The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic – 1971

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys MP3

“If you see something that looks like a star
And it’s shooting up out of the ground”

There were all these kids in the mid-90’s in Albuquerque from all these different places.  Most of them were punks and goths, and I have no idea how they all ended up there.  But there they were with a thriving little scene.  If you know anything about Albuquerque, there are very few places that you can hang out after hours.  One of the places that this crew of kids liked to go was the Denny’s on Central.  And really I don’t know how the staff there put up with them.

“And your head is spinning from a loud guitar
And you just can’t escape from the sound”

I would end up at this Denny’s a lot late at night.  And I also knew quite  a few of these kids from the music scene around Albuquerque.  It’s a very small city.  Basically these were a lot of kids in black with tattoos and piercings.  I don’t know what it was about Albuquerque during this time (or any time maybe), but a lot of these kids turned out to be fugitives.  And they were looking for trouble.  Specifically they were looking for a fight and they would find fights often.

“Don’t worry too much, it’ll happen to you
We were children once, playing with toys”

And one night in particular a mentally ill guy just walked into Denny’s looking for a fight.  And he got one.  Not even exaggerating a little bit.  He walked in the door and walked up to the scariest looking guy in the place.  Remember it’s full of decked out punk and goth kids, so it was probably pretty hard to choose the scariest looking kid in the place.  And literally just did his best to get the guy mad enough to go out in the parking lot with him.  And in the end he was being kicked by a bunch of punk and goth kids in the parking lot.  And I remember the sounds and the faces.  And the blood.

“And the thing that you’re hearing is only the sound
Of the low spark of high-heeled boys”

And the sickening idea that there were people at home asleep.  I don’t know why that struck me more than anything.

“If the percentage your paying is too high priced”

There were people out there that were asleep.  And they would wake up in the morning and take their children to school.  They would go to work.  They would worry about their children’s progress in school.  And they would worry about the mortgage and the promises of employment and the fate of the economy.

“while you’re living beyond all your means”

They would keep their heads down and do their best to follow the rules.  The rules in all of the propaganda that is drummed into us from birth.

“And the man in the suit has just bought a new car”

And what is wrong with these rules.  Look at Somalia.  Lawlessness just gets you a boot in the face in the parking lot of a Denny’s at 3 in the morning.  Finding safety in a path to security for your family is a noble cause.

“with the profit he’s made on your dreams”

So we will all get up and have faith in this monstrosity of a system that promises us something new every day.  When something goes wrong there are thousands of solutions.  Thousands of causes.  Thousands of people to blame.

“But today you just read that the man was shot dead
by a gun that didn’t make any noise”

While our neighbors lives collapse, we just sit and watch and wait for someone else to do something.  We try to invent solutions and causes and blame.  Rather than true compassion as a rule, our first reaction is always to fabricate some outrage for other people’s misfortune.  I’m not talking about blaming the victim, because we are all victims of our own self-righteousness.  I’m really pointing to the continuation of our cultural propaganda that there is a one … right … way.

“But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest
Was the low spark of high-heeled boys”

I have this sort of irreverent idea that I would be afraid to live in an America where there were no young people experimenting with drugs.  I don’t really take the War on Drugs seriously outside of the idea that it is a profit making machine.  I think there are people that take it seriously, and I don’t understand them at all.  I don’t use drugs.  And I have hardly ever used illicit drugs as an adult.  I truly don’t advocate their use at all.  And I definitely don’t take the anti-prohibition people seriously.  How can you?  But I do think that most of our moral opposition to drugs is simply because they are against the law. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys is not about drugs.  But it does combine the ideas of counter culture and trying to succeed by the rules in the same motif.

“If you had just a minute to breathe
And they granted you one final wish
Would you ask for something like another chance
Or something similar as this”

We are a nation of evangelical preachers looking for the devil in everything we do.  We always see the problem as somewhere outside of our reach.  That the corruption is in Washington D.C. or Wall Street or Hollywood or xenophobically abroad.  We never see the corruption of our own morals at the tip of our nose.  We gather in groups that find a common ground of victimization and deceive ourselves into thinking we weren’t in line to receive it.  That we ignored the corruption because the rules told us to keep quiet and wait our turn at the fountain.

“Don’t worry too much, it’ll happen to you
As sure as your sorrows or joys”

And it really seems as if we have no choice in the matter.  We have to live and it’s still better than lawlessness.  Like some stupid Mad Max plot playing out in a Denny’s parking lot.

“And the thing that disturbs you is only the sound
Of the low spark of high-heeled boys”

There is a chaos that sort of pervades the entire history of humanity.  We would like to think of ourselves as universally chosen, but I am always thinking of the massive amounts of nothingness that surround us.  The vast areas of real estate on other planets and the massive energy of the billions of suns.  I almost think of us as universally ignored and arrogant.  The narrative of human history doesn’t really seem to play out very well as a story with causes and conditions.

There are thugs exploiting the weak on the street.  And there are thugs exploiting the trust of the masses at the bank.  And the lawlessness seems to be uniform when viewed from this perspective.  We are just paying our protection money.  But our complaints better not be too loud.  Our hopes, dreams, emotions and work are all exploited for the benefit of the few.  And history sort of repeats that back to us, but somehow the patriotic propaganda gives us some kind of ownership.  The chaos and violence emolliate us, but we find some way for it to be a celebration of our heritage.

But there is nothing like The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.  Everything in the song serves the metaphor, for whatever it means.    The length of the song especially.  And there are these crazy solos that sort of burn the building down.  It’s amazing the level of interest the band is able to maintain over eleven and a half minutes.  Building it up and breaking it down.  And really most of this song is just this one simple ostinato repeated over and over again.  And the spiritual epic of the lyrics is really just an extenstion of what’s happening musically.  I don’t think the words come off well at all sitting by themselves on a page.  But with Steve Winwood singing the words over a competent collaboration of music it’s pretty powerful.  And in the end there is a note of hope amid the gloom.

“And strip me of everything, including my pride
But spirit is something that no one destroys”

Maybe we are where we are.  Maybe it’s not all emptiness.   Maybe we are dwarfed by what we cannot see.  By all that is invisible in our consciousness.  Maybe something beyond us is being accomplished in that parking lot of the Denny’s at 3am.  Maybe there’s a reason we get up in the morning and trust our peers to do the right thing.  Maybe compulsion frees us of so many choices.  Maybe the absurdity of order while chaos and violence reign is an absurdity that is measured and liberating.  And maybe all of our choices lead somewhere.  From our beginnings to our endings.  And maybe we are a resolved motif in death.  And maybe it’s good that I find all of this so disturbing and enlightening at the same time.  Because there is something transcendental in a Traffic song with its allusions to fusion and the primeval necessity of counter culture and corruption.

“And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound
Of the low spark of high-heeled boys”

And the fade in and fade out.  Maybe the world doesn’t just end with a whimper but begins with one as well.  This is the way the world begins.  Not with a bang but a whimper.  For thine is the chaotic beauty of a Traffic song.

“High heeled boys.”

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4 responses to “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic – 1971”

  1. Love the essay, disagree with the underlyng thesis, but you have a wonderful way with words. And that song was always one of my favorites. My take on America has always been that ALL people are inherently selfish (genetic evolution ensures this) and that the government was designed to use this to society’s advantage. It is wobbly, barely works, staggering along like some Rube Goldberg device, and its only virtue is that it seems to be better than any of the alternatives. Even though it allows travesties like the War on Drugs to happen and create more problems than it solved. But it does seem to be the only government designed to allow a 180 change in direction without violence, or overthrow of the governemtn. Checks & Balances. ( Even if the checks are rubber these days,;> )
    c’ya later.

    • I am glad you liked the entry. And yes I definitely agree. Greatest flawed system on earth and there are government transitions without death. I was really thinking more about the existential aspects of the human race in relation to a spiritual or mystical explanation. I like to make my house of cards out of blatant contradictions. I’m so glad you left a comment. And I’m really glad you read it and enjoyed it.

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