Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Secret History of Rock and Roll; a book review

I must admit that I am not a huge fan of music, and never have been, even as a child I preferred reading to anything else when it came to entertainment.  When reading the book I was surprised by how much nostalgia it generated in me.  Because, despite the fact that I was and am primarily a book worm and still have little interest in music I remembered with fondness a lot of the bands and songs discussed in the book by way of examples of musical genres.

I have written another book review on "Our Gods Wear Spandex" also by Christopher Knowles.  Reading both books gives a good example of Chris' writing style which is easy flowing and crisp, not a lot of unnecessary diversion.  It is only fitting that I should read and review Chris' work here as I also had him as a guest on my Stench of Truth radio show.
A precursor to this work for me was the very interesting work by Alex Constantine titled "The Covert War Against Rock".

The works are not related in content but in theme.  Also as prelude it is interesting to delve into the material of  Dave McGowan particularly his material on the Laurel Canyon scene and the birth of some of the more famous rock stars, and bands as well as some of the bigger names in Hollywood.

Well, interesting prelude aside let us get to the work in question.
Chris' main focus in his works both "Gods" and "Rock" is the influence of the mystery religions in the development of the modern art expressions in comics and the music scene respectively.
They both stand as unique examples of research into this connection and he makes a strong connection to the mystery schools in both of them.
In "Rock" we have the exposition of the very potent musical rituals surrounding the various mystery schools of ancient times translated into the music scene of today.  We find the Korybantes, armed, dancing warriors of Cybele the Earth Goddess.  We have the cult of Dionysus famed (or infamous if you prefer) for their excess.  And many more examples of genres and themes in the ancient's approach to the Gods and the modern rock equivalents.
This is all underground stuff.  The mystery schools were supposedly shunned by the church and attempts were made to suppress them by various groups over time.  The reality is that many of these groups were just taken over by the church and their feasts and holy days renamed for saints in the church and much of the practice simply renamed and brought under the auspices of the church.  Stamping out heresy is not always successful and in those cases the wholesale taking and renaming of such ideas is a classic and effective way of taming them and bringing them in line with orthodoxy.
In "Rock" Knowles gives us concrete examples of the various mystery schools as personified in the modern rock environment by individuals and groups.  The purpose, as in "Gods", is to show that the power and reality of these mythological constructs is still with us and the unorthodox theology and ritual practices surrounding the worship of the "old gods" is still a real undercurrent in modern artistic expression.
We are left with the real question yet again of what does this mean for us and the for the "reality" of the "old gods"?  Since the influence and strength of these themes is so strong as to survive in different ways today it obviously indicates the possibility that we are dealing with a "reality" that is still attempting to impinge on our own and perhaps will one day come out again in the open.
I cannot help but think of H. P. Lovecraft who also posited in his fiction the idea of a race of "old gods" just waiting with slimy tentacles to reemerge from their various prisons to once again take over Earth, which they view as rightfully theirs.
In a sense the gods of the Mystery Schools have a claim for being the rightful rulers of the Earth because the themes and rituals surrounding them have always been with us in one form or another.
Christopher Knowles has once again shown us that we cannot think of ourselves as beyond the influence of these ancient gods and that we may yet again see them seeping out of their current hiding places to come full force into our "reality".  I recommend the book as well as "Gods" as a crisp narrative of modern expression of ancient themes.  Check out his blog Secret Sun, which is also linked in the fellow travelers section.

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