Damn me for forgetting his name but there are two reasons i most remember a journalist who used to hang with us in Durban (South Africa) in the early Nineties. The first was because he would sometimes drop to the floor if an aeroplane flew over, an after effect of his time in the war in South-West Africa (now Namibia) when MIGs would bomb and the soldiers had to try dig a quick hole into very hard ground. The second was because he used to review music for the daily newspaper and would sell us the tapes he never wanted at a great price.
The most memorable of those was W.A.S.P.’s The Crimson Idol. For me, this was an era of classic rock, grunge and alternate. The only heavy exceptions were Metallica, Ministry and a smidgeon of Iron Maiden. Although they may not be considered metal nowadays, W.A.S.P. was badarse then, a result of their symbolism clashing with conservative “christianity” during apartheid.
In Eighties school days, they were one of the bands whose badges would appear stitched to the denim jackets and bags of the bad boys.
My long-winded intro could be summed as as this album representing a lovely nostalgia from one of the best periods of my life even if none of my mates wanted to listen to it. It wasn’t DJ material. It never got played in our underground homes of Monks Inn, The Rift, Berea Inn and the Bomb Shelter at the Winston Hotel. It was just me and my double tapedeck. Part of me related to the story that the band is telling, that of the odd child raised by religious parents who didn’t understand him. Of course, our paths diverge as the child goes on to become an unfulfilled rock star.
Memory can ring false after decades (a re-run of MacGuyver is not the same!) so, although The Crimson Idol doesn’t resonate as strongly within me, i was pleased that some tracks still kick arse and the drumming is as incredible as ever. It’s easy to want to scream along to the lyrics “who am I?” in ‘The Invisible Boy’ and “long live” in ‘The Great Misconceptions of Me’.
And let me not forget to tell you that this is the expanded issue which came out in 1998. It includes a bonus disc of live and acoustic versions of album and non-album songs as well as 2 from the original sessions. ‘Phantoms in the Mirror’ add more flesh to the concept story. ‘The Eulogy’, my favourite of these, slow builds into a crescendo with full-throated scream. ‘When the Levee Breaks’, the Led Zeppelin cover, is immediately a wonderful oddity with its harmonica beginning. Certainly has a Southern Metal vibe to it. Even The Who’s ‘The Real Me’ gets covered.
A big addition to the original disc is the last track which is ironically the prelude to the album. The 16 minute ‘The Story of Jonathan’ narrates the sad tale of Jonathan, from childhood to his becoming the Crimson Idol. These words are from that:
“The pain of my youth, the misery of my neglect, manifested in many ways; depression, my enemy; fear, my friend; hatred, my lover; and anger, fuel for my fire. These four characteristics would become the guiding force of my life.”
Buy a ticket and re-ride the journey that is The Crimson Idol.