Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Conspiracy Music

Though few people are aware of it, conspiracy theories and rock 'n' roll have always been intimately connected.  From the beginning of its popularity among American youth in the 1950s, rock 'n' roll was believed—by some—to be a Communist conspiracy to surreptitiously corrupt the future generations of the United States.  (The Lyndon LaRouche organization advocates that point of view to this day and demands that its adherents listen to classical music only.)  The overlap between conspiracies and rock 'n' roll eventually spawned an entire book:  Alex Constantine’s The Covert War Against Rock (Feral House, 2000) which accuses various intelligence agencies of having been behind the deaths of Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, etc. 

Some musicians have been conspiracy buffs themselves, and their obsessions are reflected in their songs.  Among the very best of these musicians was punk rock legend Stiv Bators (1949-1990) whose stage name was inspired by a conspiracy theorist named Dr. Peter Beter (yes, that was his real name), an eccentric attorney who authored a book entitled The Conspiracy Against the Dollar in 1973.  Throughout the 1970s and early ‘80s, Beter disseminated his peculiar conspiracy theories (e.g., President Jimmy Carter was assassinated by Soviet agents and replaced with an organic robotoid) through a regular series of “audio letters”-- cassette tapes distributed through the mail--to which one could subscribe as if it were a dark, surreal, mirror-world version of the Reader’s Digest.  Bators must have been one of the good doctor’s most loyal subscribers, since Beter’s unique conspiracy theories eventually inspired an entire concept album in 1981, Only Lovers Left Alive by Bators’ band The Wanderers (who, to this day, are far less notorious than Bators’ other bands, The Dead Boys and Lords of the New Church).  Only Lovers Left Alive is probably one of my favorite albums of all time, and my favorite track from the album is “Dr. Beter,” which gets my vote as the greatest conspiracy song ever recorded.  The album is hard to find these days, but you can still stumble across it in the obscure byways of the internet it if you send out the right brain waves.  The album is well worth the effort.   

Future posts will spotlight other examples in the weird and little-known subgenre I’m calling “Conspiracy Music.”  Stay tuned….

(Oh, and everything you ever wanted to know about Dr. Peter Beter can be found HERE.)

"Dr. Beter" by Stiv Bators:

Beter's audio letters believe in what they say
He warned us of the cosmospheres that wiped the USA
Particle beam weapons came bouncing off the moon
Of Operation Tabletop, Battle of the Harvest Moon
Dr. Beter, Peter Beter, Dr. Beter
His claims are even more amazing than at first appears
The Rockefeller murders, assassinations through the years
You watch your bruised and battered world in your vacuum jaws
Your robotoid president lost the Third World War
Many men took part in it, four set the stage
Politicians and the Pope, you would be amazed
The Rockefeller dynasty, the mid-east oil trick
Ft. Knox gold, all was stole, by the Bolsheviks
In only thirty seconds the message will begin
His information service of all the world sins
The actor Pope conspiracy, can't learn it off the tube
Send off now, don't be late, you've everything to lose

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