Thursday, March 10, 2005

Funeral music

You may remember that Kevin Michael Grace has asked for suggestions of songs to be played at one's funeral:

I've invented a new game, which I'll share with you. I call it Memento Mori, and I suppose it's a variation of Desert Island Discs. "If you could choose one piece of music to be played at your funeral, what would it be?" Again, I'm not interested in "appropriate responses"; I want to expose character. (But you could recast this game into a two-parter as well.) If you'd like the funeral march from Eroica to send you off, that's fine. If you'd prefer "Hey Ya!", "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down," "Misty Mountain Hop" or "Hippy Hippy Shake," that's fine too. I make no moral judgements.

Upon further reflection, I am thinking that this is kind of a hard choice to make.

I've always been fond of Amazing Grace, even after I learned that I was not actually descended from John Newton, the slaveholder-turned hymn writer, who wrote the song. The message of the lyrics is very poignant, and true in my case.

(Family scuttlebutt aside, it turns out that I have an Anglican minister amongst my mother's ancestors. The same the-truth-will-out process happened regarding my grandfather whom, it turns out, did not play for the Glasgow Celtic youth team. Rather, he suited up for a British Army team in post World War One Iraq.)

A modern worship song that I quite like is I Could Sing Of His Love Forever by Delirious.

Those would be my real choices.

But, I think that Kevin might have fun suggesting a song for me. I invite him to go ahead and do so, shouild he feel inclined.

The problem with a lot of secular music, when playing a game of this kind, is that the lyrics don't match the sort of statements that one would want to make about one's life. (Although there is occasionally an eerie coincidence. Buddy Holly had just released "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" shortly before his death.)

That said, I have a suggestion for someone with a dry sense of humour and more sang froid than I have. I know what song I would not dare to pick to be played at my own memorial service. It comes from a Joe Meek compilation that I recently bought for myself. (Joe Meek, you may recall, was the very quirkily brilliant British musical producer of the 1960s. You have probably heard of Telstar, the famous instrumental that he wrote and produced. Aside from his music, I find Meek's own story--for one, Meek was convinced that the late Buddy Holly was giving him hints from the afterlife for good songs via a ouija board--to be amusingly intriguing.)

The song, which for some reason failed to enter the British charts in 1961, is 'Til the Following Night by the "classic British loon" Screaming Lord Sutch.

It opens with unearthly moans and screams, rattling chains and creaking doors. Lord Sutch then sings these lyrics to a thumping beat:

When the shades of night are falling/
And the moon is shining bright/
In the center of the graveyard/
In the middle of the night/
I get out of my big black coffin 'til the following night

No don't play that at your funeral. It wouldn't go over well :)