This morning, in a waiting room, I started Raffi Khatchadourian's long, vivid piece in The New Yorker, "Azzam the American," about Adam Gadahn, a 28-year-old Californian who is now "one of Osama bin Laden’s senior operatives."
It's an epic piece, and I barely made it to the part where he converts to Islam, before my wait was over. There's a lot of material about his earlier obsession with death metal, and some interesting background about his father, Philip Pearlman, the son of a prosperous Jewish physician and his Protestant wife," who would later change his last name to "Phil Gadahn."
One day, while walking near the ocean, Pearlman had a religious epiphany. As Adam described it in an essay he wrote after his conversion to Islam, “My father was raised agnostic or atheist, but he became a believer in One God when he picked up a Bible left on the beach.” As Pearlman opened the Bible and began to read it, he became aware of a divine presence. The experience affected him deeply, and he alluded to it in his music. Some of his religious ideas were evident in an album he made in 1975 called “Relatively Clean Rivers.” Pearlman’s lyrics evoke a world that has strayed from divine truth into Babylon-like confusion. He describes a “vast Orwellian wilderness” and the “journey we all must take” within it to achieve “relative perfection in our own special tiny corner of the universe”—a journey not unlike his own.
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A few hours later, I visited the "FM Shades" site (dedicated to resurrecting old lost vinyl—they made that rare VU recording available a couple of weeks ago), and came across information about an album called The Electronic Hole:
Extremely obscure 2nd Radish label album, 150 copies originally issued in 1970. "Raw, noisy, droning and completely mesmerizing album recorded by Phil Pearlman between the first Beat of the Earth album and Relatively Clean Rivers....
I just noticed: In a strange coincidence, that FM Shades post was put up on September 11 of last year.