The Psychedelic Furs
“High Wire Days”
Music attaches itself to memory and emotion in odd ways, sometimes rising up in unexpected places, and making unexpected connections. I was a big fan of The Psychedelic Furs in the ’80s, but by the turn of the century I’d pretty much forgotten about this song, and most of the rest of the album it’s on, Mirror Moves. But sometime after September 11th it came back into my head, and through some strange connection of memory, imagination, maybe even desire, became my de facto soundtrack for memories of that day. I even have an image in my head to go with the song—not one I remember, but one I conjured up somehow, of someone stepping out of an apartment building somewhere in Manhattan and walking resolutely toward the twin towers as they burn. It’s more like a scene from a movie than a memory, but more like a memory than any scene from a movie I can recall. The song fits the image perfectly: it has a sense of defiance and a determination not to be fooled or victimized again, to take action, even if it’s unclear what that action would be. It is, in a sense, a heroic song, one with a prescient sense of upcoming disaster (“the lions have eaten the lamb/in tomorrow’s pages”). It’s a song about staring down the future, a future that may have been even worse in writer Richard Butler’s imagination than in reality. Released 17 years before the event, it has nothing whatever to do with 9/11, but in my mind, in ways I can’t quite explain, it has everything to do with it.