Slicer gets a bit light-hearted – maybe even a little light-headed.
In case you haven’t noticed (which is unlikely), Slicer is a Dylan nut. He regards Dylan as something of a luminary. He has relished wise, or witty, or downright obtuse utterances from the Mighty Zim - whether in his lyrics, or his handling of inane questions from the press. There is one exhortation of Dylan’s, however, which neither Slicer nor anyone else will be able to implement any longer, at least in the way that Zimmy envisaged. When Dylan arrived in Britain in 1965, he was asked by a journalist: "What's your real message?” He replied: "Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb." Even those who don’t usually follow Dylan’s advice will find themselves inconvenienced...
On 1 September 2011, a ban on the manufacture and importing of 60W incandescent light bulbs came into force across the European Union. The imposed switch to low energy Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFL) has been driven by a hope of reducing man-made contribution to climate change. Similar moves are occurring all over the globe. However, many have expressed resentment (some even in song) at the change being imposed rather than voluntary, and there is a widespread view that CFL bulbs trade several aspects of light quality in order to achieve their lower energy consumption. CFLs have been described as ugly, with harsher light, adversely altering the colour of illumination, and painfully slow at reaching a useable brightness. Slicer supports evidence-based conservation of the planet (even when the evidence is a bit shaky) but sees fit to mark the passing of what has been described as a mini-laboratory in a glass jar - and one which is a relative of Slicer’s beloved valves/tubes. Another big issue, with global consequences, is whether a whole species of joke is threatened. Y'know.... like 'How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?" Answer: "1, 2, and a 1234..." How very Ramones!
Light fascinates.... and has fascinated since ancient times. Slicer finds it curious that Genesis 1 describes light being created before the sun, moon and stars. The fact that the writer lived close to 3 millennia ago, and wasn’t attempting or equipped to give a scientific account, doesn’t automatically render him/his contemporaries to be so stupid that this was an accidental lapse.... they were aware of the sources of light in the natural world. The universe does have a certain ambience...
In his last post, Slicer drew attention to the notion that perhaps some things only exist by reference to others, eg their opposite. Light and dark are opposites, and it may be that we need one as a reference point to understand the other: it’s possible to define darkness as the absence of light, and light as the absence of darkness. Light has wave properties – it’s an electromagnetic vibration at a given frequency, or at a multitude of frequencies, and our eyes can only recognise a tiny fraction of them. So, it’s a bit like music then – music for the eyes. String Theory in physics suggests that all matter is derived from the vibration of minuscule strings, so maybe everything comes down to music...
So what music is fitting to play at the passing of this technological achievement? What should be the components of a Requiem For An Incandescent Bulb? Slicer has compiled a list, a kind of musical collage....
A good place to start would be with the guy usually credited with inventing it, Thomas Alva Edison. And Slicer can reveal the long-hidden secret of where Dylan got the idea for his “real message.” He has photographic evidence...
In actual fact, after Humphrey Davy generated the first incandescent light (tho’ not in a bulb), more than 20 inventors of the incandescent bulb are listed ahead of Edison. What Edison did was improve it to the point where it was reliable, generated useable quantities of light, and was suitable for mass manufacture. Edison is also credited for inventing the phonograph (rumours of whose death were exaggerated too), so it’s easy to understand the nickname he acquired – The Wizard of Menlo Park.
And it was impossible not to include something from the Jeff Lynne stable in the list. Tempting as it was to go with the Electric Light Orchestra’s “Shine a little love,” it was just too D.I.S.C.O. for Slicer’s tastes. (Debbie Harry doing Disco is an exception). In the end he went for the bright sunny disposition of another ELO classic:
However, with the performance of currently available CFLs, the first line of another ELO song (“Turn to Stone”) seems prophetic:
“The city streets are empty now, the lights don’t shine no more....”
Perhaps Bruce Springsteen was being prophetic too in 1973 - it’s possible to be rendered blind by too weak a light as well as by light which is too bright. Here’s an unusual Latin version of his song:
(Is this where the Steve Miller Band got the melody for “Abracadabra”? – have a quick listen again to the brass at the start of the Bruce vid... and is Bruce paying tribute to that great caramel & choc bar, Curly Wurly, at 3:12?)
The fascination with lighting up darkness shows no sign of waning amongst contemporary musicians. Take Snow Patrol, for example, from Slicer’s neck of the woods:
Rachel Goodrich, like Slicer, sees a connection between blue sky and tungsten filaments. Maybe she has the right attitude – one of hope:
“Light bulb hanging over my head I hope you never gonna go out...” - CFLs do promise longer, if not eternal, life.
The ‘other’ Bruce saw the same connection as Ms Goodrich:
and he described a particular source of hope in the song, giving Slicer one of his favourite quotes... relating to kissing and tongues.
Robbie Robertson’s song for the movie Ladder 49 carries the lines:
“Don't wanna be a hero, Just an everyday man
Trying to do the job the very best he can”
and it’s also an artistic linking of light and hope:
...even if it’s not as seminal, or direct, as the Jagger & Richards approach:
The Stones were, of course, heavily influenced by traditional American music, particularly the Blues. Leadbelly, who would have been an influence, popularized “The Midnight Special.” Here’s Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version, which is on theme too:
John and Alan Lomax, in their book, Best Loved American Folk Songs, claim that the Midnight Special was a train from Houston whose light used to brighten a cell in the Sugar Land Prison.
On an album featuring a train, Dylan (another artist who drew heavily on traditional music) described another source of light, which he craved more of:
Slicer started this piece with Dylan the luminary – so it seems fitting for a Zim song to finish the list. But it was hard to pick one to be the headline for the Requiem, so here’s the colour supplement - a gathering together of Dylan lyrical ‘enlightenment’:
“Lights flicker from the opposite loft” – Visions of Johanna
“You are there in the flickering light” – Where Teardrops Fall
“I see my light come shining” (or maybe not(!), with CFLs...) – I Shall Be Released
“Even if we’ve got to walk a million miles by candlelight” – God Knows
“Madams light the candles” – Love Minus Zero/No Limit
“Felt around for the light switch, became nauseated” – Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar
“I came to a high place of darkness and light” – Isis
“You’ll look back sometime when the lights grow dim” – Maybe Someday
“But tonight no light will shine on me” – One More Night
“The crowd began to stamp their feet and the houselights did dim” - Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts
“It’s dark and it’s dreary” – Beyond The Horizon
“When do you ever see the light” – Rita May
“But where do you live, Baby, and where is the light?” – Something’s Burning, Baby
“Light yourself a candle” – Subterranean Homesick Blues
“I saw thousands who could have overcome the darkness” – When the Night Comes Falling From The Sky
“Well, they’re not showing any lights tonight” – Tight Connection To My Heart
“Been shooting in the dark too long” – You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.
“Lights were low and dim” – Went To See The Gypsy
“Into her dark hallway she will lead ya” – Billy (1)
“Into her dark chamber she will greet ya” – Billy (4)
“It’ll be too dark for you to find the door” – If You Gotta Go, Go Now
“It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see”- Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
“It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there” – Not Dark Yet
“The light in this place is so bad” – Standing In The Doorway
and, of course, this rather prolific list wouldn’t be complete without:
“It ain’t no use in turning on your light, Babe” – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.
However, that other bright spark Thomas Edison, inventor extraordinaire, deserves the final quotation:
“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”
Time will tell whether CFLs are deemed real progress, or whether they will generate sufficient discontent to necessitate further improvement.