A playlist for the end of the world

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

Preparing for the end of the world, scheduled for today according to some interpretations of the ancient Maya calendar, is a tricky business.

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 here’s a helpful playlist, 10 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.

10. We’ll 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 song’s 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 Fogarty’s 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 – “there’s a bad moon on the rise” – sound like “there’s a bathroom on the right.”

7. (Don’t 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 don’t 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 King’s apocalyptic novel The Stand.

6. Apocalypse Please, Muse (2003). There’s always one guy who, as the 300-foot-high tsunami crashes over the seawall, holds out hope for a happy ending: “It’s time we saw a miracle/Come on it’s 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 Bible’s Book of Revelation to hail the Second Coming.

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/Don’t they know it’s 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 man’s 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 don’t like anybody very much!”

2. It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M. (1987). Michael Stipe’s chipper tumble of words begins, “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane.” And by the time you finish singing along 4 minutes and 7 seconds later you’ll 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 it’s great for makeout sessions if your honey is a nihilist or necrophiliac.

Anyway, good luck today. Normal newspaper feature-writing will now be discontinued for an indefinite period.

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©2012 The Miami Herald

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