Glen Campbell and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Country Weekly recently ran a cover story about my old employer Glen Campbell and his ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s. It sounds like the disease is really starting to take an emotional toll. As some of you know, I was Glen’s video director when he had his own music theater in Branson, Missouri in the 1990s. I was around him and sometimes his wife Kim (who occasionally came to the theater) almost every day for three years. So I find it quite sad to read things like this: “Kim shares that Glen suffers side effects such as anxiety, agitation and depression. ‘One time, he couldn’t use the television remote,’ Kim says. ‘He knew what it was but couldn’t figure out how to use it. And he got so agitated that he threw the remote at the television.'”

If you’re among the large portion of this blog’s audience that’s interested in apocalyptic matters, you might be interested to learn that in 1991 Glen recorded a really fine song about the biblical Four Horsemen. Titled, appropriately, “The Four Horsemen,” and appearing as the final track on his Dove Award-winning album Show Me Your Way, it was written by legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb, whom I’ve talked about here previously, and who wrote many of Glen’s most popular songs from his 1960s-70s musical heyday, including “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Galveston” (the last of which, interestingly, is a song whose interpretation by Glen as a patriotic anthem Webb strongly disputes).

At his Branson theater “The Four Horsemen” was always presented as the finale of the show, complete with a pretty stupendous live performance by the Matthew Dickens Dancers in full costume portraying the end of the world at the hands of the horsemen, who were portrayed by the dancers as a cosmic warrior figure, a Grim Reaper-type figure, and more. The performance also included animations that were created by artists from Don Bluth Productions — you know, the big Disney rival that produced The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and more — and projected onto the big I-MAG screens to show scary-looking horsemen galloping down from a starry night sky.

These days, I’m gripped by a kind of existential vertigo whenever I think back to my mid-twenties and remember that I used to be immersed in that apocalyptic extravaganza ten times per week as I directed its live video portion. That was also during a period of my life when I was independently studying comparative religious philosophy, Greek tragedy, existentialism, Zen Buddhism, H. P. Lovecraft, weird supernatural horror fiction, ancient Middle Eastern and European history, and evangelical Christian theology with a truly obsessive fervor. It was also the same period when my sleep paralysis assaults began to occur, and when I was foraging through the first few years of marriage and post-college life in search of a direction. In retrospect, the fact that my job required me to witness and help produce a musical-theatrical interpretation of the biblical apocalypse from the Book of Revelation multiple times per week seems almost impossibly perfect. You don’t have to be Carl Jung to pick up on the synchronistic symbolism there.

A few times in the past I’ve looked to see if anybody has posted Glen’s “Four Horsemen” to YouTube so that I could share it here at The Teeming Brain, but the answer was always no. Today, however, I’ve happily discovered that this has changed. Somebody uploaded the song three years ago, set to a nice (if thematically divergent) montage of images of Glen himself from throughout his career. So here it is for your listening pleasure. I urge you to turn up your speakers and enjoy the experience, which may not be as personally meaningful to you as it is, for obvious reasons, to me, but which I think you’ll probably dig anyway. Somewhere I still have a few VHS tapes of those Glen Campbell Goodtime Theater performances. Maybe some day I’ll get around to digitizing one of them so that I can show you what that Four Horsemen stage show looked like.


In any case, here’s wishing the best to Glen as he lives through his own personal apocalypse. I don’t say that flippantly. In the Christian and Jewish traditions, an apocalypse is not all about destruction but about revelation, about the unveiling of the divine cosmic and extra-cosmic truth. It’s ultimately a wonderful thing, no matter how horrifying its seems during its unfolding, because it means the clearing away of falsehood and the emergence of God’s unobscured, unhindered reign. (Of course, in the Lovecraftian and Ligottian vein of the supernatural horror fiction that I have read and written for so long, the unveiling of reality as it really is turns out to be quite problematic. But that’s an issue for another time.) May something like that be true for Glen and Kim and their family as they all navigate through the painful unpleasantness of their current circumstance.

Postscript: This has turned into a day for me to learn sad news from my show business past on more than one front. After typing the above paragraphs and mentioning the Matthew Dickens Dancers, I decided to do a Web search for current news about Matthew himself. I only had the pleasure of meeting him a handful of times at Glen’s theater in Branson, and I, like everybody else, found him to be was a very nice and approachable guy. As his Wikipedia entry makes clear, he was also an amazingly talented guy who did great work on Broadway, television, and elsewhere (doing extensive work, for example, with Debbie Allen). And it turns out that he died six months ago, on January 8 of this year, after a battle with cancer. Suddenly, I’m starting to feel sort of old.

Here’s a demo reel that I just discovered on YouTube. It showcases some of his choreography work, some of which was quite high-profile. Also note that that the man himself appears onscreen at the 15-second mark. Rest in peace, Matthew.

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Posted on July 3, 2013, in Arts & Entertainment, Religion & Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Learning of someone passing after they are already dead is a horrible experience. When I found reiki, and consequently spiritualism and Shinto, and initiated myself.. Chaos descended on me like jacob’s ladder in genesis.. It was after I came out of emergency that I was told that my best friend had killed himself after a battle with daemonic forces inspired by his Adventist upbringing. He was schizophrenic , they say. My Vietnamese room mate had scurried down the Hallway after asking her about some horror movie to watch on the tv or something, I was still within a spirit world for sure as my hospital stAy was short. Whole experience was dreamlike and she ran down the hallway like the whole house was in the presence of the dead. The dead were near her too. Which was why this traditional Vietnamese woman’s was hospitalized too. I learned of this passing of my friend when I called his families house looking for him to hang out. It was then after confronting my group home master of the house about my friends death, and it was hospital policy not to tell me. So then I told everyone else. I was closest to him, my buddy, and the Vietnamese girl liked him too, everyone liked him, but we weren’t told until I called on him myself . The answer through the phone by his brother was simply he’s dead, and then he hung up. He had died sometime during my communion experience . Synchronicity. Yeah for sure…

  2. Sorry but I felt like relating my story. I had seen Save The Green Planet! At fantasia film festival, a Korean movie, really great. Gave me “ideas” heh and at this time was … Sane. After my communion experience and hospitalization, some months of chaos had gone by and it was a few months later I learned of his death. I had invited him to see these films with me at fantasia film festival, he was down, depressed wouldn’t come . In my excitement didn’t talk to him for awhile. Then later heard what happened. He overdosed, on purpose.

    Save the green planet is intense. See this film. Something very odd and very Korean about it. I now go to school where this festival, called fantasia Iis held, at montreal’s Concordia university. Most incredible film festival in the world, always fantastic stuff, meaning the fantastic., very mystical films.

  3. It was the first year I went too. In save the green planet, the young guy in the film is psychotic thinking his boss has orchestrated an alien invasion of earth. Think Whitley strieber kind of alien contact, author of communion which I read as a young child. Now I am the butt of the joke practically . And his psychotic delusions are instigated by his dying mother. Seriously intense movie, failed in Korea for being billed as a romantic comedy. Amazing film.

  4. Ok sorry one more word about this movie which parallels my life eerily, it is a qixotically Korean film, about a guy from a very Korean rural family, and the theme song is a punk rock rendition of over the rainbow.

    Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me.. Away above the chimney tops is where you’ll find me.. If birds fly over the rainbow why can’t I? Really fast rollercoaster, that rainbow. I flew…

    Film uses this song to very good effect


    This is just one scene of the movie where his alien boss reveals to him the history of man’s life and creation on earth.

    There is nothing like this film. Very fast cuts, like Paul veerhoeven or john boorman, film moves along beautifully, and it is scenes like this one that really showcase the spectacular cteativity and genius this film maker had, also the writer, he made this one film, to tell something very personal to him and then he disappeared .

  6. Interesting blog. Check out this video. At around 11 minutes there’s a brief segment of the Four Horsemen performance.


      To the person commenting on my blog, this is a Korean shaman communing and yoking herself to a man suffering from drug addiction, to heal him, she kills him, and she reduces the room to tears.


      There’s a part 1 to that video I posted where she binds her spirit to him, and rebirths him. This is another video where a female shaman talks about calling to the sky gods, the sky is potential for contact, chaos. Korean shamans commune with chaos for spontaneous immediate contact , maximum potential maximum risk for guaranteed contact. My blog elucidates on the writings from Vietnam and japan and Korean and Victorian spiritualism that have this perspective. In Vietnam the analogy for the sky is instead the lost souls beyond the family pantheon. The famous anthropological work that explores this is dreamtime by Hans peter duerr, concerning the boundary between wilderness and civilization . The wilderness is a field of potential; chaos.

    • Its a Lovecraftian cosmology. Opening the gates for possibility of descent and communion, through eros .. much like the writings by Arthur machen, you have to want and welcome, -anything- . If you welcome to -everything and anything- success comes easy.

      So first, potential.. the sky, the wilderness, the abyss.. comes anything and everything.. come what may.

      Then, the offering of yourself, emptying yourself, the entreaty and invitation into ritual space.

      Then commune with what you have available, so to speak. The minute you limit yourself, shun, block, whatever, everyone else in the occult will tell you to be wary. Shamans who succeed aren’t. They invite, entreat, and open, then to commune within darkness, for the first time, is easy.

      First comes a willingness to breach the confined of your individuality to shared space for what can enter, for what may enter. As a novice your only choice is a house party.

      That’s how it’s done. It’s odd I guess and scary but an open house is an open house, something will come in.

  7. OK.. another film might as well recommend this too.. Secret Sunshine. A woman loses her child to an abduction and murder in a small town.. she is overcome and sick with grief, she joins a charismatic church.. at one point of the film her friend and his buddies are watching her worshipping outside, they make an allusion to Korean Geomancy, worship at cairns on sacred mountains, they talk about feeling the chi and laugh about it, then the film moves along and it is the last you hear about it, again something peculiarly Korean, Korean Christianity and Korean Geomancy , in the film, spoken, explicit, save the green planet is like this it has this shamanic subtext

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