Cult heroes: Five cult bands involved in actual cults!
Everyone wants to belong somewhere, which is why whacko cults still pop up all the time. Some are driven by religion, some by ideology, some by messianic loonies, but all of them basically boil down to the same thing: you need a gang, we’re a gang, let’s get it on.
Some – particularly flustered parents, particularly in the 80s – would even call rock’n’roll itself a cult, one with all the expected gods, rituals, and sacraments. However, Black Sabbath fans aside, rock music does not require your soul, or even your undivided attention. Rock is about inclusion, not exclusion. That’s the whole idea, really. Doin’ your own thing.
But that’s not to say that within rock’s parameters, there aren’t cult figures (Iggy, Morrissey, that church-burning dude) or cult acts (like, say, The Cult!). It’s just not what rock n’ roll’s all about. Occasionally, however, rockers themselves will succumb to the allure and mystery of actual cults.
On the next several pags you’ll find a few bands and performers who dabbled in shadowy sects. Some were ruined, some were enlightened… all of ’em got real weird!
1. Funkadelic – Process Church Of The Final Judgment
One of the most notorious cults of the 60s and 70s, the Process Church started in London in the mid 60s.
Initially, it was a rogue sect of Scientology and focused on radical psychotherapy treatments. As time wore on, a religious component was woven into their ideology, one where Satan was worshipped alongside God. They were also pretty sure the end was nigh, so they essentially became a doomsday cult. It really freaked out the squares, especially when they began donning black robes, wearing silver pentagrams, and patrolling the streets with German Shepherds.
The Process moved to the US in the early 70s and set up chapters in various cities. They’d open coffee shops where they’d sell their magazines and spread their freaky gospel. Given this background, you can see why fried-funk visionary George Clinton might be hip to the end-days mumbo jumbo they were spouting.
While he was never a member of the church (Funkadelic is cult-y enough on its own), Clinton was enough of an adherent to reprint chunks of their manifestos in the already woozy liner-notes of Funkadelic’s first two albums, Maggot Brain and America Eats Its Young. It all made sense at the time – both albums are headphone-melting acidfunk freakouts that wallow in the gruesome as much as the cosmic, so why not throw a little devil-worship into the mix?
Of course, this wasn’t cool with everybody in the band. George’s flirtation with Satanism spooked Funkadelic singer Fuzzy Haskins so badly he quit music and became a minister. Clinton himself dropped the Process shtick soon after, and went back to funkier subject matter, like lunch meat and nose bleeds. Still, those two albums, liner notes and all, are perfect distillations of the post 60s hangover, the druggy Mansonite dread that took most of the 70s to shake off. Plus, you know, Maggot Brain is amazing.
Process bonus No.1: Changes was an apocalyptic folk duo from Chicago who frequently played at Process Church cofeehouses, and whose gloomy-doomy outlook closely echoed the ideology of the Process. Their haunting songs were recorded in the late 60s, but not released until nearly 30 years later. Haunting stuff.
Process bonus No.2: Process began as a Scientology offshoot. Scientology is a self-help program/cult created by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. For whatever reason, it attracts the rich and famous. Lots of popular Hollywood stars are Scientologists, and some rock’n’ roll types too. One of the more vocal proponents of Scientology happens to straddle both worlds: Juliette Lewis. Kinda dissappointing, really, but what can you do? Hollywood’s crazy. Cult member or not, Juliette knows how to rock.
Process postscript: They eventually dropped the Satan bit and became animal rights activists.