Sunday, August 24, 2008

Waiting For The UFOs

In Tikaboo Valley, Nevada, the only significant landmark along a long, lonely stretch of Nevada’s Highway 375—officially named the “Extraterrestrial Highway”—is the so-called black mailbox. (The actual object is painted white, however.) The white mailbox is referred to by the name of the object it replaced, a black one, and is located near the infamous Area 51, largely accounting for the notoriety of such a banal, quotidian object such as a receptacle for the daily mail. The nearby proximity to Area 51 has allowed for the black mailbox to gain notoriety through the operation of metonymy, or reference by association.

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the black (white) mailbox on Highway 375 has become a holy shrine of sorts, a gathering place, for UFO pilgrims, who travel for miles upons miles just to get a look at it, and presumably, to touch it. According to the L. A. Times report,

Over the years, hundreds of people have converged here in south-central Nevada to photograph the box—the size of a small television, held up by a chipped metal pole. They camp next to it. They try to break into it. They debate its significance, or simply huddle by it for hours, staring into the night.

Some think the mailbox is linked to nearby Area 51, a military installation and purported hotbed of extraterrestrial activity. At the very least, they consider the box a prime magnet for flying saucers.

A few visitors have claimed they saw celestial oddities. But most enjoy even uneventful nights at the mailbox, about midway between the towns of Alamo and Rachel. Alien hunters here are surrounded by like-minded—meaning open-minded—company. In a place where the welcome sign to Rachel reads, Humans: 98, Aliens: ?, few roll their eyes at tales of spaceships, military conspiracies and extraterrestrials that abduct and impregnate tourists.

The modern UFO era began in June 1947 with pilot Kenneth Arnold’s report that he saw flying aircraft moving at a high speed near Mount Rainier, Washington, that were shaped like saucers or discs. Given his description of the ships, the media, always inevitably in search of the sound bite, dubbed these craft “flying saucers.”

Since the beginning of the modern UFO era is virtually simultaneous with the beginning of the rock era, it therefore should be no surprise that rock ‘n’ rollers have been fascinated by UFOs, and now and then have written songs about them. Jimi Hendrix allegedly was fascinated by The Urantia Book, a text known to many UFO enthusiasts, one that mixed stories about Jesus with tales of alien visitations on Earth (Urantia being an occult name for the Earth). And according to his biographer Albert Goldman, Elvis also owned a copy of The Urantia Book. Rock groups naming themselves The Foo Fighters and UFO also acknowledge the cultural fascination with UFOs. Here are a few examples of songs from the rock era (including one album) alluding to aliens, flying saucers, and spaceships, and science fiction themes in general. At least two of them ("The Flying Saucer," "The Purple People Eater"--who plays "rock and roll music through the horn in his head"--, both from the late 1950s) are "novelty" songs, but perhaps all the following songs might all be considered as such.

Billy Bragg & Wilco - My Flying Saucer
Bill Buchanan & Dickie Goodman - The Flying Saucer
Ry Cooder – UFO Has Landed in the Ghetto
Béla Fleck & The Flecktones 
- Flying Saucer Dudes
Hüsker Dü – Books About UFOs
Klaatu - Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft
Kyuss – Spaceship Landing
Nektar – Remember the Future (LP, 1973)
Graham Parker and the Rumour – Waiting for the UFOs
Parliament – Unfunky UFO
Styx – Come Sail Away
Sheb Wooley – The Purple People Eater
Yes – Arriving UFO
Neil Young – After the Gold Rush

1 comment:

Bent said...

I believe that one would have to include Roky Erickson in a list such this. After all he did sign a sworn affidavit to the effect that he was an alien....