Once upon a time, a man named Willard “Mitt” Romney ran for the presidency of the United State of America (ask your parents). Coming from a dirt poor family of successful businessmen, politicians, lawyers, and leaders of desert religious cults, his dark horse campaign became a rallying point for the millions of Americans of all (white) stripes who found the communo-fascist regime of Professor Barack “Space Hitler” Obama mildly inconvenient. To them, he wasn’t just a politician but a folk hero battling the degradation of our society, a business-savvy Paul Bunyan chopping down taxes, an extremely pale John Henry putting up one last wall of resistance to the forces of non-heteronormative mongrel modernity.
They even wrote songs about him. Well, one guy with a pre-programmed RadioShack keyboard wrote songs about him:
He wrote a classic sea-shanty about how Romney would hurl Obama out of office “Early in November”:
He wrote a song about how Obama is trying to bring about World War III, and Mitt Romney is trying to save us, and if you “keep your wick trim” God will let you into heaven:
William Tapley, by the standards of people on YouTube who film themselves in front of green screens, is somewhat of a renaissance man. He’s not just an accomplished songwriter, but a theologian, cultural critic, and—he claims—both the “Third Eagle of the Apocalypse” and the “Co-Prophet of the End Times.”
These two bizarre titles are taken from the Bible, of course. A retired Ethan Allen employee, Tapley sees himself as a servant of God warning mankind about the imminence of the apocalypse so that we can properly prepare. Over the last 6 years Tapley has posted more than 350 videos explaining his various prophecies garnered from the books of Esther, Daniel, and Revelations, pouring over Apple iPad commercials searching for repeating numbers that indicate the presence of a secret message from the Illuminati, and drawing new prophecies about the coming Antichrist from the hit K-pop single, “Gangnam Style.”
These videos, though, are long, meandering, erudite affairs. Most of them have run times greater than 10 minutes. They involve all sorts of close-examinations of shadows cast on walls in 1.5 second stick footage clips cut into advertisements and long recitations of inscrutable Bible passages. The modern apocalypse-minded YouTube viewer just doesn’t have the attention span for all that. So in order to jazz up his message for generation viral, he uses his songwriting skills to translate the insane ramblings of his syphilitic mind into catchy keyboard tunes as well.
To me, what’s most astounding about these songs isn’t their obvious insanity. It’s the way in which they’re almost successful pop songs. He’s just flipped a couple pre-programmed beat switches and then started pounding. And yet there’s a way in which that crushing simplicity works. His songs have an eerie charm almost like the work of a Daniel Johnston or—perhaps more precisely—the late Wesley Willis.
He’s not as haunted as Daniel Johnston or as triumphantly joyous as Willis (nor quite so blatantly mentally ill as either of them) but the pattern does seem the same—very simple, sincere songs about very simple, sincere subjects performed very simply and sincerely. And just like that sort of music was charming in the age of Guns N’ Roses, it’s still charming–maybe even more charming–in an age where every single musician and band no matter how underground has the production values of Guns N’ Roses.
It’s pretty hard to imagine that Tapley’s songs will ever achieve anything like the fame or cultural importance that Johnston’s and Willis’ have. They’re not quite poppy enough in their structures, and you’re going to be hard pressed to get anyone at Pitchfork Media to confess to the outsider musical genius of an aging fundamentalist Christian who thinks our first black president is a servant of the Antichrist and that the Germanwings plane crash was the result of Satanic possession.
But Tapley’s has found a significant audience. He has over 15,000 subscribers and many of his music videos have more than a 100,000 views. There are even people who delight enough in Tapley as a musician that they make cover versions of his songs. Some of those covers are, of course, somewhat mocking, and others are produced by people who are clearly even more insane than Tapley, but a few of them are real attempts to do homage to his work:
Whoever made that cover version above took time out of their life—a significant amount of time—to compose that music, sing that song, polish it all up in Garage Band, and make that detailed music video. William Tapley may be a lunatic, but he’s a lunatic who through the magic of the internet has managed to find people who will listen to him, who will validate and encourage his work and art. That would be heartwarming if everything he stands for wasn’t delusional and repulsive.
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