Wizard Rock

Somebody suggested to me recently that J Mascis is in fact the same person as Saruman the White.

Naturally I 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 in fact 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 genitally-named children in an Enid Blyton story. Having seen Dinosaur Jr. perform live, I can attest to the magical way J mesmerises his audience as he lovingly shreds his purple axe.

And think of The Voice Of Saruman chapter in LOTR… recall how Saruman mesmerises Theoden and his men with his silky voice.

In conclusion, perhaps the original statement was not as inane as I 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 imagine… how would a Tolkien wizard get along in the world of modern rock?

Amazingly bloody well, that’s how he’d get along.

Picture a rock concert 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.

Radders takes up his mighty plectrum and holds it high above his head, poised on the brink of an opening 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, occupied instead with drugs, and pornography, and vacuous TV shows about idiots.

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

The building quivers on its foundations. Plaster rips from the walls and the windows burst 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.

Eventually the armed response units will arrive, but they’ll struggle to take Radagast down with their mundane weapons. Most of them will probably be killed when the drummer uses his cymbals as decapitating death-frisbees.