Wednesday 28 February 2024

Staring Right Into The Light

Flying North by Thomas Dolby popped up on my playlist this week, a standout from his debut album The Golden Age Of Wireless. 
On the original album release in May 1982, Flying North was the opening song with a much different track listing from subsequent re-releases. The vinyl version I bought a few years later was the 1983 issue which placed She Blinded Me With Science at the start, added One Of Our Submarines to Side 2 at the expense of another song and relegated Flying North to Track 4 on Side 1.

Flying North was also released as a B-side to breakthrough single Windpower the same year, peaking at #31 in the UK in September 1982. As such, it enjoyed a 'High Altitude Extended Play' version on the 12" single and a Razormaid remix in the US.
It's always been one of my favourite Thomas Dolby songs, with crisp production from Thomas with Tim Friese-Greene that sounds very much of the 1980s but was also a cut above many of its contemporaries.
I've discovered a 2006 live performance, with studio intro to the song from Thomas, which provides a fascinating context to the lyrical origin. And the performance is great, too. It's #4 of 6-part podcast, Sole Inhabitant, and I'll go back to watch the rest this weekend.


Metal bird dip wing of fire
 Whose airlanes comb dark Earth
 The poles are tethers we were born in
 On the brink of a whole new deal
 On the floor of a Pan Am bar
 I'm staring right into the light
 And I'm drawn in like a moth
 And I'm flying north again
Here come the men in suits
 Papers waving in the runway glare
 Lincoln streaming in the chilly air of the morning
 At the end of a double day
 At the back of an airport lounge
 I'm staring down into the cold
 And I'm worn out like a cloth
 And I'm flying north again tonight
 Down with the landing gear
 Up goes the useless prayer
 The poles are tethers we were born in
 Now I'm back in the London night
 On a bench in a launderette
 I'm staring right into my face
 And I'm drawn out like a plot
 And I'm flying north again tonight


  1. I'm a big fan of Thomas Dolby and went to see him approx 15 years ago at O2 Academy Bristol BUT they had opened up a much smaller area upstairs for him to play in. The arrangement meant that the bar was only about 50 yards from the stage and if you were more than half way back all you could hear was the clatter and chatter of the bar. TD's agent had not done due diligence and TD looked very uncomfortable through the whole gig. I've seen he is playing Shepherd's Bush Empire this year which I'm sure would be a much more pleasurable experience.

    1. Thanks, Mike. Not a fan of the O2 in Bristol generally but what a disappointment for Thomas and for you. I've dipped into a few more of the Sole Inhabitant podcasts since this post and the live performances are great. I can get why he was drawn to the promise of a more intimate set up, even if the Academy failed to deliver for him on the night.