Wednesday Wadio: Magnetic Fields “Fear of Trains”

by Dave on February 17, 2010

in Wednesday Wadio

I professed my love of the Magnetic Fields in a post about a different song a couple of years ago, and I don’t care to repeat that level of gushingment. I am prepared, however, to make up words. Click the link above for my analysis of Mr. Merritt and his team as today I’m just going to get right into their song Fear of Trains which is probably my favorite. I also chose the MagFields today as they recently played Boston and I was shocked to see this particular ditty on the setlists of both their shows at the Wilbur Theater.

Fear of trains, railroads or anything related to train travel is clinically referred to as Diderodromophobia and must be a real bummer for anyone living in West Yorkshire. My quick explication is that the song describes a Native American woman who has developed a literal fear of trains because they’ve been harbingers of unfortunate events throughout her entire life.

Cover version. By Lisa Loeb’s Stalker. A for Effort.

It was the army train that took her daddy from her
It was the bible train that took her momma too
And that high loud whistle made her horse run away
But the straw the broke the camel’s back was you
It was the government train that took away her childhood
It was the KKK that took away her past
It was the white man’s will that hers be broken
But that barefoot girl could run too fast

I don’t have time today to dig into Wild West history references, but the theme is pretty clear. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was you”, is obviously a veiled reference to Thomas the Tank Engine. And is there some hidden chapter of the KKK’s evil past that we don’t know about? Maybe they were originally train spotting hobbyists whose club rules got a little out of hand? Intrigued, I looked for more information on several “song meaning” sites and found the same basic conjecture as my own. No one caught on to my TTTE theory though, so you heard that here first.

Live with Claudia on lead. Please seek out the original recording!

It’s my habit on Wadio to embed several easy-to-watch/listen to videos so you can see what all the my fuss is about. An original version of Fear of Trains is sadly absent from any of the big vid sites, so we’ll have to take what we can get. I’ve featured a reasonable cover of the song by some enthusiastic emo chick with a mini-harp. There’s also a live video above but the female “field”, Claudia Gonson, is the one belting it out and effectively ruining the… effect for me – you have to hear it with the original recording’s guitar picking and Merritt’s deep, dead pan vocals bemoaning the tragedy. What to do, what to do?

Well, if you’re a user you can listen to Fear of Trains on Last FM. You can also shell out the wisest $0.99 of your young life and Download Fear Of Trains from Amazon. I promise you – it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be sorry unless you’re also deaf. If you know the song, or seek it out as a result of this post, please share your thoughts and comments. Until next week, Wadioheads.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Lockwood March 20, 2010 at 7:06 am

Hi there, nice post but that isn’t Claudia singing it is Shirley Simms with the wonderful twang. You can see Claudia’s hair swinging away behind her. Cheers from W.Yorks.

joe April 17, 2010 at 9:01 pm

As great as the original recording is, the live version with Shirley Simms singing brings the song to a new level. It’s the last song on this stream:

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