To begin with, many of us are pronouncing his last name incorrectly. Even Ozzy does. It is properly pronounced like the bird “Crow” with a “Lee” at the end.
Often billed as “the wickedest man in the world,” and assumed to be a Satanist, Aleister Crowley was born Edward Alexander Crowley in 1875 in a small English town to very religious and very wealthy parents. Before the turn of the century, he changed his name to Aleister because it fulfilled his requirements for a name that would be famous.
He was a poet, used opium, climbed mountains, and invented religions. Mostly, I think, he had too much money and not enough to do. He may have been a British spy during WWII. He wrote a lot, but how much of what he wrote is truly is debatable. Was he a Satanist? Probably not. He wanted people to think that, however. His credo was “Do what thou wilt.” He sounds to me like a deeply unhappy person desperately searching for meaning and a purpose.
However, at the moment, we are dealing more with the persona of the Wickedest Man in the World rather than Aleister Crowley the person. It is this persona that has had a lasting impact on rock music and heavy metal.
Let me be very clear. I am NOT saying that rock and heavy metal are Satanic or the work of the Devil. But there are influences. When Alice Cooper, Ozzy, or the grandfather of “Shock Rock” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins used theatrical tricks to seem satanic, they were doing it not just to shock, but also to appeal to the puerile instincts of adolescent boys. And if these actions annoyed the boys’ parents, so much the better.
Mr. Crowley and Ozzy Osborne
The song, Mr. Crowley came into being as Ozzy and his band were working on his first solo album, Blizzard of Ozz. He noticed a tarot deck that had been designed by Crowley in the studio. He’d been reading about Crowley and thought there was a song there. A lot of the imagery in the song are direct references to incidents in Crowley’s life:
Mr. Crowley, what went wrong in your head?
Oh, Mr. Crowley did you talk to the dead?
Your lifestyle to me seemed to tragic
With the thrill of it all
You fooled all the people with magic
You waited on Satan’s call
Mr. Charming, did you think you were pure
Mr. Alarming, in nocturnal rapport
Uncovering things that were sacred
Manifest on this Earth
Conceived in the eye of a secret
And they scattered the afterbirth
Mr. Crowley, won’t you ride my white horse?
Mr. Crowley, it’s symbolic of course
Approaching a time that is classic
I hear maidens call
Approaching a time that is drastic
Standing with their backs to the wall
Was it polemically sent?
I wanna know what you meant
I wanna know, I wanna know what you meant.
The white horse is a drug reference. Apparently, Crowley’s afterbirth had been scattered and he tended to close letters with “Polemically yours.”
Ozzy wasn’t the only singer who was influenced by Crowley. A young David Bowie was an acolyte, as was Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Page even went so far as to buy Crowley’s estate in Scotland on Loch Ness. (I wonder if they saw Nessie?) And Satanic imagery abounds in the work of the Rolling Stones who even did a song entitled Sympathy for the Devil.
Heavy metal owes a debt of gratitude to the distorted memory of Edward Alexander Crowley.