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GONZO MAGAZINE #257: Jon meets Neil

Those jolly nice folks at Gonzo Multimedia (that’s us baybee) have just published an extraordinary book by Neil Nixon and Owen Wilson. The introduction reads:

 “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.”

 And what man of wealth and taste could bear to be without his own jukebox, in his own residence, showcasing a selection of the inspired, insane, eclectic and cultish; the totality of which demonstrates our man’s wealth and taste to anyone who should happen to peruse the contents? Presumably the whole concept of this book needs no more introduction than this, so we’ll go beyond the idea and make a few comments that might help you understand these contents more fully.

Firstly, this is NOT A BOOK ABOUT SATANISM. Granted, we’ve read up enough on the subject to be able to make some comments on it, and on figures like Anton LaVey and Aleister Crowley who have helped define Satanism and strengthen its links with the music industry, but the purpose of doing that was to provide more detail for the various entries. So, Satanism and Satan as covered in this book is a general idea more than any one image or concept. Indeed, some of the entries test our understanding of the Lord of Darkness and his evil deeds. Elsewhere we’ve included works highlighted by campaigners against all things satanic even if we, personally, think the arguments about the evil content of these works to be misguided. The purpose of doing this is to show that the understanding of what is evil in music has been shaped by people with agendas of their own, often agendas of only marginal relevance to music. One or two such figures, notably Jacob Aranza, have earned a degree of celebrity that they haven’t necessarily sought or welcomed. In the case of Aranza, who wrote two books on the evils of backward masking in the eighties, his appearance in the online Encyclopedia of American Loons and the frequent derision heaped on his arguments and research (which often makes farcical claims; like Jim Steinman and Meatloaf being the same person or that Dr Hook were a “hard rock band”) may have done good for both sides of the satanic debate. His outspokenness drew people to his argument suggesting that popular rock stars, often of the soft rock and high selling variety, were corrupting the minds of the young, especially in the USA. By contrast, the claims made in his books often made established fans of the music laugh at the clanging errors and some of his arguments, confirming them in their belief that their music belonged in their lives and those arguing otherwise hadn’t a clue.

To put it succinctly, the Satan who owns the collection of sounds described in this book is a composite of everything people claim him to be. He’s at times a decidedly old testament figure. At other times, vain; vaguely reminiscent of a general rotter rather than being some all-pervading Lord of Darkness and not above the simple twisted pleasure of remembering and collecting fuck ups from those who set out to wrong him (which is why he has Sir Cliff’s greatest calamity on 45 rpm vinyl in the collection.) All of which makes him so inconsistent he can’t possibly satisfy everyone’s idea of how God’s nemesis might operate. We’re making no apologies for this because we’ve always seen this book project as a journey and exploration rather than a definitive trawl of Satan’s favourite slammers. If anything here – like maybe Satan’s guilty pleasures where Culture Club and James Last are concerned – really riles you, you might consider making your own list and publishing your own book. We’d probably buy it.

A few of the entries in this book draw words from an earlier book co-written by Neil – 500 Albums You Won’t Believe Until You Hear Them – this has occurred because the information in the original entries is so relevant to the present book it seemed pointless to reword the odd paragraph. Apologies if you bought the earlier book and get occasional bouts of déjà vu reading about Burzum or the Louvin Brothers.

The purpose of this book isn’t to offend, though there are works in here that were clearly intended to be offensive when released. Indeed, those of a gentler disposition, and – perhaps – anyone using this book for research rather than personal interest, might be genuinely appalled when they encounter works like Peter Sotos’ “Buyer’s Market.” We didn’t set out to make your life worse by including these. We did feel that ignoring them would be dishonest to the aims of the project and we reckoned that most of those motivated to buy this book could stand such discoveries if they were previously unfamiliar with them.

Similarly, we are not coming at this from any standpoint other than exploring the idea of how a being opposed to the main beliefs of the world’s leading religions might view of the problem of stocking a jukebox with 100 tracks to offer suitable sounds for all his moods. Our arguments are included, briefly, along with enough details about the various recordings to allow you to find out more if you choose. We’ve assumed along the way that our typical readers are likely to be open minded music obsessives, i.e. the people our publishers identify as the most frequent visitors to their website and buyers of their DVDs, CDs and books. So there are occasions when we skip basic introductions to a particular musical act, or discussion of an album. On these occasions we do make enough of a general comment to allow those unaware of what we’re going on about but interested to know more the chance to investigate the facts for themselves.

We’ve put in enough research to satisfy ourselves we know what we’re on about, but we also apologise for any mistakes. Please be clear, this is a factually based book, drawn from research, but – from the descriptions of the musical sounds to the reasons these cuts make Hell’s Hot 100 - the entries should be treated as opinions. These sound recordings exist, and we say enough about them to allow you to find all those that want to be found; though you’ll struggle beyond all reason when it comes to obscurities like “Teenybopper Death (He Loves you Bernadette.)” But the discussions should be treated – for legal purposes and to avoid your blood pressure rising unnaturally – as just discussions.

Beyond that, we genuinely hope to enjoy it, get surprised, get amused and begin to think about which 100 records you reckon belong in the lair of the Lord of Darkness.”

Neil and I have been friends now for over twenty years, so I decided to ring him and see what I could find out about this remarkable book.

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