Friday, July 28, 2023

Friday Night Videos: Sinéad O'Connor

A few times in my life are clearly defined as "Before" and "After.

Graduations. Marriage. Kids. But one that has left a significant mark on me (and my wife Natalie) was Before and After hearing "The Lion and the Cobra" by Sinéad O’Connor. Seeing her in concert remains one of the best shows I have ever been to in my life. 

I do not believe in any sort of afterlife at all. But I hope she finally found some sort of peace.

The effect her music, especially her first few albums, had on me is quite frankly immeasurable. Not surprisingly, she also inspired some of my favorite RPG moments.

I have already talked about characters I have named after her. and how her album, The Lion and the Cobra, has constantly been among my top 5 forever

The Dragon and The Phoenix

I am not going to say there would have been no "The Dragon and the Phoenix," my epic Buffy RPG campaign without Sinéad's "The Lion and the Cobra," but it and everything that came after it (my work on the Buffy RPG, Ghosts of Albion) would have looked very different.

Back in 1988, listening to "The Lion & the Cobra" (for like the 1000th time likely), I had an idea of a character that loved someone so much that they breached the walls of death and came back to that person. It was a powerful image and something I wanted to do ever since. Eventually, that image from so long ago became a central theme of "The Dragon & the Phoenix."  The song was "Troy" (as in Trojans) and the final adventure was named "No Other Troy." Both for the Sinéad O'Connor song and the Yeats poem.

The build-up for this adventure, an interlude, was set to "Drink Before the War," also from "The Lion and the Cobra."

While "The Lion and the Cobra" had a HUGE impact on my life, it was not her only album. Another contributing factor to both my Ravenloft games of the 1990s and "The Dragon and the Phoenix" was "I am Stretched on Your Grave" from her wildly successful "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got."

Another element added to the soundtrack of my early 2000s games was her 1994 album "Universal Mother," with "Fire On Babylon" being the main choice. 

Sinéad also appeared on many other albums. One song of hers really help me find the tone I was looking for for my The Dragon and the Phoenix game. It is "Empire" off of Bomb the Bass's album "Clear."

Other Games

Though back in the late 80s / early 90s the Buffy RPG was not even an idea yet. What was an idea were my ideas for a Star Trek TNG game after picking up some FASA Trek material for TNG. Back then the idea of a Ghost Ship and the song was "Jackie" also from "The Lion and the Cobra."

This was, no doubt, inspired by what I was doing back then. A lot of horror role-playing.

Another song, which while by itself did not lead to any RPG ideas, it lead me to Enya which more or less was my soundtrack for writing Ghosts of Albion. The song was "Never Get Old" also from "The Lion and the Cobra."

Other Videos

I can't have a proper tribute without mentioning "Nothing Compares 2 U."  I was at a party one night back in college. People were drinking and generally doing what you do at an underage college keg party. The TV was on MTV as background noise. Sinéad came on with "Nothing Compares 2 U" and I swear the whole place ground to a halt so people could watch her. Ok, maybe not to a halt, but it was early enough in the release of the song that not many had seen the video yet. I already had heard the song many times, I bought the album on the day it was released, so I knew it. I think I may have even seen the video. But now everyone else was discovering something I already knew. Just how fantastic she was.

Her critics (and there are so many of them) are all quick to point out that Prince wrote this song. Yes. Yes he did and Prince is amazing. He has written so many songs for so many artists. But when Prince wrote this he was singing about a lover. Sinéad was singing about her abusive mother and how she really just wanted to be loved by her the same way she loved her.

Tell me that doesn't make it hit harder.

Speaking of critics.

At the concert to celebrate Bob Dylan's birthday right after the Pope thing, she came on stage and was booed by the crowd. Singer Kris Kristofferson came out, gave her a hug, and told her, "Don't let the bastards get you down." She did her song and fled the stage, where Kristofferson was there to give her a hug. My admiration of him went up several notches after that. In 2009 he recorded an acoustic song, "Sister Sinead."

I'm singing this song for my sister Sinead
Concerning the god awful mess that she made
She told them her truth just as hard as she could
Her message profoundly was misunderstood

There's humans entrusted with guarding our gold
And humans in charge of the saving of souls
And humans responded all over the world
Condemning that bald headed brave little girl

And maybe she's crazy and maybe she ain't
But so was Picasso and so were the saints
And she's never been partial to shackles or chains
She's too old for breaking and too young to tame

It's askin' for trouble to stick out your neck
In terms of a target a big silhouette
But some candles flicker and some candles fade
And some burn as true as my sister Sinead

- Kris Kristofferson, "Sister Sinead" 


PT Dilloway said...

I loved "Nothing Compares 2U" but didn't really listen to anything else. It's too bad that Pope thing pretty well killed her career. I suppose it was hard especially for American audiences to really get what had been going on in Ireland/North Ireland for a long time. Except for the occasional bombing not much was widely reported.

A few years ago on a radio station's Facebook page they asked people what their favorite sad song was or something and I said "Nothing Compares 2U by Sinead O'Connor" and got a half-dozen "AAAAAAAActually, Prince wrote the song." As if we reference songs by who wrote them. The radio station took my side, which was nice.

Jonathan Linneman said...

Very nice tribute to a transcendent artist. Thank you!