Friday, January 18, 2008


Listen to JOHN WAYNE GACY, JR. by Sufjan Stevens.

Jason dropping in.

I'll never forget the first time I heard this. It was an innocent tip from a Music Magazine to check out his album "Illinois". I was unaware of Sufjan at that point. And so, on the bus home from work one evening, I began to listen to the album.

I wasn't really paying attention - and the first 3 tracks had passed - but on the 4th song the line "he dressed up like a clown for them" lifted my ears. A few lines lines later I heard "he'd kill ten thousand people" that point I pulled the 'pod out of my pocket and looked at the name of the track: "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."......and I pushed it back to the start of the song.

Then I REALLY listened.

I don't remember the last time a song made me shiver.

His thumb rapidly paces the bass note, like a pulse, as his fingers create a minor melody. This musical structure, combined with lyrics of folded t-shirts, swing-sets, and adoring neighbours lulls you into a false sense of whimsy. But then we are asked to "look underneath the house there" where we can find things "rotting fast in the sleep of the dead".

And that day on the bus, when Sufjan then sang:

"Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs"

And raised his voice in falsetto to cry "Oh my God".............only to ask "Are you one of them?"

It got me.

This song about one of America's most infamous serial-killers then turned me again with the unexpected, inconclusive, disturbing denouement....bringing the focus back to the songwriter:

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid


Whilst Sufjan's devout Christianity gives some people a meaning in that last line, as it does those who have a small understanding of Gacy's own complex and devastating story, it is unashamedly open to interpretation.

It is a song that continues to haunt me.

Photo: Brittany American Cemetery, 2004. Taken by Jason Bryant.



Bill's Mom said...

Just creepy.

Bill said...

I've been reading up on the Kinks this morning. There's a band legend that on their last U.S. tour before they were banned, that they ran across Gacy in Illinois. Gacy was acting at a concert promoter at the time, and invited the boys back to his place. When they got there the band were creeped out and left!

soonergooner said...

Goin up?