Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's a bit like one of those Kilgore Trout novels

There once was a man who found himself atop the world's tallest building, listening to Thin Lizzy's "Still in Love With You" off the "Live And Dangerous" album. You know, the version that carries on for roughly eight minutes and has that beautiful-simple bass line where you can just imagine Phil Lynott lost in his druggy haze with four strings being his only reality. And right where the second guitar solo kicks in (a) -- right after Lynott moans, "Help me see it through, I'm still in love with yooooo" -- the man set himself on fire and jumped from the top of the building.

With music blaring and the whole great world stretched out below him, here are some of the things the man thought as his flame-engulfed body sped toward the ground:
- "This is so beautiful, so amazing, so incredible! My soul is overflowing. My heart is singing."
- "This hurts so much. The pain is excruciating. I can't take this."
- "I'm lost. I've got nothing to hold onto but this feeling. There is nothing solid, nothing real."
- "I'm going to die. Oh, God, I'm going to die. This is going to kill me and it already hurts so much. I just wish it would end."
- "How did I get like this? Why did I do this to myself?"
- "I just can't ever fully get into my head that Phil Lynott was Irish. It just messes with the mind a little bit."
- "Why does it have to end?"

Meanwhile, a woman sitting at a cafe at the foot of the world's tallest building, sipping a white chocolate mocha, heard a noise and looked up. The noise she heard was screaming. Or perhaps laughing. Or perhaps both. Singing, too. All emitting from a ball of flame plummeting toward her from half a mile above. Calmly dropping her mobile phone into her purse (she had been texting her friend), she picked up her mocha and stepped back about three feet just as the screaming, laughing, singing ball of flame tore through her table and extinguished itself in the inexorable sudden unmovingness of pavement. So sudden was the stop that the sound it had been making continued to echo down, its last words being: "Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!"

The woman walked over to the smoking lump of a thing and nudged it with her foot. She emptied the contents of her coffee cup to extinguish the last little flame and walked away.

"Wait... wait... wait... wait..." breathed the man, too quiet to hear.

He coughed to get back the breath that had been knocked from him. The dull ringing ache of his head kept him from moving right away, but after a moment or two he straightened out his legs, sat up and rubbed his neck.

"My clothes are ruined," he thought. "But no broken bones..."

He pulled his iPod from his jacket pocket and, using the back of the personal stereo, checked his reflection. Hair's a mess. But no scars. No, wait, there's one. A pretty good one, actually. In a weird sort of way it made him look a little more dignified, more mature -- like he had lived a little.

As he did this, with his head still muddled, the iPod quietly whirred back to life and started playing "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison.

"Ooh, this is a great song," the man said to himsef.

He got up, made a half-hearted effort to fix his hair and then walked over to a little patch of manicured green lawn, where he sat and looked at the world's tallest building and thought: "You know, I probably -- probably -- wouldn't do that again. Or, at least, not do it exactly that way. But I don't regret it."

After a few more moments, he realised that the iPod was stuck on repeat; "Tupelo Honey" was playing over and over and over. But the player was banjaxed, and he couldn't get it to play any other song. All he could do was adjust the volume. So, unwilling to go without music, he sat there listening to the song for almost a fortnight -- sometimes turning it up, sometimes singing along, sometimes nodding his head to the rhythym, sometimes feeling warm and content in the song's layers, and sometimes getting quite bored with it and turning it down in order to try to think of his own songs to sing.

One day, cold and tired from sitting still for so long, the man got up, turned the sound on his iPod down so low that it was almost unnoticeable, and went to see the Gourds perform live in concert.

"Holy shit!" he screamed into the noise of the evening. "Holy shit! I love this!"

All around him was warmth and dancing and laughing and singing. And the band took the crowd everywhere -- up and down, fast and slow. Everyone wailed at "Port Arthur," they whooped and howled to "Burn the Honey Suckle." And the joy swelled in the man's heart and filled his lungs.

But when the concert ended he fell into inconsolable tears because the Gourds' albums aren't available through the UK version of iTunes.

(a) No truly great song has just one guitar solo.


Llyr said...

Lovely stuff. Dwisio darllen mwy

Unknown said...

"(a) No truly great song has just one guitar solo."

Most have zero.
(Says the bitter trombone player.)

Anonymous said...

Never liked Thin Lizzie as a band, but Phil Lynnott was a top bloke. i once played pool with him in the Students Union in Cardiff Uni.

I also once did the same with Captain Beefheart can you believe.........

Toodle pip

heatherfeather said...

I've been thinking of a comment for about 10 days. And ultimately I've decided on, this is one of my favorite things you've ever written.