by the light that never goes out

Last night I made the mistake of starting the update process on my Android phone rather late in the evening, or early in the morning depending on your point of view.

It meant I had to leave my laptop and phone whirring away by the bed for a while as Martin and I were settling down for the night, and as a joke I warbled a couple of bars of “By the Light of the Silvery Laptop”.

Inevitably, this resulted in a search on my newly-updated phone of YouTube videos for the original ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon‘, which is lyrically quite appropriate for playing in bed. Except, most of the versions we listened to couldn’t hide the rather schmaltzy genesis of the song, although the Fats Waller and Little Richard versions were among the best.

This is geek romance, perhaps not recgonisable to those not enmeshed in the culture of technology, but there was something quirkily endearing about me crooning along to the song in bed (as Martin kindly smothered his laughter), illuminated only by the pale light of my phone’s screen.

Still, it’s hardly a song that means much to Martin and I. For that we must roll forward to The Smiths, and their song ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’.

It’s blackly romantic, with little sentimentality but a lot of yearning and hope. It seems to say: ‘we love despite our cynicism’.

Here’s the music video:

Watching it I was struck by the geekiness of Morrissey and his gang of bespectacled cyclists. They know they are outcasts – the Oscar Wilde close-up at the start cements this status – but they have found their tribe and are at peace with their boarded-up surroundings and ambivalent sexuality.

What’s important is the company you keep and the understanding it brings. All else can fail if that remains.

And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die.
And if a ten-tonne truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine.


  • Stan

    Who but Morrissey would make a line about a ten-tonne truck so romantic? Okay, maybe Stephin Merritt. And Polly Harvey. Anyway. I’d be curious to know what you think of Schneider TM’s cover of this song. It’s a grower, I think.

    • Maura

      The Smiths were always genius at undercutting darkly weary lyrics with upbeat melodies.

      I like this cover of the song. But I enjoy covers that try to do something different with the song, rather than doing an approximate (which I find boring, usually). Also, I think the electronica element works well, especially since the song came out of the era of burgeoning electronic music.

      Thanks for alerting me to it. 🙂

      • Stan

        Agreed. Schneider TM made it very much his own, instead of sticking to a Morrissey template. Glad you liked it!

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