"Time to cut him down to size?" A Critical Examination of Martin Gore's 'alternative' John of Patmos: Presented to ‘John’s Apocalypse and Cultural Contexts Ancient and Modern’ seminar, Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA.

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Abstract

The Apocalypse of John has long been appropriated by musicians, both in sacred formats and in secular ones. Its concepts, its imagery, and its words have provided springboards for the development of extensive musical traditions through which it has continued to impact upon audiences. The vast majority of such compositions are positive appropriations, either in the sense that the Apocalypse's ideology is being broadly affirmed, or in the sense that the kinds of ideas that it contains are being positively developed to different ends. One well-known piece that fits both categories is 'John the Revelator', originally a gospel song recorded by such as Blind Willie Johnson, Son House, Beck, and Nick Cave, but later developed into a revelatory soundtrack/plot device in John Landis' film, 'Blues Brothers 2000' (1998). In 2005, however, Martin Gore, the lyrical driving force behind the British group, 'Depeche Mode', penned his own response to both Revelation and the positivist musical tradition dependent upon it. Following in the footsteps of earlier songs problematising popular Christian religion ("Personal Jesus", ''Blasphemous Rumours"), Gore subverted the tradition by characterising "John the Revelator", not as someone legitimately re-applying the visions of authors like Ezekiel and Daniel, but rather as a 'thief' who, by claiming the deity as "his holy right", stole the “God of the Israelites” (and of “the Muslims too”), and as a "smooth-operator" with a "book of lies" who needed to be cut down to size. In this paper, Gore's devastating attack on John of Patmos--"All he ever gives us is pain...., He should bow his head in shame"--is analysed as an acute critique of the Apocalypse by a hugely successful producer of populist culture and explicitly contrasted with the positivity of so much of the reception of Revelation by those within biblical scholarship.
Translated title of the contribution“Time to cut him down to size?” A Critical Examination of Martin Gore's 'alternative' John of Patmos
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: SBL

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