Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bright Side of the Road (1979)

The Cambridge Theologian has created an interesting music blog called A - Z Albums where he attempts to review an album a day.  In his post on Van's Still on Top: the Greatest Hits he has an interesting story about the song Bright Side of the Road.

Bright Side of the Road, a song that I do actually love, has been destroyed for me. By me. How? By allowing it to become my ‘exam song’. During my AS Levels I listened to the Best of Van Morrison one evening before an exam and found that Bright Side of the Road did indeed make me look on the bright side and cheered me up. In the morning, when my Dad was driving me to the exam, Bright Side of the Road came on Radio 2 (which is unusual, given that it’s rarely played on the radio) and again put me in a much more positive mindset before the exam. I thought it was a weird coincidence that it had been played on the radio during that short drive to school and it became my ‘lucky song’, making me feel just a little bit more positive before an exam.
I’ve played Bright Side of the Road the night before and the morning of every exam I’ve sat since my AS Levels. It’s not surprising, therefore, that when I hear it now it makes me feel slightly ill and panicky. I even played it on results days and on the day I received my letter from Cambridge University, letting me know whether I’d got an offer or not. In general, I try not to be a superstitious person but I don’t think I would have felt comfortable going in to any of my A Level or undergraduate exams if I hadn’t played Bright Side of the Road first.

In some ways I think it’s quite natural to become dependent on superstitions and particular patterns of behaviour in exam periods. In a similar fashion, I’d never feel quite happy going into an exam unless I had a ridiculous amount of pens with me. Of course it’s extremely improbably that seven pens are all going to stop working at once, but I got into a habit of taking loads into exams and the habit stuck.

Such superstitious and repetitious behaviour makes you feel like you can control how things will go when you feel like you are lacking control. I would always play Bright Side of the Road at the end of the evening (when I’d completed my revision and was getting ready for bed) and then in the morning of the exam immediately before I left the house and at those points I didn’t really have any more control. By that point I’d done all the preparation I could do and no longer felt I could direct how the exam would go. The only thing you can do at that point is hope that you have a bit of luck with what comes up on the paper. So feeling like you can induce some luck through a song is quite a calming thing, even if you know rationally that the idea of inducing luck is ridiculous.

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