I promise, I listen to other music. Typing this, I am listening to Flume’s Skin, which contains two songs that are on my running playlist, “Never Be Like You (feat.Kai)” and “Say It (feat. Tove Lo).” However, I keep thinking about another song, “Desert Island Disk,” by Radiohead. (It is also on my running playlist.)
Why this song and why now?
Writing “My Music Journey, Part 1,” I revisited my youth. I wrote about AJ Hunt, but I was thinking about other friends from my pre-adolescent years, including Chris Overholser. The sentimental feelings forced me to do a little research. AJ Hunt is not on Facebook, at least under that name, and Chris passed away in 2014.
I am not a good friend. How could I not have known that my first friend died? I found his sister on Facebook. I told her that I have thought about Chris over the years, and he showed up as a secondary character in “D I D.”
“Of course, it’s a made-up version of him,” I wrote, although it’s hard to understand if you’re not a fiction writer. “But he’s still an important character to me.” The conversation stirred thoughts of “D I D.” It is my story, but I love it. I knew from its birth it was going to be good.
Originally titled “Desert Island Disk” after the song of the same name, it is the story about a man fleeing in his car. As he drives, music carries him to his most important memories. And because of the title, there are exactly eight songs and eight memories. They are my desert island discs. But you have to remember that I am a fiction writer. Because there are fragments of me, it does not mean there are “true” memories in the story version. (The songs are eight songs I like, but I chose them based on the stories they could help create.) Although I loved my early drafts, my advisors unknowingly led me to the realization that the title of the song is “Desert Island Disk,” not discs. I focused on the “memory” that felt right, and my friend Chris became a part of it.
Titles are important, especially in music. I learned this in a Comparative Arts class I took when I was an undergraduate student. Jim, the teacher, told us that titles help us understand abstract art.
“Titles give you a place to stand when the art is not objective,” he said. “With music, you cannot grasp it, hold it. You cannot see it, unless you have Synesthesia. Titles become important. They lead the work’s audience.” (I totally made up this quote, but I am crediting Jim for the idea. It is one of the things I took from his class.)
“Desert Island Disk” is different from instrumental jazz or classical music. There are lyrics. Together, the lyrics and music give a feel and concrete ideas. It tells a story that a listener can follow. Ok, fair enough. Maybe it is not the most linear story. It could be considered vague. The narrator, I am choosing “he” because Thom Yorke sings the song, is on his way, but what does that mean? “Born of a light/The wind rushing ‘round my open heart/An open ravine with my spirit light.” I do not have access to official lyrics and websites publish different versions but the majority say “with my spirit light.” However, one version says, “in the spirit white.” I love this because it places the narrator in a land full of spirits and suggests that he has died. “To another life.” “Totally alive, totally released.” We can also feel the meaning in the music. Take away the guitar. Where are we? Floating with “my spirit light.”
Can this be a metaphor? Of course. In the early version of my story, it is a man fleeing a relationship. His “spirit,” his heart, and his head are waking up from the stresses of a long-term relationship. And he feels slightly guilty. But the point of view of the song becomes second person, and he pleads for “you” to understand. He is free, but not totally. That is why the lyrics end with “Different types of love/Are possible,” with “Are possible” repeating. He wants “you” to understand and accept his position.
Easy, right? Yes, but yesterday I saw a friend’s posts on FaceBook and Instagram, and it sent my thoughts a different direction.
The posts were photographs taken of a large, distant valley and “the endlessness of a body” of water. They were not atypical photos by this person, but the text got me. I am going to paraphrase. Find solace in the infinite depths, when the immediate fails you and When my essence weeps, I go here to replenish the needed elements. (The paraphrases are awful compared to a poet’s words, but…)
Yes. “[M]y open heart/An open ravine.”
The narrator of “Desert Island Disk” pleads to “you.” However, this “you” is not an individual, but us. It is an anthem for all the same hearted spirits. It is the story of a heavy-hearted soul that has awaken with refreshed eyes to sees the beauty of us. We are not alone. “You know what I mean/Standing on the edge of/Yeah, you know what I mean.”
Friend, hear me. You are Beautiful.Sad. But you are not alone. Feel the wind, the light. We are in those elements that replenish your essence. Remember this. And like the title “Desert Island Disk” suggests, forever carry us with you.