This is possibly going to be one of my funeral songs when I eventually kick the proverbial bucket. Well, that got things off to a positive start, don’t you agree? Yes, let’s think about the inevitability of death whilst listening to the following ditty. Well you might not be at that “certain age” yet where either you have lost one or both parents (or indeed parents-in-law if you are married) or where friends are starting to pass away. Yes, these things happen. You can’t help but think about your own death when this stuff starts to happen. I suppose then you start to thing about all this stuff… writing a will, picking funeral songs etc. Cheery post this one, ain’t it?
So now play this…
I wonder if that was what quite what you expected?
“Do You Realise?” is not a funeral dirge. It is not a depressing song. I don’t think I would want it played at my funeral if it was a depressing song designed to make you cry (and I’m inclined to ban the wearing of black clothes at my funeral too). I think “Do You Realise?” is an incredibly uplifting and optimistic song despite dealing with the bleakest of realities. It is a song that delights in the incredible odds of life, a song that celebrates life in all its weird and wonderful moments but ultimately reminds us that life is but a fleeting moment and a moment that will eventually end.
Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize we’re floating in space,
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry
Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die
Wayne Coyne’s fragile vocals which, as with so many of their songs, seems to be pitched right at the top of his vocal range in order to make the sound like the melody might crack and fall apart at any moment to remind us of the real fragility of existence. However, when you add in all the chiming bells, it really starts to sound like a Christmas song with no bleeding references to the happy Crimbo event itself – err, like the vast majority of Christmas songs these days (oh, there I go off on one of those annoying tangents again)! Let’s get back to the happy subject of death because I can’t think of another song that deals with the subject with such positivity – hell, I’ll even admit that I enjoy the uplifting key change that would require Boyzone to get off their damn stools (er, did that date me everybody?).
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Those must count as some of the most meaningful lyrics ever committed to paper (or computer, hey) concerning the subject of death. Even though my father tried to raise me as a good Catholic boy, I don’t believe in any God or any specific religion. However, that does not mean that I am such a science obsessed atheist that I will believe that science has all the answers. I don’t know. I think a lot of people will be of the same opinion: we just don’t know what happens after we die. The sun goes down but comes up somewhere else. Life goes on! Therefore, you have to find comfort it what works for you. Music works for me.
So when I die, I’m not really bothered about what happens to me – whether I get buried or cremated or turned into a piece of jewellery or even form the fertilizer for growing a tree (although these last two options sound pretty cool, don’t they?) because it is not really about my wishes, rather it is what will provide comfort for my wife and children and grandchild and my extended family and my various friends. I’d like it to be fun because I’d like to think that I tried to be a fun guy (resist joke coz I don’t have mushroom in this blog, geddit?). Although I’m realistic enough to admit that there have been times when life has fucked me up and my more negative attitudes have dominated my mental health. I don’t expect people not to “speak ill of the dead” when it comes to me death. Sometimes I was a complete arsehole. Sometimes I actually enjoyed being a complete arsehole. That’s life. Deal with it.
However, saying that, I do have some suggestions for some pieces of music that might help to say something about me, my attitudes, my beliefs and perhaps communicate something to my loved ones who will be left behind. “Do You Realise?” is certainly on that list.
The Flaming Lips are not afraid of throwing everything at a song to create the impact they want. So there sounds like more than one acoustic guitar strumming away. There are bells and chimes of all sounds that are probably meant to sound like funeral chimes (but remind me of happier sounds, maybe more like wedding bells than funeral chimes). Then you get the layers of synthesized zongs and boings and chings and ting tings and other stuff going on (especially if you get the headphones on – oh memories of listening obsessively to Pink Floyd like that). Then you get the swathes of angelic backing vocals that were no doubt intended to sound like a chorus of heavenly host welcoming you into the ever-after. Oh, and if you watch the video, you get bagpipes and an added pig cameo. What more could you possibly want out of a song about death for goodness sake?
The song was apparently written whilst their multi-instrumentalist, Steven Drozd, was going through heroin withdrawal. Another story concerning the circumstances behind it is that is was inspired by the passing of a Japanese fan of the band who they had got to know very well whilst touring on in that neck of the woods. Another story is that it was inspired by the passing of a family member. Which ever story you believe (or if you believe all of them or none of them), it is interesting to wonder how circumstances as dire as those mentioned might have led to a song that looks with such positive passion and optimism at the subject of death.
Oh, it has just occurred to me that some of you happy listeners (or should that be readers?)out there in internet land might not be familiar with The Flaming Lips.
If you don’t know The Flaming Lips, they are a psychedelic art-rock band from Oklahoma City, USA. They are famous for their live shows which often feature an overwhelming and mind-blowing visual feast of neon-bright digital imagery, whilst accompanied by an often ear shattering wall of sound interrupted by bursts of the most beautiful melodies. I took my eldest son to see them play at The Eden Project (for their series of concerts called Eden Sessions) a year or two ago. It all kick-started with what seemed like several billion balloons, of varying sizes and colour intensities, being released into the audience. I had forgotten he had once had a bit of a childhood phobia of balloons – yes, I will never forget the look of combined fear and joy as Eden was filled with streamers and other miscellaneous “party shit”. Combine this with Wayne Coyne’s habit of getting into a Zorb ball and then rolling over the top of the heads of the audience, and it makes for a sensory overdose. Oh, and don’t forget the audience members who will dress in a theme – when I saw them there was a real Wizard of Oz thing going on.
You think I’m making this shit up, don’t you?
Check out this footage from Glastonbury:
Experimentation is central to the continued existence of The Flaming Lips who have been active now as a band since 1983. They once experimented with parking lot concerts where they would create soundscape tapes and then invite people to meet at a specified parking location to play the tapes on the systems in their car. Wayne Coyne would then conduct the resulting sounds for maximum artistic effect. They did boom-box experiments. They released an album called Zareeka which comprised of four disks that could be played separately or simultaneously to create sonic adventures. They never expected to hit the big time and create what many people consider to be one of the ultimate reassuring death songs.
However, their experimentation is very much tied to the connection they have with their audience. “Do You Realise?” is quite often one of the final encore songs with the audience and band seem to unite in their combined joy of being alive. It remains one of the most joyful and celebratory moments that I have been able to experience for many, many years. Yes, and they unleash loads more balloons, streamers and miscellaneous party shit into the audience, and even my boy had the biggest smile on his face at this point coz that is the effect that The Flaming Lips have. They put a big “glad-to-be-alive” smile slap bang on your face.
If you have a bucket list, make sure that seeing The Flaming Lips goes onto it.
If you have any other suggestions for song that you think should be played at my funeral (hopefully in the far, far distant future), please don’t hesitate to make a comment using the handy comment thing below.