I got my copy of He’s Able from eBay in the summer of 2000. It arrived with a flyer catalogue with other sundry items for sale, such as the Pam Anderson/Tommy Lee sex tape, and video footage from the Columbine High School security cameras showing Harris and Klebold on their fatal spree.
I was half-expecting a home-burned CD-R, but surprisingly this was somewhat professionally produced product. Somewhat. Things like the cheap graphics and miscut insert – you can see the margin where scissors didn’t quite follow the crop line – all but scream “indie label!”
The CD is titled “Jim Jones: Live From Guyana, 1978” with a subtitle “The Last Speech & Songs by the Peoples Temple.” There is no track listing on the back, only two apparent descriptions: “Jim Jones: His Final Speech Live in Guyana, South America November 18, 1978” and “The Peoples Temple Cho
rus Performing Songs during their final service on 11/17/78.” In one corner are the words, “Michael Hunt Publishing ©2000 All Rights Reserved” and in the other, a box that would normally hold a UPC bar code. Tellingly, the box is empty. The CD itself has a grainy reproduction of a picture – I suspect of a structure at Jonestown – and says only “MHP ©2000 All Rights Reserved.”
The cover butterflies out into a six-panel foldout with text, quotes and pictures on each side, including an anonymous to Jim Jones letter and the picture of Jones from his spider monkey-selling days (complete with the waggish caption, “A young Jimmy Jones bones up on mind control techniques” which often accompanies it.) All the pictures have the pixilated blur typical of computer novices who haven’t quite grasped how to properly convert a .bmp to a .gif.
Surprisingly, there are several pieces of information about the makers of this offering:
Michael Hunt Publishing ©2000
P.O. Box 6366 Chicago, Il 60680
CD Mastering: Chicago Music Service
CD Design: A.E. Bugbee
“Michael Hunt Publishing” is the brainchild of Shane Bugbee (“Mike Hunt” being a homophone for “my cunt”) and A.E. Bugbee is almost certainly his wife Amy. The two of them have developed a cottage industry around serial killer memorabilia and artifacts. Sadly, their knowledge isn’t as firm when it comes to self-destructive sects, as demonstrated by the egregious error of misidentifying what is obviously a studio recording of He’s Able as a live recording from Jonestown. Granted, there was some music played for Rep. Ryan’s benefit the night before he died – snippets of which survive on the NBC video tape of Ryan’s tour – but this blatantly isn’t it.
The CD is 74:11 long and has 12 tracks. As expected, the last track is the White Night of November 18 – with a curious exception I’ll mention in a minute. I have not compared the quality of this recording against vinyl originals of He’s Able, so I can’t say how it stacks up in terms of quality. It certainly seems serviceable. Likewise I haven’t checked it against other copies of the final White Night, though I did listen to it while reading the transcript available on the Alternative Considerations website, and it seemed to be faithful to it.
That said, this CD is different from other versions of He’s Able for two reasons.
First, it is actually incomplete. The song “Simple Song of Freedom” is missing, with the playlist jumping from “Because of Him” to “Black Baby.” Why it was omitted is a mystery: a CD can hold up to 80 minutes, and since “Simple Song of Freedom” is only 4:15 long there is certainly enough room to fit it on.
Second, the track of the final White Night opens with part of a Jones address to the Jonestown community recorded before November 18. It is informally known as the “War Whoop Sermon” as Jones exhorts to his followers to call out to their enemies in the jungle. This addition to the death tape is 2:18 long and much of it can be found on the NPR program “Father Cares” (38:15-39:59.) Curiously, the version on my CD sounds slightly cleaner than the one on NPR, and a few parts are slightly different at the beginning. I suspect (but cannot prove) that this is studio trickery on behalf of the CD’s compiler, likely editing in a sound loop from elsewhere in the segment.
The website and 888 number listed in the CD are no longer associated with Michael Hunt Publishing, but I was able to track down Shane Bigbee on his MySpace page. I wrote him with questions about this CD, but as of this printing he has not replied.