The best half-song in the world

I’m sure I’m like a lot of writers who, after finishing their novel, start dreaming about the film adaptation—casting it in their heads, picking out songs for the soundtrack. I’ve run the film of Mantis a few times in my head, and one of the songs that features heavily in it is the last half of “The Friends of Mr. Cairo” by Jon and Vangelis. It’s the most haunting, unearthly and heartbreaking piece of music I’ve ever heard.

I first heard it back in 1981 when it came out. My older brother had the record and I would lie by the stereo listening to the second half of the song over and over again. I’d keep picking up the needle and dropping it at the midway mark. Sorry, bro, for wrecking your record, but I never cared much for the first half of the song, even though that’s all the radio stations would ever play.

When my brother moved out, he took his record with him and I never heard the song again till I picked up the CD a few years ago. I’m not sure what had made me think of the song after so many years, but a few of its soaring lines were ringing in my head one day, and so I ran down to the music store. My partner had never heard the song, so I played it for her late one night while driving home together. We played it over and again, just like I used to, driving around the neighborhood—the two of us feeling like something had touched the insides of our souls.

A couple of days ago, I found this video on YouTube—a half-cut of the song with an accompanying video by Ezekielepharcelis. The video is beautiful and it floors me how much—with its darkened city streets, its ’40s-era feel, its lamplights, fedoras and strange lights in the sky—it evokes something quite close to Mantis.

Enjoy… and have tissues handy.


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