Sunday, 8 July 2007

Out Of This World


On January 4th 1967, Donald Campbell set out on his final attempt to set a new water speed record; his craft, Bluebird K7 flipped at a speed in excess of 300 mph and crash landed in the water, killing him instantly.

This song is about him, which is made explicitly clear in the opening section; it refers to the Bluebird by name and the lines "Three hundred miles an hour on water/In your purpose built machine" couldn't really be about anyone else. But that's really just a reference point from which to examine the desire we all have to constantly stretch ourselves further than we've ever been, to stretch ourselves to breaking point. To boldly go where no man has gone before.

It's when we move away from the specific and into the general that this song really shines; "Only love will turn you round". It's one of the most sublime moments they've ever put to record, the way the piano, Hogarth's voice, everything just steps up a gear at the same time; the sun breaks through the clouds right there, for a little while.

But it's never enough, you can always be more, reach higher, always give in to the fire that burns and consumes until there's nothing left. Some of us can supress that urge; Donald Campbell never could, and it killed him. Steve Hogerth fears that it will do the same to him throughout Afraid Of Sunlight. This is the centrepiece of the album, which hits straight to core and examines the burning desire, rather than its effects.

The opening could stand to be a little more broad in its evokation of Campbell's memory, I think; the opening lines don't quite flow as well as they ought to, and the denoument perhaps lasts a little longer than it needs to. But the centre point, the lynchpin holding everything together, the sun around which everything else revolves, fearfully? It's just perfect. Only love will turn you round.

This song was also the inspiration for a project to recover the hull of the Bluebird from Coniston lake, because it might be terrifying, and maybe it will even kill you, but if you don't listen to that voice, that urge to jump; well, you'll never get anything done. All things in moderation.

Video: Out Of This World
The song, set to footage from a 1988 BBC dramatisation of Campbell's crash, starring Anthony Hopkins. You really couldn't find a better visual accompaniment to this song.

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