Featured album – 666 – Aphrodite’s Child

Anyone who has intelligence may interpret the number of
It is a man’s number
This number is 666

—The Apocalypse of John, 13:18

Yes, indeed. A prog-rock album from 1972 based (somewhat loosely) on the Book of Revelation. “Loosely” because some of it seems to be based on that and in some cases they seem to have said, “Oh the hell with it, let’s just rock.”

And one song – “Infinity” – is just, well, the Greek actress Irene Papas simulating an orgasm. For five minutes. (Which really, really made the record company happy). And the last side (on vinyl) is just a twenty-minute instrumental.

So, if you’re concerned that these guys are invoking the Antichrist, worry no more. As much as I like the album, I’m not sure they were 100% certain what they were trying to say. In fact there was such an internal conflict within the group between pop and progressive styles that by the time the album came out, the band had gone their separate ways.

Who were Aphrodite’s Child? They were a Greek progressive rock band formed in 1967 by Vangelis Papathanassiou (keyboards), Demis Roussous (bass guitar and vocals), Loukas Sideras (drums and vocals), and Silver Koulouris (guitar). They worked mostly in Paris due to a repressive military regime in charge in Greece at the time.  

Inspired by Tommy and Sgt. Pepper, director and writer Costas Ferris wrote the lyrics, Vangelis the music. You may well recognize Vangelis’ name as a purveyor of a somewhat soft-rock symphonic sound as well as the writer of the score for the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire for which he won an Oscar.

He also composed the Blade Runner score, his music was used in the original Cosmos TV show and he collaborated with Jon Anderson of Yes. (Anderson was reportedly a fan of 666 and asked Vangelis to replace Rick Wakeman in Yes).

This was not, to my knowledge, a widely-played (at least in the States) or particularly well-known album. How I happened to hear it is that in the early ’70’s I visited an old friend of mine who was then living in the Tampa, FL. area.

And the song, “Aegean Sea” was a pretty big regional hit. It’s a nice moody tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Pink Floyd  album. (These songs sound fine out of context but the album is best enjoyed in its entirety):

And just in case you’re wondering where the really spooky shit is, check out “The Four Horsemen”:

I mentioned that the album weaves in and out of being about The Book of Revelation. Here’s a perfect example of NOT being about that. These are a cookin’ couple of numbers, “Battle of the Locusts,” morphing into “Do It.” These guys rock so fucking hard it makes me wish there had been more Greek rock bands. “Do It” was named for ’60’s Yippie Jerry Rubin’s book.

According to Wikipedia, “The central concept [of the album] is a countercultural interpretation of the Book of Revelation, in which a circus show based on the apocalypse performs for an audience at the same time that the real apocalypse takes place outside the circus tent, and at the end the two merge into one.” Ah, the Sixties. What the hell. Makes about as much overall sense as Tommy.

Like Dark Side of the Moon, this album taken together creates an undeniable mood. It’s mysterious and even a little creepy at times. AllMusic says this:

“An amazingly bombastic concept album about the Apocalypse of St. John seen as a rock spectacle. Demis Roussos wails the lyrics in a frantically operatic falsetto, while the band pound fiercely through Vangelis’ furiously complex music. It certainly has its moments, but the entire set eventually becomes too overwhelming to sit through.”

I agree with all of that. I think there’s a lot of terrific music on this album but the first two sides do the most for me. If you care to hear the whole thing, here you go: