Music Monday: Learning to Fly

This is a two-fer Music Monday as there are two songs called Learning to Fly, both which fit into the Elsehere soundtrack.

First up, the Pink Floyd song.

Pink Floyd started out in the mid 60s as one of the leading lights of London’s alternative scene, rose to massive international fame with Dark Side of the Moon, imploded with The Wall and made comebacks in the mid 80s (Momentary Lapse of Reason) mid 90s (The Division Bell and Pulse), mid 2000s (Live 8) and mid 2010s (The Endless River). Sadly, that will probably be the last of them as founder member Rick Wright died in 2008, shortly after the Live 8 performance, but the individual members are still active. Learning to Fly comes from the Momentary Lapse of reason period.

One of the things that I love about Pink Floyd is that their music is always an interesting listen. Sometimes it’s incredibly complex, with a lot of multitracking and layers and layers of sound to dig into…and sometimes it’s something like Learning to Fly, where it’s really simple. The vocal track is essentially one note (in fact it’s almost talking blues rather than singing) while the backing track is another of those rolling, relentless pieces of music that I’ve talked about a few times. It’s spacey and trippy and it never fails to make my mind take flight.

It would get a place on this soundtrack just for that, but the lyrics are what really anchors this to the Elsehere soundtrack as they beautifully encapsulate Ayana’s journey. Leaving home for the first time and figuring out how and where she fits in. Condition grounded, but determined to try, indeed!

Which brings me to Learning to Fly, by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Tom Petty was an American singer-songwriter who spent most of his career with the Heartbreakers. They started out in the early 70s, rose to fame in 79 with the release of Damn the Torpedoes and were still working (and successful) at the time of Tom Petty’s death in October 2017. Learning to Fly was a hit for them in 1991.

This song (and its video) was my introduction to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It got a decent rotation on MTV (yep, back then, MTV still played music!) and a very small part of my adoration for this song is pure nostalgia. Life is so much simpler at 13…!

It’s musically both different to the Pink Floyd song and also very similar. The similarity is it’s another very simple piece of music, but as a bit of good-time southern rock it sounds very different. It’s played on four chords, but the way they’re combined makes the piece feel a lot more grounded. I’d be less inclined to listen to a purely instrumental version of this than I would the Pink Floyd track, but that’s largely because Tom’s voice and inflections are such a big part of how this song works in a way that David Gilmour’s vocals aren’t.

As with the Pink Floyd track, the lyrics are fitting to Ayana’s journey: it’s another song that speaks to me about leaving home and figuring out your place in the world. It’s also a good lesson that looking back is not the best way to move forward and that you do just have to keep trying – which is definitely a lesson all writers need to take on board!

Ask me which of these two is my favourite and you’ll get a different answer on a different day – both are equally good and both have played their part in shaping the Elsehere.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

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