Friends of the Devil: Towards a Posthumous Aesthetics of Rock and Roll

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack Newsletter:

In 1987 I had a sort-of-girlfriend, let us call her Nikki, who came from a devout Catholic working-class family of French-Canadian heritage. When I met her she had just returned from a family pilgrimage to Medjugorje, in post-Tito, pre-war Yugoslavia, where her mother and father had hoped to see the famed weeping statue of Mary, fluentis lacrimis. I knew enough of Slavic etymology already to be intrigued by that town’s name, like the young W. V. O. Quine, who once found himself on a street in Prague that started with the preposition Pod, and thought: “I must be at the bottom of something”. The Medju clearly meant the place was between or amidst something or other, but what exactly? MountainsWoe? I had to know.

The Virgin seems to have come up dry throughout the family’s Bosnian sojourn, but Nikki’s crisis of faith was in any case already in full flower, and it is unlikely that even a heavy flow of miraculous tears could have kept her sufficiently pious to avert the family drama that awaited on their return to California. For Nikki had been collecting tapes and records, 12-inch singles and albums, that severally and individually struck her mother as unwholesome: Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Love and Rockets, and, most of all, The Cure. I don’t recall how many such artifacts she had amassed —the quantities get inflated by memory—, but there were at least several dozen recordings there, all vaguely suggestive, in the graphic presentation of their contents, of deviant sexuality, vampiric nocturnes, dangerous ecstasies, and trysts with the devil. So one day Nikki comes home from school and learns that all her cherished litanies of Satan, all these neo-Baudelairean baubles, have been thrown in the trash, hauled away to the dump, and replaced, by way of consolation, with a single item: a vinyl 12-inch extended remix of Rick Astley’s fresh new hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

More here.