“You Don’t Go To Heaven By Yourself”

Mr. Stick again.

With a smooth launch behind us, it’s time for a break. I will be away from Pop Survivor HQ for a short while this week and some of next on a secret mission, but I may post from another of my mysterious destinations. Glenn will be busy carrying the bags and arguing with room service on my behalf, so don’t expect any of his “clever” remarks.

Before we board the Stickcopter, though, a little proof that Pop Survivor has a heart.

Until Friday, I would have said that I knew next-to-zero about Norway. “They ski a lot”, I might have quipped, “and their flag looks nice… Or is that Finland?” Now I know much more, but I really wish I didn’t.

I don’t believe that the dreadful events in Oslo have had quite the reflection in American pop culture commentary that we might have seen if this terrible thing had happened stateside. If, Jah forbid, last week had brought another Oklahoma City to today’s list-infested mediascape, you would have seen “10 Songs To Help Us Remember The Fallen” at least a dozen times by now. Even in 2001, it took about three days after the ‘Reboot of the Western World’ for us to get hit by an article touting Dylan’s “High Water” as relevant to 9/11, though probably as much because the album containing that masterpiece, Love And Theft, was released on the toughest retail day of all time, September 11, Twenty-Oh-One.

I don’t think we need a heap of cynical Disaster Top 40 lists to help us to deal with memories of the gloomily increasing body count of last weekend, or to grieve for children we never knew. Anybody who feels these tragedies deeply is likely to attach some piece of totally-unrelated art to the memory, and won’t need the help of a sidebar writer to do it. And such articles are an awfully trivial response, anyway. Especially when this event should be crippling enough for the terror it brought, but sadly is twice as depressing because it’s part of a long familiar pattern of… what? Madness? Every word I can find to end that sentence seems pretty small.

But at the same time, it’s not such a bad idea to notice new meaning in a song that reflects something about a place where most of us have not been, and where so many were lost.

Just one week ago, I became familiar with Robyn Hitchcock’s Goodnight Oslo, released in 2009. And, like a lot of great records when you first hear them, the quality and appeal of the songs set themselves in your mind quickly, but the lyrics only become clear and complete later. A first pass at Oslo the record did not leave me with an enduring picture of Oslo, the city.

Today, as I saw Goodnight Oslo coming up on Glenn’s iTunes playlist, I couldn’t help but wonder if any part of the title song might seem poignant in light of the bombing and killings.

Sure enough:

And so delicious floes
So easy from the clouds
In Sunday morning Oslo time
You fade into the crowd
Don’t go to heaven by yourself
You need a mission and a friend
I’m promising you soul to soul to soul
It never ends

Hitchcock says that the Goodnight Oslo album celebrates “the ghosts of the smoke age.” And well it might, but his song now personifies something contemporary: The exit of innocents from a place he painted so nicely for the rest of us.

Glenn is hosting an MP3 of “Goodnight Oslo” here.


Last album: Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool

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