“Let us escape from this workaday world by the side door of music.” ~ Retired Colourman
Despite our rather ambiguous feelings on Holmes musicals (as expressed here), a fan of the Canon cannot deny the inextricable link of Sherlock Holmes to music. The violin as a symbol of Holmes stands only behind the Calabash and Deerstalker- and the nerd in me would like to note that both of those things are non-canonical.
One of my ways of expressing my love for a fictional world is to layer it in music. Since I cannot really create music myself, I collect it and rearrange it so that mirrors the emotions I feel. Ssigerson and I have taken this up as a bit of a hobby when it comes to Holmes music, and we figured we’d share some of our playlists with you. Some of them are overlapping, as we like to share music with each other like a kindergarten class on show and tell day.
As it is, I hold generally around three Sherlock Holmes themed playlists: an emotional/maudlin one, a cracky/humor one, and an adventure/party one. The Party one I generally break out at Holmes Parties, of which Ssigerson and I are becoming experts, or at least connoisseurs. Since my Cracky and Adventure playlists are quite similar, and are mostly made up of music from existent Holmes sources, today I thought I’d share my Emotional playlist. I am not usually a user of the fannon term “Feels,” but this playlist has many of them, in the Hiatusy/Reichenbachy sort of a way. And if some of them are more romantic, well, it’s because Holmes and Watson have the most epic Bromance since Frodo and Sam. Many of these songs I link with Holmes and Watson due to the fantastic efforts of fanvidders, which I will try to link to.
WARNING: ANGST, DRAMA, EXCESSIVE MUMFORD & SONS.
I never felt so much life
Huddled in the trenches,
Gazing on the battle field,
Our rifles blaze away;
We blaze away.
This song was one of the first vids I ever saw when I had first learned about the Granada series. Since, I’ve had a hard time extracting it from Holmes and Watson in my head. To me, this is sort of the “game’s afoot” song, with Watson taking to detective work with the dedication of a soldier, like the “man of action” he is.
Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I’m afraid of what I will discover inside
Dr. John Watson is a brave, intelligent lady killer with a little bit of a danger addiction. In the Canon, he regularly takes leave of his wife for an evening or two to go hunt down some dastardly criminals, and he’s quite excited by a bit of breaking and entering. In the BBC series this is played more seriously as a bit of PSTD, where Watson has a harder time integrating into civilian life. Watson’s partnership with Holmes allows him to be useful and be a different kind of solider. Holmes knows Watson inside and out, and finds him a good man.
I feel like I am cheating a bit by including this track. However, the first time I heard it I was blown away by how much it reminded me of the track played in the Granada Series when Watson imagines Holmes’ fatal fight with Moriarty. While the new films aren’t the most adept adaptation, I do appreciate them for sending up little nods such as this, and focusing on the great partnership/bromance that is Holmes and Watson.
Tremble Little Lion Man,
You’ll never settle any of your scores
Your grace is wasted in your face,
Your boldness stands alone among the wreck
BBC’s Sherlock is an interesting animal. He feels so much younger than in other adaptations, with so much more to learn about humanity. In most other depictions his limitations are few and far between- but modern Holmes doesn’t fit as well in society as Victorian Holmes, and he’s got a lot to learn about the way humans tick. Yes, okay, pretty much every Mumford & Sons song reminds me of Sherlock.
I’ve seen inside the devil’s dreams where young men die
and graveyards open up their arms for mothers left to cry
I have seen the bleeding and I hate what we’ve done
but just like every other fool I’ll keep marching on
Holmes- any version really- on the run, destroying Moriarty’s organizations from all around the world, dreaming of London. Ssigerson sent this to me shortly following our viewing of BBC’s The Riechenbach Fall. This song is SO Holmes to me- from the violin at the beginning to the phrase “I am nothing but a human alien.”
This and the following two instrumentals I actually believe I found on a Holmes fanmix years ago, and thus kept in my Holmes music folder. Sad! Violins = Post-Reichenbach/Hiatus, I guess.
7.) Breakdown- Toshiyuki O’mori
Watson: 3 years. Dead Best Friend. Dead Wife. Damn.
But others pass, the never pause,
To feel that magic in your hand
To me you’re like a wild rose
They never understand
This is a love-lost song, but I feel like it’s got a lot of lost treasured friend as well. No one knew Holmes like Watson did. I find the “rose” bit particularly apt. Holmes was just a character in a book to the rest of the world, and was slandered. Watson laments that there will be no-one like Holmes again, and that the world doesn’t really get what they lost
9.) Fall- Caitlin Obom
Again, cheating a bit with this one as it was actually written about the series. But I won’t leave it off my playlist, because it belongs here. BBC’s Watson laments his best friend.
Lend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free
Yes, Mumford & Sons. I’ll have to mine their new album, I’m sure there will be more songs for future playlists! Watson and Holmes here pick up the pieces after the Return, and begin a new partnership and a new series of cases.
Oh well I don’t mind, if you don’t mind
Cause I don’t shine if you don’t shine
Before you jump
Tell me what you find
When you read my mind?
Again, this is another I first saw with a lovely fanvid. A much cheerier number than the rest. Holmes & Watson, back together at last for literary fame and glory- together, far better than they ever could be singularly. Watson will never stop being amazing by Holmes, and Holmes will never stop enjoying Watson’s surprise.
And of course I forgive
I’ve seen how you live
Like a phoenix you rise from the ashes
You pick up the pieces
And the ghosts in the attic
They never quite leave
And of course I forgive
You’ve seen how I live
I’ve got darkness and fears to appease
My voices and analogies
Ambitions like ribbons
Worn bright on my sleeve
CAN I QUOTE THIS WHOLE SONG? No? Well. I do recommend listening to it all. Vienna Teng is simply wonderful about creating very vivid stories with her songs. In this song, she tells a love story without ever using the word “love,” and for me it perfectly encapsulates a devoted partnership. Two complex individuals who complement each other and, in the end, gravitate together. They know best each other’s triumphs and weaknesses, and they accept them without question. “And though world explode, these two survive….”
How swiftly we choose it
The sacred simplicity
Of you at my side
And on that note, I shall leave my partner-in-blogging, Ssigerson, to compile her music!
~ ~ ~
*shuffles papers, clears throat and taps microphone* This thing on?
>I’d like to briefly underscore that HamisMD and I compiled our respective halves of this post without sharing any of the details with one another in order to avoid ‘tainting’ each other’s commentary. I’ve not seen her list until just now, as I came in to add my own, and yet her list contains a few of the things I have on the rest of my list but chose to leave out here for various reasons (i.e. Soldier’s Eyes, which *screams* post-Reichenbach Sherlock!John at me, and all of the Mumford & Sons, which is also very ‘Sherlock’ in my head.) But enough about that…<
Trying to put music to the canon is no easy feat, but I (like HamishMD) have always had a habit of creating ‘soundtracks’ for things. Sometimes they’re in my head, sometimes it’s just one song, or a certain type of song that happens to speak to a specific moment, and sometimes we’re talking actual playlists. I’ve generally done it more often with major events or important journeys, but I’ve recently begun doing it with ‘themes’ and stories as well. Not surprisingly, the ‘canon’ is one of those themes. I’ve currently got a 133-song, 7.5 hour playlist on iTunes lovingly called “221b-Sides” that’s got anything and everything on it from my music collection that makes me think of Holmes and Watson in any way. A large portion of that includes *actual* soundtracks from things like Sherlock, the Guy Ritchie films, ‘Granada’, and The Great Mouse Detective, but an awful lot of it is miscellaneous, too. The following is a selection of some of my personal favorites along with brief descriptions of why I like them. I’ve tried to organize them based on the feeling they produce for me. Some of them feel ‘canonesque’ to me or otherwise set the environmental mood, some are atmospheric, but in a ‘weightier’, darker way, and some are fully ‘contemporary’, but have lyrics to them that I feel really speak to some aspect of the stories.
There are, of course, a great many more on my list, but I had to limit myself somewhere.
This is a relatively recent addition to my list. It was used as a background piece for the flat on Baker Street in the computer/video games “Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper” and also “Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsene Lupin/Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis” and now I can’t listen to it without it conjuring up that image. Turns out I had this song on my computer well before I even bumped into those games and was one day really disoriented to hear it playing while the game disk was safely stashed in a cabinet across the room.
Seems there’s a theme happening here. This is another “stuck by association” sort of thing. The 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes has as soundtrack that was very heavily influenced by Tchaikovsky. I swear this particular piece is in the film somewhere, but I can’t say specifically where offhand without loading up the DVD and searching through it. I think it’s closer to the beginning of the film. Bottom line is, this song, whether it’s in the film ‘verbatim’ or not, will forever make me think of 221b. A bit ‘generic’, I know, but it’s true.
NOT Tchaikovsky! This one goes back to the very beginnings of my Sherlockomania and is soooo very canonical to me. HamishMD sent this to me a few years ago while we were discussing this very same topic and I’ve never been able to listen to it and not think of the canon since. It’s got just the right mixture of dramatic intensity, sophisticated flourish, and playful caprice to really hit the nail on the head for me. I just love it to bits and it never gets old.
This is yet another ‘case of association’. This wouldn’t have anything particularly ‘Holmesian’ about it if it weren’t for that fact that part of it plays as a continuous loop on the menus for the DVD copies of ‘Granada’. Not only has ‘Granada’ imprinted heavily on the voices I hear in my head when I read the canon, it has also imprinted on the sorts of music I imagine going along with it.
This is one of those dark, melodramatic pieces I was referring to above. It’s so mournfully melancholic and foreboding. When I listen to this song it conjures up an intense collage of all the canon’s darker, more sinister moments. I see desperately frightened figures wisping about amidst trees shrouded in early morning fog. I see dark things happening inside of dark houses when no one is watching. I see the resulting sadness and angst in the eyes of those affected and can hear the fear and anxiety in their voices. I can also feel the brooding intensity that comes with constantly trying to grapple and do battle with the darkest sides of human nature. I feel this might work well for something like Hound of the Baskervilles if you wanted to make it feel really melodramatically creepy.
This affects me in a way that’s very similar to the last track, but rather than being filled with brooding melancholy, it’s got a clear note of critical urgency to it with a faint wisps of hopeful optimism. This song is still filled with foreboding darkness, but is much faster in pace. To me it tells the story of a close race against time to avert something potentially disastrous, ending in triumphant victory. So, basically, about half of the canon.
Now we’ll move on to things that don’t really fit with the atmosphere of the stories in terms of rhythm, but go very well (to me at least) with them in terms of lyrics. Not all of this song works completely for me (there’s a bit at the end where it becomes clear the singer is speaking about a woman he loves), but by and large it really fits. The early lines: “I never really gave up on breaking out of this two-star town…I’m gonna turn this thing around” are very distinctly ‘Watson’ to me, particularly as we first get to know him in A Study in Scarlet. I very much had the sense at the start of the stories that Watson is a bit ‘starved’ for action and is clearly having a difficult time re-integrating, but has made a decision to fix that, which is what I hear in that line. The irony is that this is what brings him into contact with Holmes. The random little context-less bits that come in between the verses are, to me, like a mixed salad of the sorts of cryptic details Holmes might toss about while solving a given case, or the snippits of thoughts that race through his mind at any given moment (“The good old days, the honest man. … A broken wrist and a paid trapeze. … A teenage queen, the loaded gun …”). The line: “It’s funny how you just break down, waitin’ on some sign. I pulled up to the front of your driveway with magic soakin’ my spine” makes me think very much of the moment in Empty House when Holmes suddenly reappears in Watson’s visiting room, giving his old friend what’s very probably the shock of a lifetime. “I don’t shine, if you don’t shine…Put your back on me” calls forth the manner in which both characters are defined by their connection to one another as well as the depth of the friendship and trust that exists between them. They are two sides of one coin. They are partners. Take the one away from the other and all of the ‘shine’ and magic of the stories goes away. It isn’t ‘Holmes with some half-witted lackey named Watson’, it’s ‘Holmes AND Watson’.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not the only one who sees this. After I’d established this song in my head as being distinctly “Holmes and Watson”-like in nature, HamishMD came up with a YouTube video where someone else had taken it and put it to clips from ‘Granada’. Go and click on the hyperlink for this track above and you’ll see what I mean.
8.) The Soldiering Life ~ The Decemberists
Again, this song is, for me, a testament to the deep friendship that exists between the two characters. The heavy use of military analogy and metaphor combined with the deep sentiment expressed in the words makes this sound like something Watson might think, or (in an especially poetic moment) even write. He describes their adventures: “Ambling madly, all over the town….” He describes his friend and how he cares for him: “You were a brickbat, a bowery tuff, so rough. … My brother in arms. I’d rather lose my limbs than let you come to harm.” (See also the quote from Three Garridebs: “If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.”) Then he admits to us how his adventures with Holmes make him feel, with special regard to the aforementioned need to at least periodically escape the humdrum of mundane life: “But I – I never felt so much life…Huddled in the trenches, gazing on the battlefield. Our rifles blaze away…” I see this sort of battlefield analogy as a metaphor for the civilian font lines Holmes and Watson do battle on side-by-side every day. Again, not all of this song fits, and you may need to take some of it with a grain of salt and a bit of imagination, but it makes for an awfully heartfelt and poetic image.
There is very little about this song that doesn’t perfectly roll all of the mysterious adventure of the canon up in one place for me. It’s very hard for me to put into words exactly what this song makes me see, but it’s very deeply metaphorical and so full of delicious ambience and fanciful excitement. Take the opening lines: “At night they would go walking till the breaking of the day. The morning is for sleeping. Through the dark streets they’d go searching, to see God in their own way…” Is that not, in essence, a description of what Holmes and Watson do? Try the next verse: “So we rode down to the river where the toiling ghosts spring…for their curses to be broken. …” Again, you might have to think a bit ‘outside of the box’ on this one and remember to not take it literally, but holy hatbands! Nothing sets the adventurous mood for some good canonical fun like this song.
I originally bought this song in the midst of an enormously angsty and angry “you will not beat me down and scare me off my mark, I will have the last laugh” phase in my life and was listening to it frequently with that in mind. Then, one day, as I was stalking down the street brooding, plotting the ideal comeback, and running some errands, it suddenly struck me like a fresh fish to the face: “HOLY CRAP! THIS IS ‘FINAL PROBLEM’!” I’ve never been able to listen to this without thinking of it that way again and probably never will. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is FAR too electronic, FAR too hyped-up, and FAR too contemporary to fit with the canon at all, and you’re right, it is. Rhythmically, it creates a grinding, almost painfully grating contrast, but the words are what get me. It’s a song…about a person…who’s been targeted by another very clever, but very violent person intent on completely destroying him. (“How careful it was planned – To do away with me.”) Our intrepid hero begins to sweat a bit. Things get real hairy and start to look pretty grim. (“Breathing shallow, I’m slipping away. Hanging in the gallows, I’m starting to pray…”) But WAIT, our heroic narrator’s not done yet! He’s hellbent on not letting his opponent win and get away with whatever unspecified heinous crimes he’s committed. (“So kill me if you can…What if I survive, and live to tell the truth?”) He narrowly escapes the clutches of his would-be assassin(s), survives the assault, creates a new life for himself for a while and disappears completely (“I’ll find a new life and hide. …”) only to resurface at just the right moment and obtain both closure and justice (“Imagine the surprise; to find me living and so very much alive.”). Yup. Bit crude, but that’s about it.
If it helps any, this also fits REALLY well to Reichenbach Fall, where the electronic rhythms are at least somewhat less offensively placed. Still no good? You can get the same basic effect and feel (but with better lyrics and less synthesizer) by reaching for Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. I know others have picked this up as a Reichenbachanalogy as well.
11.) Eric’s Song ~ Vienna Teng
If EVER there were a Holmes/Watson BFF ballad THIS would be it. This is a deeply emotional and sentimental song and is one of my absolute favorites in general. It is phenomenally beautiful and actually made me cry the first time I listened to it; well before I came to hear it as ‘Holmes/Watson BFF’. This song is especially effective when coupled with anything having to do with The Final Problem. Show a friend Reichenbach Fall for the first time and then play this song right away afterwards and I can just about guarantee they’ll end up in a sobbing ball on the floor (if they weren’t already there, that is). I imagine Watson (I mean in canon, but you can stick with Sherlock if it helps, because it may) sitting down just after having lost his best friend and tearfully penning these words, perhaps expressing the things he wish he’d found a way to express just a little bit sooner. If ever you’ve taken it upon yourself to write a letter to a recently deceased loved one (and I have), this is very much the sort of heart-wrenchingly honest sentiment you get. But the lyrics don’t actually have anything to do with death. They’re a celebration of life and an ode to a tremendously beautiful bond between two people. It is a love song, but not necessarily in a romantic sense. This is a song about two very, very dear friends. Whether that means ‘romantic friends’ or ‘platonic friends’ is really immaterial. I stand firmly on the side of ‘platonic’ in this particular case, but you can interpret it however you choose. Platonic friendships can be every bit as beautiful as romantic friendships and when you boil it down, the underlying emotion is by and large the same. THAT’S the level this song works on.
“The sacred simplicity of you at my side.”
Now HERE’S an unlikely pick. Bet you weren’t expecting this one to show up! I really wasn’t either until it randomly hit me one day. As with If I Survive, this song clashes irritatingly with the feel of the text if you only listen to the music and rhythm, but listen to and think about the lyrics and it suddenly becomes weirdly appropriate.
“The essence. The basics. … Allow me to make this childlike in nature. Rhythm: ‘You have it, or you don’t’. That’s a fallacy! … So I’mma stick around…and be your mentor. … I brought all this so that you can survive when law is lawless. … The future is coming on.”
Bonus Track (because even numbers are boring):
This song serves no other purpose other than to make me grin and wiggle around in my chair to the rhythm. Alternately, HamishMD and I have danced around her apartment to it. It just makes us happy. Plain and simple. Not very canonical, I know, but it deserves to be here anyway.