Book: The Covert War Against Rock
Type of Book: Rock and roll, conspiracy theory
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It posits unusual theories about the deaths of famous rock stars.
Availability: Published by Feral House in 2000, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Okay, by now, if you’ve spent any time reading here, you’ll know I am highly skeptical of much conspiracy theory despite the fact that I can’t ever read enough about it. Yet, even as a skeptic, I have a conspiratorial bent to me, depending on how much my belief is beggared. I think there was a covert CIA plot to kill JFK. The more and more I read about the death of RFK, the more uneasy I am about whether or not Sirhan Sirhan acted alone and if his current mental state is due to organic schizophrenia. So embracing such ideas means that a little part of me believes that elements of the American government could want specific celebrities dead. And while some of this book seemed unlikely to me, some of it that hit my belief-o-meter. I’ll need to read more and research more before I can completely buy into some of this content, but there was a lot of information in this book that had the ring of truth to it.
I was surprised at how much of this I knew before reading this book – I’ve clearly absorbed more conspiracy than I thought. Very little of it was new, yet I am surprised by my reactions at the parts that were new to me. I mean, I always suspected there was much more behind the deaths of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh than just cancer and a gun shot, respectively. I mean, when the CIA decides to destabilize an entire country, it isn’t too much to believe that they would also take steps to assassinate reggae musicians who, through their charisma and music, were overt leaders against American political control. Did Bob Marley really get cancer via a copper wire put in boots given to him by the son of a head of the CIA? I tend to think maybe not, but then again, I also live in a world where dissidents get killed via ricin in an umbrella gun.
But the part of this book that was the most new to me was the section about Tupac Shakur. I recall clearly when he died but I thought little of it. He had seemed like a gangsta to me and gangstas sometimes get shot. I didn’t (and mostly still don’t) listen to rap and knew little about the man, to be honest, but the media portrayal of him painted a picture that substituted itself for real information about the man and his death. Constantine’s research into Shakur’s death revealed a completely different picture of Shakur for me, and pointed to very sound reasons why there might have been a conspiracy to kill him. That Shakur was the heir apparent to an activist family, one of whom escaped from prison and defected to Cuba, the way the shooting occurred, the seeming lack of police attempts to solve the murder, all make it seem as if there were some sort of conspiracy to kill Tupac and obfuscate the investigation.
Aside from the belief that Mama Cass Elliot may have been the victim of government-sponsored assassination, there was not a single case in this book that I could say, “Pants!” to (Cass Elliot died of an undetected heart defect, nothing more, nothing less). Whether or not you think the government killed John Lennon, Phil Ochs, Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, Constantine raises interesting questions about time lines, government interest in these performers and details that were blurry then and blurrier now. (Actually, I did invoke underpants when I read Constantine refer to Donald Bains’ The CIA’s Control of Candy Jones. I found the book so lacking in anything approaching proof that I didn’t even want to keep the book once I discussed it here. Candy Jones was a victim of her own sad mind and the utter incredulity of Long John Nebel, not the MK-Ultra program or the CIA or anything else.)
Of all these deaths presented in this book, it was Michael Hutchence’s that affected me the most. Born in 1970, neatly sandwiched between the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, I was too young to be as interested when most of the stars in this book died, or, in some cases, I was not alive yet. But INXS was a band I adored as an adolescent and young adult. I recall seeing INXS perform on their tour for Listen Like Thieves. Terrence Trent D’Arby opened and despite being in nosebleed seats, my friends and I danced and danced, thrilled to be there. Shabooh Shoobah and The Swing are two of my favorite pop albums ever. His death just seemed so unlikely – death by auto-erotic asphyxiation? Really? The information Constantine presents about elements of Hutchence’s death, important details that never made the public airways, genuinely make me wonder about Hutchence’s demise.
All in all, this was an interesting book. It took itself seriously and as a result, I took it seriously. Constantine certainly knows his conspiracy, and he can write a tight sentence. I think the chapter on Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls is worth the price of admission, and the chapter on Marley and Tosh was a welcome double feature. I don’t buy all of the content in this book but it raises a lot of questions, which, when you are dealing with content of this sort, is often the best anyone can ask for. I mean, I still think Mark David Chapman acted alone, but just because he beat the government to John Lennon, that doesn’t mean the government did not want him dead. This the oddbooks corollary to “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”
(However, aside from Mama Cass and Candy Jones, this book did strike a major discordant note with me. Maybe rock conspirators can help me out. Constantine asserts that Joan Baez claims she is a survivor of ritual abuse via the Monarch Project. However, the sources he uses combined with his specific verbiage do not support that Baez ever said she was a victim of ritual abuse. Though he says Joan makes this claim, his actual sources never verify anything except she is a vocal opponent of torture and that she has been in intensive therapy. So I fired up the ol’ Internet to see what I could find out.
After several hours spent online reading lots of assertions that Baez survived the Monarch Project (and cringing as the sites pinged my anti-virus software), all I could find were people saying that because her father worked for Cornell, the supposed site of many government mind control experiments in Ithaca, and because she wrote a song called “Play Me Backwards,” which has lyrics that can be interpreted as the words of an abuse survivor, Baez was a victim of mind control. I could not find a single source with a direct quote from Baez indicating she was a victim of the Monarch Project. Those sites that claim she says such a thing use her song lyrics as a de facto admission on her part, which in my mind is hardly the same thing.
More troubling is that the longer I read, the more familiar the phraseology the sites used became. In fact, I began to think there was a single source that asserted Baez was a victim of the Monarch Project, likely based on the fact that she once lived in Ithaca and wrote a disturbing song, and endless others cited that first source. See for yourself what I mean. Google “joan baez ritual abuse.” Soon the phrase self-described victim of ritual child abuse will become very familiar, as all the sources for this information seem to be revisiting one original source that I cannot run to ground. If the belief that Baez was a victim of such abuse is stated outright by Baez somewhere and I missed it, I would love it if someone would direct me to the source. That she has been through intense therapy and speaks out against torture is not enough proof in my books. Interpretation of song lyrics is not enough proof either. Baez has worn her beliefs and attitudes openly for years, speaking out about injustices. If she was a victim of the Monarch Project, I would expect there to be a direct quote from her saying so, not innuendo about song lyrics. So if it is out there and I densely overlooked it, please direct me to it. Leave a comment here, or e-mail me. Some of you send me some pretty interesting e-mails so if anyone knows the answer, I think one of my readers might.)