From kindergarden to eighth grade, I went to Catholic school. Please, stop your snickering. For High School I went public, which meant my religious education went off campus for something called Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, or CCD.
CCD was basically the way kids outside of a Catholic schooling got their weekly dose of Bible reading and Catholic guilting. My schooling took place at a neighbors house just around the corner with five or six other high schoolers. Although my memory is a little hazy, best recollection is that after leaving nine years of Catholic education, my parents probably felt it best I continue to get some sort of continuing religious schooling. I’m betting this was Freshman year of high school, so we’re talking Fall of 1988 or Spring 1989, which is somewhat important in the timeline.
The leader of the group was an adult, not a priest or anyone official, but someone designated to hold these groups. At one particular class, he asked us a question along the lines of, where do you get inspiration from, or what inspires you? I have no idea what my answer was, but that’s not really important. What is important is the response of one my fellow CCD’ers, who we’ll refer to simply as Jock for reasons that will become obvious.
Jock went first and said that he used music as inspiration, and told us that often before football games, he would sit at his locker, close his eyes and listen to inspirational songs on his headphones to prepare. This prompted our group leader to ask if Jock had a song he would like to play for the group, at which point Jock grabbed a cassette out his Walkman and gave to the group leader, who popped it in the house stereo system and turned down the lights.
At this point, our group leader said something along the lines of, close your eyes and imagine something or other, and pressed play. It was at this moment the distinctive opening chords of Guns ‘n Roses ‘Paradise City’ began to rang.
Guns ‘n effing Roses
In the darkness, as we sat thinking religious things, W. Axl Rose, Slash and crew tore through the G’n'R hit song, and I wondered what the hell was gonna happen when this thing was over. As there was still a little light coming in from other rooms, I opened my eyes and could see on their faces that all the other fellow teenagers knew exactly what this was, and our group leader looked, well, perplexed.
As the song ended, the lights came back on and everyone sat in silence. Was Jock going to get chewed out? Admonished? Told to leave in shame? None of the above. To my best recollection, this what our group leader started with:
“So, take me down to the paradise city, where the grass is green, and the girls are pretty. I think that’s a sentiment we can all understand.”
Wha? But, it’s rock ‘n roll? Isn’t the evil? Didn’t the church outlaw or something? No condemnation? No excommunication? Nope. What happened was as equally brilliant as the song being played. Somehow, our group leader was able to bend the song into an analogy where Paradise City = heaven, and that we all have our own idea of what heaven is. For Guns ‘n Roses, it’s where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.
Guns ‘n effing Roses wrote a parable, who knew.