Thursday, March 17, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-Ninth Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

There is a glib rhyming term for it now, but in the 1980s the “Satanic Panic” wasn’t named, it was just happening – like various little red mouths to Hell that just happened to open up like trapdoors under the pre-schools of a terrified nation. Now the names are scratched into our subconscious like fingernail trails to a cliff’s edge: Fells Acres, ’84; Kern County, ’82; the McMartin Preschool case, ’83; Jordan, Minnesota, ’83. The last two are most important to our discussion – McMartin due to being the most well-known case of the 1980s and also the most well-documented (although most of what was documented was false), and Jordan, Minnesota because of That Song.

That Song was by a band called Big Black, and it came out on their 1986 album Atomizer. I first bought Atomizer because it has one of the best album covers in rock history (clearly labeled with Bugs Bunny-style information arrows: “Earth”, an “Atomizer” featuring a dangling wick, and next to the pack of Big Black matches, the simple request “Let’s Go”), and it came out during a period when I bought records I knew nothing about just because they had amazing covers, resulting in such triumphs as the Replacements’ Let It Be and Husker Du’s Flip Your Wig, as well as some atrocious misfires, as you might imagine. At first I feared that Atomizer was going to be one of those misfires, as Martin said to me when I first played Side One, song one “Jordan, Minnesota”: “This sounds like silly Hardcore.” Which it kind of did if you weren’t paying attention, just with electronic percussion and more rhythmic screaming. However, a quick perusal of the liner notes (which are really a work of art in themselves) instantly informed me that something more serious, more interesting was going on. From the notes on “Jordan, Minnesota”:

they fuck their children, for shit’s sake. a whole town. bus drivers, school teachers, cops, storekeepers, housewives. little boys, little girls. very little. they play games with it, like very special hide-and-seek, and very special spin the bottle and very special poker.

And it went on from there. Oh boy, did it go on. Going back to listen to “Jordan, Minnesota” after reading those liner notes was like peering really hard into a picture that was shot out of focus, trying to decipher what it is and then reeling back in horror when you figure out it is something disgusting, something evil. “Jordan, Minnesota” was like that.

This will stay with you until you die

This will stay with you until you die

And I will stay with you until you die

This is Jordan

We do what we like!

As if this wasn’t bad enough, when you listened past the distortion on the voices during the last minute of the song, it sounded like a deranged Devil-parent screeching “Suck Daddy! Suck Daddy!” Again, we were about 15, 16 years old, listening to this. And later on, people thought Eminem’s second album was “kind of intense”.

Although at 16 years old we found the visceral truth contained in “Jordan, Minnesota” impossible to argue with, in fact almost none of what was depicted in the song and the liner notes turned out to be real. Out of the hundreds of charges filed against the parents of Jordan, Minnesota I think 6 of them stuck, all to one known run-of-the-mill, non-Satanic old child molester. Luckily, only the name of Jordan, Minnesota was really ruined in the pursuit of “justice” (if you Google it today, the results are split evenly between Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sites and the lyrics to the Big Black song) and not those of any of the individuals falsely accused. The McMartins, proprietors of the legendarily Satanic pre-school, would not be so lucky.