02 March 2006

nick heyward - "whistle down the wind" (from north of a miracle lp, available for purchase here.)

i've always thought "whistle down the wind" a gorgeous turn-of-phrase, the meaning of which i'd been in the dark about. for too long, i decided, and so before writing this, i looked into the matter and discovered that it has at least several meanings. nick heyward, former lead singer of haircut 100, fuses two of the meanings on this single; "whistle down the wind" is used to express both a quixotic task (getting together w/ an old flame) and a hope that word will spread, that the wind--or perhaps airwaves--will take it up and deliver it where it needs to be. whether heyward has committed catachresis when the results are so exquisite.

there was something about the '80s--many somethings about the '80s, yes, but in particular it was a great decade to be sad ("don't worry be happy" in 1988 was a natural market correction). it was a great time also for sad-sounding records to sound fantastic : never before or since has sadness sounded quite so glorious. poor nick heyward, he's imprisoned in his room, no light but for the candle, looking out of his window as if he were in the tower of london. the music is such, though, that one is, as frank sinatra, glad to be unhappy. abba might have started the jolie-tristesse w/ 1980's "the winner takes it all," but "whistle down the wind" takes it to some kind of peak. produced w/ geoff emerick, who probably just got off imperial bedroom detail, "whistle down the wind" is a soft bed of cascading pianos, fretless bass, and agile orchestration, its power only amplified by heyward's imagery (roses "bloom and breathe," old photos w/ "a freckle and a famous feature") and a chorus so melancholic and sincere you'll want to turn up your collar : "hello, hello, hope you're feeling fine ... "

the one meaning heyward doesn't incorporate now seems to be the standard definition, i.e. to abandon something, to let it go. in that sense, "whistle down the wind," the record, is ironic. as the increasing volume and tempo demonstrate, nick seems anything but resigned to his fate : as his candle whistles, the torch he carries only grows in incandescence. down the many years since its release, the same can be said of "whistle down the wind."

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