Cemetery Dance, January 2018
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Review by R. B. Payne
Here's To My Sweet Satan:
How the Occult Haunted Music, Movies and Pop Culture
Quill Driver Press
1971. I drop the turntable needle onto black vinyl and slip on headphones. I lounge on the waterbed. Later, after a few hits off the hash pipe, I play Stairway to Heaven in reverse. There, among the eerily garbled sounds, I detect a mysterious incantation:
“Here’s to my sweet Satan/The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan/He will give those with him 666/There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”
The world spins darkly, I fall asleep.
Whether or not you believe the Occult exists, it nonetheless became a major cultural trend in the mid-1960s and its effect persists even in today’s modern society. In the thoroughly researched and well-written book, Here’s to my Sweet Satan: How the Occult Haunted Music, Movies, and Pop Culture, 1966-1980, George Case presents a riveting analysis of subjects as varied as Count Chocula, Ouija boards, Bigfoot, hard rock and heavy metal, Satanic sex cults, and Scooby Doo.
Although the youth culture that lapped up Occultism as an antidote to conservatism and the Vietnam War eventually grew older and found other interests, there is no doubt they experimented wholeheartedly in the Occult. I can pay witness to this from my own personal experience and that made this book extremely pleasurable to read. Mr. Case has effectively organized seven chapters (yes, it’s a sacred number, don’t think we missed that) starting with the evil of all evils: rock and roll music.
Acknowledged as the world’s leading authority on Led Zeppelin, Mr. Case explains Jimmy Page’s fascination with occultist Aleister “Do what thou wilt” Crowley. Of course, Crowley had followers before and after Led Zeppelin, such is his occult power. But Crowley’s from-beyond-the-grave influence on bands as diverse as The Beatles, Alice Cooper, the Rolling Stones, and Blue Oyster Cult is to be admired.
If you admire such things.
The following chapter explores pop literature - Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, both forever impacting horror for the better. Or worse, depending on how you like your horror. From there, the occult story bleeds profusely into film, children’s cartoons, board games, other-worldly creatures, cults, murder, and mayhem. There is no end to what supernatural forces will do to dominate humankind.
Here’s to my Sweet Satan cuts deeply into the pop fascination with the occult with an unblinking stare and a very sharp knife.
Lest you think you’re immune, did you find yourself watching The Night Stalker back in the day? Or perhaps you’re excited by the return of Twin Peaks and the X-Files? Maybe you checked your astrological forecast this morning before leaving your house? Recently rearranged those Sedona crystals on the bathroom shelf? You’ve been touched by the Occult in pop culture and there’s no turning back.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. That’s the location in Stairway to Heaven where you can hear the alleged backmasking. Led Zeppelin said it’s all a bunch of hooey. Of course, that’s what you’d expect the minions to say.
(c) 2018 by R. B. Payne, All Rights Reserved