So you’ve probably heard by now that the Rapture is tomorrow. Since Jesus Christ happens to be an occasional contributor to Bollocks!, I asked him if there was any truth to the rumors of his return. He replied with an uncharacteristically terse email: “Chorpenning – yes, I’m coming back on May 21st. Prepare the way.” He wasn’t really forthcoming with instructions as to how I should prepare for his Second Coming, but I think I can safely assume that he wanted me to provide you with a great Lazy Friday Mix of Judgment Day-Appropriate songs. So I done it:
The first song I thought of was the Flaming Lips’ “Shine On Sweet Jesus” from In a Priest-Driven Ambulance, which was released in 1990, I think. A young Wayne Coyne screams the unhinged (yet catchy!) melody: “Waiting for my ride/ Jesus is floating outside.” I think the rapture should be a little distorted and crazy and “Shine On Sweet Jesus” embodies that perfectly (by the way, In a Priest-Driven Ambulance is a pretty awesome early Flaming Lips album).
I didn’t include “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” as part of R.E.M.’s finest hour but it would have made the list if I was compiling their finest 65 minutes. If Revelation is really upon us by tomorrow night and you only have time to play one song, it should be this one. Yeah, the verses are kind of nonsense, but the song opens with “That’s great/ it starts with an earthquake” which is how the Rapture-predicting church people think God will let us know that it is indeed the end of the world as we know it. Also: I dare you not to sing along with this chorus. It’s fucking perfect.
Some of us, obviously, are not going to be lifted to the skies tomorrow. No, we’ll be left behind like the people in those fuck-terrible books. You see, some of us are on the “Highway to Hell,” probably because we wasted our lives learning science and listening to AC/DC. I shouldn’t even have to tell you to put this on the playlist for your End of the World Party, which I hope you are all having tomorrow night.
Speaking of Hell, I hope Jesus is more merciful than Curtis Mayfield was when he told us “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go. This is one of the most badass funk songs ever recorded (do you hear that bass line?) and it’s about how we’re all responsible for the world we live in – the good parts and the bad parts. I like that Mayfield set such a grim assessment of humanity to such a heavy groove . It softens the blow.
Some folks, of course, are going to welcome Jesus with open arms on Saturday (their houses are probably going to be looted). They may want a more positive, upbeat soundtrack for their ascension. In that case, may I suggest “I Belong to the Band” by Mavis Staples? It’s a deliciously old-school romp wherein Ms. Staples celebrates the fact that she belongs to the only band that, according the scriptures, will be allowed to jam in Heaven – “that Christian band,” she sings. Apparently, she’s never heard any of the Christian bands we have on earth. Because they’re awful. Before our more right-leaning readers put this on their Rapture party playlist, I should warn you: before she mentions being in a Christian band, Staples says she’s in a “union band.” So she’s probably a commie.
If you want something with a gospel vibe but also a little more grit to it, I have two suggestions. The first is a deep cut from The Clash‘s Sandanista album. It’s a tune called “Sounds of Sinners,” wherein Joe Strummer imagines a jazz note that destroyed the walls of Jericho and says that “after all these drugs” he’s come to think he is Jesus (he later admits, “I ain’t good enough/ I ain’t clean enough/ to be him”). Suggestion number two is a collaboration between John Hammond and Tom Waits called “I Know I’ve Been Changed.” This is one of my very favorite pieces of spiritual music ever; Tom Waits bellows his verse like he’s speaking with the very voice of God. And it’s my belief that he is.
When Freddie Mercury died in 1991, my grandma (from the side of the family that has opted to have nothing to with me in the last few years) told me that he was “roasting beautifully” in Hell. I was eleven. I think of this episode often when I think of religion and what people are getting out of it and I’m thinking of Freddie Mercury because of Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever,” a great song about making the most of the time you have on earth, no matter whose grandma hates you. I think this song first appeared on the Highlander soundtrack and its best moment is near the end when Mercury sings with one hundred percent conviction, “Forever/ is ours today.”
If you, like my dear estranged grandma, are the type of person to delight in the condemnation of other people, you might enjoy “I Would Rather Sacrifice You” by The Minus 5. The song appeared on 2009’s stellar Killingsworth and it’s the perfect campfire ditty for the kind of person who would elbow their way to the front of the line to prove their humility and devotion to Jesus. My favorite line is, “Wicked messengers, beware/ I spread the gospel with my gun,” because it pokes fun at those folks who will defend the sanctity of life by killing an abortion doctor. I’ll take “Doing It Wrong” for a thousand please, Alex.
If the end times really are upon us, I’m betting that I’m not the only person who has one or two (or twenty) last shags on his mind. Proof? Ted Leo and the Pharmacists wrote “Last Days” about wanting to “rave and misbehave” at the end of the world. Leo muses on the impending horrors of Judgment Day thusly: “There’s torture and rain/ your legs and pain/ and I came to play” and then mentions that “maybe, baby/ there’re a few things we ought to do” and the song convinces me that one of those things is “it.” If you’re having a Rapture party and you want it to end in an orgy, you might consider this song for your playlist.
If you’re worried about the jarring sight of your friends ascending to Heaven right out of their clothes, not to worry: according to Wilco, via Woodie Guthrie, there is an “Airline to Heaven” that will safely convey your friends to Pearly Gates International Airport. My favorite version of this song is on Wilco’s Kicking Television: Live in Chicago. It has amazing electric steel guitar (played by Nels Cline) and subtle, gorgeous vocal harmonies. Tell your Christian pals to please get to the airport two hours early and maybe keep the whole “I’m flying to Heaven” thing on the down-low when they go through security.
Maybe you think it’s literally insane for any loving God to choose to destroy the world he created. That is, you might think “God doesn’t always have the best goddamn plans” and you might need to listen to “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts” from the first Wolf Parade album while your more reverent pals are waiting to get the call-up from Mr. Jesus H. (according to whom the “H” stands for “Hold Steady!”). That one line about God and his goddamn plans is one of my all-time favorite lines ever, and I think of it whenever people tell me that God has a plan and all the bad shit that happens is part of that plan (here’s a hint to aspiring helpful Christians: when someone’s sister just died, don’t tell them that it’s “all part of God’s plan” or that “she’s in a better place now.” And definitely don’t ask her surviving relatives if she’d “accepted Jesus” before dying. It is, however great your intentions may be, really fucking tasteless).
But whatever does or doesn’t happen tomorrow, we should remember the advice of Ms. Jolie Holland: “Enjoy Yourself,” because it is indeed later than you think, even if it’s not as late as Harold Camping thinks it is. Holland closed out The Living and the Dead with this simple little ditty, which features great harmonies and Holland laughing her way through the entire two minutes of the song. The lyrics, in their entirety: “Enjoy yourself/ it’s later than you think.”
There are tons of other songs that you could play for your Rapture party – I concocted a playlist of more than a hundred last night, just combing through the songs on my laptop – but these are, to me, the cream of the crop. If you believe the Rapture is happening tomorrow, I sincerely hope that works out for ya. I know Jesus will be back here tomorrow, but anyone who reads this blog regularly will tell you that a Bollocks! post is about as far from Rapture as you can possibly get. As for me, I’m gonna follow Ted Leo’s advice from “Last Days” – “if the world doesn’t end, we can sit back and laugh about that too.”