Sunday, December 7, 2008

Do You Believe in Magic?

The word “magic,” in its adjectival form—the form used in most popular music—means to make or produce “as if by magic,” that is, to have the conjuring power of a magus, that is, a magician. For instance, you know of Madame Rue, that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth, the one who’s got the pad down on Thirty-Fourth and Vine—she uses magic, and she is a (female) magus. In “Love Potion No. 9,” for instance, the singer tells us, “She [Madame Rue] looked at my palm and she made a magic sign/She said, ‘What you need is Love Potion No. 9’.” Too bad: the singer ended up kissing a cop down on Thirty-Fourth and Vine. Such is the power of magic.

The word magic is derived from the Middle English magik, from Old French magique, from Late Latin magica, from Latin magicē, from Greek magikē, from feminine of magikos, of the Magi, magical, from magos, magician, magus. And magus, of course, is the root of the word “magician.” In popular music, magic is mystery (and fear), magic is enchantment, magic is power, magic is a drug-induced hallucination (and the accompanying trip), magic is the ecstasis of erotic fulfillment. Aleister Crowley referred to the orgasm as “sex magick,” perhaps an intentional conflation of the categories of erotic and spiritual love. Popular musicians frequently confuse the erotic and the spiritual, revealing that as a culture we seek in profane love what we can only get from religious belief. To confirm these various uses, seek out and listen to the following songs:

America, “You Can Do Magic” The Complete Greatest Hits
Badfinger, Magic Christian Music (album, 1970)
The Beatles, “Magical Mystery Tour” Magical Mystery Tour (album, 1967)
The Cars, “Magic” Heartbeat City
Nick Drake, “Magic” Made to Love Magic
The Drifters, “This Magic Moment” All-Time Greatest Hits
Electric Light Orchestra, “Strange Magic” Face the Music
Fleetwood Mac, “Black Magic Woman” English Rose
Heart, “Magic Man” Dreamboat Annie
The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Do You Believe in Magic” Do You Believe in Magic
Ennio Morricone, “Magic and Ecstasy” Exorcist II: The Heretic (soundtrack)
Van Morrison, “Magic Time” Magic Time
Pilot, “Magic” Anthology
The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” Ghost in the Machine
Frank Sinatra, “That Old Black Magic” Come Swing With Me!
Snakefinger, “Magic and Ecstasy” (Morricone cover) Chewing Hides the Sound
Steppenwolf, “Magic Carpet Ride” Steppenwolf the Second
Tyrannosaurus Rex, “By the Light of the Magical Moon” Beard of Stars
The Who, “Magic Bus” Magic Bus

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