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Black Highway

This song is by The Legendary Pink Dots and appears on the album Only Dreaming (1981).

There's space in my car, speed you to heaven.
Maybe scorch the
Black
Highway, pass the waters of the
Styx.
Mix my mescaline with hairspray; well past caring, but I'll show you some excitement - better clutch a crucifix!
Goodness gracious, great balls of fire glow in the city's stainless streets.
Policemen waves as a crowd admires, as a mess is covered with a sheet, dancing in the street.
A truck overtakes; the truck overturning, twisting cartwheels on the concrete, dancing over a ledge.
Shall I make it a duo?
Tiny heart a-flutter, pitter-patter!
As I slide out from the gutters and it's sliding through a hedge.
Goodness gracious, a whop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-whop-bam-boom, crash crash!
Policemen waves as the crowd perspires, as a mess is covered with a sheet, dancing on the sheet.
Madness in my family since the sixteenth century, and it seeps though my finger when I'm poised behind the wheel.
Tonight I'm feeling nasty - some bastard's gonna suffer, be crying for his mother, 'cause my dial is locked on kill!
Oh goodness gracious!
A hot old time in the old town tonight, as a mess is covered with a sheet.
The siren shouts murder, splinters the sunrays.
A fireman weeps as he picks up a towel.
Still they arrive in their cars and their gamblers, pitching tents, picking hampers, searching quietly for holes.
Goodness gracious, good golly
Miss
Molly, we're having a ball!
Lens dipped and focused on the girl with an ice cream.
Dressed her up in cellulite and sold her to the world.
Make the morning petitions, the face of exhibitions, the opposition, an uncle who cut off her curls.
Oh goodness gracious, good golly
Miss
Molly, you sure look bald!
A policeman waves as a crowd admires, as a mess is covered with a sheet dancing in a sheet.
Drive a car?

AnnotationsEdit

There's space in my car, speed you to heaven. (1) Maybe scorch the Black Highway (2), pass the waters of the Styx. Mix my mescaline with hairspray; well past caring, (3) but I'll show you some excitement - better clutch a crucifix! Goodness gracious, great balls of fire glow in the city's stainless streets. (4) Policemen waves as a crowd admires, (5) as a mess is covered with a sheet, dancing in the street. A truck overtakes; the truck overturning, twisting cartwheels on the concrete, dancing over a ledge. Shall i make it a duo? (6) Tiny heart a-flutter, pitter-patter! As I slide out from the gutters and it's sliding through a hedge. Goodness gracious, a whop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-whop-bam-boom, crash crash! (7) Policemen waves as the crowd perspires, as a mess is covered with a sheet, dancing on the sheet. Madness in my family since the sixteenth century, (8) and it seeps though my finger when I'm poised behind the wheel. Tonight I'm feeling nasty - some bastard's gonna suffer, be crying for his mother, 'cos my dial is locked on kill! Oh goodness gracious! A hot old time in the old town tonight, as a mess is covered with a sheet. The siren shouts murder, splinters the sunrays. (9) A fireman weeps as he picks up a towel. Still they arrive in their cars and their gamblers, pitching tents, picking hampers, searching quietly for holes. (10) Goodness gracious, good golly Miss Molly, (11) we're having a ball! Lens dipped and focused on the girl with an ice cream. Dressed her up in cellulite and sold her to the world. (12) Make the morning petitions, the face of exhibitions, the opposition, an uncle who cut off her curls. Oh goodness gracious, good golly Miss Molly, you sure look bald! A policeman waves as a crowd admires, as a mess is covered with a sheet dancing in a sheet. Drive a car? (13)


Edward Ka-Spel's lyrics and the music of the Legendary Pink Dots always seem to be bringing up fears for us to face and, perhaps overcome. They have a remarkable way of sliding deep inside and evoking anxiety from everyday things. In this case - driving on the highway with other drivers who could have a deathwish. It could be of interest to note that for a period Edward owned (and may still own) a barely working car. Certainly Neils Van Hoorn, the hornplayer who joined the band many years after this song was written, is a great car enthusiast.

(1) The character singing the lyrics informs the listener that there is a place for them in his car, and that - if accepted - will speed them to heaven - i.e. die.

(2) The Black Highway seems to be refering to that proverbial road to the "other side" or the afterlife - indeed our driver hopes to pass the waters of the River Styx, barrier to the realm of the dead in ancient greek mythology. Clever rhyming here with crucifix, which itself only serves to call up images of frightened Christians in Hammer Horror films - vainly thrusting crosses at evil supernatural foes or hallucinations.

(3) Not certain about mixing mescaline with hairspray, but it seems a rather deadly combination. It could have an oblique reference to Syd Barrett, who at one point mashed barbituates into hair cream and then into his hair. Whatever the case, our driver simply doesn't care about anything anymore...

(4) "Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire", is a quote from the 1957 song written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer. The song is best known for Jerry Lee Lewis's rendition. The song title is derived from an expression from the Southeastern United States, which some Christians consider blasphemous, that refers to the Pentecost's defining moment when the Holy Spirit manifested itself as "cloven tongues as of fire" and the Apostles spoke in tongues. In the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara (played by Vivien Leigh) frequently exclaims, "Great balls of fire!" Here, the balls of fire are the debris of cars left behind on the highway from our insane driver.

(5) "Policemen waving as the crowd admires" seems to refer to the phenomena also called "rubbernecking", whereby drivers will slow down traffic just to witness some horrible accident on the side of the road, thereby fulfilling some kind of morbid fascination.

(6) Our insane driver seems to run a truck off the road and asks himself if he can make it two vehicles...

(7) "whop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-whop-bam-boom" is from the Little Richard song "Tutti Frutti" which became his first hit record in 1955. Its opening cry of "Womp-bomp-a-loom-op-a-womp-bam-boom!" is supposedly intended to be a verbal parody of a drum intro. Here, it serves to emphasize the crashes of two more vehicles...

(8) Not certain if the sixteenth century was famous in any way for road accidents, but here is an interesting article:

'Road travel in Britain 'as dangerous as it was 500 years ago'

Road travel is just as dangerous today as it was in the 16th century, according to a new study.

By Chris Irvine

Researchers examining coroners' reports from Sussex between 1485 and 1688 found 30 per cent of deaths were a result of injury involving travelling on land. Accidents included falling into ditches and being hit by a horse and cart. The study found 413 of around 1,000 adult inquests involved unintentional injuries, with 124 from land travel. Of those, eight died when falling from horses and carts, while 43 were the result of falling from farm wagons. Despite centuries of advances in road safety, the research indicates the proportion of road travel accidents has stayed consistent. Figures from the World Health Organisation show that a quarter of injury deaths in 2000 were as a result of road crashes. In 2007, there were 182,115 road accidents involving personal injury. Of these, 27,036 involved death or serious injury. While travel may have been slower back in the times of Elizabeth I, poor health, unsafe roads and badly-made carts contributed to constant road-related problems. Professor Elizabeth Towner, from the University of the West of England, who conducted the research, told the Daily Mail: "One continuity is the hazardous nature of travel. "Movement across the landscape has always exposed humans to injury risk, and changing forms of transport do not seem to have altered that basic fact: just the type of risk."

(9) Interesting imagery here - the police siren is "shouting" murder and the flashing lights "splinter" the sunrays - very much a kind of scene from a film.

(10) Still, the rubberneckers and members of the Press come, now making little campsites to witness the awful aftermath.

(11) "Good Golly Miss Molly" was also a song by Little Richard, who first heard the phrase "Good Golly, Miss Molly," from a Southern DJ named Jimmy Pennick. Richard turned the words into perhaps his most blatant and furious assault on American propriety: "Good Golly, Miss Molly/You sure like to ball." Here, Edward changes the meaning to imply cynically "Golly, aren't we all just having fun watching this terrible thing!"

(12) The video cameras of the Press are focusing on the crowd and not the accident. This brings to mind the fact that Edward and Phil (The Silverman) Knight both worked in the journalism field, and were both disgusted at the fact that the Press sensationalizes the tragedy of others, such as arriving at a widow's house to discuss her husband's death before she has even heard about it.

(13) After all this, we are asked if we drive a car! It is interesting that Edward chose to work in several references to late 50's music, as this was the age of the big flashy cars such as is romanticised in George Lucas' "American Graffiti"(set in 1962).

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