This and that. Certain things bring the song to mind:
There’s perfect harmony in the rising and the falling of the sea. And as we sail along, I never fail to be astounded by the things we’ll do for promises and a song. We are the innocent; we are the damned. We were caught in the middle of the madness, hunted by the lion and the lamb. We bring you fantasy; we bring you pain. It’s your one great chance for a miracle, or we will disappear, never to be seen again. And all the fools sailed away. We bring you beautiful; we teach you sin. We can give you a piece of the Universe, or we will disappear, never to return again. And all the fools sailed away. They sailed away. And as we drift along, I never fail to be astounded by the things we’ll do for promises and a song. We are the innocent; we cut, we bleed. We’re your one great chance for a miracle, and a miracle is something you need. They’ll take your diamonds, and then give you steel. You’ll be caught in the middle of the madness, just lost like them, part of all the pain they feel. And all the fools sailed away. Leaving nothing, nothing more to say; all the fools sailed away. They say you’re beautiful, and they’ll always let you in. But doors are never open to the child without a trace of sin. Sail away.
―Dio, “All the Fools Sailed Away” (1987)
In a way, it feels strange to suggest that the “heavy metal wars” over censorship and youth were in some manner a significantly consequential period, but perhaps the simplest reflection is that familiarity of habit identifies an early manifestation in a personal recollection. That is to say, there is so much that went into the moralistic fretting of the eighties that we might find relevant today it might actually be an unsettling consideration.
For the time being, it is enough to reflect on this particular example, and there are plenty who would sneer at the suggestion of heavy metal at this point in its evolution. It is, in the end, all pop music, and some forms unquestionably so. Still, though, something of spirit survives the translation. While some, like Megadeth and Anthrax threw down at the players involved, pretty much every band in the day took a swing at the ideas arrayed against them. “All the Fools Sailed Away” is one of the latter.
I recall a censorship advocate named Bob Larson, who apparently still preaches from a church in Arizona and takes money for online exorcisms. His propaganda against pop music was especially amusing, as he generally ignored things like liner notes, such as with his complaint about “Misery Loves Company”, by Anthrax; for “All the Fools Sailed Away” he merely rewrote the lyrics with strategic ellipses. The transformation was striking; a warning about
the sort of snake oil Pastor Larson sells pied-piper promises suddenly becomes a threat to bring children pain and sin and damnation.
And perhaps we might connect those dots, at least; it is true that the big difference ‘twixt then and now is that such potsherds get prime exhibit space. There really is something awfully familiar―or, perhaps, familiarly awful, which seems equally suitable―about contemporary conservative politics. The layers of pretense seem somewhat stripped away, and we see something rather quite raw and ugly going on at the heart of it all. Ego defense is human; that it should be so posessing and defining is something else entirely. There really are lessons in history, and anyone whose youth passed through that period really ought to remember. There is a reason it feels so familiar; social conservatives have been losing the whole time. This is what they’re down to.
To the other, it does kindle some youthful zeal. It just doesn’t seem right, though, to thank them.