Denny Sinnoh's "Akihabara Starlight"

Posts tagged ‘Ponyta’

My more “grown up” reflections on the song “Wildfire”

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.

Tag Cloud

MNL48 Translations

JPN to ENG translations of MNL48 content

Escape Zero

News and reviews with Smuggy and Friends~!

Art Expedition

a painter´s attempt to conquer the great white canvas

A True Outsider Writing

I read what seduces me, I write what perverts me.

MiddleMe

Becoming Unstuck

Collinization 2.0

Just another mild-mannered blog featuring artwork by me, Collin J Wood, and many things that interest and inspire me...

The Great Passage

manga and words for the weird

Yuri Death Ray

Turning fanon into canon

SaitoWinterStar

Denny Sinnoh's "Akihabara Starlight"

The Lily Garden

Yuri visual novels, yuri anime, and yuri manga

Cars Club

Real Car Pics With Names

KAWAIIPAPERPANDAS

"If you hadn't fallen into madness you might've been treated as a hero." -No Guns Life

Lucid Being💫

Digital Life After Life!

SANAKANIN

adventures in alternative fashion

japan.world.net

MUSIC WORLD NET

IceCreamNako🍨

💖矢吹奈子中文首站💖

Renmi's World

The world through my camera lens...

Life, the Universe, and Lani

observations, humor, and nonsense

John Jr's Blog

Dreams And More

Jeffrey's blog

I write things, you read them. Seems like a fair deal

Campzzz

The problem slayer

Aphoristic Album Reviews

Personal Album Review Website

historyreads

an informative site for rediscovering art from the past!

Single at 60 Sucks

A blog for women starting over at 40, 50, 60 and beyond. "Sixty the new sexy," my ass!

Power Plant Men

True Power Plant Stories

Fanfiction Anime World

Welcome to Fanfiction Anime World アニメ

Himalayan Buddhist Art - Art Bouddhiste de l'Himalaya

5th to 18th century Buddhist Art of the Himalayas

ENGLISH CONNECTION

The medium for cultural understanding, economic cooperation and fostering peace.

Iwata Karen Indonesian Fans Club

岩田華怜インドネシアファンクラブ

100 Word Anime

Reviewing Anime

Sunlit Sakura

A Japanese Lifestyle Blog

My Aesthetic Insanity

Open the Doors of Perception

Nicole's 5 Cents

Semi-insightful, self-critiquing feminist with a passion for learning (especially from mistakes)

Anime QandA

Asking The Big Questions on Anime and Manga

The Millennial Merit

Perhaps they'll listen now

MPA Travels

Exploring Japan Through Pictures

Anime Girls NYC

Anime all day everyday!

JKB Idol Updates

Your daily dose of Philippine Idols. News about the latest Idols around the country.

Chaula Rininta Anindya

Terrorism and Military Studies Enthusiast

%d bloggers like this: