The scene is an old church, functional and Victorian in design but operating in the 21st century so there are mics and keyboards scattered around. The pianist, tall and young, is sitting practicing before the service begins. He plays something, not a hymn or a worship song, something more modern. I take a few seconds to recognise it, then smile when I do – it’s a song about swimming at night, encrouching into the sacred.
There’s another scene; a crowded pub, fairly non-descript but with a great jukebox. In the corner, sitting beneath a 50+ inch TV broadcasting an unwatched football match, is a group of twenty- and thirty-somethings, discussing jobs and films and random science. Then anticipation – the song on the jukebox nears its climax and then, in unison, everyone shouts “LEONARD BERNSTEIN!” and they’re happy.
A new scene – an arena, thousands of people focused on one man, thin and enigmatic, a blue stripe across his eyes. It was a good night.
Another scene, this time a rock video. It features a traffic jam and then, as one, and as the song ends, everyone gets out and walks. It’s an image that lives with me, and now, everytime I’m stuck at roadworks, I believe, if only for a second, that I could get out of my car and walk across the traffic towards liberty.
And then one last scene – I smile to myself as I hear a song on the radio; the song is great in itself, but the moment at which it becomes icon is the singer’s giggle after mentioning Dr. Seuss.
Thank you REM, and goodbye.