforcement and relatives (Pamela Suzanne Higgins, wielding a machete, comes at her mother, asking, “You ain't dead yet?”). Mark Thompson, meanwhile, reportedly was found in his home, pants down, wearing women's lingerie (on to victory!) with a pygmy goat he had stolen and stabbed to death.
Apparently, all this rowdy patriotism, and acts of “oral aggression,” as it's being called, are from ingesting “bath salts.” What is this stuff? Why can't Americans just get high on phencyclidine (PCP) like they did last summer and just strip naked and laugh hysterically with lungs full of pepper spray and muscles twitching from multiple Taser jolts?
Bath salts, the drug, or versions thereof, have nothing to do with a bathing additive. From what I have been able to understand, this stuff, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) has similarities to methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), otherwise known as Ecstasy — a DEA Schedule 1 controlled substance. MDPV is a synthetic drug being made all over North America and sold to people looking for something a little different.
I know some of you would like to blame the president for this. Perhaps Pat Robertson, never afraid of finding causal links in the strangest of places, will be able to bind these drugged-out zombies to the president coming out in favor of same-sex marriage. Memo to Westboro Baptist's Phelps family: Does God hate zombies?
But seriously, folks, one of the worst upsides of bath salts is they supposedly don't show up in drug tests, so people who normally would be unable to avoid detection take them — like members of the military.
I think my first experience with zombies (insert joke about going to see Aerosmith on the Toys in the Attic tour) was when I watched the George Romero classic Night of the Living Dead. I went alone and walked back to my mother's apartment afterwards, wondering if something like that could really happen. Well, now I know.
I can't say I understand the appeal of all this human-flesh eating. I think the sexier (and perhaps easier to market) aspect of this would be vampires. “Blood extraction via hot chick with fangs” is definitely preferable to “naked guy eating your face off.”
Years later, I was to learn that there is a fascination with the undead in music. The Misfits come to mind, with their songs “Night of the Living Dead” and “Astro Zombies.” There is the excellent “I Walked With a Zombie” by Roky Erickson and, of course, L.A.'s own singer, songwriter, writer and all-around talented guy Chris D and his band, the Flesh Eaters.
Of course, there was the band The Zombies, but they didn't really write songs about eating people. Talk about a missed opportunity!
Death metal uses a lot of white facepaint and black hair dye to make its point. I quite enjoy this genre for its intensity, extremism and underlying irony: You have to be alive to play it and listen to it. More ironic still is that so many of these crushing death-metal band members are so often intelligent, articulate and friendly that it makes you wonder why they chose this genre.
As to death in music, I bet the disco lifestyle took out way more people than rock.
Some of us are firmly rooted in the here and now and don't believe in an afterlife, just good PR and well-considered lighting. That being said, if humans eventually turn to dust, perhaps one of the only things that actually has no fear of death is music. All the music you like and all the music you don't is with us forever as we know it. That's one of the reasons it is such a powerful medium.
Music is that which will not die. One of our treasured readers recently wrote in to tell my editor that while he somewhat enjoyed my writing, he felt my taste in music was fairly awful and rooted in styles (rock) that would not last. He backhandedly complimented me on my appreciation for Wagner but gave me a poor grade overall. I wrote him back and reminded him that the Vienna Philharmonic was a cover band.
When you listen to a favorite album you have loved for decades, is this not in some way a plea for immortality? Isn't it the case that when you put an old record on, you are going back in time to a more youthful and happier chapter of your life? Can this be considered a denial of the present, of the reality that death is ever closer? What is an “'80s Night” event at a club other than a gathering of urban zombies, wanting a few hours of immortality?
I am as susceptible as anyone to familiar records that power my personal way-back machine. It's enjoyably poignant and makes me thankful for what I have and what I have survived.
I do have rules. I try to listen only to music that is new to me during the week and limit my good-old-days jam sessions to the weekends, thus limiting my music-zombie tendencies.
But back to this whole bath salts thing. Stripped of the more gripping headlines, it's just drug abuse and behavior that lead to people getting hurt or killed. Not worth it in my opinion.
Music, on the other hand, is the best possible deal I know.