Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AC/DC and Satanic Reincarnation

This one is not technically a ghost story, but it does involve someone returning from the grave, is interesting and, I think, deserves to be listed here.

As a kid, probably around the age of 12, I remember talking with one of the other kids in the neighborhood as we walked to the store one day. A car drove by, windows rolled down, hard rock blaring from the stereo's speakers. The other kid, has name was Ryan, looked at me gravely and said "that's Satanic music."

Being the sort of kid that I was, I looked at him with a smirk, and made a smart-ass comment. He rolled his eyes, and repeated his claim that the music was Satanic.

So, I asked "Really? You don't listen to it, how do you know it's Satanic?"

We stopped walking, he turned to me, and said "my uncle used to listen to that kind of music. And there's this one band, AC/DC, where their singer died. The band had songs about going to Hell to party, and about how everyone should use drugs and talk to demons, and things like that. My uncle said that he was pretty sad when the singer died, but a year later, the group put out a new record*, and they had this new singer. But the new singer looked and sounded and acted just like the old one, and he was singing this song about how he was back! My uncle said that it was pretty obvious that the song was about how he had died, and then Satan broght him back to continue doing the Devil's work!"

I rolled my eyes, and we continued walking. But the story stuck with me, as evidenced by the fact that I still remember it now, 23 years later. I think that part of what gave it its staying power, as silly as I thought it was, was Ryan's insistence that the story of AC/DCs Satanic reincarnation was true, and the distress that it seemed to cause him.

Commentary: I grew up in a small town to the north of Modesto, California. Like most towns in California, the residents were primarily Christian, and many were from one or another fundamentalist church (that is, of the minority who routinely attended any church), and a few of these churches were known for their "bunker mentality" approach to the world, where anything not from the church itself was considered suspect if not outright evil, and likely to assault the "godly" (which was, of course, members of that church, and pretty much nobody else). As a result, it is no surprise that there were a fair number of people who were convinced that horror movies were evil, D&D was a Satanic primer, Secular Humanists were trying to take over the world and abolish Christianity**, and rock music was, quite literally, music from Hell itself.

In this context, it's not surprising that Brian Johnson, the singer that replaced Bon Scott, was thought by some who are part of this particular Christian sub-culture to be a satanic reincarnation of Scott sent by Satan both to tempt more to Hell and to provide Satan with a prominent mouth-piece on Earth. Of course, when you consider that Johnson was not only alive, but had an active musical career, well before Scott's death, this reincarnation hypothesis falls apart, but paranoid sub-cultures have never been known for their adherence to reality.

I don't know if Ryan really had an uncle who told him this, as I have since heard the story told by different people in different places. It's entirely possible that multiple people developed this particular hair-brained hypothesis, helped along by AC/DC's lyrics and the fact that both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson both sing as if they are in the pained and advanced stages of throat cancer. Regardless, it was one of the claims that tended to serve as "evidence" of a massive Satanic influence on the "secular world."

This is, in no small way, a continuation of the rumors of violin virtuoso Paganini's alleged Satanic connections, which were both part of his commercial success and fed the worries of the delusional paranoiacs of his day.

Ironically, while the rumor of Scott's Satanic reincarnation was developing amongst this sub-culture, AC/DC fans were busy pointing to difference between Scott and Johnson and arguing over who was better. Two divergent sub-cultures...so it goes....

*It was the late 80s. We still referred to music albums as "records" even though they were coming out primarily on CDs.

**I remember often hearing this as a kid. Weirdly, as an adult, I discovered that there really was a group that identified itself as Secular Humanists, was relatively small in numbers, with no actual political power, and possessing an agenda so mellow that it's hard to imagine anyone who actually knew it having much of an objection to it. These people were often confused when they were informed that they were actually in control of the world's governments.

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