I’m going to take this one a very different direction today. Star Wars is strongly associated with sound, in fact having more sounds per second of film (between dialogue, music, and sound effects) than any other film. That’s according to The Sounds of Star Wars, which I’ve been reading this week, which is awesome and which I will attempt to review Sunday. But because sound is so closely tied in with Star Wars, and the music in with the sound, it’s of course very easy to simply turn to the soundtrack. But that feels like cheating. And there is a non-Star Wars song that always makes me think of Star Wars. When I say “always,” I really am talking about something that goes back more than 12 years:
In 2000, my AIM convos did little more than document everything going on on the radio at that second. Anyway, the song I’m talking about is by the Wallflowers, and although I called it “The Padiddle Song” most of my life, it’s actually called “One Headlight.” The book I’m referring to, The Uncertain Path, is the sixth book in the Jedi Apprentice series by Jude Watson.
These juvenile-level books told the story of Obi-Wan’s training as a 14-year-old Padawan apprentice to Qui-Gon. Their relationship had a very rocky start; in the first two books, Qui-Gon didn’t want an apprentice at all. In the third book, Obi-Wan narrowly escaping a mind-wipe just after his 14th birthday makes them both realize how close they have become and how much they don’t want to lose each other. So book 4 was their first real adventure together as a reciprocal team. Then came Defenders of the Dead. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan go to a planet called Melida/Daan where all the middle-aged people have been utterly wiped out in a war and now there are only children and old people. Obi-Wan immediately is drawn in by the arguments of the other adolescents — sort of a Communist Youth in Space — and quickly grows fed up with Qui-Gon and the Council’s “pandering” to the other faction. At the end of the book, Obi-Wan gives his lightsaber to Qui-Gon and quits the Jedi.
I threw the book across the room, I was so mad. Of course Obi-Wan did it because he’d fallen in love with this girl fighter Cerasi. It was outrageous though because Qui-Gon’s reluctance to take a Padawan had centered entirely around his abandonment issues since his previous apprentice had turned dark side and also quit the Jedi. Oh, I wanted to kill Obi-Wan for putting Qui-Gon through that. (Keeping in mind that at this age, I still considered Qui-Gon more awesome than any fictional character ever created in history before, and Obi-Wan was still kind of the boring old guy in the Original Trilogy, although his hotness was beginning to make an impression. In fact, although I was looking for times I quoted “One Headlight,” I found 15 convos containing both Wallflowers lyrics and the phrase “Obi-Wan is hot.”)
Anyway, in the next book, Cerasi dies a martyr to her cause, and her death inspires peace throughout Melida/Daan and ends the conflict. Obi-Wan goes back to the Jedi and in true Jedi fashion, never speaks of it again. But even though various sources have pinned him with Siri, I know the truth. His heart — before he gave it to Padmé to crush — belonged to a redheaded teenage freedom fighter whose death gave her planet peace and set him back on the right track. I have always found these lyrics ring eerily in sync with the events of these two books, and though I haven’t read them in over a decade, I always think of Obi-Wan when I hear this song. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you
by The Wallflowers
(with annotations, because I doubt you’ve read these books)
So long ago I don’t remember when,
That’s when they say I lost my only friend.
Well, they say she died easy of a broken heart disease
As I listen to the cemetery trees.
[Obi-Wan, thinking back, recalls his days with Cerasi and the Melida/Daan youth]
I seen the sun coming up at the funeral at dawn,
The long broken arm of human law.
It always seemed such a waste,
She always had a pretty face.
I wonder why she hung around this place.
[Cerasi and the other fighters, whose parents and oftentimes older siblings had all been killed in the war, often lingered at the mausoleums and grave houses where their loved ones’ remains were. In fact, most of Melida/Daan was like a cemetery, bombed out shells of its former glory.]
Come on try a little, nothing is forever!
There’s got to be something better than
In the middle.
Me and Cinderella put it all together
We can drive it home with one headlight.
[The youth of Melida/Daan were caught in the middle, the conflict between the Melida and the Daan, life and death, young and old, war and peace. Cinderella is Cerasi, a fairytale character with a grim side, and the one headlight is just enough light to be able to see a little bit ahead by, just enough light to know the right thing to do]
She said, “It’s cold. It feels like Independence Day,
And I can’t break away from this parade.”
But there’s got to be an opening somewhere here in front of me
Through this maze of ugliness and greed.
And I seen the sign up ahead at the county line bridge,
Saying all that’s good and nothingness is dead.
Run until she’s out of breath, she ran until there’s nothing left
She hit the end, it’s just her window ledge.
[Although they didn’t have an Independence Day, they did have highly military ritual. This reminds me of the scene in which Cerasi dies, imprinted in my imagination as the bright figure of the girl leaping out into the dazzling gray of the sky and shot in the circle of the two facing enemies.]
This place is old, it feels just like a beat up truck.
I turn the engine but the engine doesn’t turn.
It smells of cheap old wine, cigarettes,
This place is always such a mess.
Sometimes I think I’d like to watch it burn.
I’m so alone, I feel just like somebody else.
Man, I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same.
But somewhere here in between these city walls of dying dreams,
I think her death it must be killing me.
[The child warriors of Melida/Daan lived in the sewers and underground pipelines. There’s a scene where Obi-Wan sits around eating rations with a group of them that this reminds me of. Also, when it is all said and done, and he returns to the Jedi and moves on to the next adventure, he does not really change at all, and yet the place had an affect on him. It’s really such a sad, sad song, even in this context.]