I’ll See You On The Dark Side Of Oz
The wonderful wizard of Oz. If ever oh ever a wiz there was the Wizard of Oz is one because…If you can’t finish that in a capella then you need to check your pulse. Wizard Of Oz is not just a story or movie its an American institution. Nay, a global treasure. To many of us who grew up before the age of instant information and entertainment on demand viewing The Wizard of Oz was a ritual. Originally airing on Sunday evenings it was a movie so powerful it pre-empted such great shows as Lassie, Gunsmoke, and The Gale Storm Show. We had to wait to find out what happened to Timmy, if Hoss was able to save Little Joe, and what new mischief My Little Margie got into. Why? Because watching The Wizard Of Oz was a family night obligation where we all sat around the television set with buckets of popcorn and cuploads of soda. On Monday once we returned to grammar school our elementary minds engaged in deep discussions over the twisted tale and many a young boy could be seen doing his spot on imitation of the lollipop guild, or young lass showing off her Lullaby League ballerina skills.
The movie mesmerized and hypnotized us with some parts scaring the shit out of us, but helping each one of us to exercise our imaginations and dreams. As children we were intrigued and believed in the story in a somewhat literal sense. While it was a fantasy, it revolved around real lives. And to boot it left us with a beautiful message when it ended. We learned that its okay to dream but we need to face our fears head on if we want those reams to become real. We learned its best to fight as a team and rely on each other because each person has something to offer. We learned that evil is wrong and good will always win out in the end. We learned that “the grass always seems greener on the other side” but in the end “there’s no place like home.”
As a child I absorbed these and other not so clear messages from movies like a subliminal sponge. Absorbing all sorts of life lessons from movies, TV shows, books, fairy tales and children songs. But as I got older and more cynical I took on more of a culture of “nothing is ever really what it seems.” I began to read into and interpret things in search of truth. I wanted to know what was underneath so I interpreted underlying meanings in movies, stories, poems, and songs. A personal fascination for me was the underlying meaning in rock lyrics.
So before taking our journy into the more profound messages in Trhe Wizard Of Oz I want to explore some rock lyrics. Rock and roll is the beating rhythm of many a generation. I view the world through abstract eyes and as a writer I report what I see. But rock song lyrics more than anything get deconstructed by my jagged mind and then placed back in an order that might tell an entirely different story. Sometimes songs were written with a hidden meaning on purpose and that offered a challenge as in the case of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” As teens my friends and I spent hours digging in to the layers of lyrics in an attempt to extract the inner meaning of that tune. Even when I hear it played today I still think of all the symbolic references and allusions to various celebrities both famous an infamous. To rock events like The Beatles playing Shea or The Stones at Altamont, McLean had deftly hidden all sorts of innuendo and culturally iconic references and brilliantly he had masked the clues leaving it up to us to interpret. To me that was a stroke of genius, similar to the musings of the lyrical concepts of Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Stones. Those young talents had intuitive understanding of life far beyond their years and successfully conveyed those ideas into words. Some lyrics are crystal clear, some seem to make no sense, and many are written so abstract its difficult to see through into the artists vision at all.
With many songwriting perhaps even the author doesn’t fully understand the complex structure of their own words. Maybe sub conscious or maybe totally unaware of what the brain is trying to express from them in such an abstract way they deny its very true underlying theme. I lay on you as an example the song “Space Oddity” written by the one and only David Bowie. Bowie himself claims it’s a song he wrote about space after seeing the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey” while he was stoned (I believe he called it out of his gourd) Both that movie and the moon landing were popular events at the time and he claims that was his inspiration. He even wrote a follow up or sequel to the tune called “Ashes To Ashes” in which his purported Major Tom reconnects with earth. I don’t buy it for a second. I look deeper into the embedded subliminal inspirations and I believe whether intentional or subliminal this song is about David’s very own struggle with his sexuality. Its pretty well known he went through what has been described as an androgynous stage and the song reeks of innuendo surrounding the freeing of ones sexual inhibitions. In a phrase it was David coming out of the closet and exploring his own sexual desires. Let me explore for, dare I call it, a deeper meaning.
Ground control to Major Tom, take your protein pills and put your helmet on. Okay, relatively obvious, semen and protein almost synonymous and a condom is the helmet to protect from disease. A common practice back at the time was to bolster the system with protein to increase a males sexual prowess and stamina. (Pre Viagra practice when ED was the name of a talking horse on TV) Ground control is his mind, and major Tom is, well lets just call him Major Woody. The papers want to know who’s shirt you wear or which team are you on. Are you with the hetero’s or the non hetero’s? Maybe he’s not sure himself! Now its time to leave the capsule if you dare. Here then is that closet I mentioned David leaving. As he steps through that door he is walking in a “most peculiar way“, two derogatory comments used at the time to describe a gay man. He walks funny, like a girl, and he is queer or peculiar. No wonder the stars look very different today! Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing he can do. Back at that time porn was described as “blue movies”, to him the world is obsessed with sex and there is not a thing he can do about these new feelings. Or is there? He’s past one hundred thousand miles (around the block with women) he’s feeling very still (no zip to his ship). But not to worry, his spaceship knows which way to go. His compass points to experimentations with the North Pole! Tell his wife he loves her very much, she knows(love is not just sexual). He is feeling sorry and a tad guilty for going off on a sexual excursion. She already knows because you can’t hide your real self forever and your partner will likely be the first to sense it. Now the circuits dead there’s something wrong. He has no sexual electricity any longer for his woman and he can’t understand why. So that’s my offbeat take on the tune. Or maybe its about an astronaut that was lost in space and cut off from Huston. Floating in a very peculiar way without gravity around. I merely offer an alternative view like the one I will give on the Wiz.
That’s what I do, I listen to words then try to make sense of what I hear in the more abstract fashion. I reconstruct words in search of the true meaning beneath the surface. I also enjoy using the same mental exercise in cinema and this interpretation is my reconstructive take on my all time favorite tale, The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz is not just a tale of young girl on an adventure but the story of finding your inner strength, learning that what truly matters is not how much gold and glitter you acquire but how much love you acquire. “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The underlying messages in the tale are important and a dynamic learning tool for children but there lies underneath it all a message intended for adults as well. At least I believe there is so that’s why I am looking deep into the story of Oz to find out what meaning it can have for us as presumed adults. Join me down the twisted path of an existential quirky mind to explore the underbelly of a time honored traditional story. If nothing else, you will have an opportunity to exercise your eyes and hopefully your imagination, and perhaps achieve a smile or two as well.