Song of the Day #2,126: ‘Fox in the Snow (Live)’ – Belle and Sebastian

bellesebasIn Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, my favorite novel, the protagonist Rob Fleming is obsessed with making lists. Lists about life, love and art — mostly about art.

At one point in the book he, as a record store owner, is asked to provide his top five favorite songs for a column in a local magazine. The prospect of having one of his lists set in stone and published for all the world to see scares him to death.

First he goes blank, unable to think of even one song worthy of naming. Then he rattles off a few but quickly replaces them with better examples. He winds up calling the reporter the next day to submit an entirely new list.

I know how he feels. I didn’t have to compose this list on the spot but I ran through dozens of options.

Should I aim for a mix of genres, tempos, perspectives and sounds in an effort to create as well-rounded a picture of my musical tastes as possible? Or should I go with the songs I listen to the most, since that’s really the ultimate barometer of what I like, isn’t it?

I didn’t do either of those. Instead I tried to settle on five songs that hit me in the heart and the gut. I appreciate the craft that went into these five songs but that’s secondary. What’s primary is that they all make me feel something deeply.

‘Fox in the Snow’ is the first Belle and Sebastian song that clued me in to the greatness of the band. The whole album, If You’re Feeling Sinister, is a classic, but this song in particular has always stopped me in my tracks.

As with all of the songs I’m featuring this week, I’ve written about ‘Fox in the Snow’ before — it was Song of the Day #187. That album cut is the definitive version, but today’s clip from a live show in Rio is lovely.

Fox in the snow, where do you go
To find something you can eat?
Because the word out on the street is you are starving
Don’t let yourself grow hungry now
Don’t let yourself grow cold
Fox in the snow

Girl in the snow, where will you go
To find someone that will do?
To tell someone all the truth before it kills you
They listen to your crazy laugh
Before you hang a right
And disappear from sight
What do they know anyway?
You’ll read it in a book
What do they know anyway?
You’ll read it in a book tonight

Boy on the bike, what are you like
As you cycle round the town?
You’re going up, you’re going down
You’re going nowhere
It’s not as if they’re paying you
It’s not as if it’s fun
At least not anymore
When your legs are black and blue
It’s time to take a break
When your legs are black and blue
It’s time to take a holiday

Kid in the snow, way to go
It only happens once a year
It only happens once a lifetime
Make the most of it
Second just to being born
Second to dying to
What else could you do?

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,126: ‘Fox in the Snow (Live)’ – Belle and Sebastian

  1. Amy says:

    I love reading about your love of Nick Hornby’s novel, as it provides so much insight into you (and this blog) 🙂 Like so many songs, I realized as this one started that I never had any idea what it was called, though I came to love this song many, many years ago when you put it on one of your famous compilation tapes (which I’ve also written about on this blog before). Getting one of those tapes was the ultimate gift, a little treasure trove of gems you had selected especially for the person, wanting to expose us to songs you loved and thought we might love, too. This one played over and over again in my tape deck for several years until it was worn out. I need to go find some of those favorite cassettes and create playlists from them, in order to be able to once again appreciate the songs, the set lists, and the thoughtfulness that came with their selection.

    In a way, this blog has been your gift to all of your faithful readers for the past how many years?? I wonder if Hornby revisited his protagonist in the Internet age whether he might be more able to write about his lists in this format. Somehow seems less permanent, though it certainly provides the same opportunity for reflection, discussion and debate.

    Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful song – and giving me a name to put to it (I bet I said something similar the last time you wrote about it; I’ll have to go check that out 🙂 )

  2. Amy says:

    okay… that was strange. How is it possible that I didn’t recognize it from the actual recorded version when I listened to it in 2009?! It sounded “familiar”???? Was I crazy then or am I crazy now? (Don’t answer that)

  3. Dana says:

    I understand why High Fidelity is your favorite novel based on, at least in part, your strong personal self-identification with the list making music loving protagonist. But I don’t really get, nor do I think you have explained, what it is about this song that makes a top 5 favorite. Yes, this song is lovely and reflects your love of this band and album, but what is it about this song (or really any of the songs you are featuring this week) that hits you in the heart and gut level? Is there something about the lyrics that personally moves you! The music?

    It seems to me that what you are really doing this week is highlighting your top five favorite artists, and then picking your favorite or best representative song from that artist. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily satisfy the rules of this game. Did you consider, for example, a song from an artist you don’t otherwise consider a favorite, but that one song just hits you in the heart and gut? I might, for instance, pick something like “Renaissance Eyes” by Don Dixon or “Broken Arrow” by Robbie Robertson. Both songs are favorites that speak to me personally and have significance in my life, yet are from artists of whom I don’t own their discography and wouldn’t come close to being listed among my favorite artists.

    Anyway, because you are so album oriented and a self-acknowledged completist as to your favorite artists, I suspect you really can’t separate in you mind, heart or gut your favorite songs from your favorite albums by those artists, but I think that is the list you are compiling here.

  4. Clay says:

    I don’t know if I can satisfactorily describe what it is about a song that hits me in the heart and the gut… it just happens. Maybe it’s a chord change or the blending of two instruments that form a certain sound that triggers a certain mood. I’m sure there’s some technical or chemical explanation, but it’s beyond me. And I’m glad it’s beyond me.

    I’m not picking favorite songs by favorite artists, necessarily, though I can see why it might appear that way. In some cases (like today, and the Fiona Apple song) I’m picking the songs that made those artists my favorites.

    I don’t think Jaws is Amy’s favorite film because it was made by one of her favorite directors. I think Spielberg is a favorite director because he made Jaws, and went on to make a bunch of other great films as well.

    But i’m also approaching this list the way Rob Fleming did… what five songs do I want to put out there as representing me? A one-off track by an artist I’m not all that into might serve that purpose but I can’t think of one that fits the bill. Certainly not one that keeps Bob Dylan off this list.

    And yes, it’s fair to say that I picked a “Bob Dylan slot” before I picked the song that would occupy it. But I went with a specific track — the bootleg demo version of ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ — because I have a deeper connection to that version of that song than almost any other Dylan track.

    Same goes for the live version of ‘Emaline’ by Ben Folds Five. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s my “favorite” Ben Folds Five song but it’s one that affects me on the most fundamental level.

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