Issue #168 / September 2021
‘Lavender Fields’, how did you compose such a beautifully deep, sad and uplifting song with this simple metaphor?
JACOB, SAINT LOUIS, USA
What is ‘Lavender Fields’ about?
AMY, ANTWERP, BELGIUM
Dear Jacob and Amy,
During lockdown I engaged in a series of very long and wide-ranging phone conversations — sometimes for three or four hours at a time — with friend and writer, Sean O’Hagan. At some point we decided to record the conversations and put them in a book, which Canongate will publish next year.
One of the things we discussed in these freewheeling conversations was our mutual interest in religion, and Sean remarked that he felt I was, in that regard, travelling ‘a singular road’. I found that comment amusing. After the call, I wrote the gently self-mocking lines —
I’m travelling appallingly alone
On a singular road
These two lines brought with them a gift from the gods! ‘Lavender Fields’ fell out of the celestial birth canal, fully formed, purple and smack into my lap. For me, songs rarely come that easily!
The image of travelling through fields of lavender felt full of promise —
Through the lavender fields
That reach high beyond the sky
— on a ‘singular road’ with its gentle irony, because my road is not singular at all, but the road we all travel, by and by.
People ask me how I’ve changed
I say it is a singular road
And the lavender has stained my skin
And made me strange
The song is mostly about change, as is the whole ‘Carnage’ album, moving away from one state of being toward another, or so it seems to me.
Even the conversion vision of the final verse, the pale bird, of which I was particularly pleased, brings with it a kind of spiritual renewal —
Sometimes I see a pale bird wheeling
In the sky
But that is just a feeling
A feeling when you die
The song ends, but all is not as it seems, because slowly a gorgeous hymn rises to the surface and eventually overwhelms the song, escorting the traveller to his or her destination — that of transcendent change.
We don’t ask who
And we don’t ask why
There is a kingdom in the sky
But ‘Lavender Fields’ is probably best listened to without too much concern for what it is about, rather it is a song that has, built into Warren’s ever-rising chord sequence, the power to transport us — up and away, away.
By the way, ‘Lavender Fields’ played live, with our awe-inspiring singers, Wendi, Janet and T Jae, is amazing — just saying.