There was a light that went out

by Simon

Mark Eitzel – Firefly

When I heard this song I’d been through a prolonged period of partying. I was in love – or maybe just lust – with a girl – we’ll call her ‘Irish’ – I shouldn’t have been. And moody, good God was I moody. Having a hangover can do that to you I guess. The world was pretty up and down at that point. And it hit a pretty low point when her boyfriend and some of our friends found out. Cue lots of shouting and crying, finger pointing and cold shoulders.

And to make matters worse, the usual tunes wouldn’t lift my spirits as they usually did.

At the time I was working at a certain Megastore on Oxford Street so I had a pretty big bag of new tunes to try out to see if I could break the mood I was in. I’d heard a song or two by this band American Music Club which I’d really liked so I went to their section in the racks. Unfortunately we were all sold out at that moment, but there was a solo live album, Songs Of Love Live by their singer Mark Eitzel. Hmmm, I thought, I’ll give it a listen.

The opening track on that album is Firefly. I’ve since heard the studio version, and several cover versions, including one by Everything But The Girl. The original studio version is a bit slick, a bit country rock, but pretty enough.

The live version is just Mark and a borrowed guitar. It’s rough, soulful, and shambolic; indeed it nearly falls apart in the middle. But it was the most beautiful thing I’d heard. And it sounded like music for a man to live his life to, rather than the teenage soundtracks I’d previously consumed. (Of course at that time I was behaving like the biggest little boy around. Hindsight is cruel)

I’m not quite sure what it’s about, a lot of Mark’s songs sound like they could be about love, but there’s a lot of death and drinking and weirdness around the edges. Firefly could be about a doomed love affair. Or it could be about a love affair with somebody who’s doomed. I’m not sure. And now it sounds like a place I don’t want to visit again. But back then…I dived in head first and almost drowned.

The thing with ‘Irish’ got heavier for a while, and then fell apart almost overnight. And afterwards all that was left was this song. And for a little while it was completely coloured by the life I’d been living. Sometimes I have to leave songs behind when that happens. The stains don’t wash out. But thankfully this song now stands mostly on its own, free of stupid behaviour, and raven haired Irish girls with twinkly eyes.

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