By Dameon M. Keller, 1-2016
Here I have compiled some of my favorite pop songs which have “esoteric” or “occult” themes and lyrics. Many of the artists listed have many songs of that nature in their respective catalogs, but I’ve listed my top pics with brief descriptions, in no particular order, and a YouTube link for each.
- David Bowie, “Oh! You Pretty Things,” Hunky Dory, 1971
Bowie doesn’t have much in his catalog that isn’t “esoteric,” but this is one of my favorites. A 100-year anniversary update to Rosicrucian author Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s truth-in-fiction book “The Coming Race,” written in 1871. Bowie even quotes the books’ title in the line, “We’re the start of the coming race.”
- Hawkwind, “Orgone Accumulator,” Space Ritual, 1973
Recorded live in Liverpool in 1972, Hawkwind featured the great legend and recently deceased Lemmy Kilmister on bass before he went on to form Motorhead. The blues-based “space-rock” jam’s lyrics lead me to believe they may have actually had and used an orgone accumulator box.
- Flaming Lips, “In the Morning of the Magicians,” Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, 2002
The song borrows its title from the 1960 book “The Morning of the Magicians,” by Louis Pauwels and Jaques Bergier. The lyrics are not directly related to the subject matter in the influential occult publication, rather reflective on the universe and what it holds for us. It’s a catchy song, and the book is one of my favorites as well.
- Kate Bush, “Orgonon,” Hounds of Love, 1990
The video is a dramatic re-enactment of the day the Feds came and took Wilhelm Reich off to prison, where he would die just before his parole date. Donald Sutherland portrays Reich, and Bate Bush plays his son, Peter, as they wheel a large cloudbuster through a field before being interrupted by the agents.
- The Beatles, “Within You/Without You,” Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967
George Harrison’s only songwriting credit on the album, and actually only performed by Harrison, with a team of Indian musicians. He wrote the song in the form and scales of a Raga. It’s said that it was recorded in C, as heard on The Beatles Anthology 2 as an instrumental, then pitched up to C# for Sgt. Peppers. It’s more likely that the Indian instruments were in C# – A432, and it was pitched down to C by producer George Martin in order to add the string arrangements, then pitched back up.
- Beastie Boys, “Namaste,” Check Your Head, 1992
Also may be heard as an instrumental on “The In Sound From Way Out,” which is found at the YouTube link above. After a trip to Nepal, Adam Yauch (August 5, 1964 – May 4, 2012) utilized samples of Tibetan Monks on the album, and subsequently set up the Milarepa Fund with co-founder Erin Potts. This led to the series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts across Europe in 1996.
“A History of the Milarepa Fund”. Beastiemania.com
It’s no coincidence that not only is this song recorded in the key of C# Om, but the entire album is recorded in A432Hz pitch.
- Kool Keith, “On Production,” Octagon, 1996
“Will space probes in the next century discover extra-terrestrial analogues to the seesaw staircases when they explore the atmosphere of Jupiter and Saturn?,” a reference to the Great Conjunction.
Speaking of “dropping the skills on production,” as the chorus goes, the actual production of the album is done by Dan the Automater (with a few by KutMaster Kurt and scratches by DJ QBert,) and every track is in A432Hz to A435Hz pitch, with one exception – “I’m Destructive,” the one which consists of only live guitar and a simple beat loop.
- Alan Parsons Project, “Eye in the Sky,” Eye in the Sky, 1982
A few years ago, a fan video circulated of a cartoon acting out the song’s lyirics, as a literal round eyeball drone flew around observing and recording everything, Orwellian-ish-ly predicting exactly where we are today. That video mysteriously vanished from the internet altogether.
- Jim Stafford, “Swamp Witch,” single released 1973
This fan video, by DeviantArt, is amazing and beautifully illustrates the song. A must for any Halloween playlist.
- Gnarles Barkley, “I’m Going On,” The Odd Couple, 2008
With another amazing video, full of esoteric allegory, shot on location in Jamaica, this is the story of a young couple who find a portal to another dimension. At first, everyone is with them, but by the end, they are alone in their leap to “the other side.”
- Beck, “Chemtrails,” Modern Guilt, 2008
The title pretty much sums it up, as the lyrics are typically Beck-ish, in that other than mentioning actual chemtrails and smog, don’t make a whole lot of sense to mere mortals. Just the fact that he wrote a song about such a controversial “conspiracy theory” is cool enough.
- Bjork, “Cosmogeny,” Biophilia, 2009
Musically, beautifully built around the Circle of Fifths, and lyrically, Bjork tells four different creation stories in each of the four verses of the song.
- Boredoms, “Vision, Creation, Newsun,” Vision, Creation, Newsun, 1999
This epic evolution of the “noise” genre is a transcendentally enlightening piece, with the song itself as a “short version” of the whole album, which ends with a reprise of the single. Despite being mostly instrumental, the album is uplifting in a very tribally spiritual way, sort-of like how a good drum circle might sound, if there ever was one. Each song title is a symbol, but the Boredoms often jumbled random words together in the past anyway, so why not.
I hope you’ve found some new music to enjoy, and stay tuned for more to come!