Song of the Day #914: ‘The Ghost of Rockschool’ – Belle & Sebastian

Best Songs of 2010 – #5

For 15 years, Belle & Sebastian have been releasing albums chock full of literate, gorgeous pop music. They’ve recorded so many string-and-horn embellished soft rock songs that it’s hard to believe there’s a melody or a trumpet solo out there that they haven’t hit on yet.

But in 2010 they did it again. Their latest album, Write About Love, features a handful of tracks as good as anything the band has put out over the past decade. Par for the course.

My favorite of the new songs is ‘The Ghost of Rockschool,’ a Stuart Murdoch special that weaves in his trademark religious references and a trumpet performance by band member Mick Cooke that makes me want to weep or cheer.

I think I could attribute about 45% of my adoration of Belle & Sebastian to Mick Cooke’s trumpet playing. Invariably my favorite songs of theirs feature his sublime work. Note to all bands, both established and up-and-coming: Get yourself a trumpet player!

I’ve seen God in the Sun, I’ve seen God in the street
God before bed and the promise of sleep
God in my dreams and the free ride of grace
But it all disappears and then I wake up

Was it too late?
Was it just your fate?
There’s a demon waits at the garden gate
And if you get past him maybe Lawrence and Phil
Will be waiting to take you to the ghost of rock school

Everything hums as the blue heart turns
And the blue girl’s dawn is when the sun goes down
My story tonight is from your solitude heights
I have a window on your constellation

Master I love from the ground above
As the stars below as my memory flows
Every picture frame is beating louder than time
Every clock in the hall is bending slowly

She’s in her tower and she’s beautiful, sure
But the quicker you learn she has no soul to discern
At least no business of yours
You bear the vacuum of scars
She was put there to tempt you like the perfume of flowers

I’ve seen God in the Sun, I’ve seen God in the street
God before bed and the promise of sleep
God in my dreams and the free ride of grace
I’ve seen God shining out from her reflection

I’ve seen God in the Sun, I’ve seen God in the street
God before bed and the promise of sleep
God in the puddles and the lane beside houses
I’ve seen God shining out from her reflection..

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #914: ‘The Ghost of Rockschool’ – Belle & Sebastian

  1. Dana says:

    I seemed to recall you feeling this new album wasn’t quite as good as previous work. Perhaps I remembered incorrectly?

    Anyway, lovely song. I do love a well placed trumpet, as well as a french horn. Both are softer alternatives to the sax, which can be nice, but sometimes more overbearing.

  2. Clay says:

    The album took a little bit to grow on me but it’s a very good one. [review here]

  3. Thomas Albertson says:

    The whole thing is this beautiful gnostic treatise on waking life. He could have said, “i woke up, fought depression, went to the bar with my friends, took lsd and hit on an unattainable singer.” But instead he chose to paint a picture of splendid isolation.

    The phrase “it all disappears when i wake up” indicates he is waking up from some neoplatonic dreamworld, and reality is oppressive (“a demon waits at the garden gate.”)

    The ghost of rockschool could be a bar that the singer goes to with his friends.

    When murdoch says “everything hums as the blue heart turns,” i imagine an old rotating heart sign outside a bar where the instruments are humming as they are being plugged in.

    “Master I love from the ground above” could be a reference to God as the architect of the universe.

    When murdoch sings, “every clock on the wall is bending slowly,” you can picture the beating of time (with the “blue heart,” which represents both his and the female singer’s isolating depression).

    Also time slows when you do drugs, which I dont do. Haha

    Even though he feels alone, the resolution of the poem is to find God in everything, and in your woman too, as the poem ends with the line, “I’ve seen god shining up from her reflection.”

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