Sparrows' tears? Perhaps. But never a teardrop on the fire...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/05/04 10:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/05/04/8457687.aspx


Very non-technical, you should probably skip, yada yada yada....

I went out last night and actually managed to run into Claire (yes, the Claire from this blog) and her friend Trisha (who I had also met).

A reunion of sorts, I suppose. :-)

It was a minor celebration for them -- her 23rd birthday had not yet happened, was coming up next week and they were having a girl's night out....

She had been dying to ask me about a song, and was nearly ready to give up and to put the question in the Suggestion Box since she hadn't seen me since the first time. Lucky I was out?

The conversation went something like this:

Claire: Do you watch House?
Michael: The TV show on FOX?
Claire: Yes.
Michael: Stars Hugh Laurie, sporting a decidedly non-English accent?
Trisha: Yes. {a bit testily}
Claire: What do you know about the theme song?
Michael: Hmmmm.... an excerpt of Teardrop by Massive Attack, I think.
Trisha: {turning to Claire} He isn't human.
Claire: Did you know that it has lyrics?
Michael: Definitely. Elizabeth Fraser did the singing.
Trisha: You know who sang the song?
Michael: Of course! I fall in love with her voice every time I hear it. Which thankfully for my heart (though sadly for me ears) is not often...
Trisha: {turning to Claire} He really isn't human.
Michael: I had it on CD anyway, and I have been listening to it a bit this last week after someone had been playing it, so not too much weirdness.
{Trisha looks skeptical}
Michael: Elizabeth's voice is just a memorable one. Like when she did This Love on the Cruel Intentions soundtrack. It just gets me...
Claire: What do you know about the lyrics of Teardrop?
Michael: Hmmmm. Some cool lines in it like "love is a verb" and "Teardrop on the fire" and "love is a doing word" and such. I think there was some really sad timing, like her boyfriend drowning, right around the time she put down the vocal tracks. Why?
Trisha: {turning to Claire} Inhuman, I tell you.
Claire: What about themes, and meaning in the lyrics?
Michael: On that, I'm not sure. Personally, I always thought of it as a "just after a breakup" kind of song, when someone else breaks up with you. That time when you could try, but the effect would be about as useful and noticeable as a tear drop trying to put out a fire. Which is to say, not much. Fearlessness comes up, but it is the fearlessness of emotional impotence, you know?
Claire: Anything about abortion, perhaps?
Michael: ?!?!? Huh ?!?!?
Claire: A friend of mine had seen the video, and they said it looked a bit like an abortion.
Michael: I don't think so. It was a little creepy, it was a fetus and the fetus was lip syncing some of the song's lyrics. But when the song ended everything faded to black. I don't remember it looking like an abortion.
Trisha: {turning to Claire} Why can't you be interested in a human, anyway?
Claire: Did the song mean anything to you? Did you attach it to any relationships or breakups?
Michael: {smiling} Brad and Jennifer, maybe.
Claire: No, I mean any of your relationships or breakups?
Michael: Hmmm. I don't think I ever did. The image doesn't really fit my conception of me. I mean, my efforts may be for naught, sure. They usually are. But I never really imagine them being as hard to notice as a solitary teardrop on the fire. The closest I have ever come is that whole sparrow's tears thing I
mentioned, and even then I never implied lack of noticability. I only implied that it didn't make a difference.
{Claire looks thoughtful}
Michael: Which doesn't make much of a difference in the end -- knowing one notices long enough to reject? I'd almost rather have more "rejected because they didn't notice" in my life, sometimes.
Claire: I understand.
Trisha: The part she won't tell you about is that it is the song she associates with you, Since you never ended up going out with her.
Claire: {turning to Trisha} Trish!!!
Trisha: That's why the abortion thing worried her.
Claire: {turning to Trisha} Will you please stop?
Michael: Claire, I think you're safe. But it may be the wrong song in that case, anyway.
Claire: {looking curious} How so?
Michael: When I met you that night, you were talking about your boyfriend who I has been unknowingly tutoring. And you are a little bit too young for me. It doesn't mean I didn't notice, it just meant that it wasn't going to become a relationship. It isn't like I was afraid to sit and talk with you tonight, you haven't ever managed to bore me or anything either of these times.
Trisha: {turning to Claire} I'm telling you -- he is not human. {turning to me, smiling} She broke up with him.
Claire: Ignore her, she read some of your blog and doesn't think you're for real. She thinks you have a staff writing for you.
Michael: {laughs} No, no staff. Just multiple personalities. And I don't sleep very much.
Claire: You know I'm almost a year older now?
Michael: {smiling} So am I.
Claire: I was afraid you were going to say that....
Michael: Well, look on the bright side. I'm not going to start calling you "little sparrow" just because of this conversation.
Trisha: Speak for yourself! She'll be "sparrow" to me, for a while at least.

We then we started talking about House for a bit, there are things I love about the show and things I hate. And how I definitely enjoy watching it, either way. They both love the show, and both think that if I were a doctor, I'd be just like Dr. House. Which is very weird since someone in MS Typography said the very same thing to me last week!

Given that medicine was once where I was going to be heading (ref: here), I am not sure how I feel about multiple unrelated contacts coming to that same conclusion. I don't think I am as smart as Dr. House, or as bitter. I'd like to think I wouldn't have been even if I had ended up in medicine....

Maybe it's the cane that causes people to make the mental leap.

Eventually we parted company, the folks I was going to hang out with had almost given up on me ever making it their table. Before I left I assured Claire that it may be sparrows' tears, but it was never a teardrop on the fire. She smiled at these closing words....

The actual lyrics (transcribed off the booklet from an import version of their Collected CD):

Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word
Fearless on my breath
Gentle impulsion
Shakes me makes me lighter
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Nine night of matter
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Water is my eye
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire of a confession
Fearless on my breath
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Stumbling a little
Stumbling a little

And you can see the video on YouTube if you want, here. It does not look like an abortion to me -- a very odd interpretation, that. Though the singing fetus is quite odd.

All things considered, a doubleplusnonboring night out! :-)

This blog brought to you by(U+2302, aka HOUSE)


marius on 4 May 2008 7:42 PM:

As far as I know... the clip is supposed to be about a fetus affected by the drugs the women takes and the bad effect on the fetus of the drugs, or something like that.

Otherwise, the track is great, like many of their other songs. Massive Attack is actually one of my favorite artists.

Michael S. Kaplan on 4 May 2008 9:36 PM:

So drugs leave the fetus singing? :-)

Ian Griffiths on 5 May 2008 6:49 AM:

This clears up something that had confused the heck out of me...I live in the UK, and the theme music for House MD we get to hear is most definitely not Teardrop, except for in one episode of season 2.

We've had two different sets of theme music - season 1 had its own and we've had something different from season 2 on. Both of them have a passing resemblance to Teardrop.

So when this one episode came out with Teardrop as the theme music (which was a very well known song in the UK at the time of its release) I assumed there must have been some deep significance - some reason why the plot in the episode demanded this particular music. And I couldn't fathom why.

So when you said that the theme music for House MD was Teardrop my initial reaction was "Uh, no it isn't, except for that one weird time when it was." But after a little investigation it turns out that for anywhere outside the US, they don't use Teardrop - either they didn't pay for the international rights, or possibly the song is better known in non-US markets and was considered not to be a good choice.

So thank you for clearing up the confusion for me, indirectly. Clearly there was no deep meaning behind that one episode where they used Teardrop in the UK broadcast - looks like they just forgot to use the alternate music for that one!

Martha on 1 Mar 2009 10:03 AM:

Actually having just decided to research this myself, I've ventured onto the massive attack website and under the video clip they have put on for teardrop are these follwing keywords for searching the tune: massive attack teardrop video baby foetus abortion womb body fire love pain loss

So that says it all really! Now just to try and research why eh!


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