JFK Assassination Song: “Zapruder’s Film” by Mick Farren & Jack Lancaster

November 22, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This post is part of a series that will run throughout this year focusing on songs that address the JFK assassination.

Counterculture icon Mick Farren died earlier this week, July 27th. He initially came to fame as a member of the Deviants, who released three albums in the 1960s. Though associated with the counterculture, Mick Farren was no peace-and-love hippie. His work unflinchingly explored a darker view of his times. He recorded only sporadically after leaving the Deviants, instead turning his attention to writing. He was a prolific author, writing several nonfiction books (many indulging conspiracy theories) and more than 20 novels, mainly speculative fiction. He also wrote “The Titanic Sails at Dawn” for the New Musical Express, which anticipated the punk rock revolt against the music scene of the mid-1970s.

In 1995 Mick Farren collaborated with Jack Lancaster on The Deathray Tapes, which describes a dystopian landscape. The cover of the album shows a toy gun but the spoken word pieces on this album describe violence that is all too real. One of the tracks on The Deathray Tapes, “Zapruder’s Film,” expresses the shock of the JFK assassination and the profound disillusion that followed over Jack Lancaster’s mournful accompaniment.

Zapruder’s Film
by Mick Farren & Jack Lancaster

The mass intoned to muffled drums
The child and the black horse come
In that pink haloed vapored brain
A hope that never comes again
An innocence is crushed beneath
Dark shadows that deny belief
And down the years no time to kill
Zapruder’s film is rolling still

And whom and why and what it tolls
Goes gunmen on a grassy knoll
Bright day back seat Cadillac
Our passion cannot roll it back
Or any doubt we write the end
No golden age, no gold to lend
And down the years no time to kill
Zapruder’s film is rolling still

Head jerks forward, head jerks back
Triangulation, planned attack
Concrete basement, lips are sealed
And ruthless men have cut their deals
And we will never trust again
The public masks of ruthless men
And down the years no time to kill
Zapruder’s film is rolling still

And echoes print that awful sound
And still they violate the wounds
The king has fallen, harvest fails
We enter time of guns and jails
A lifetime of no truth unfolds
An image of a head explodes
And down the years no time to kill
Zapruder’s film is rolling still

Zapruder’s film is rolling still

The Zapruder film has had a profound impact on our culture and Mick Farren captures the impact of the raw images of this 26-second film in his passionate poetry. He describes not only the graphic violence of the film (“the pink haloed vapored brain” and “An image of a head explodes”) but also the atmosphere of distrust that has followed the events it captured (“an innocence is crushed beneath”). Mick Farren points to a conspiracy (“Triangulation, planned attack/Concrete basement, lips are sealed/And ruthless men have cut their deals”) where the president was executed with military precision (“triangulation, planned attack”) and the conspirators have gotten away with murder (“Goes gunman on a grassy knoll”). Mick Farren asserts that the public’s faith in our institutions has been shattered (“And we will never trust again/The public masks of ruthless men”) and that we no longer trust one another (“We enter a time of guns and jails”). In Mick Farren’s view the Zapruder film opens our eyes to a darker truth about how the world operates and presages the bleak outlook that has become the hallmark of our times (“And down the years no time to kill/Zapruder’s film is rolling still”).

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