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The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
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Zounds: Launching Pad for New Music, Musical Musings, Drugs, and Sport

Godzilla Vs The Ogre: A Tale of Musical Determinism in Two Parts
by John D. Bess

Part One
     
Manhattan Transfer, Air Supply, REO Speedwagon, the names are now lost in the all consuming vortex of pop culture. But for a brief time, these very different bands shared the airwaves of late 1970s Top 40 radio stations and became my first true obsession. Having an affinity for Top 40 bands would remain a source of embarrassment for me well into my teens, as most kids I grew up with tended to define themselves by the music they listened to. There is nothing cool or edgy about Top 40 music; it's the bleached white bread of the musical bakery. Subsequently, I was seen by my peers, who were discovering early Van Halen and Iron Maiden, as a sheep, an innocuous follower of inane fashion. But no one can blame you for having crappy taste in music when you're nine years old. Especially when you fall asleep every night transfixed by the syrupy genius of pop songs because the only access to music you can call your own is the handheld, single speaker, black plastic radio that only receives one clear station when adequate amounts of tinfoil are wrapped around its broken antenna that your grandpa gave you as an afterthought when he found it in his garage under a stack of rusty license plates.
     In this case no one can hold you morally responsible for having the lyrics to Christopher Cross's "Don't Pay the Ferryman" engrained in your head and quoting them from the sidelines of heated tetherball matches like a playground Socrates spewing the truth of competition. They can't even blame you when you finally smoke enough pot in seventh grade to erase all but the chorus and then take it upon yourself to begin performing soliloquies of Jethro Tull songs during the Chess Team finals. Nope, no one can blame you for having a hell bent passion for music, for being obsessed with bands, for being able to name and list the preferred equipment of every bass player of every major rock band of the 1970s with the same zeal as Howard Cosell reeling off the college stats of the Colt's third string place kicker. After all, it's music were talking about, the heavenly chorus of inspiration.
     Yet, not everyone appreciates music, much less lives life blindly compelled to understand and embrace it. There is one among us who finds music to be no more than something to fill the air in the station wagon, allowing him to avoid conversations with his own progeny on family trips. There exists one who rushes out to purchase a Keeping Up With the Jones's, 100% oak cabinet, eight-track, Hi-Fi system for the family room and then relegates it to playing only "Richard Pryor: Live in Concert" when the rest of said family was gone. The stereo would see no musical service until the eight-track proved obsolete roughly three weeks later, and the whole unit was banished to the basement where it would be employed as no more than a fancy radio during girl-scout sleepovers and little league mixers. Such a person, so devoid of passion, so resentful of beauty, so spiteful of the muses could no longer remain human. An aberration of the human spirit, a jagged, saw-toothed wave running through the song of the world, he would draw all aggression and hatred to himself like a black hole in the fabric of human harmony sucking in the dreams of the world. He would become The Ogre.
     The Ogre's earliest incarnation manifested itself when I, his only son, approached, eyes down cast and hat in hand, begging, "Please sir, can I play music?" The Ogre checked his resolve and considered the expanse of his domain--everything within earshot of the Lay-Z-Boy lair overlooking the family room of his modest ranch house, as well as the distant baronies of Basement and Garage and the frontier territories of both Front and Back Yard. Assured of his power and security, he cast his thoughts about the query. With eyes too narrow to see beyond his own selfish heart and ears too choked with the wax of his own ego, he began to flush with exertion. Mottled patches formed on his cheeks as steam rose from his temples, the heat igniting the old growth underbrush of his ear hair, sending flames licking at his last gasp, white jumpsuit era Elvis sideburns. Incapable of securing an answer based on any reality outside his own perception, he surveyed the breadth of his own existence. Satisfied with the sight, he turned to deliver his answer. "Men play sports. Women play music." The Ogre had spoken. The decree had been handed down. I would not play music. I would instead spend evenings at little league or junior football practice, longing for the end of the day when I could pour myself into bed and get lost in the heady arrangements of Electric Light Orchestra and primal backbeats of The Knack until I fell asleep, or the Ogre became aware of music invading the oppressively securing silence of his realm and came to put a stop to it.

     
Part Two

The soft, worn cotton of the blanket my mom crafted from old racecar curtains lies like cool velvet against my cheek as I search for a pocket of comfort between the lumps in my bed, my restlessness assuaged by the late evening strains of top 40 radio. Lying there in the darkness of my room, straining to make sense of Elton John's lyrics (and sexuality), this night is reminiscent of all before it as my mind drinks deeply the music I hear, and my hands ignorantly fake their way through the bass lines I presume. The music opening a doorway to a world of freedom and expression devoid in my daily life. I close my eyes and envision myself on MTV with Elton, thumping a bass somewhere in the background of his video, breathing the groove, making the music, owning my soul. My dream dissolves as the creaking leather of the Ogre's Lay-Z-Boy overpowers the canned laughter of M.A.S.H. coming from the family room. The Ogre sleeps uneasy tonight. I spin the volume wheel on my little radio to a spot where the booming waves of the bass and drums are lost, yet Elton's last verse is still discernable. Too late, the Ogre approaches. My music has awoken him. The wooden floorboards of the house groan their displeasure under the weight of the great beast traversing her halls, their agony distinct as he reaches my door.
     As the opening notes of Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" begin to distort my tiny speaker, I hear a mighty hand clench my doorknob. I imagine the knob suffocating between the meaty pads of the Ogre's big sausage fingers. With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound He pulls the spitting high tension wires down. A shaft of dull yellow hallway light falls through the opening door, and I can see the hulking mass of the Ogre silhouetted against it. I feign sleep, tucking my eyes under the satin edge of my racecar blanket. Helpless people on a subway train Scream bug-eyed as he looks in on them. Through the sheerness of the weathered cotton I watch the Ogre take one long stride into my room and come up short with a curse and a snort, his big back paw falling squarely on the Hotwheels littering my floor. Undaunted, the Ogre gives them a kick out of his way and forges on, rounding the corner of my bed. He picks up a bus and he throws it back down As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town. I can hear his breathing above me now, the scratchy guttural huff of overworked plural sacks, the creaky bellows of his massive diaphragm, the gale force of air being shoved out of his hairy nostrils. Oh no, they say he's got to go;Go go Godzilla, we-ooh-ooh-ooh. The shadow of his long arm stretches over me, falling on the blanket that covers my face, distinctly now as it passes over the cotton, imagined now as it passes the satin. I hear the great paw lay hold of my radio, the music swallowed by the several metric tons of callused flesh that make up the Ogre's palm. Oh no, there goes Tokyo...Go go Godzilla, we-ooh-ooh-ooh. Then the music is no more. The Ogre turns on his powerful haunches and strides out of my little room, taking with him his lugubriousness, his malice. He leaves me with only his smell, his ideology, his fears.
     I lay in the awful silence of my dark room. Contrary to the belief proffered by new-age yoyos and return to fairer time reactionaries, the silence is not golden; it's the tarnished brass, clanging gong of those with nothing to say. The gong screams out truth, laying bare all that I try to hide in the recesses of my mind. The loudness of it is deafening. The soft cotton of racecar blankets no longer solacing my mind, I search my memory for a snippet of song to silence the gong, and I find the redeeming grace of Top 40 radio. Hearing the same songs every night carves them into your psyche like grooves on a fat, black record. As I hunt for a verse, I hear the squeaking springs of the Lay-Z-Boy accepting the weight of the Ogre settling in. He will not return tonight.
     History shows again and again How nature points out the folly of men. Godzilla!
      
     
     
Epilogue

All this talk of the Ogre has got me thinking that I should call him; after all it's been three years since we last spoke, and it was another three before that. But, I know how difficult it is for him to use the phone. I mean, he's an Ogre; they don't really make phones specifically for humanoids of his magnitude. You know those huge gag sunglasses people wear at football games? The Ogre had to have a pair fitted with prescription lenses for everyday wear. Then he ripped a pair of tinted rear passenger windows out of a '68 Chevelle and fastened them to those big ol' glasses for a giant flip-shade.
     His massive paws can't really handle a phone, unless it's one of those old heavy black numbers from the '40s with a receiver the size of a dumbbell. And cell phones are right out. What a sight, watching him pinch them between his big kielbasa thumb and forefinger like a little boy inspecting a beetle he found in the yard while digging for the buried treasure his dad assured him was out there, even though he was instructed to dig horizontally, not vertically, and the next week the trenches were filled with tomato plants, and he was no longer allowed to search there for booty.
     Also troublesome are the upward thrust lower fangs stretching up to the Ogre's snout, which prevent him from pronouncing "p" and consonant "y" sounds. Therefore, he can't say the words "please" and "thank you" without forcing so much spit through his mouth that the phone's electronics invariably become corroded by the venom inherent in his DNA. Because he wants to avoid appearing impolite, as well as destroying yet another antique phone, the Ogre refuses to call people-that and because he's an emotionally stunted, selfish ass.
      

 

 

 

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