I'm still alive...
A year ago today, Trevor Wilson- best known to the world as "Jeremy" in the award-winning music video directed by Mark Pellington (Arlington Road, Mothman Prophecies) for grunge superstars Pearl Jam - drowned while swimming at a Puerto Rican beach notorious for its dangerous riptide.
As it stands four of the five main Grunge gods are no longer with us. Kurt Cobain was murdered in 1994, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains died of complications from a longtime heroin addiction in 2002, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots died of a heart attack in 2015 and Chris Cornell died earlier this year.
Eddie Vedder is the last remaining "Voice of a Generation." But Trevor Wilson was also an avatar for the formless rage of Generation X, an anger that would outwear its welcome as the grim early 90s gave way to the go-go Clinton Years. But at the time he, Vedder and "Jeremy" were everywhere. I mean, everywhere.
Mark Pellington- a late Boomer who was an early punk rock adapter- conjured up a serving of provocative iconography for the "Jeremy" video, drawing on Biblical references of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6) and a bludgeoning array of crosscuts and captions to immerse the viewer in a nightmare world of trauma.
Billboard tells the story of Wilson's life and death in its latest issue. It's a window into a short but privileged life, attending school at the elite Rudolf Steiner Waldorf School in Manhattan and taking acting lessons at Lee Strasberg. His mother was a chef for a number of celebrities including Sir Ridley Scott, whose Jack Parsons hagiography will be joining Eastern Star Trek on CBS All-Access this fall.
After a moment in the spotlight, Wilson took another path. To Egypt, as it so happens:
And so, along with his girlfriend, he applied to the University of Rome and got accepted into a program that led to an internship in Egypt with the United Nations. Trevor stayed for three years doing field work for the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) on development, women's education and -- according to his mom's recollection -- helping to write speeches for then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's wife, Suzanne.
“His time in Egypt was among the best times he had in his life, and he would refer back to those days often,” Graneri says. He recalls late-night discourses from Wilson on history, music and philosophy, and one particular story from those days that makes him smile: “Driving through the desert at 120 miles an hour and getting pulled over by the cops, then flashing his UN credentials, and getting an escort from those same cops.”Suzanne means "lily," an item of some importance in the Siren unveiling.
Wilson's death is eerily reminiscent of Jeff Buckley's. He had also a close call previously and survived, which perhaps gave him the same false sense of confidence Buckley had in the Wolf River Lagoon:
Diane says her son seemed clear-headed that last time they spoke. A week before, however, he'd been swimming with friends when he got swept nearly a mile down the beach. "I think he had a confidence because he rode that wave, and I think it made him feel like he could swim there," she says of the well-known dangers of the riptides in the area. "There were tons of drownings around there, and my mother told him, 'Trevor, be careful, I can't tell you how many times I got knocked down.'"
Pearl Jam released a single called "Sirens" in 2014, off their most recent album Lightning Bolt. Make note of the embedded OA, similar to the one on the last Chris Cornell solo album.
I've talked about Mark Pellington in the past, having mutual friends and having done work for the studio which he does his commercial work through, Crossroads Films. My first encounter with Crossroads came when they expressed interest in a screenplay I'd written. They decided to go with Jawbreaker instead, that deathless classic that thrilled the hearts of dozens across this great land of ours.
Mark Pellington is also known in High Weirdness circles for directing a movie about a man who loses his wife after a brief illness (The Mothman Prophecies) only to lose his own wife to a brief illness shortly thereafter. Loren Coleman has the story here.
Today would have been the 99th birthday of Sidney Gottlieb, the man Russel Targ called "America's Josef Mengele." I've been giving an awful lot of thought as the involvement of MKULTRA in the lives of some of these ill-starred musicians, given that they were all the same age and profile of one person who I not only went to high school with but have zero doubt was in fact an MKULTRA subject, University of Alabama shooter Amy Bishop.
Seattle is a major hub for the military and other important sectors of the Establishment and it's well-known that MKULTRA experiments were being done in Vancouver (at the Hollywood Hospital, of all places) just a couple hours drive over the border. Not conclusive in any way, but maybe a signal that there was more behind the collapse and countless deaths involved in 90s alternative music than just drugs and money.
Certainly, the "Jeremy" video gives off a very strong MKULTRA vibe, playing more like a chronicle of personal dissolution and dissociation than a simple suicide. I don't know how much of this is just style and how much may in fact be intent. The rock video format is usually inert and harmless except when it's not. The form certainly has an unusual pedigree, not wholly unrelated to MKULTRA at all.
It could be that Pellington (or someone else involved) was trying to tell us tales out of school here, no pun intended. Maybe something about school shootings and teen suicides, something that can't be spoken aloud, certainly not on MTV. Or it could be that he was simply aping the techniques popular at the time, particularly in videos by underground and industrial artists.
Either way, it's still a pretty bracing view, even after a quarter-century.
Or maybe we need to take another look at MKOFTEN here.
The techniques of rock video as they came to be by the early Nineties were pioneered in the Sixties by Kenneth Anger, particularly with his groundbreaking films Scorpio Rising and Invocation of My Demon Brother. These films were made using grants from the Ford Foundation (a well-known CIA front) and Sir John Paul Getty Jr., the Jesuit-trained oil baron, and just happened to begin production at the same time Dr. Stephen Aldrich was firing up the infernal machines in the OFTEN offices.
Do note that these same techniques can now be seen all over television and the internet, not only in music videos but on TV shows and commercials. And on and on it goes.
It makes me wonder how much David Lynch and Mark Frost know, given that they were (and are) mining themes of black magic in the Pacific Northwest. There sure seemed to be quite a few serial killers based in Washington in the bad, old MKOFTEN days.