“All things are apart. All things are a part.” We’re all lighthouse keepers, we stand alone and shed a light on what happens around us. We choose where to look and where to intervene, if we can at all. We’re all connected by our observation powers, we’re all apart because of the indiviual choice we make. We’re a plague because we are ubiquitous and everything happening around us plagues us.
It’s THE ULTIMATE METAPHOR.
And even though I didn’t get all of it in 1980, I got the importance. It took me years to listen again and again, the song plagued my ears as well. It made Pawn Hears my favorite album until now, it still is, #1 on my Album top 100 list. And who knows, it might keep its #1 spot in the next edition of the Album top 100 next year. If you follow me, you’ll know on Christmas Eve 2019, when I reveal the new #1 spot.
A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (click on pic) was also the #1 on my Song top 100 list in 2006, runner-up in 2016 and 3rd in 2011. The new edition of that list is in 2021, in which year I will reveal the #1 on my 60th birthday, 21 December (21-12-21).
Now let us listen briefly to Peter Hammill’s own explanation of this song:
“It’s just the story of the lighthouse keeper, that’s it on its basic level. And there’s the narrative about his guilt and his complexes about seeing people die and letting people die, and not being able to help. In the end – well, it doesn’t really have an end, it’s really up to you to decide. He either kills himself, or he rationalises it all and can live in peace… Then on the psychic/religious level it’s about him coming to terms with himself, and at the end there is either him losing it all completely to insanity, or transcendence; it’s either way at the end… And then it’s also about the individual coming to terms with society – that’s the third level...”
There is so much more, just a sample:
“I don’t want to hate
I just want to grow
Why can’t I let me
Live and be free? But I
Die very slowly alone
I know no more ways
I am so afraid
Myself won’t let me
Just be myself and so
I am completely alone”
“Myself won’t let me just be myself” is not just human beings coping with society but also with humanity itself. Social shaping, copying behaviour, the whole constraints of socialisation, it can take its toll. Compare this with the “no sham or fake” message of yesterday’s “Black Room” and you’ll understand why this was an issue of the young Peter Hammill (and of me, it still is).
This song is so multi-layered, both musically (it was recorded in intervals over a long period of times), lyrically and philosophically, that it will no doubt continue to fascinate me for the rest of my life. This goes for large parts of PH’s work.
And I was extremely lucky to witness PH play it live in a solo performance in 1981.
A long, healthy and prosperous life! Cento anni!