Brain Damage

June 4, 1997

Frittering away the hours of a rainy Memorial Day (obviously, the idea of a bar-b-que was out), my old drinking buddy Chad and I sat at his kitchen table, looking out over the soggy suburbia, drinking Budweisers, with one eye of the little ones to make sure they didn't wreak too much havoc.

We were talking urban legends. He was telling me the one about that ex-Iron Butterfly bass player who mysteriously disappeared just before completing some big breakthrough he was working on in data compression.

"Yeah, I remember seeing that on a Web page," I said. "The Phillip Taylor Kramer Story, if memory serves." (I really speak in URL's. It's one of the hazards of my profession.)

I then told him the one about how if you play Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon alongside the Wizard of Oz the music synchs up with the first 42 minutes of the movie so well you'd swear Pink Floyd created the album as a soundtrack.

"How about that?" he replied. "That's like that one about how if you played In The Court of the Crimson King while [under the influence of a certain illegal substance] you'd see God. What a crock!"

"Yeah, you actually tried that, didn't you? Like one Sunday afternoon at home? You're not exactly going to see God if your Mom barges in your room every 10 minutes offering milk and cookies."

I remembered seeing the DSOTM/WOZ rumor on the newsgroup awhile back, but evidently it didn't really catch on until two months ago when, according to the New York Daily News, a Boston DJ mentioned it and set off a firestorm of reaction. The DJ said you couldn't find a copy of Wizard of Oz anywhere in Boston.

I can see why. The normal reaction would be "Cool! Who's having the party?" as my friend Dave responded when I E-mailed him the news.

With nothing else happening, we decided to try it. There were plenty of copies of Oz at Blockbuster (obviously it hasn't caught on here yet). And once the children were conspired to quietness with Whopper Jnrs, we followed the instructions from the The Synchronicity Arkive, which details this and other music/ movie pairings. It advised to begin playing DSOTM immediately after the MGM lion roars for the third time in the movie’s beginning.

It took a few attempts to synchronize it, but when we did, we indeed caught dozens of moments of eerie serendipity. Dorothy walks along the top of a fence while Floyd sang "balanced on the biggest wave." The band sang "Black. . .black. . . black" just as the Black witch appeared on the screen, and when the camera switched to Dorothy in her blue dress, we heard the words "blue. . .blue. . .blue." Scenes changed when the music did, and, yup, during the album's final seconds, those of a heartbeat, Dorothy bends over to listen for the Tin Man's heart.

Any one of these moments may not signify much; taken together they're not so easy to dismiss. On the other hand, there were also times when the music went its own way, not commenting on the doings in Oz whatsoever. Afterwards I asked Rebecca, a friend of mine who joined us for the viewing, what she thought. "I like DSOTM, and I like WOZ, but together. . . I don't know," she frowned (She really speaks in abbreviations. It's one of the hazards of knowing a columnist).

"I bet it would work with any movie," Chad observed. Having spent the last of my research budget on beer and Whopper Jnrs., renting another movie was not an option, so we dug through Chad's cabinet and found a copy of Excalibur.

And though the opening burst of "Breathe" coincided (almost) perfectly with the appearance of Merlin, and the Lady of the Lake held up the sword precisely when the band sang, "run, rabbit, run," it was apparent this pairing didn’t work as well. But does this mean that the band used WOZ to pace the album, not realizing one day their secret would be exposed by VCR’s and the Internet? Or is this all just meaningless overuse of technology on our part, like mathematician Eliyahu Rips using a computer to find hidden messages of doom in The Book of Genesis (Does Bible Hold Code That Tells Future?)

A few days earlier, I spoke with Mike Johnston, keeper of The Synchronicity Arkive. Johnston calls them "synchronicities," a term borrowed from new age author Robert Anton Wilson.

He doubts the DSOTM/WOZ connection was intentional on the Floyd's part (after all, the band has denied it), but feels it still can be enjoyed. "In fact, it’s more enjoyable, knowing that these two different things go so well together," he says. Such alignments Wilson called "synchronicities."

When I got home, I received an e-mail from Dave asking if I was still going to write about DSOTM/WOZ, as I mentioned I might. "Nah," I replied, "MTV already covered it."

So on the next e-mail Dave suggested I write about this story he heard about this missing Iron Butterfly bassist. . .

--Joab Jackson

[ The archive || [E-mail]