NB. I originally wrote this for 4/7/13. Happy Independence Day.
The 4th of July is an important day for this blog, for it marks the first anniversary of the passing of Gerald Polley - professional dishwasher, religious leader, presidential candidate, animator, singer and psychic. He was no ordinary psychic though - not only was he in direct contact with God, Jesus and Muhammad, but he received word from Princess Diana, Patrick ‘the 2nd Doctor’ Troughton, Johann Sebastian Bach and a host of 20th Century singer-songwriters, including Kurt Cobain, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and, most notably, John Lennon. (Not Paul McCartney though, which should hopefully dispell some myths.)
It turns out that death didn’t affect their ability to write songs, for Gerald and his wife Linda frequently received new and original lyrics from beyond the grave. Of course for copyright reasons they’re not allowed to be too similar to the likes of Eleanor Rigby or Heart Shaped Box, so they’ve adapted a new songwriting style - country gospel rock. Which is pretty lucky really, considering neither Gerald nor Linda could do justice to their particular vocal style, and that the Casio keyboard presets they use for these demos are all in the country gospel rock style.
Oh, and if none of this sounded impressive enough, they only received a song Jesus Christ himself. About Jimmy Kimmel.
At this juncture I would like to state that I don’t believe that the Polleys had nor have these abilities. It’s nothing personal to them, I just don’t believe anyone can have those abilities. And if I believe that, then it leads me to one of two conclusions: either they are two seriously deluded individuals, or they are master satirists. I cannot say for sure which one it is. What I know for sure is that the songs, whether written by Lennon, Cobain, Bach, Jesus or even the Band Aid-style dream team combination of John Lennon, George Harrison, Kurt Cobain and Johnny Cash all sound nigh on identical. Not merely in the performances, which showcase the limited range of both the married vocalists and their cheap keyboards, but in lyrical content.
In the days leading up to the 2000 US election, British filmmaker Barney Snow (director of Sky One’s superlative dance-based reality show ‘Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew’ and BBC Three’s hard-hitting documentary about gender roles in society ‘The Week The Women Went’) visited the Polleys at their home in Fargo with their friend and confidant Jesse Torres to make an independent documentary about them called Where Has Eternity Gone?
I have been accused of being a part of the exploitation of outsider musicians in the past, that I’m treating them like freaks and always laughing at them, never with them. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and in watching this, while it’s easy to see why some people might look at this and laugh, my reaction was ultimately one of sadness. The climax of the piece, with the Polleys watching rolling news footage of the election results, cameras capturing their genuine pain when Al Gore looked like winning the presidency, is loaded with pathos that, even being as anti-Bush as I am, affected me. Maybe they are deluded, but as long as they’re not bringing harm to others, you have to respect their beliefs.
Credit should be given to Snow for not sentimentalising the film’s subjects - their lives and thoughts are presented as clearly as I would imagine possible, though it’s inevitable that the nature of what they do and their religious and political opinions mean that there is an element of exploitation to the film. That’s not really a criticism though, it’s just an unfortunate fact. It certainly deserves a place alongside other films like Jandek On Corwood or The Devil And Daniel Johnston. It’s only a shame that the timing of the film meant none of Gerald’s presidential campaigns were captured on tape.
Gerald Polley (with wife Linda)
29 January 1947 - 4 July 2012
For now, I’ll leave you with one of JS Bach’s all-new songs. In the Polleys’ own words:
Johann Sebastian Bach who has recently become skilled at composing rock and roll music, which helps keep people in The Afterlife happy. This is one of the favorites he has produced. It’s just a fun song which also has profound meaning.
Ladies and gentlemen… ‘Poppa Poppa Zing Zing Zing!’
Poppa poppa zing zing zing!
That is how the Angels sing!
Poppa poppa zing zing zing!
The children they are everything!
Voices From Spirit