The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Saturday, November 19, 2016
Art & Entertainment ... Religion ...

I haven’t been posting much lately because of some personal stuff, including various on-going discussions with several thoughtful people regarding the surprise election victory earlier this month of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. I’ll no doubt have a lot to say about that before long, but for now, I’m going to avoid the amateur punditry and leave it to the professionals. Albeit, I think that every concerned American citizen ultimately has to become their own pundit and take a position on the major issues of the day.

But right now, I’m going to ponder a new rock song that I’ve been hearing lately on the local hard rock radio station (WDHA-FM). It’s called “Prayers for the Damned” by Sixx AM, from their recently released album “Prayers for the Damned”. Sixx AM did a bit of a double-play with regard to naming there, although not quite a triple play like Bad Company’s Bad Company, from the album Bad Company. Political footnote — “Prayers for the Damned” might not be a bad theme right now for those who dread the idea of a Trump Presidency!

Nonetheless, for those of you who still follow hard rock, Sixx AM is a side-project band formed in 2007 by Nikki Sixx, the former base guitarist and songwriter for Motley Crue. Ah yes, “the Crue”. Now there was a rough-edged band, all about all the excesses and depravity of the rock-n-roll scene back when rock was still the king of the music scene. They were kind-of a Neanderthal version of Kiss. Sixx provided or contributed to some of the Crue’s more memorable tunes, including “Girls Girls Girls”,”Doctor Feelgood”, “Wild Side”, and “Slice of Your Pie”.

Like a fair number of rock stars, Nikki Sixx got hooked on heroin but somehow kept going via raw ego, youthful energy, and luck. But now Motley Crue is gone and Sixx is 58 years old, and rock life from the “big-hair” 1980’s just doesn’t work anymore. A lot of old rockers clean up, slow down, fade away from the public eye, do some occasional music projects mostly for fun, maybe write a book or buy a winery, and make an occasional appearance before a small audience of aging people who remember a band from its glory years. Well, give Sixx credit — his current work is still pretty relevant on the rock scene. I’ve heard a few songs on the radio from the new Sixx AM album, and they are pretty good — very intense lyrics crossed with a “prog rock” feel, almost reminiscent of Yes or Dream Theater. It’s a bit different and a lot more serious than the old “party wild and hard” sound of Motley Crue.

But what really surprised me was that the album theme song was not using the word “Prayer” lightly. It sounds like Nikki and his boys were really thinking about prayer in the context of the Abrahamic Religion tradition. In other words, this song is about God, believe it or not. Well, it’s about a broken person, someone who feels damned, trying to find God. That’s sure what it sounds like to me. Here are some lines from the lyrics:

Everything is crumbling in my head
Sometimes I wish I was…
But maybe I’m not alone
Maybe if you take my hand
And I reach up to God
Maybe this time he’ll say a prayer for the damned
What have I got to lose

Or how about this thought, near the song’s end:

We are not alone
It’s darkest before the hope
You and I, we’re not alone

Hmmm. I mean, Motley Crue was all about Vince Neal, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx. The Crue certainly had no time or regard for God. They were certainly the anti-thesis of “Christian Rock” or even a mainstream band like Creed, who use occasional religious themes. But now, one of the Crue’s big four seems to be looking heavenward for strength, after a life of fame and endless sex and heroin. At first I thought this song was a joke or another cynical comment on religious faith, a fairly common lyrical theme on the rock airwaves. But I can’t find anything on a web site to back that up. And the song itself seems dead serious. Have a listen if you’re interested.

Well, actually this isn’t the first Sixx AM song with religious overtones. In 2012, they released an album called “This is Gonna Hurt”, and another blogger feels that the song “Live Forever” is something of a tribute to Jesus. And another reason why Sixx might actually be taking faith seriously these days . . . is that you don’t see anything on any web site about him becoming a preacher or a revivalist. He doesn’t say anything about God publicly except in his songs. He doesn’t seem to be milking his “conversion” (if that’s what actually happened) for fame and attention. He obviously needed something to help him come back from his frequent heroin OD’s, and maybe that’s where and when he “found God” (Sixx claims to have had a “bright light” experience during an overdose in 1987 while paramedics in an ambulance struggled to re-start his heart). I respect Nikki Sixx’s humility about it though, if I’m getting that right. Humility is the last thing you’d expect from a 1980’s rock star, especially one from Motley Crue; but it might be what someone with a newly-found faith might do.

One final footnote on “Prayers for the Damned” — in a way, Sixx is invoking “Pascal’s Wager“, whether he knows it or not. Recall the line “what have I got to lose” after Sixx considers reaching up to God. Wasn’t that Pascal’s rationale for faith? Back in the mid-1600’s, French philosopher and mathematician Blase Pascal wrote a justification for faith in God based on logic — he reasoned “[if you] weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing”.

Back in his younger days with The Crue, Nikki Sixx might have replied “hey, I’m not wagering on God; I got a lot of partying and drugs and women to do, lots of debauchery, man. I’m a famous rock star living it up !!!! God would just get in my way !” And yet, 30 years later, it’s “what have I got to lose?” Ah, the lessons of life. I’m glad that Nikki Sixx is sharing some of his, and is still getting airplay for it.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:26 pm      

  1. Jim, I can’t say I know anything at all about Nikki Sixx or Motley Crue. This is the first time I’ve even heard the name “Nikki Sixx”, much less than he was part of “Motley Crue”. I have heard, only heard, the name “Motley Crue” as some kind of hard rock band. Since I’ve never had any interest whatsoever in any music that used the word “hard” (much less “metal”) to define itself, I’ve never paid any attention whatsoever to such bands.

    I might digress and add here that my reason for not paying any attention to them is that I once heard Gene Simmons of “Kiss” say that when they were compared to someone like Eric Clapton they had to hide behind their “get ups” and the “shock value” of their “shenanigans” (I have no clue what else to call it) to get any attention at all. This told me they knew themselves to be without talent, and I immediately lost any desire to listen to any of their music or to know more about them at all.

    I might add that over time the Rappers (should that word be capital or not?) interested me even less, altho I did try to get interested in their poetry. However, that seemed to consist only of the “usual” degradation of women, violence, cop-hatred, (and likely an underlying self-hatred), etc., that caused me to lose interest in anything regarding it.

    I will admit my prejudice (and I’m sure it is a prejudice) is jazz and R&B, both of which I need but hear about 3 notes and I’m captured immediately by the experience the effect both have on what seems like the third chakra, but I digress. (I admit I come from the age when “jazz” was “in” and “wild” and a “new kind of music”; I’m just plain old).)

    Strangely enough, I think there is somewhat of a movement toward what seem to be “religious” songs yet are more of the type of “there are no atheists in foxholes” type of music.

    I like to watch “Nightline” and here in my area it is preceded by “Jimmy Kimmel Live”. At times I may watch a bit of Kimmel who almost always ends with a rapper band of some sort, none of whom I’ve ever heard of or whose music I really care for. HOWEVER! recently, I have tuned in at the last few minutes of Kimmel, before “Nightline” and have heard the words of the “rap songs” that, to my strange surprise, caused me to pay attention to what they were saying in their rap.

    Whether it is relevant or not I do not know, but I have noticed all these groups have been Black groups (no white guys among them). To my surprise, they have been just as you describe: Definitely not religious. Yet they have a kind of prayer-like quality to them. I call them the “no atheists in foxholes” songs. (This, I think is a saying from back in WW II) which was just that: “There are no atheists in foxholes” meaning that when a person gets him/herself in a life situation that is life or death, or more accurately (in the current sense) seems so fraught with anguish and trouble and lack of control over a situation, worry, and helplessness, that one finds that almost automatically a cry to the “living God” for help escapes one’s mouth. (God! Please help! [Phrase it however one wants; it all amounts to the same thing.])

    I’ve noticed a few of these songs by different groups, all Black; and reading your post I wonder if Nikki Sixx is catching on to what the Black rapper groups are doing and is falling in line with the “trend” to the “no atheists in foxholes” idea for songs about real life. As the words of the rap caught my attention; I found myself doing what you express here (I paraphrase): saying, “Did I hear that right?”

    So perhaps there’s a movement of some kind of desperation where people are forced into the “foxhole situations” of life and are left with the simple act of calling on God for help in a prayer. (Stephen Hawking can speak all he wants about there being no God/god, but it seems he’s so enamored of his own smarts that he doesn’t need to call on God in desperate situations. [I digress again.])

    While you have specific songs of Nikki Sixx, I have no specific song or group to name here, except for the fact that I’ve noticed that at least twice and possibly a third time I’ve noticed this “prayer-like” trend in music that has to do a lot to catch my attention.

    I’m further surprised that for once(!) you and I have no disagreement. I might suggest that should you care to follow-up on this trend you might search some Black rapper groups and see what they are doing. (I have no suggestions to make as I never caught the names of the groups I’ve heard sing these songs; I was caught unawares, so to say.) I find myself wondering if White groups have begun to catch on to what Black rappers are doing. Or perhaps (as in other things) the same phenomenon may arise in different places and groups about approximately the same time. This may be another such example.

    One last tho’t: As to Nikki Sixx and his previous life of debauchery, this trend may be what I’ve noticed many times in my life: Wait 30 years or so and one awakes to how “dumb” one has been in earlier life. So maybe that’s the phenomenon that’s going on among what passes for music today. (My prejudice showing again.) MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 20, 2016 @ 3:20 pm

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