War, Famine, Plague. Yep, it’s been one of those weeks on the news channels. So, in keeping with the mood of the times, what say we get a little apocalyptic for the Jukebox this week? And what better way to do that than to dig deep into early Prog Rock where we find the little heard of Greek outfit, Aphrodite’s Child.
Aphrodite’s Child’s first two albums did fairly well in European countries, especially amongst fans of moody orchestral pop like Procol Harum (listen to “It’s Five O’Clock” and you’ll see what I mean). But for their third album, lead songwriter and keyboardist Vangelis Papathanassiou (yes, that Vangelis) wanted to try something a little less commercial, something a bit more… out there. To that effect, Vangelis teamed up with filmmaker Costas Ferris and together they composed “666: Apocalypse of St John,” a four-sided “rock oratorio” inspired by the final book in the Bible.
The general storyline of the album follows a circus troupe as they mount a big production based on The Book of Revelation (eat your heart out Cirque du Soleil), only to discover that the real Apocalypse has begun outside. The audience believes it’s all a big show, but the increasingly frantic ringmaster knows better. Finally, the tent disappears and the climatic battle between Good and Evil commences.
Yep, weird stuff, but take away the circus setting and it actually stays pretty close to the source material. The lyrics to “The Four Horsemen,” for example, are almost a direct lift from scripture. Needless to say, between the overtly religious subject matter and the dense musical explorations, “666: Apocalypse of St John” wasn’t as well received as its predecessors, at least not at the time it was released. That didn’t bother Vangelis, though. “I was tired of trying to be in the charts.” he is quoted as saying, “There’s nothing wrong with the charts, but it’s wrong to try and do the things that you think will get you in them.”
Hmm, sounds like Vangelis was familiar with more of the Bible than just the Book of Revelation…
“Better to be poor and walk in integrity than rich and crooked in one’s ways.” (Proverbs 19:1, NABRE)
Sadly, Aphrodite’s Child broke up soon after recording “666: Apocalypse of St John.” I suppose there’s just nowhere to go after the end of the world. Oh wait, there is, isn’t there? In 1975, Vangelis recorded “Heaven and Hell.”