Sinead O’Connor’s 1987 debut album, The Lion And The Cobra had a huge impact on me. Anxious to get my hands on more music from my favorite new artist, I bought the Married To The Mob soundtrack, since it featured the then-unreleased “Jump In The River” (the song was later included on 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got).
Today’s post isn’t about Sinead O’Connor, but another track from the Married To The Mob soundtrack that I fell for, “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus. Director Jonathan Demme obviously adored the song too, since he also made room for “Goodbye Horses” in his next film, scoring this memorable scene from Silence Of The Lambs (later parodied in Clerks 2).
It suffices to say that a serial killer with a penchant for skinning plus-sized female victims isn’t exactly what songwriter William Garvey had in mind when penning “Goodbye Horses.” Far, far from it. Here’s Garvey on his most famous tune — straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were:
“The song is about transcendence over those who see the world as only earthy and finite. The horses represent the five senses from Hindu philosophy (The Bhagavad Gita) and the ability to lift one’s perception above these physical limitations and to see beyond this limited Earthly perspective.”
Heady stuff, though I’d never paid much attention to the lyrics. I was simply taken in by the synthpoppiness of the track and the smoky etherealness of Q Lazzarus’ vocals. And her soulful growl. Yes, Q Lazzarus is a she, a taxi cab driver turned singer, who appeared on screen in two other Demme films, Something Wild (“The Candle Goes Away”) and Philadelphia (singing Talking Heads’ “Heaven”).
The Airborne Toxic Event has been covering “Goodbye Horses” every night in concert for some time, even connecting with Garvey shortly before his death in 2009. The songwriter had reached out to correct a missung lyric after watching some YouTube clips of the band’s live performances, saying he loved their version and suggesting The Airborne Toxic Event record “Goodbye Horses.”
Holding Garvey and his song in high regard, they’ve now heeded his wish. Writing in remembrance of the late songwriter, frontman Mikel Jollett says, “He wrote a beautiful song. I understand why he wrote it. I know it in and out. Those enigmatic lyrics, the longing of it, the sadness. We’ve played it so much, I feel like it has become part of our lives.” If “Goodbye Horses” wasn’t already a small part of yours, it’s time to make some room:
“Goodbye Horses” will appear on The Airborne Toxic Event’s sophomore album, All At Once, out April 26. Right now, it’s a free download when you join the band’s email list, using the widget above.