At Play in the Fields of the Bored: Hellhound on my Trail

Categories:  Arts & Culture/Entertainment    Music
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 12:00 AM
At Play in the Fields of the Bored: Hellhound on my Trail by mike bennet

Obviously I am a sinner for I have not been taken in the rapture. And if you are reading this, you too have missed the mark and are forsaken to five months of reckoning…

Perhaps this is a good time to come to the realization that we all have faults and cope with them in different ways.

There are flaws within the human condition and all we can do is search for truth.

Art is a direct line to truth.

Artists are a different breed; endowed with the gift to feel the world around them and reveal the foibles of man, for better or for worse. They are also burdened by the ability to recognize the hollow, insipid meanderings of existence, and try to reconcile absolute reality within the constructs created by people without vision.

Art reveals pain. It exposes the cursed, fractured undercurrent of actuality. The reward of talent is shackled to the curse of seeing the world for what it is and having to relay the message, no matter how disheartening. I guess that’s why they call it the blues.

Music as we know it today can all be traced back to one man, the blues legend Robert Johnson.  He is the impetus for the crossroads story: selling your soul to the Devil in exchange for talent. If you take the story literally then you really need to question why you were Left Behind.

It is allegory for the position of the artist, creation at the detriment of soul. Prolonged exposure to the nature of truth and the compulsion to share the message can drive the artist to seek absolution in the worst ways.

Of course I’m talking about real art, true art, art that divulges the secrets of the dark underbelly of existence—the difference between listening to Leonard Cohen and reading a Hallmark card.

Subversive art is only subversive because it is different from the norm. It is about acceptance and realization it is about truth.

Truth comes at a cost, as Johnson sang, “There’s a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail.”

The search for truth invites the demons into your soul. When you explore the dark recesses of the human mind, you do not always find the beautiful truth, and understanding can bring the hollow empty feeling. The stereotype of the dark, brooding artist is a stereotype for a reason.

Simply expressing the discovered truth does not release an artist from the binds that tie. The mind of the viewer can often obscure the message, further leaving the artist hollow and subject to ridicule.

Compensation must be sought, relief rendered. The artist becomes soiled and tainted and seeks a diversion and an impetus to continue the dark journey.

This is why there is an infinite list of artists who have succumbed to alcohol and drug abuse. Poets, authors, painters, and musicians seemingly felled by the inability to deal with their own wanton ways.

I would argue that it is the nature of the beast, if there is a hellhound on your trail solace comes at a price.

Before you start having flashbacks of Nancy Reagan and Mr. T holding hands and telling you to “Just Say No” this is not a defense of usage and abuse. This is a sidelong look at the truth behind the art of providing truth.

There are artists that turn to abuse after fame to keep the party going and those that have always tried to just maintain some semblance of their inner soul.

Let’s be honest, as the great philosopher-comic Bill Hicks said, “If you don't think drugs have done good things for us then take all of your records, tapes and CDs and burn them.”

He was not simply being glib. If Hemmingway and Fitzgerald hadn’t sacrificed their livers to the gods of art would their books be as compelling? If Ginsberg and Kerouac hadn’t tripped the light fantastic would art have progressed out of the staid normalcy of post-war America? Need I mention the artistic and cultural shifts of the 1960s? And that is just 20th Century America. Throughout history artists have sought to expand their minds in the pursuit of truth.

It is the driving passion within artists to remove the veil and allow the gentry opportunity to see life for what it really is, and art makes martyrs. One cannot express all that is sad and horrible and terrifying without it taking a toll.

But what about the Beatles? They wrote happy songs, regardless of their tales of drug use.

“I Wanna Hold Your Hand” is the perfect innocent pop-ditty about teenage romance. I beg to differ. It is a heart-wrenching tome to adolescent longing and a need to belong. Wanting to hold your hand is not a polite request; it is a pained shout echoing from the bedrooms of millions of teenage boys frustrated by the complexities of life and the burden of social awkwardness.

Not really, but they did write it before they met Bob Dylan and he introduced them to marijuana.

Go to your record collection and throw on “Meet The Beatles.” Now put on “Rubber Soul.” You can literally feel the change. They are still singing about love, but it is from the understanding you can’t find love, “yeah yeah yeah,” without knowing pain.

It can be a sad cycle. It is the burden of artists to be exposed to truth and for many not be able to find solace in bringing truth to light. The worst part of the martyred artist is when the message is lost. When an audience does not heed the warnings but glorifies the process.

Artists are a different breed, born not made. Empathetic, tortured souls seeking beauty in shallow underpinnings in order to bring truth to the masses.

When the masses confuse the message, weaker souls are enticed by the method and not the results.

Then you get junkies.

Junkies are scum.

It is like Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done,” only in the crowd and not on the stage. Junkies often times kill scenes before themselves. Shallow souls that can’t handle the very nature of existence and have no outlet to expose the truth because they haven’t found it. You can’t love a junky because they can’t love you back. You can’t help a junky because they can’t help themselves.

Don’t let the myths make the man. The lives of artists are not to be held up and followed like shinning paragons of existence. The path of an artist is laid before them long before they begin to indulge in nefarious behavior. When a painter dies because of drug abuse, it is sad because they couldn’t cope with their art and their demons. They leave behind work that shatters the soul with the truth they discovered and have contributed to raising the veil. When someone ODs because they thought it was the way to find realization and truth… well, they’re just another dead junky. And all they leave behind is sadness and nothing is revealed.


Michael Bennett refuses to lose any more friends to stupidity, so he will no longer hang out with stupid people. If you know stupid people that need help and you don’t know where to find it, Michael can be reached at

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