As I write this, I can still feel the dried tears on my cheeks.
I cried sheets of tears during the closing episodes of Halt and catch fire, a shockingly heart-filled alternate history of the computing revolutions of the 80s and 90s.
It was mostly because I knew I was spending the last hours with a group of people I’d become remarkably close to, after forty hours of television, and about fifteen years of their fictional lives.
But it was also because the perfect moment was accompanied by the perfect song.
TV has a way of working songs deep into your consciousness, and I think this one has got me. A good sound director recognises a song that creates a feeling, and I feel like this song has driven a lot of those feelings.
There’s a rehabilitative process in soundtracking. Every song becomes a pop cliché once it’s been around long enough, and it’s hard to shake off some of the naffness of history. But some combination of nostalgia and revisionism slowly open your heart, and let’s things in.
Solsbury hill is a song I would’ve cast aside as pap in my youth. Corny and cheesy, fusty and bland.
But now it lives in my heart, warms me, fills me, opens me up.
My heart going boom, boom, boom
It’s about climbing up a hill, and touching the sky. Letting the abundance of nature into your heart.
It feels like marching up a hill. It has that tugging effort, and the constant sense of opening out. It relentlessly marches, expanding and lifting. A (mostly) 7/4 time signature pulls it onwards, ever onwards. Like a lot of rhythms just shy of a simpler 4, (cf some future piece about Hey Ya), it gains a relentlessness from the sense of nearly catching up with itself. Perpetually.
It even satisfies that, with tiny slivers of 4/4 at the ends of each chorus.
It’d be a cheap trick, if it wasn’t so breathlessly perfect. If each of those choruses didn’t feel exactly like reaching the top of a hill and sucking in a stunning view.
I’m never where I want to be
There’s a feeling I absolutely adore in music. A physical feeling, generated where harmonies thicken and open out. It feels like my chest is pulling outwards. Like my world and my heart and my mind are getting bigger.
I think it’s a trick. I think it’s just playing the same theme on slightly more instruments, while simplifying the chord just a little. Giving a bit more space to the sound, but also a bit more heft. Each element of noise feels more particular, more personal. And I am lifted.
Peter Gabriel, from the little I know, is excellent at this. He has a concrete grip on the space of a song, the weight of it. And he uses it here to create a constant, permanent outward swell.
You aren’t just climbing a hill, you are expanding your view. Expanding your whole world. The song does it too. Even right to the yelps of boggarts and elves in final crescendo.
The song takes you by the hand with that opening guitar hook. Pulls you along with strings and words. And fulfils every promise it makes.
Just had to trust imagination
Not many people could make your heart go boom boom boom with the words ‘my heart’s going boom boom boom’. But here it’s perfect.
It’s archetypal explodeypops.
My heart’s going boom boom boom.