Friday, April 10, 2009

Stars of Track and Field

Thanks to the randomness of the iPod shuffler, I had the experience this morning of hearing Belle and Sebastian's The Stars of Track and Field while walking past the actual track stadium my employer university.

(Note - the fact that this seeming synchronicity occurred does not mean that the shuffler is non-random or that the iPod has a "mind"; sometimes random things are meaningful in non-random ways. If it really had a mind, then why did it recently play Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama before Neil Young's Southern Man, rather than after, Sweet Home being the answer song and all?)

I was struck by how perfect and inspirational The Stars of Track and Field is. It was the first Belle and Sebastian song I ever heard and it was the likely cause of me hearing and owning every other song they've (legitimately) released.

There are four verses in the song and each verse's opening line is so good that what follows has to work hard to equal it.

Verse 1 opening line - Make a new cult every day to suit your affairs
(about as meaningful as ten words could ever be)

Verse 2 opening line - Have you and her been taking pictures of your obsessions?
(hammers home the sexual/visual themes/ambiguities)

Verse 3 opening line - Could I write a piece about you now that you've made it?
(you already have; you're singing it... but to ask permission is pretty bad-ass)

Verse 4 opening line - Could I write a requiem for you when youre dead?
(don't let what I just said get to your head; is this the requiem or is that another song; maybe the most poignant line ever written)

And in between is the wonderfully melodic / artfully simplistic chorus:
The stars of track and field, you are
The stars of track and field, you are
The stars of track and field, you are
Beautiful people

From third person to second, it's enigmatic enough to inform and puzzle the listener at the same time. And tuneful enough to sing along all day after hearing it first thing in the morning.

When I walked past the track stadium this morning in the just-past-sunrise Los Angeles (non-fog) half-mist, the people running in the six-laned oval or stretching in the grassy middle were not the stars of track and field. The stars show up around mid-day with their pole vaults and aerodynamic shoes that weigh less than zero. These were the university employees getting a round of exercise in before their 7 1/2 hour work day. I recognized one of them - she's on one of the many many many committees I have found myself a part of over these past few years. She runs all the time. If she's not running, she's walking. She's painfully skinny which i could criticize her for but she's the one running, not me. I'm the one who fills out half-marathon registration forms and then changes my mind about hitting "submit" because I just don't know if I'll be ready by November. I could easily be ready by November if I work hard enough and get up 30 minutes earlier.

No comments: