What is the light?

So I’ve had a song in my head all day. Sometimes that’s a problem, like the time I had “Moves Like Jagger” stuck there for about 48 dreadful hours after somebody had played it at work. Other times it’s just fine – pretty much anything by Big Star is welcome to park itself, and I listen to the Handsome Family and Freakwater so much that their music is there in my head regardless.

Today’s song was a good one, my favourite from the Flaming Lips album The Soft Bulletin. The cd I have was a gift from my brother, whose taste in music is impeccable and shaped much of my own. Without his careful steering, I may well have grown up listening to nothing but the radio charts (the US radio charts, I might add.) In fact, I remember the crossroads I reached at the age of about 12: the tension between my Irene Cara and Squeeze LPs when I set them side by side, my dedication to The Kids From Fame rubbing up against my adoration of the Beatles.

He won me over, eventually, my brother did. For my thirteenth birthday, he invited me to visit him at university, where he took me to see Elvis Costello playing a gig. It was the Punch the Clock tour; I remember there being go-go dancers in cages, and T-Bone Burnett opening the show. I remember too that when it was over, we slipped out the back door of the auditorium and gathered with a small crowd of fans, waiting for the man in specs himself to come out to his waiting car and driver. When he arrived, my brother pushed me forward – I never would have dared, myself – and watched while I asked Elvis to autograph the back of my library card, which was the only scrap of blank paper I had on me. (That’s right, I’m old enough to remember library cards before they were plastic.) Then I stepped back and took photos until a bodyguard came over and told me to stop. It was super cool, and the Kids from Fame conceded their defeat.

I’m digressing. As I said, the song inside my head today comes from The Soft Bulletin. When my brother reviewed the album for the Chicago Reader – over a decade ago now – he described it as “a record so full of beauty, wonder, and generosity of spirit that the Gideons should start putting it in hotel rooms.”

So here’s the song: “What is the light?”

May it play inside your head all day too.

One thought on “What is the light?

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