What The Hell?

February 22, 2012

Paloma was twitterpated when I arrived home this evening over the spectacle of a pair of preachers proselytizing on the sidewalk down the street.

Apparently the duo was covering, loudly, the things that would result in the college kids at the university across the street heading straight to hell – no need to pass go, no need to study for finals.

(of course, this misses the point that the main reason for attending college is to spend four to nine years doing things that might earn you eternal damnation)

We had a street preacher at my school who remains a part of lore there. His name really was Max, but I’m not sure if the Mad portion of his moniker predated or was inspired by the Mel Gibson flicks.

Mad Max was already a fixture the moment that I set foot on the campus more than a year after the cinematic character walked off into the sunset beyond Thunderdome. He was in the same spot in the heavily-trafficked heart of campus delivering fire and brimstone daily.

The movies have remained entertaining, but our Max went from being riveting street theater to merely being part of the landscape before I made it home for Thanksgiving break that first autumn.

Paloma and I live in a region where, even in such an über religious nation, most folks are crossing off the days ’til the rapture. I’ve long suspected that if I asked a random sampling of citizenry to balance their bank account, they’d stare at me like a dog that had been shown a card trick.

However, ask the same random sampling about what God wants and they’d blather away with absolute certainty.

I might be crazy, but if there is some omnipotent entity that steers the universe, I’d think it would be far more incomprenhensible than basic algebra.

So, perhaps there is some fiery destination where those who’ve misbehaved end up as Beelzebub’s bitch.

Or, perhaps hell is no different than heaven except there is no cake.

I doubt I’m getting the answer from someone screaming on a sidewalk.

In the meantime, here are four songs on the subject…

AC/DC – Highway To Hell
from Highway To Hell (1979)

I remember reading an interview with AC/DC guitarist Angus Young sometime in the late ’80s upon their release of a new album. The interviewer asked him to address critics that accused the band of releasing the same album twelve times.

Angus corrected him, informing him that it was, actually, thirteen times.

Well played, sir.

Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell
from Hot (1997)

Hot was released as there was a retro swing music revival in the US and resulted in Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Hell being inescapable for months on end.

Sure the song is supposed to be a cautionary tale, but it’s so intoxicatingly festive that it fails to spook.

Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers – Have You Ever Been To Hell
from Conscious Party (1988)

Conscious Party was released in the spring of 1988 as my sophomore year of college was ending. That summer was the first one which I wouldn’t return home as I was taking classes and working in a record store.

Produced by Talking Heads’ rhythm section Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, Conscious Party was perfect to put on and groove to for forty minutes or so during lazy summer days at the store. The breezy Tomorrow People managed to reach the Top 40 in the States, but the album was worthwhile from start to finish.

The Clash – Straight To Hell
from Clash On Broadway (1991)

Straight To Hell is hypnotic and off-kilter. The song’s lyrics are hypnotic and scathing – particularly those about a Vietnam-era soldier abandoning a child he fathered during that war.

I always thought it was one of The Clash’s finest moments and most fully-realized songs.

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