Ever since Mnemosyne, the mother of the muses, gave the wax tablet to mortals,
memory, writing and technology have been interconnected.
—Carolyn Guertin

Shaking the Chandelier Happy Birthday to Who?

Late February is tough on us Northerners. Granted, most of us aren’t searching the dark corners of root cellars for sustenance, groping for that last edible tuber. We’re not foraging fields and forest for scraps of firewood. And, yes, we bask in a few more minutes of sunlight each day.

Still, we eagerly gather around those who have recently returned from warmer climes. We’re drawn to them like moths to flame. These prodigal travelers are messengers of Spring: She’s wintering down south, but she’s not gone for good.

But tonight the gloom settles thicker than usual. There is no light from moon or stars. The lamps in the house are weak and dim. I could start a fire in the hearth, but that would mean going out to the wood pile, a task too monumental to contemplate. Any spark of energy I had is snuffed out by the nihilism of the cold.

A glimmer of an idea. Going for wood requires precious effort, but I have my laptop—and I have a song in my head. A long-forgotten song. A schmaltzy, heart-on-the-sleeve song. A song my grandparents and I used to listen to in the evenings, when my grandpa was sick with lung cancer.

Their little house would be snug and cozy. We’d be working on a puzzle, comforting ourselves by making order out of chaos. Michael Crawford would be on softly in the background, singing:

When you walk through a storm
Keep your chin up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Songs From Stage and Screen

This record never made it into my own collection. So tonight, the golden sky at the end of my storm is Amazon.com. I fire up the laptop, eagerly scroll through Crawford’s extensive catalog, and after many pages, there’s the familiar cover to Songs From Stage and Screen.

I smile. Michael is elegant and debonair in his intimate black-and-white portrait. Yet he’s slightly rumpled, like your worldly favorite uncle on a Sunday afternoon. You want to pull up a chair next to him and indulge in tea and sympathy.

I click the link and hunt for the MP3 download. Usually, I prefer the tactile, physical experience of a CD, complete with liner notes and annoying tape over the jewel case. But I want this music now.

To my chagrin, the digital download is unavailable. And—horror of horrors—I discover that the album is out of print. Now nihilism truly takes hold.

I flounder, mute in the cold glare of the computer screen. The quiet closes in around me. I am going to walk alone.

But now something pierces the dark night of the soul, cutting through the gloom like a beacon. It’s tremulous and bright—like light refracting off a disco ball. But it’s not a light.

It’s a vibrato.

Ah-ah-hah-hah! Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

Seriously, is there anything on earth like Barry Gibbs’ falsetto? It’s a sound so magnificent, so absurd, it wards off evil. I go to my music shelf and put my BeeGees on. I turn it up–loud. If I had any lamé, I would don it.

Whether you’re a brother
Or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive
Stayin’ alive

It’s been a while, and I can’t remember all the words. Before my rediscovery of the BeeGees—when it was just cheesy roller-rink music—Mr. K and I would have particular fun when we heard them on the piped-in Muzak at the supermarket. We were never sure of the lyrics then either.

Instead we sang,

Wiki wiki wiki wiki
Wiki wiki wiki wiki
Stayin’ alive
Stayin’ alive

Later we joked about the futility of trying to understand the New York Times’ effect on man.

Now I picture Barry and brothers—a trio of sunny Aussies with ‘70s medallions, fluffed-out hair, and bleached teeth—singing fervently about wikis. The night doesn’t seem so dark anymore. The cold, not so biting. I will go on. I can shoulder the brunt of winter a little longer.

Thanks, Barry. Thanks, Maurice. Thanks, Robin.  Thanks for the kindling.

And, Michael, sorry, you’ll have to walk to the wood pile alone.


Update #1: Michael’s not exiled after all. It turns out Songs From Stage and Screen is not out of print, but reissued with a different cover. In my haste, I overlooked this. Which leads me to wonder, was it really the song  I wanted, or just old friend to keep me company?

Update #2: The BeeGees can save your life–literally.  A friend just alerted me to this.

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