Bad Habits » Moodswing

Satan and other influences

Sympathy for the devil's music


When I was 7 my older brother -- who was not cool; in fact, he was the opposite of cool; in fact, if coolness were a sound wave it would have to travel through several solar systems before it could even reach the outermost atmosphere of my brother -- brought home a Led Zeppelin album, which I listened to, because it's hard not to listen to a Led Zeppelin album when it's played in your vicinity.

I don't know what possessed my brother to buy the record. He was not into rock music. In fact, until the week prior, he had been an avid disciple of the Jehovah's Witnesses who lived in our neighborhood. Their coven mother had knocked on our door soon after we moved there, and must have thought she hit a trifecta, what with my brother's youth, his impressionability and the fact that our parents were going through a period of leniency in regard to our influences at that time. This was due to the fact that my mother was away in Washington designing bombs for the government and my dad spent all his waking hours at the Tin Lizzy, a neighborhood bar he loved because he could walk in and holler, "Who's the head nigger in charge?" without his friend LeRoy the line cook throwing a punch, or at least not one in his direction.

Anyway, Jim was an avid Jehovah's Witness for exactly as long as it took him to learn that this religion precluded him from ever receiving Christmas or birthday gifts, which is something my mother, who was an atheist but not an avid one, made sure to point out to him while she was home on one of her breaks before she had to fly back to Washington and build more bombs. So the next time the Jehovah's Witness lady came to our door, my brother politely invited her inside and then incited my sister Cheryl to throw one of her famous volcanic fits -- the kind where her eyes radiated lasers, her voice growled like she had a belly full of bees and her spine coiled up like a cobra -- and pretty soon the Jehovah's Witness lady was running from our house screaming about how Satan lived within our walls, or whatever.

So the next thing I know Jim brought home that Led Zeppelin album, and all I can think of is it probably had something to do with Satan living within our walls, because some of the boozers at my dad's bar said it was the devil's music, and even though my dad never listened to Led Zeppelin, he bought my brother a different album hoping it would influence him instead. So, in short, there was actually a time when, in our entire household, there existed just two record albums, one by Led Zeppelin and the other by Hank Williams, and in our entire household there existed just one person who loved them both, and that was me.

The only thing I had to play them on was my sister's plastic Imperial Party-Time Turntable, complete with adhesive rainbow. The speaker consisted of one silver-dollar-sized area near the needle arm with 13 perforations -- 13, which is sort of the symbol for Satan, kinda -- through which the music would waft with as much clarity as a corrupted radio signal. The volume knob was numbered to 13 (there it is again!), which was where I'd crank it and commence convulsing to the music. One time my mother returned from the airport to find that I had placed the turntable against our open window so the music could blare into our front yard, where my 7-year-old ass could be found before a thickening crowd, flailing to the beat.

She tried yelling at me to turn off the stupid goddamn music and get my stupid goddamn puckered poohole off the lawn and stop hopping around like a goddamn retard. When that didn't work, she could hardly move onto her natural next step, which would have been to hit me in the head with her shoe, because there were neighbors present and what would they think? So she walked right past me and into the house and unplugged the turntable, which caused me to simply stop and drop to the ground as though my puppet strings had been cut.

"She's being influenced by Satan!" some of our neighbors yelled.

Later my mother asked me what it was I loved so much about the music, but I was only 7 and I couldn't explain how every chord seemed to reach inside me and inhabit my veins and awaken my limbs to the point where I had to shake and sway like a sapling in a storm. I could not explain that to her; all I could do was want to explain it to her so bad that it must have measured heavily on my face, because the next thing she did was turn the music back on. At that, I jumped up and shook my body while she shook her head as she made her way to the window and closed it, not so much so our neighbors wouldn't hear me, but so I wouldn't hear them.

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (

Add a comment