Fire in the Fields Underneath the Blazing Sun (Theme Music Monday)

I first heard this song in 1988, at age 13, and it fired my imagination like few songs had ever done.  The first verse talks of a people defeated and enslaved, but not broken.  Even as they suffer “for someone else’s selfish gain” they sing songs to their God.  The second is darker, more metaphorical, with its talk of “chambers made for sleeping forever.”  It was not until I was somewhat older than I understood what that meant (“waiting for the train labeled with the golden star” should have clued me in, but I was thirteen).

Though I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t get the historical references (the Jews’ enslavement by the Pharoahs of Egypt and the Holocaust, respectively) at first, the sentiment and imagery struck me to my heart.  This was the universal cry of outrage at human cruelty: “Man hurts man, time and time again, and we drown in the wake of our power. Somebody tell me why?”  But more than that, it was the hope that comes from faith.  Even at thirteen years old I could understand that.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the album, and especially the song, “Lead Me On” jump-started my dream of writing.  Though at thirteen, I was hardly writing prose, I began to compose narratives, imagine characters, and inhabit the themes.  I suppose I would be writing if I had never heard “Lead Me On,” but I think I would be a very different writer, a very different person.

It was while listening to this album that my mind started to imagine Tarafore, the fantasy world of my young imagination.  While many things have changed, the image of a group of warlords rising up to break the world, the conquer, to enslave, stuck with me.  The themes of faith against tyranny, sacrifice against cruelty, hope against domination have informed my writing – my best writing at least.

I believe in this song.  This song is a part of me, a part of who I am.  It’s one of those things that’s helped shape me.

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Would I Spend Forever Here and Not Be Satisfied? (Theme Music Monday)

It had to come down to this, the song that is not a part of any one book I write, but everything I write, the song that is as fundamental to my imagination as reading C.S. Lewis, watching the first Highlander, or hearing the legends of King Arthur.

Sarah McLachlan’s 1993 U.S. breakthrough song, Possession.

 

I had heard sweet-sounding music.  I had heard dark music (though, frankly, not so real and thoroughly dark as an obsessed and ultimately suicidal stalker).  But I had never heard the two brought together so powerfully.

Although I don’t usually like music videos, I’m glad I saw this song first.  The American video (shown above) conveys the intricate dysfunction of the lyrics.  Close ups of Sarah’s face create an sense of intimacy, a sense of being closer than we actually are, putting us viewers into the shoes of the stalker.  But the film is marred, intentionally distorted, projected over moving sheets and rough walls, then filmed again, producing a surreal face-scape and mindscape.

I was eighteen years old when I first heard this song.  Prior to fall 1993, my musical tastes were mediocre at best, with a few bright spots.  I mostly listened to whatever was on the radio, and gravitated toward the shoddy hard-rock of the era (okay, Metallica has never been shoddy in concert, but they were the exception).  Aside from Peter, Paul, and Mary, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Amy Grant, and Heart, my musical tastes sucked.

Then I saw Possession, and everything changed.  I became enthralled by powerful, complex lyrics, complex but understated musical compositions, and emotionally charged music.  Granted, I still liked hard rock, but Queen and Meat Loaf (okay, nothing understated about him, but still) became more interesting than typical radio songs.

My imagination shifted, and although I was still a dumb kid and an awful writer, a corner had been turned.  VH-1 played it between midnight and 2 am almost every night, so I stayed up late, losing sleep just for the chance to see the video, to hear the song.  I never thought I would be one of those people who says that a song changed their lives, but this one did.  No joke, no kidding.

I’ve seen Sarah McLachlan in concert three times, in 1994 on her Fumbling Toward Ecstasy tour, in 1999 at the Lilith Fair, and in 2011 on her Laws of Illusion tour.  Possession has blown my mind every time.  It still does something to me every time I see the video, every time I even hear the song.

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