Sparkle the Dark Up

Every year on December 1, I play what is far and away my favorite secular song for “the holidays”: December will be Magic Again by Kate Bush. Rhiannon and I listened to it this morning while I was helping her brush her teeth and get ready for her school bus to pick her up. It’s a hard track to find—the easiest way to get it on CD is to purchase the Kate Bush box set This Woman’s Work which I bought at the Piccadilly Circus Tower Records in 1990 for £99! If you are more sensible with your money than I am, you can look for the “Moments of Pleasure” EP (Available from Amazon.co.uk for about £11).

Kate Bush, "December will be Magic Again"So, perhaps you are wondering why Carl is so nutty as to spend two Ben Franklins for a holiday song by the British songstress who put the “ethereal” in “ethereal music.” Well, never mind that Kate Bush has a gorgeous voice (and is just plain gorgeous, for that matter), that her songwriting hails from the same creatively quirky otherworld that must have inspired folks like Peter Gabriel and Roger Waters, and that her music figured prominently in the soundtrack of my college years. For now, let’s just focus on this one song. From the very first notes—a trancey minor-key piano riff that simultaneously evokes John Lennon’s most psychedelic work and Christmas sleighbells—leading into Kate’s dreamy “Doo-do-do-do-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo, Doo-do-do-do-doo-doo” vocalise, this is more than just a song, it is a magical soundscape into which the good witch of British pop music will inexorably draw you. The storyline itself at first seems just a bit, er, eccentric: a disjointed collection of seasonal images, from running your dog on the ice to humming along with Bing Crosby; but quickly it starts to gets truly weird on you: from Saint Nick in the chimney, the song’s field of vision pulls back to that of a paratrooper falling in the snow (many of Kate’s songs have an almost paranoid sense of military foreboding), and then the music abruptly changes tempo, jangling bells start to drive the melody over an insistent drum and piano, and the vocalist’s point of view shifts to that of the snow itself: “Come to cover the lovers, Cover the lovers, but don’t you wake them up, Come to sparkle the dark up, Sparkle the dark up, with just a touch of make-up, Come to cover the muck up, cover the muck up, ooh with a little luck. And all that’s only the first verse! The second verse dances from the mind of Oscar Wilde to lovers liplocking under mistletoe to the odd sensation of finding the vast mysteries of the universe revealed in someone’s laughter, all finding resolution once again in the parachutist’s refrain: “See how I fall… see how I fall… see how I fall… like, the snow!” and then we’re back into the consciousness of a snowflake.

Flakey? Perhaps. But when Kate jubilantly assures you that she’s come to “sparkle the dark uuu- uuuuu- uuuuuuu- UUUUUUPPPPPP!” in a glorious crescendo, well, the song could be just as weird as possible (and it IS just as weird as possible), and you wouldn’t care, because this is the singing of a genuine snow fairy, and she has woven her spell all about you, and you are entranced, and you are the snow, and you’ve come to sparkle the dark up, and it’s all glorious and beautiful and ecstatic and wonderful and passionate and lovely.

And December is magic again. Once again.


December will be magic again.
Take a husky to the ice
While Bing Crosby sings White Christmas.
He makes you feel nice.
December will be magic again.
Old Saint Nicholas up the chimney,
Just a-popping up in my memory.

Ooh, dropping down in my parachute,
The white city, she is so beautiful
Upon the black-soot icicled roofs,
Ooh, and see how I fall.
See how I fall
(“Fall!”) [backwards]
Like the snow.

Come to cover the lovers.
(Cover the lovers,
But don’t you wake them up.)
Come to sparkle the dark up.
(Sparkle the dark up,
With just a touch of make-up.)
Come to cover the muck up.
(Cover the muck up,
Ooh, with a little luck.)

December will be magic again.
Light the candle-lights
To conjure Mr. Wilde
Into the Silent Night.
Ooh, it’s quiet inside,
Here in Oscar’s mind.

December will be magic again.
Don’t miss the brightest star.
Kiss under mistletoe.
I want to hear you laugh.
Don’t let the mystery go now.

Ooh, dropping down in my parachute,
The white city, she is so beautiful
Upon the black-soot icicled roofs,
Ooh, and see how I fall.
See how I fall
(“Fall!”) [backwards]
Like the snow.

Come to cover the lovers.
(Cover the lovers,
But don’t you wake them up.)
Come to sparkle the dark up.
(Sparkle the dark up,
With just a touch of make-up.)
Come to cover the muck up
(Cover the muck up,
Ooh, with a little luck.)

Oh, I’m coming to cover the lovers.
Ooh, and I’m coming to sparkle the dark u-u-u-up!
Ooh, and I’m coming to cover the muck up.

— Kate Bush

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  • http://dancingwriter.livejournal.com/ dancingwriter

    Ah, dear, quirky Kate!

    (goes to take Mediaeval Baebes out of CD player and put on Moments of Pleasure EP)

  • http://telynor.livejournal.com/ telynor

    The white city, she is so beautiful

    Do you know, I heard that song at Curry’s, piped through the sound system, the day we bought our washer-dryer. Curry’s is a chain electronics outlet here.

    KaTe is a wee bit more well known over this side.

  • http://cim_halfling.livejournal.com/ cim_halfling

    Just out of curiosity — why does a paratrooper/military image come to your mind? Coming from La-La land and having lived forever in a neighborhood where we see can hang gliders on an almost daily basis, I had a different image come to mind. (I don’t know Kate Bush’s work at all and haven’t heard this, so possibly I am missing something by reading.) When I read this what came to my mind was someone gently falling with the snowflakes into a beautiful, peaceful snowy scene!

    Signed,
    Curious in California…

    • http://anamchara.com/ Carl McColman

      Admittedly, seeing the parachutist-as-paratrooper comes out of my own eisegesis of the song. That is based on what I mentioned as a recurring theme in Kate Bush’s oeuvre. Songs like “Breathing,” “Experiment IV,” “Army Dreamers” and “Cloudbusting” all point to a kind of subtle paranoia or distrust in the government and/or the military.

      But as is evident in the lyrics, the song can be just as beautifully (and perhaps more logically) understood in the kind of lovely way you describe!

  • http://singedcat.livejournal.com/ singedcat

    Kate Bush & December

    Kate Bush is the voice of my my most intense college years, and I still listen to her when I want something I can listen to fully and deeply and discover layer after poetic layer. So glad there are people I know who dig her.

    This is also a note to say I visited the Brigid’s Well Journal. You’re welcome to peek at mine if I’m not familiar. :)

  • http://celticmoni.livejournal.com/ celticmoni

    I adore Kate Bush.

    *extends hand*

    I’m Moni, and I come to you by way of PSE. We seem to share some mutual interests.

    Hope you don’t mind if I add you?…

    • http://anamchara.com/ Carl McColman

      Hi Moni, thanks for adoring Kate. So do I.

      Add away (I’ve reciprocated)… and stay in touch…

  • Pingback: Don’t Let the Mystery Go Now « The Website of Unknowing


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