The Bloody, Sweaty Moshpits of Yesteryear

Yeah, that wasn't my best-ever look

The expanded 2020 edition of The Endless American Midnight is on sale now. And to mark the occasion, I'm posting an excerpt on my experience on the Boston Hardcore scene, along with some snapshots of yours truly in the bloody, sweaty moshpits of yesteryear.


Clare Grogan, the Original Manic Pixie DreamPop Girl

Before Stacey Q, before Cyndi Lauper, before Madonna, before Gwen Stefani there was the original recipe manic pixie dream girl, Clare Grogan. It was her work with the band Altered Images where the hyperactive, estrogen-drenched, squeaky-voiced adorableness many singers would later take to the bank first truly burst into the public consciousness. 


Sunday Sabbath: After Forever

The funny thing about Sabbath is that they could do a tune whose lyrics read like a Fundamentalist sermon, yet still sound like they are channeling Azathoth

That's a talent.


Front 242 Friday: Don't Crash


 My favorite moments in my Rock and Roll memory are when I encounter a band that seems at once familiar and yet alien and unknowable and frightening. My first encounter with Belgian Industrial mavens Front 242 was like that. 


Elëvën Nü Mëtäl Söngs Thät Didn’t Tötälly Sück

I was clearly not the target demographic for Nü Metal. I was in my thirties by the time it rolled around, had already cycled through all the genres that fed into it, and had also spent a lot of time listening to the progenitors of the form (namely Faith No More and Nine Inch Nails). 

So if I tell you Nü Metal seemed utterly prefabricated — and for the most part, supremely irritating — to me, I hope you’ll understand where that’s coming from. It’s coming from a place of love.


The Only 1983 Playlist that Matters: The Birth of 80s College Rock

With New Wave now dominating the mainstream in 1983, new bands arose,  taking the driver’s seat from the class of 1979. A lot of these bands were too esoteric for the majors or still hewed to punk idealism, so a new breed of independent record labels arose to serve their audiences. 

College radio stations became the go-to outlet for these bands, which naturally thrived in towns with a lot of schools.


The Only 1983 Playlist that Matters: Goth and Industrial

I have a truly shocking revelation to share with the world. I hope you’re sitting down.

Ready for this? OK, here it comes: TikTok Zoomers didn’t invent androgyny. They weren’t even the first generation to run around looking like rejects from a sideshow attraction. Zoomer girls, I mean Zoomer uterus havers, didn’t invent shaving the sides of your head and dyeing what's left weird and unnatural colors.

Mind-blowing, I know.


The Only 1983 Playlist that Really Matters: Headbangin' and Slam Dancin'

1983 was a huge year for Heavy Metal, and not only because of Quiet Riot’s soundalike cover of Slade’s 'Cum On Feel the Noize' sending the Metal Health LP to the top of the charts, the first metal band to ever do so.


The Only 1983 Playlist that Matters: The (Mainstream) Empire Strikes Back

1983 was one of those pivotal years when a new generation of kids took over and embraced a new generation of music. It was the first year that GenXers graduated high school and with the rise of MTV and few had time for the hoary, hairy heroes of yesteryear.

So while a host of acts found themselves on the wrong side of the generational divide, a number of the smarter dogs were able to learn some new tricks and stay atop the charts. It was all very exciting, since you had the New Wave pulling in influences from both disco and rock -- bitter rivals in the early 80s-- and creating this incredibly huge middle ground where all sorts of influences could meet and exchange musical body fluids.

We've already looked in great depth at what Bowie and The Police were serving up in '83, so let's have a look at how the Mainstream was striking back at the New Wave insurgency...


The Only 1983 Playlist that Matters: Synthetic Pop Pleasures

You can’t talk about 1983 without talking about Eurythmics, who bookended the year with two big hit LPs Sweet Dreams and Touch. Their sound wasn’t anything new for the genre but was certainly a bracing shock to be hearing on Top 40 radio at the time.


The Only 1983 Playlist That Matters: Rad New Wave Hitz 4U!


I was originally planning to do a single playlist for 1983. I ended up creating six. As it happens 1983 was even more pivotal a year than I'd expected. There was so much going on in so many different genres that I realized how much 1983 had spoiled me for every year that followed it. 

I mean, this 1983 excursion is going to have nearly as many songs as the 90s megalist. That's how pivotal a year it was. 


1983 4Ever: Let's Not Dance and Say We Did

As with The Police’s Synchronicity and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, it’s impossible to talk about 1983 without talking about David Bowie’s multi-platinum LP, Let’s Dance.

At once both Bowie’s biggest-seller and his least-inspired album (at least until 1999’s somnolent Hours), Let’s Dance also marked both a commercial peak and the start of a very long and excruciating creative drought for the rock legend. 


1983 4EVER: You Will Know Synchronicity


Whether you loved it or hated it, there’s no talking about 1983 without talking about the Police’s mega-smash Synchronicity, released 38 years ago last Thursday. The album even knocked Michael Jackson’s mighty Thriller off the top of the Billboard charts, a position it reached no less than 17 times. 

Did I mention it was released on the 17th? Do I need to?


1983 4Ever: Dreams Stay with You

My obsession with Scottish post-punk probably began the first time I heard John McGeoch's guitar, but certainly reached an apogee with Big Country. 

I first heard them in September of 1983 during the height of the New British Invasion/synth pop craze and almost immediately ran out to buy their debut The Crossing at the old Quincy Records off the main drag in Quincy Square. I remember actually being afraid that if I didn't get the album right away they might disappear back into the ether somehow. It was that kind of year.


1983 4Ever: Aztec Camera meets Rider-Waite


I've talked before about how 1983 was one of those threshold eras, when interesting new ideas and roiling subcultures were being fired by strange forces emanating from the ether. You kind of had to be there to get my full meaning, but suffice it to say the first (meaning "real") Stranger Things does a magnificent job of capturing the flavor. 

You know; before the Duffers got "the talk."


"The Only Difference is That They Didn't Have Electricity"

The exact same thing as the ancient Mystery festivals.

'Tis the season for celebrated mythology: The Secret History of Rock 'N' Roll 


Insanely Great Playlist of 90s Songs You're Not Sick Of

Now you can finally escape 2021 with this treasure trove of killer 90s cuts.


Insanely Great 90s Songs You're Not Sick of: 1999

It’s obvious that grave mistakes had been made when devising our modern calendar, because 1999 was inarguably the first full year of the dreaded 21st century. Certainly music-wise. 


Insanely Great 90s Songs You're Not Sick of: 1998

Not many people realize it, but the Nineties ended May 17, 1998, when the last episode of the original X-Files series filmed in Vancouver aired. Hey, laugh if you must but the facts on the ground bear this out. Moreover, the Nineties actually began on August 23, 1988 when Jane’s Addiction released the first true prototype for the 90s rock album, Nothing’s Shocking.


Insanely Great 90s Songs You're Not Sick of: 1997

 1997 not only saw the continuing decline of the musical class of 1991 but also the decline of acts signed in the wake of Nirvana's black swan success. But that doesn't mean there weren't some big albums and a wide variety of very exciting music released that year.

Better yet, someone finally asked out loud the question that had been on everyone's mind for 20 years: How did Geddy Lee's voice get so high? Did he speak like an ordinary guy?


Insanely Great 90s Songs You're Not Sick of: 1996

 Oh, 1996. You saucy minx of a year. If I were to summarize you with a single music video, it would have to be a couple of muso goofballs doing cheesy Muzak remakes of then-current hits like "Black Hole Sun" on vintage synths. Sure feels like 1996 to me. How about you?



Insanely Great 90s Songs You're Not Sick of: 1995

I'm not ashamed to admit I got a bit choked up assembling this list. 1995 was a seminal time in my life for many different reasons, but all the great music unleashed on the world that year is near the top of the list.

In that light, I'm going to bend the rules just a bit. A few of the songs here will be big hits off big albums by big acts, but they're all songs I can never get sick of.


Insanely Great 90s Songs You're Not Sick of: 1994


It is scientifically impossible to be sick of this video

1994 was another seminal year for Alternative Rock. So many landmark albums were released it boggles the mind to consider so much great music came out in just a 12-month period. 


Insanely Great Nineties Songs You Aren't Sick Of: 1993

Disclaimer: great song not included with this video clip.

1993 reminds me a lot of 1983: a year in which the established mainstream gave way to a new sub-generational cohort, along with a new wave of very disparate bands being marketed as a coherent genre. 


Insanely Great Nineties Songs You Aren't Sick Of: 1992

When life gets me down and the walls start closing in, I always reach for a surefire panacea: the coked-to-the-gills King Ad Rock showing off his favorite Flavor Flav moves while the Beasties rip through a frantic, frenetic run-through of their 1992 comeback hit, "What'Cha Want."

If I could recreate that effect in a lab and bottle it, I would.  


Insanely Great Nineties Songs You Aren't Sick Of: 1991

Before the Deluge...

It's no easy task finding great 90s songs you aren't sick of when it comes to 1991. Pretty much every blockbuster-- the records people think of first when they think of 90s rock-- was released that year. Nevermind, Ten, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Use Your Illusion, Out of Time, Achtung Baby, the "Black Album," For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and Badmotorfinger all coughed up huge hits, which can still be heard every day on every classic rock or alternative radio station.


Insanely Great Nineties Songs You Aren't Sick Of: 1990

I'm sure many of you know the Nineties is my happy place. There are a lot of various reasons for this (cough, X-Files, cough) but a lot of it that the 90s was when first-wave Generation Xers took the reins on the pop culture buggy. And alternative rock was clearly the centerpiece of this project. 

You all know what happened when Nevermind broke, and you're sick of all the overplayed Seattle chestnuts, so let's take a deeper dive into the alt.rock lagoon and find some hidden hits and secret sounds that should have gone straight to the top of the charts.


Let Me Play You Some of My Dreams


Hello. Nice to see you again. Do you have some time to sit down and listen to some of my dreams? 

No, I mean the soundtracks to my dreams. 

What's that? No, I have no idea how they were able to record them. Sometimes it's better not to ask.


The 90s Are My Happy Place: Pocketful of (the) Posies

    Sometimes yourself and an artist are on vastly different tracks in your journey, but somehow meet up at an intersection before continuing on your own merry ways. Seattle's Posies are like that; a band whose earlier work had done nothing for me and whose later work wouldn't either, but we happily found ourselves in the same headspace for brief but glorious time.


Cheap Trick & the Twilight of Young America

"Dina, can you honestly tell me that you forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?"

"Eh, that's kids' stuff ..." Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982


How Did They Hear What I Was Dreaming?

The art I'm most entranced by is the art that feels like it was stolen from my dreams. 

There's no ostensible pattern to this. Mulholland DriveEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Max Ernst, early Cocteau Twins, the first Devo album, Tubeway Army's Replicas, certain Industrial music videos, Jacob's Ladder, The Royal Tannebaums, My Bloody Valentine, Brian Eno's 70's work, The Go Team, and Cliff Martinez' Solaris soundtrack all strike very deep chords in me that I can't quantify, nor am I entirely sure I want to. 

As tempting as it is to puzzle out exactly why this material triggers something so profound within me, I'm afraid over-analysis will break the spell. 


Nirvana Ruined Everything

Let’s face it: Rock 'n Roll is inherently ridiculous. Rock stars make a living wearing clothes that would get them laughed at on the street and striking poses that would get them beaten up at the pub. If you don't believe me, watch a Rolling Stones live DVD with the sound off. Or better yet, any Metal video from the 80’s.


How Did We Get to Lady Gaga?

Signaling to the Algol cult

It only took two or three years but I finally found an interesting Lady GaGa story.

It might sound like a plot lifted from The Outer Limits or Friday the 13th, The Series, but it appears that GaGa (aka Lady GorGon) is channeling the spirit of her dead collaborator, one Lina Morgana...


Grail Guitar Doors

 I need to tell you all something: the catalyst for everything I’ve done on The Secret Sun -- and with Synchromysticism in general -- ultimately stems from a five-month period in 1984 in which I had a genuine religious experience during what I now see as a bonafide mystery cult convocation. 

And that experience in turn set me on a Grail quest, which I am extremely happy to say was finally fulfilled last week, after thirty-seven long years. Along the way I learned a lot of invaluable, immersive lessons in shamanism, dream reality, parapolitics, establishmentarian cultism, the power of apocrypha and our false reality simulacrum.


Let's Get Kinky


Kinks guitarist Dave Davies isn't just the pioneer of the power-chord riff, he's also an experiencer. His 1994 autobiography Kink tells the story of how Davies believes he was contacted telepathically by alien intelligences...

NOTE: The comments form seems to have vanished here, so you can post comments here.


Altered Egos

Sometimes the strangest revelations can come from the most unlikely quarters. 

Dave Stewart was one half of the 80s Synthpop hit machine Eurythmics, and has also done a lot of work as a producer and soundtrack artist, working with a number of high-profile artists and on various films and TV shows. He's not exactly a button-down kind of guy, but he's not Marilyn Manson either. So you can imagine I was a bit surprised to read this the other day:
Dave Stewart — one-half of ’80s duo Eurythmics with Annie Lennox, who’s gone on to collaborate with Mick JaggerBob Dylan and Katy Perry — says that since 1979 his body’s been inhabited by another being, who’s written all his songs. 



1981: The Year Everything Changed

The Jam ring in the new year with a bulletproof classic

You may not realize it, but 2021 is the 40th anniversary of the Year Everything Changed. Well, musically-speaking, I mean.

The true importance of 1981 may not be realized for some time to come, given the intractable and reactionary nature of popular music today. But 1981 was a pivotal year in that many of the important innovations made in Rock music flowered in this brilliant, amazing year. 

For those such as myself who were conditioned to expect non-stop excitement in popular culture, many of the years since have been bitter disappointments. 


My Essential Punk Rock Discography

Even though this is my personal list, every record listed here is invaluable for its historic and artistic significance and are listed in no particular order. Every band here, though all comfortably fitting in the Fast/Loud category, has a strong identity and sound, and no two of these bands are alike, whether in concept, sound or image. 

I consider every band on this list to be trailblazers and pioneers, and all of these records to be essential documents of a time and place. So if you want to know what my personal experience of Punk was like, buy these records, research these bands and ponder what the difference is between them and the modern acts that call themselves Punk Rock. 

Doctor Strange is Always Changing Size

I'm probably a bit older than a lot of you out there. And I'm very grateful for that. I also had a lifeline to the culture of the 50s and 60s through my aunts and uncles, and spent much too much time alone when I was a kid. 

And having a touch of puer aeternus, I've been able to experience five decades of youth culture, even if it was often second hand.

It Really Does.

When I talk about the Scottish knack for making music that digs deep into my soul, Nazareth's definitive version of the Everly Brothers' standard "Love Hurts" is one of the songs I am thinking about. 

The Witches' (Black) Sabbath


Back when I was a kid the only you got to see your favorite rock bands was on late weekend nights -- usually Saturdays -- with shows like Don Kirschner's Rock Concert or Midnight Special. 

There were a few scattered shows here and there that showed music videos, and if you absolutely had to, there was Dick Clark's loathsome American Bandstand

Read Us the Book of the Names of the Dead.

If the Aquarian spirit of the late Sixties essentially kept its sunny disposition in California New Age mysticism, its East Coast counterpart found a distinctly darker expression, with the OTO (or more accurately, competing OTO sects) rising to pole position among the welter of witch cults that popped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm.

Killer Clowns from Other Space


I've been trying to wrap my head around the events of the past two weeks, on account it seems like somebody might have opened a Gate or broken a Seal somewhere. I'm still waiting for some fresh shoes to drop so please bear with me while the apocalyptic cake bakes. But then again, you don't probably need to tell you just how weird everything seems to have gotten out there, as if the Watchers may have come back from vacation and wanted to hit the ground running.

Well, we know how this all started, but the Secret Sunnification of the entire world isn't truly complete without a certain quartet of apocalyptic horsemen. And right on cue, they done rode into town...

A Short History of Goth

Note: this is a revised version of a 2009 post 

Well, tonight is cold, rainy and oppressive- what better time to get out the old Goth videos? Like so many memes from my youth, Goth has now been mainstreamed, particularly with the smash success of Twilight and True Blood. 

Which brings it all full circle, since the Goth aesthetic drew heavily on vampire mythology and Hammer horror films. 

Heavy Metal B.C.

Metallic Mysteries and Headbanging Hellenes

Originally written for The Daily Grail by Christopher Knowles

It’s not a shocking new revelation to compare rock ‘n’ roll to ancient pagan rituals. Writers have been throwing the term “Dionysian” around since Elvis first showed that a white man could sing the blues. But as I discovered while writing my new book, The Secret History of Rock ‘n Roll, the parallels go much, much deeper than that.