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Lake of Fire is an American original, first recorded by the Meat Puppets in 1983, on their second eponymous album. More recently, it has been heard on the 1994 Nirvana cover, on Nirvana: Unplugged (a definitive performance can be seen here -- including some neat post-song banter, the whole thing providing a heartbreaking reminder of what a talent Kurt Cobain was, and how laid back a person he always seemed).

The song itself is a slow-rolling commentary of sorts on the Biblical reference to a literal "Lake of Fire" in Hell. Musically, the song is comparatively sedate, too slow to call punk tho punkish in attitude -- for some stretches, it almost carries a hint of southern rock. It is a fairly short piece with some neat jangly flashes, some versions running under two minutes. Even within that short play it consists of only two true verses, interspersed between three repetitions of the chorus:

Where do bad folks go when they die?
They don't go to Heaven where the angels fly
They go to the Lake of Fire and fry
(Won't) see them again 'till the fourth of July


The description of the fates of "bad folks" appears to be tongue in cheek (not surprising where the most significant cover shares album space with a cover of Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam). The first "verse" is an odd, almost out of place sort of melange, about a "lady who came from Duluth" who was "bit by a dog with a rabid tooth" resulting in her premature death, to which she went "howling on the yellow moon." It might be supposed that the lady in question is one of those bad folks that drive the theme, and those are the people squarely piled on in the second verse.

The crying and moaning of the condemned is related in the second verse, as they seek "a dry place to call their home" and "rest their bones." An interesting cap to this verse is that the angels and devils are said (or sung, rather) to be trying to make the condemned "their own." This is interesting in light of the common conviction that the angels have no stake in those who have ended up in Hell, that condemnation is eternal and without possibility of redemption after judgment has dispatched one to the hot spot.

But maybe the most interesting sentimentation is the bit about the Fourth of July thrice echoed in the last line of the chorus. The Fourth of July is a uniquely American holiday, so why won't the bad folks be seen again until that date? For good or ill, this suggests some connection to be drawn between the very being of America and condemnation, again underscoring the American nature of the song itself.

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