Friday, January 11, 2013

White Zombie "More Human Than Human"


His shout rang out across the frozen parking lot and the two dozen people still there all turned to look at me and my roommate.

It was several weeks earlier that a preacher had appeared before the local government in Johnson City, Tennessee.  Claiming to represent his congregation of hundreds, he was there to protest that a local city venue had booked the band White Zombie.  He asserted that the band was Satanic and their arrival in the Johnson City was an affront to God himself.

Taking the advice of a single complainant, the City moved to have the show canceled.  This type of outrageous act could never be allowed to express themselves at (I swear!) Freedom Hall.

Just up the road in Bristol, Tennessee, some brave (or naive) folks decided to book the band in their City's venue.  And that's when all Hell broke loose.

The town freaked out.

City government was besieged with calls and letters from angry residents who were incensed that a band so obviously Satanic would be allowed within City Limits to corrupt the children.

The outrage grew so quickly that the story broke as National news.  So now the City was really screwed.  The eyes of the country were upon them.  Would they cave to the pressure in a clear abridgement of the band's, and the ticket holders', First Amendment rights?

To their credit, they held their ground.  The show would go on, no matter the level of protest.

The City holding their ground just incited the protest movement, who held prayer vigils and burned records and took to the airwaves to preach of the moral decay that had come to town.

How could we allow such Pagans?!  At our own (I swear!) Viking Hall?!

This was the late 90s and I was a DJ at WABN.  We were always an outlier on the radio dial, and we decided to be one of the lone voices out there, supporting the show, the band and Viking Hall.

I was not a White Zombie fan, per se, but we played "More Human Than Human" on our shows and talked about Free Speech rights and how no one was making anyone go to see this band.  If you didn't like them, don't go.

In the meantime, rumors were spreading about the Satanic acts that the band committed.  Like passing a bucket around the audience for each person to spit in.  Then the band would drink it.

At some point before the show, Viking Hall had to be cleared, due to a bomb threat.

On the night of the show, I was worried about what might happen on the scene.  Groups were mobilizing to protest outside the show---ticket holders could expect to be harassed on the way in.  With a bomb threat already on the table, I was a) concerned about what confrontations might happen, and b) concerned about how it might get reported.

Though much of the local press coverage did side with the First Amendment rights, it seemed to do so begrudgingly.  Clearly, the overwhelming  majority of folks wanted to be seen siding with God, not Satan.

So I appointed myself as an observer.  And dragged my roommate, also a DJ, to come along.

Probably the most fortunate thing to happen---whether it was the work of God, Satan or some pagan spririt---was that the day of the show was insanely cold.  There was snow and ice on the ground and the temperature, once it got dark had dived well below freezing.

That seemed to keep most of the casually angry protesters away.  Leaving only the committed and fervent.

A number of local preachers were on the scene.  The local police was also out in force to keep them from being too aggressive.

Some of the protesters were quiet and calm, simply handing out pamphlets about the right way to save your soul.

Others were louder and more pointed, shouting "It's not too late.  You can turn back now!  Turn your back on Satan and his agents!"

And I clearly remember one man, who wouldn't have otherwise looked out of place if he were the manager of a bank, coming out of his office to talk about your loan.

Instead he was hooting and shouting and saying "Don't be fooled by the Devil!  I'm not afraid of what's inside that building!  I've got Jesus in my heart!  I don't mind standing here on the sidewalk shouting for Jesus!  I'M A FOOL FOR JESUS!!!  I'M A FOOL FOR JESUS!!!" and while saying this, he did this weird, crazed marionette move while shadowing a group of boys headed into the show.

I could see another group of kids headed up the sidewalk.  Angry teenage boys.  Trouble.  No jackets on a 20 degree night.  Tense and furrowed.

"Be cool kids, be cool.  Be cool kids, be cool."

All that needed to happen was for one of the kids to taunt a protester, the protester to engage, and expect the police to step in.  An arrest would no doubt hit the papers, and regardless of who was at fault, that would be the end of Rock And Roll shows at Viking Hall.

"Be cool kids, be cool.  Be cool kids, be cool."

The two groups converged.  The teenagers paused.  Wisely, one turned to look and made eye contact with a group of officers.  The teenagers moved on.

The show was about to start, the influx of ticketholders had come down to a trickle.  All that remained were the protesters and preachers, and me and my roommate.

What motivated these protesters?  On some level, I had no doubt that they were sincere in their beliefs.  That they loved God and were compelled to advocate on his behalf.  On the other hand, (as one of my friends memorably said at the time) Jesus never called in a bomb threat.

Anger, harassment, intolerance, gossip---these were not Christian values that were part of my upbringing.  And I suspect that most any Christians would not cop to these as being part of their value system.

I did not and do not believe in fear as a motivating force for good.  Or bullying.  I believe in acceptance.  I believe in positive role modeling.  While then, and today, I don't practice any specific religion, I hold these values dear.

There were only the police, and the dozen or so protesters and preachers left.  Most of the protesters and preachers knew each other.  With the concert-goers gone, the two anonymous DJs suddenly stood out.

The "I'M A FOOL FOR JESUS" guy eyed us from afar.


His shout rang out across the frozen parking lot and the two dozen people still there all turned to look at me and my roommate.

There was a pause.  I could see out of the corner of my eye, my roommate turn to me.  This was my question to answer.

"Yes," I said, not shouting, but loud enough for the crowd to hear.  "Yes we are." 

Hear the song on Youtube.

PS.  You know what reminded me of this story?  I saw a trailer for a new Pixar movie, that uses "More Human Than Human" as the music bed.


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