Wizard Rock

Somebody suggested to me recently that J Mascis is in fact Saruman.

I of course laughed at such a ridiculous concept, and berated them for their utter stupidity. “Sure, J’s got long white hair”, said I, “But he’s an American grunge pioneer, not an immortal sorcerer from the Land of the Valar! Where is his staff? Show me his cloak! You are a total idiot, mum.”

But later that night I confess my mind returned to the matter. I was working into the small hours on my seminal Tolkien musical suite, The Seven Sons of Fëanor, when the comment resurfaced in my thoughts, like a stealthy Russian Shark-class nuclear sub, unseen until it breaks the waves.

J Mascis and (Peter Jackson’s take on) Saruman the White

In many ways, J is a wizard. His guitar playing cannot be assessed without recourse to the word “wizardry”. His albums might have been described as “wizard” had they been released in the 1970s, or reviewed by racist children in an Enid Blyton story. Having seen Dinosaur Jr. perform on several occasions, I can attest to the magical way J mesmerises his audience as he lovingly shreds his purple axe and sings in sweetsome tones. Think of The Voice Of Saruman chapter in LOTR. Recall how Saruman mesmerises Theoden and his men with his silky vox.

In conclusion, perhaps the original statement was not as utterly inane as first thought…?

Of course, even if J is a wizard, he certainly isn’t one of the Istari. They were only five in number, and their movements have been accounted for. J is a wizard of some lower order; perhaps more of an enchanter than a sorcerer.


But how would a full Wizard from Tolkiendom fare in the world of rock?

Amazingly well, that’s how he’d fare.

Imagine a gig played by an immortal Tolkien band, with frontman Radagast the Brown on lead guitar. As the humble Radagast arrives on stage, his weather-beaten cloak elicits scorn from the baying audience. “He’s not a cool bloke!” the teenagers cry. “Laugh at this man!”

Radagast the Brown
Radagast the Brown by “JRN” on coolminiornot.com

Laugh they do, gentle Radagast quietly weeping, missing his animal friends terribly. He endures the insults and turns his attention to his instrument; a brown-shelled Stratocaster with a sparrow-shaped whammy bar.

He takes up his mighty plectrum and holds it high above his head, poised on the brink of a strum. Light suddenly emits from the incandescent plec, and the audience gasps, desisting from their cruel taunting. Is this some electronic trick? The world of magic is unfamiliar to them; they do not go in for esoteria, fulfilled instead by drugs and pornography and vacuous TV shows about idiots.

Then Radagast strikes a power chord, and it is like a terrible earthquake has struck at magnitude 20.

The very building quivers on its foundations. Plaster tears from the walls and every window bursts into disfiguring shards. Amplifiers actually explode, Marshall-branded shrapnel tearing into groupie faces and scything through eyeballs. Radagast plays on, heedless to the wailing of the wounded, and his scintillating solos become the death knell of his fans as the music causes further structural damage. The drummer – perhaps one of the Maiar – becomes inspired by the horror of the moment, and begins to hammer out brutal blast beats. Radagast screams inhumanly into his mike, and Death Metal is played, quite literally.

Armed police will arrive, eventually, but they won’t be able to take Radagast down with their feeble guns. Most of them will probably be killed, anyway, when the drummer uses his cymbals as decapitating death-frisbees.

2 thoughts on “Wizard Rock

  1. Fisher, the idea that an Istar would willingly take up an instrument as crass and ungainly as the guitar is laughable. Radagast surely would play the harp, or a wooden lute or gittern. I could perhaps envision the Brown Wizard strumming a citole. But trust you to place in his hands that foetid symbol of Americana – a Fender! Your intellectual poverty knows no bounds.

    By the way, I saw your ma down the Spar the other day, she’s looking rough these days.

  2. Dermy,

    Why am I not surprised to read such a banal comment from a man who cannot pronounce his own surname? Your remark about the guitar spectacularly misses the point, but what can we expect of someone who rates The Sword of Shannara?

    The Fisherians are well rid of you.

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