Preparing for the end of the world, scheduled for Friday according to some interpretations of the ancient Maya calendar, is a tricky business. Unfortunately, theres just no such thing as a fashionable haz-mat suit. Obamacare is vague on the co-pays for apocalyptic mishaps. And theres simply no way to foresee the tax consequences of Armageddon until Congress and the White House resolve this fiscal-cliff business.
But whether we go by fire or ice, famine or pestilence, one thing is clear: We need to have the appropriate music on hand well in advance. The iTunes help desk is not all that great even when zombie hordes are not rising from their graves to eat the brains of the living.
So heres a helpful playlist, an unlucky 13 songs to ensure that whatever unpleasant side effects the end of the world may have, it will still rate at least an 85 and have a beat you can dance to.
13. The End of the Run, Deborah Harry (1989). Blondie lead singer icily delivers Rule No. 1 of the apocalypse no whining: That end of the run. We almost won. The end of the run. We had our fun. The end of the run.
12. Eve of Destruction, Barry McGuire (1965). This record reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart despite being widely banned as too morbid, with lyrics about the poundin of the drums, the pride and disgrace/You can bury your dead, but dont leave a trace/Hate your next-door neighbor, but dont forget to say grace. The tunes writer, P.F. Sloan, always said he considered it a love song. Maybe, if youre dating a Manson girl.
11. The Final Countdown, Europe (1986). The bleating synths! The big hair! Go out in Big 80s style. Plus, the Swedish rockers helpfully suggest a new destination to start all over: Were heading for Venus/And still we stand tall/Cause maybe theyve seen us/And welcome us all. The Maya calendar, unfortunately, is silent on that possibility.
10. Well All Go Together When We Go, Tom Lehrer (1959). Harvard mathematician by day, satirical folk singer after dark, Lehrer was always one to look on the bright side. And the end of the world, he noted, would be a triumph of egalitarianism and world harmony: We will all go together when we go/Every Hottentot and every Eskimo/When the air becomes uranious/We will all go simultaneous... And Tweeting it, no doubt.
9. Armageddon It, Def Leppard (1987). Sure, the songs about sex: Are you gettin it? Armageddon it! But you might as well go out with a bang.
8. Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969) Though John Fogartys diction was clear enough as he sang lyrics like hope you got your things together, hope you are quite prepared to die, the tinny AM radios of the day often made his refrain theres a bad moon on the rise sound like theres a bathroom on the right. Which, probably, would be pretty helpful to know as the giant fire-drooling face of Beelzebub thrusts itself through your living-room window.
7. (Dont Fear) The Reaper, Blue Öyster Cult (1976). Admittedly, this is a song about a lovers Romeo-and-Juliet suicide pact rather the end of days. But it makes oblivion sound so damned romantic Seasons dont fear the reaper/Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain/We can be like they are that it was the soundtrack for the opening scenes of the TV miniseries of Stephen Kings apocalyptic novel The Stand.
6. Apocalypse Please, Muse (2003). Theres always one guy who, as the 300-foot-high tsunami crashes over the seawall, holds out hope for a happy ending: Its time we saw a miracle/Come on its time for something biblical/To pull us through/...this is the end of the world."
5. When the Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash (2002). For one of his last songs, written a year before his death, Cash drew from the Bibles Book of Revelation to hail the Second Coming. Cash, as close to the voice of God as youll get, goes out strong right until the end. The whirlwind is in the thorn tree/Its hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
4. The End of the World, Skeeter Davis (1962). The question Davis asked in her plaintive soprano Why do the birds go on singing?/Why do the stars glow above/Dont they know its the end of the world? was about the aftermath of a broken romance. But to a planet that just a month earlier had been holding its collective breath over the Cuban Missile Crisis, the lyrics resonated in a different way.
3. The Merry Minuet, Kingston Trio (1959). A jolly ode to mans inhumanity to man: The whole world is festering with unhappy souls/The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles/Italians hate Yugoslavs/South Africans hate the Dutch/And I dont like anybody very much! But dont worry, help is on the way: For mans been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud/And we know for certain that some lovely day/someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.
2. Its the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M. (1987). Michael Stipes chipper tumble of words begins, Thats great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane. And by the time you finish singing along four minutes and seven seconds later youll be so breathless the end of the world will feel like blessed relief.
1. Real Thing, WBEN (1953). At the height of the Cold War, Buffalo radio station WBEN had one of its announcers cut a record that the DJ could slap on the turntable if he saw a mushroom cloud outside the station: We interrupt our normal program to cooperate in security and in civil defense measures as requested by the United States government . . . . Normal broadcasting will now be discontinued for an indefinite period... Happily, it was never used, but Bear Family Records found a copy a few years ago and included in the CD box set Atomic Platters: Cold War Music From The Golden Age Of Homeland Security. Not too danceable, but its great for makeout sessions if your honey is a nihilist or necrophiliac.
Anyway, good luck on Friday. Normal newspaper feature-writing will now be discontinued for an indefinite period.