For the full story of the curse of “Do Anything You Wanna Do”, see my interview with the band in this month’s issue of Uncut magazine.
It’s easy to turn your nose up at any mention of Aleister Crowley, especially if you have little interest in the occult and esoteric world in which he thrived. But to do so means ignoring the man’s often brilliant writing – his Diary of A Drug Fiend is a superior pulp classic, for instance – and also missing out on some of the greatest anecdotes of the 20th century.
For the uninitiated, Crowley (1875–1947) was a British writer who used sex, drugs and magic –often simultaneously – to try to attain altered states of mind and who achieved such a level of notoriety for his activities that he was brandished the ‘wickedest man in the world’. If not wicked, he was certainly a character. As well as signing his letters ‘666’ and conducting numerous affairs with lovers of both sexes, he climbed mountains, wrote pornographic poetry, fraternised with novelists, artists and spies and attempted to write a new American national anthem.
To give a flavour of Crowley’s often bizarre intersections with normal society, in the early days of the Second World War he was tapped up by British intelligence officer Ian Fleming, who asked him to take part in an ‘occult disinformation plot’ against Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess, a fervent believer in astrology and the occult. Crowley was keen, but the plot was ultimately shelved; Fleming, however, later used Crowley as the model for villain Le Chiffre in his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1953. Another fan of Crowley was Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard. It is claimed Hubbard took part in ‘sexual magick’ (magick was a term favoured by Crowley) with a couple called Jack and Betty Parsons in an attempting to create a magical child, thus fulfilling a prophecy from Crowley’s The Book Of The Law. Crowley was not impressed, writing in one of his typically entertaining letters: ‘Apparently Parsons or Hubbard or somebody is producing a Moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts.’
Crowley was bisexual and a heavy drug user, eventually becoming addicted to heroin. He also enjoyed peyote, handing it out at parties. On one occasion in New York he gave some to the novelist Theodore Dreiser, who became uncomfortable and asked if there was a doctor in the area. ‘I don’t know about a doctor,’ said Crowley, ‘But there’s a first-class undertaker on the corner of 33rd and 6th.’
This freeness with sex and drugs saw Crowley embraced by the rock and roll generation, particularly after he appeared on the cover of Sgt Pepper. But the story behind another of Crowley’s cover appearances is not so well known. In 1977, Essex rockers Eddie And The Hot Rod wrote a song that was partly inspired by Crowley’s famous motto: ‘Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law’. The band rewrote this as “Do Anything You Wanna Do”, a spirited ode to self-empowerment, and attached the lyrics to a perky pop tune that quickly reached the Top Ten. It was engineered by a young Steve Lillwhite, who recorded it at Island’s studio in Notting Hill.
In recognition of his contribution to the song’s genesis, the band decided to put Crowley on the cover of the single. But they also felt his glowering visage was not really in the spirit of the band, so manager Ed Hollis (brother of Talk Talk’s Mark) attached a slightly comical pair of Mickey Mouse ears to Crowley’s head.
Great cover, big mistake. According to rumour, this image soon came to the attention of Jimmy Page, a Crowley apostle who lived in the Crowley’s old house, had a vast collection of Crowley paraphernalia and was fascinated by the occult. Page had orchestrated the Crowley-influenced occult symbolism that adored Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, which incidentally was also record at Island Studios.
The band were told that Page placed a curse upon Eddie And The Hot Rods for their disrespectful treatment of the Great Beast. From that moment, the band were plagued by problems. They were dropped by their label, their manager became hooked on heroin and they never bothered the higher reaches of the chart again. From behind his Mickey Mouse ears and with the help of satanic rock royalty, Crowley had got his revenge. As bassist Paul Gray told me, ‘Weird shit happened after that. A lot of people said we shouldn’t have fucked about with Crowley.’
“One-hit-wonder seventies band loses record contract, develops drug problems and never charts again”.
Unheard of! Must have been the magick! 🙂
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haha Dave,I was thinking exactly the same thing 😛
Jimmy Page and his ego, eh? I’ve no doubt Crowley would’ve laughed heartily at Eddie & The Hot Rods’ cover and told Page to get a sense of humour had he been around at the time.
To whom it may concern
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Let me declare unto you that I am the Magickal Hier of the Beast 666, as prophesied in the Book of the Law, II, 39 i.e. “A feast for Tahuti and the child of the Prophet — secret, O Prophet!”, when I attained the Grade of Magus of the Argenteum Astrum on July 6,1988 e.v. in the U.S.A. taking the motto Tahuti.
I am currently living in Macedonia in the most difficult circumstances, and I beg you most earnestly to transfer funds to me at once to avert utter smash, thus helping me in the Great Work for the establishment of the Holy Law of Thelema, that is the Law of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, all over the World.
Love is the law, love under will.
I certainly am not thumbing my nose at Crowley (on the contrary I am a fan, particularly of “Diary of a Drug Fiend”)…but perhaps I am, just a little, at Jimmy Page.
First off, the symbols on Zeppelin IV (aka four symbols) were not influenced by Crowley. Yes Page was a major collector of Crowley but were does this myth that Page decided to act out on the band even come from. “…it got back to the band?” How, from who? David Bowie? Ahh, getting hooked on smack is all you need to be plagued by problems. Just ask Page who at that time was dealing with his own issues. Which, unlike Crowley, he over came.
The cover is cool. This no name band is not.
I remember seeing Eddie and the Hot Rods live, they were a bit of fun but a bit limited on the music front.
You, obviously, know less rock n’ roll than you do Crowley esoterica. There was no bad luck for the Hot Rods following the Crowley cover – both the following singles from Life on the line charted. The stories were made up to get a bit of Press coverage for Thriller, an album that pre-dated the Power Pop era but suffered from one or two filler songs. There was also a story that Keith Richard was photographed wearing a T-shirt with “Death to Eddie and the Hot Rods”. Perhaps he was also a closet member of the Golden Dawn?
To all of the above writers, “just keep on having fun”.
Just seen you in a Netflix documentary talking about this. Did anyone in the Band privately become a bit Jesus-minded, perhaps like many who decide it’s better than heroin? I could easily believe there is a “power of evil” out there somewhere that would take exception to it, if it happened. Wham. Trouble trouble trouble…
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Coast to Coast did a recent special on Ouija Board historian Robert Murch. There were many tales of ppl encountering a terrifying being named ZOZO…
Reblogged this on Kenny Wilson's Blog.
There’s an old saying where I come from: “If you play with fire, sooner or later you’re going to get burned”.
I believe that this was the case for Mr. Crowley, and it also applies to anyone who follows in his footsteps. While I can understand his resentment towards conformity within society and the hypocrisy of the Golden Dawn’s use of magic as a means to promote elitism, Crowley’s “Do What Thou Wilt” dictum ultimately proved to be what led to his own tragic downfall, along with the downfall of others who have practiced his philosophy.
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