Mrs. Toad and I tend to ignore Valentine’s Day. That’s not to say that we are scrooges when it comes to romance, in fact I would say exactly the opposite, but for us the compulsory nature of it doesn’t feel very romantic. Everyone’s different, but we’d rather take our sentimentality when it naturally wells up during the normal working week, which is actually pretty frequently, so we don’t exactly miss out by missing out.
We also, as I suppose do most couples, have a few songs which have ended up being strongly associated with our relationship for a variety of reasons – songs we played a lot when we were courting, songs which played at our wedding at key moments (even if entirely by happy accident of the shuffle function), or songs with lyrics with which we strongly identify. It’s all the usual stuff really and the songs themselves, whilst not exactly classic choices, are at least the sort of songs you would expect people to gravitate towards for this kind of thing.
This one is an exception though, and it’s also one I have never mentioned to Mrs. Toad either, as it is a song which I have ended up associating with her, and with my falling in love with her, entirely by accident: All the Lights Went Out by Marcy Playground.
It is a love song, I suppose, but it’s not even my favourite song on what is not even my favourite Marcy Playground album. The reason it stuck is a bit convoluted, but bear with me…
I was always pretty pragmatic about love and marriage. At the time I met Mrs. Toad I had had a couple of girlfriends I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with, so I had an inkling I would know what I was looking for when I found it. I never expected the struck-by-lightning, love at first sight thunderbolt stuff, but I knew that those previous relationships had lacked something, even if I didn’t know what it was, so I guessed that when I met the girl I wanted to marry the lack of that absence at least would be some sort of indication.
That wasn’t the case, though. It was a classic case of an absolute, life-changing, instantaneous thunderbolt. It even seems silly to me now, but right from the the very start I knew absolutely and without a shred of doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Mrs. Toad.
The result was in some ways related to the shock of grief you feel at extremely bad news, in that I was walking around in a sort of glazed over, detached daze for days afterwards. Of course, it didn’t have that hollow, sickening undertone that grief brings, it brought a sort of terrified, wobbly excitement instead, but I think the sense of shock was similar.
Of course, I still had a job to go to, but I found myself sitting at work with my headphones on gazing into the middle distance an awful lot of the time. I remember exactly what I was thinking, too. I was thinking ‘Holy shit, is this it? Is this the girl I want to marry? Can I really be this sure this fast? This really is it, isn’t it? She really is the one. This is what it feels like. This is what people talk about when they say ‘you know’. You really do fucking know. Holy fuck. I think this really might be it. Fuck. Oh crap. Fucking hell this really is it!’
I was not, as you can probably imagine, at my most capable.
At that point I was listening to Shapeshifter by Marcy Playground an awful lot, and I tended to turn the volume up a wee bit louder, just to drown out the rest of the office so I could be alone with my thoughts. I ended up playing All the Lights Went Out over and over again, without ever really knowing why.
The lyrics aren’t exactly sophisticated, but maybe that helped. Maybe that hypnotic repetition of the line “Well today, all the lights went out in heaven” helped soothe my dizzy brain. Maybe that talk of short-circuiting, well, basically everything struck a nerve too, because that’s what I felt like, like my brain had blown a fuse and was scrabbling about trying to get everything working again before it had to do something complicated like cross the road safely.
And the music isn’t exactly classic love song stuff either. It’s not the most aggressive guitar in the world, but the crescendo of the song is a bit loud for a serenade. Again though, maybe that helped, maybe the volume to which the song builds struck a chord with the kind of inner turmoil I was experiencing at the time; it was like a tornado was bouncing around inside my head half the time.
This was, of course, never a love song between Mrs. Toad and I, like most of the songs you would tend to associate with a relationship. Instead, it was a song which caught me at the exact moment lightning struck and somehow seemed to represent what had happened better than anything else around me at the time, so I sat in work and stared into the middle distance, turned up the volume, and played it again and again thinking ‘Holy shit, is this really it?’
And yes, it was really it. I knew immediately, and with total certainty that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and every single day since has done nothing but cement the clarity of that decision. It was easy, really. Obvious. And the best and most important thing that has ever happened to me. There are just a few odd quirks in the soundtrack, that’s all.