Collective Soul’s “Shine” Soon To Be Christened Virginia Tech’s “Helter Skelter”


Two roommates of Virginia Tech gunmen Cho Seung-Hui told CNN’s Gary Tuchman on Tuesday night that the 23-year-old English major listened to a lot of Zeppelin and Nirvana on his laptop, but he mostly played the same song over and over again: Collective Soul’s “Shine,” the 1993 release off of the Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid album.

Any time an individual indulges in anything over the top before committing a crime, lawyers salivate (the Twinkie defense) and the media overblow (consider us part of the problem as we head this off at the pass). By 11:17 pm last night, the Wikipedia entry for the song already included information about Cho Seung-Hui’s listening habits. (It was removed from the entry by 1:30 am. Editor’s note: It’s back now at 3 pm.) The creepy guy who supposedly used to stalk some women on the campus and wrote shitty plays, ended 32 people’s lives this week. Virginia Tech will be sued, over and over and over again. The media were quick to pin blame on the university for not warning students sooner, and you can be sure today they will start to pin blame on the counselors and police who interacted with this Cho Seung-Hui in the past and didn’t lock him up for good.

Should be a day or two before they add “Shine” to the pantheon of the deranged alongside The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” (which Charles Manson claimed to be the diagram for the coming apocalypse after directing the Tate and Labianca murders), U2’s “Exit” (which Robert John Bardo claimed drove him to kill My Sister Sam actress Rebecca Schaeffer), Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution” (one of the many songs nineteen-year-old John McCollum listened to in the Osbourne canon before shooting himself in the head in 1984), and KMFDM’s “Son of the Gun” (the Columbine douches). KMFDM had to go as far as put out a public statement in the wake of those school shootings.

Compared to these songs, “Shine” — with lines like “Teach me how to speak/Teach me how to share/Teach me where to go/Tell me will love be there. . . Oh, heaven let your light shine down” — sounds like a church hymn. (Though in McCartney’s defense, “Helter Skelter” was evil in its chords and blisters rather than its going-down-the-slide lyrics). Dolly Parton covered “Shine” — hell, she won a Grammy for it in 2002. But that’s not going to stop someone from tracking down Ed Roland for analysis on how his band helped usher in the post-grunge era with a limp, whimpering spiritual — and how it may never be played in Virginia again, thanks to some asshole, who like so many other assholes have throughout history, woke up one morning, decided to end it all, and thought it prudent to take some innocents down with him.

Bill Jensen

Update: Cho Seung-Hui also scribbled the lyrics to “Shine” on his dorm wall. From an ABC News report:


Cho seemed to take solace from music, which his roommates said he obsessively downloaded from the Internet. One of his favorites was the song “Shine” by Collective Soul, which he played over and over.

He even scribbled some of the song’s lyrics on the wall, said his roommates, writing: “Teach me how to speak; Teach me how to share; Teach me where to go.”

Trey Perkins, a student who saw Cho during the shooting spree, said it was unreal, “being that close to a monster.”


Also, an excerpt of the original CNN transcript below. . .

TUCHMAN: Did he like music, for example?

ANDY: Yeah, he did. He listened to a lot of rock, a lot of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, “Shine Down” by Collective Soul.

TUCHMAN: You were saying that there was one song he kept playing over and over? What was that?

ANDY: It was “Shine Down.”

JOHN: Yeah.

TUCHMAN: By Collective Soul.

ANDY: Yeah.

TUCHMAN: Was there any reason? He would just keep playing it over and over and over again?

JOHN: Yeah.

TUCHMAN: And was this on an iPod or on stereo speakers?

JOHN: It was on his laptop.

TUCHMAN: His laptop. And you guys heard it?

JOHN: It would wake me up in the morning sometimes.

TUCHMAN: And I actually think it’s a good song, but to hear it over and over again would probably drive you nuts, right?

JOHN: Yeah.

TUCHMAN: Like, what did you say to him?

JOHN: I never said anything because…

TUCHMAN: How come?

JOHN: I always thought he was kind of a fragile guy, at the time. That was still before — I think before the police came and I just didn’t want to say, hey, turn that music off or switch the song because I didn’t have that kind of relationship with him.

TUCHMAN: Did you ever say anything about that to him, Andy?

ANDY: About the music? No. Never.