Denny Sinnoh's "Akihabara Starlight"

ghost horse image

I found mysticism and beauty in a surprising place this past week. I have been haunted by a ghost horse for six days now. My recent post about nicknames for Ponyta included the song “Wildfire” by Michael Martin Murphey. At first, I was just being my usual goofy self, and I wanted to include this song about a horse I remembered from the 1970s.

It was a hit in the mid-70s. I must have heard it at least a hundred times on AM radio back then. I may have heard it many times, however I never actually listened to it.

Back then, I was a teenage rock-and-roller – I was listening to a lot of Aerosmith, KISS, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, etc. I was a leather-clad hormone-driven heavy metal teen and too “cool” to listen to some hayseed song about a pony that broke down its stall. It could be said that I could not appreciate “Wildfire” because I was too much of a jackass.

Like too many of things in this life, we don’t realize the simple beauty of things right in front of us. Fortunately it was not too late for me to enjoy the mysticism and beauty now.

The emotions and the lyrics were lost on my teen self during that period, and I am sorry about that.  Last week, I prepared my Ponyta post, but the more I listened to the song, the more beautiful it became to me. I’m listening to it right now …

Thank you Mr. Murphey … I finally get it.

Before my words evaporate into the bogging ether, I want to share a couple of versions of the song, and I hope that you can find a special moment the way that I did.

The first is from a 2007 performance on “The David Letterman Show”. Paul Shaffer does a great job with the piano intro. The rest of the band seems really into it. Letterman himself is impressed and comes out to congratulate Mr. Murphey at the end. Mr. Murphey stresses certain words in the song in this version, but it becomes very heartfelt. You may not ever listen to much “Cowboy Music” but I hope that you can connect to the same emotions that I experienced. Don’t be so cynical — allow yourself to feel it.

The story from Wikipedia was that talk show host David Letterman loved the song. He would discuss with bandleader Paul Shaffer the meaning of the lyrics — particularly the line about “leave sodbustin’ behind” (that part gets to me too). Letterman described the song as “haunting and disturbingly mysterious, but always lovely,” and surmised that the performance would leave the studio audience with “a palpable sense of … mysticism, melancholy … and uplifting well-being.” They invited the singer to perform, and of course Mr. Murphey nailed it as seen here.

The second performance is longer and contains extended instrumentation. They lengthen the piano intro and ending. Both are wonderful. If you like, the original studio version is linked here. So many times I ignored it as it flowed out of a car’s AM radio …

Other references from Wikipedia: The song was made fun of by Dave Barry in an article he wrote about awkward songs (I do like Mr. Barry’s humor, but he was way off about this song). Of course, I was wrong to think it was a hokey song all those years ago. The song is also referenced in an episode of “The Simpsons”.  Lisa played the song for her pony on her saxophone. She introduced it by saying “This next song is also about a girl and her pony. It’s called ‘Wildfire’ “  I think that means it was a tribute!

The full lyrics are listed below. I will interpret them after.

She comes down from Yellow Mountain
On a dark flat land she rides
On a pony she named Wildfire
With a whirlwind by her side
On a cold Nebraska night

Oh, they say she died one winter
When there came a killing frost
And the pony she named Wildfire
Busted down his stall
In a blizzard he was lost

She ran calling Wildfire
She ran calling Wildfire
She ran calling Wildfire

By the dark of the moon I planted
But there came an early snow
There’s been a hoot owl howlin’ by my window now
For six nights in a row
She’s coming for me I know
And on Wildfire — we’re both gonna go

We’ll be riding Wildfire
She ran calling Wildfire
She ran calling Wildfire

On Wildfire we’re going to ride
We’re gonna leave sod bustin’ behind
Get these hard times right on out of our minds
Riding Wildfire

The song is open-ended enough that it could be interpreted in different ways. 

The song starts out by explaining a legend. A woman (or is she a spirit woman?) dies trying to eek out a living on the desolate Nebraska Plains. The song says that she come down from “Yellow Mountain” however there is no Yellow Mountain in Nebraska. Perhaps “Yellow Mountain” is derived from the Indian name for a mountain where gold was once thought to be found. Perhaps she gave up prospecting to settle on the plains. The woman dies, and her horse who loved her so much cannot stand living alone anymore. The pony “busts down his stall” and runs out into a blizzard – perhaps no longer caring about his own life. Without her, any life thereafter would be too painful.

A question remains: How could SHE go running calling out “Wildfire”? She was already dead. Was she calling to the ghost horse to join her? … or was she sad that the pony gave up his own life?

The story shifts to the protagonist a man currently struggling to make a living in the western Nebraska plains.

Now, I do not want to insult any potential readers in Lincoln or Omaha, however I must say that western Nebraska in winter is a desolate place. Early pioneers called that part of the Plains “The Great American Desert” as it was so hard to farm. (I will digress: If you have ever seen the Clint Eastwood movie “Unforgiven” — the Gene Hackman character says at one point: “Dead? No, but even I thought I was dead once, but it turned out I was just in Nebraska.” Indeed it is a harsh environment.)

I like that part about “by the dark of the moon I planted” as in the 1800s there were farming rules about planting according to the phases of the moon. It was superstitious perhaps, or had to do with the ancient trial-and-error wisdom of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Plains.

western Nebraska 1910

Farming peoples would plant, fertilize, harvest – even pick the right time to castrate a horse – all according to the appropriate moon phase. (I am not making that up or trying to be funny.)

The lyric “there came an early snow” means that his crop is killed again and again.

That part about  “There’s been a hoot-owl howling by my window now” is significant. You young otaku may not know that an owl outside your bedroom window is a bad omen in western and hill-people culture. He know that his death is eminent. He knows that the woman will come for him (is the ghost woman someone important to him?… perhaps an ancestor?)

During the Letterman performance, Mr. Murphey’s voice breaks at the “we’re both gonna go” lyric. It is a great emotional moment. If you listen I hope it takes you there.

He will starve too, as he has perhaps given up on life – however this is arguably not such a bad thing. He will die, but he knows that he will join the spirit of the woman and ride Wildfire. He will “leave sod-busting behind.” No more demeaning and futile dirt farming. No more struggling with the harsh realities of this existence. They will be together in the afterlife: “Get these hard times right on out of our minds” …

We tell ourselves when a loved one dies: “They are in a better place”.

I hope that you young otakus never have to have the experience of witnessing a loved one pass away over a long, grueling, painful illness. At some point, there is no coming back, and death is the release. I hope you enjoying these touching and mystical elements in song.

Starlight: 40 lightyears ago –  I was a jackass. Don’t point the telescope there.

ponyta card part

Instead, name your Ponyta “Wildfire” … and please visit Mr. Murphey-san’s website linked here.

Advertisements

Comments on: "My more “grown up” reflections on the song “Wildfire”" (1)

  1. dogeconomics said:

    Perhaps she ran out into the blizzard after Wildfire, calling his name. Maybe they died out there together.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud

Retro Gamer Ireland

Retro video game nerd with a love of nostalgia and all things gaming.

J and K Blog

J for Jpop and K for Kpop!

Writing Under The Shades of Blue

I write not just to express but to explain.

Brian Camp's Film and Anime Blog

Flash Gordon meets Cowboy Bebop at Shaolin Temple

YuriReviews and More

YuriReviews is a blog about everything yuri~

ANIME ANIMÁCIÓK

ANIMÁCIÓS GYŰJTEMÉNY KÉPEKBEN

SilentReaders

Just Readers

Kurayami Monogatari

Would love a comment every so often <<

愛の演歌: Love of Enka

A blog about my passion for Enka music~

Gastradamus

Gastradamus is my name, and Gassy Topics are my game!

Rationalising The Universe

one post at a time

The Reviewer's Corner

The Sometimes Serious Corner of the Internet for Anime, Manga, and Comics

Pinky's Palace

All Things Anime

Tokyo Five

A family of five in Tokyo, Japan...

Life Confusions

"I Will Find Words, Smith them Down. For Love Is Infinite And So Are They."

Fantage Chatter

Lost in Words

Manga Toritsukareru Koto

"We are not obsessed. We just need anime and manga in our life."

Inner Thoughts of an Extrovert

Thoughts and ramblings from an extroverted anime fan.

2+2=4

AKB48 Shipper? welcome

百合 Goggles

百合 Is Life

Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi

Japanese Culture Magazine for the perpetually Cute and Cool

Rhino

My Journey through Video Games & Geek Culture

The Punch Bowl

raw feelings and thoughts

Dyversions: Blog of 1,001 Games

The [mis]adventures of a gamer and shopaholic

~noor~

I'm not an author. I write only to render a bit of joy...and happily be a part of sad and coy! Your life is my canvas and your smile is the enhancement of my creation!

Falconhaxx

This and that, sometimes and occasionally.

Anime Reviews and Lots of Other Stuff!

Where We Can Watch Our Anime in Peace

Pokécology

Ecologically overthinking representations of space/place and nonhumans in pokéverse! Updated Fridays

JapanTrekker

Explore Japan!

Mage in a Barrel

An Anime Blog for Those Who Want to Find Magic in Unexpected Places

Land of the Rising Sound

Rise to the Sound of Japan!

s e n t i m e n t i a

population: me

OtakuGamerGirlT

All Anime, Manga, Games, All the Time

CheesyBits' Paradise

Heya! Welcome to my paradise! Feel free to explore my blog! (^o^)/

Coal talents

coalition of arts and entertainment

the limitless imagination

a place to let record what exists in my head, at this point in time.

Sakura Publishing Official Blog

Interview with independent and mainstream authors, and the latest scoop on the best new indie books in the world

Rated A For Anime

The Best Place to Get Anime Bookmarks, Calendars, More

STAR ♥ DUST

by Rosie Darling

honyasbookshelf

sharing a passion for story

An Anarchist's Cookbook

Cooking up a world without coercion

48 Family Center

Everything about 48 Family, is here!

%d bloggers like this: