Sinister But She Was Happy

Hitchcock often opens albums powerfully, almost grabbing you and pulling you into the new vision. Moss Elixir opens with this song, all violins and roughly vibrating metal guitar strings. The sound of the strings is more important than the notes; they add an ominous undertone to the sweet soaring violin line high above. It is that contrast that Hitchcock plays with in the lyrics, the happiness to be found in the shadows, the allure of the femme fatale.

It is a hard song for me to talk about because it is wrapped up in layers of memories and anecdotes close to my heart. Moss Elixir was the first Hitchcock album to be released after my wife and I began dating. At the time, she liked some Hitchcock but wasn’t a big fan, and she humored my obsession more than she understood it. This song changed that. She really, really loved it from the first listen, and it opened up a door for her to appreciate Robyn, warts and all.

In 1999, she and I saw Hitchcock in Baltimore on the “Rock Armada” tour following the release of Jewels For Sophia. We had found a good spot, about fifteen feet back and off a little to the left of center. About halfway through his set, he played this song. It was a different arrangement (instead of Deni Bonet on violin, Kimberley Rew was playing the guitar with a hand held effects processor, an e-bow or something similar), but just as magical. My wife was quietly singing along, not even loud enough for me to hear. Midway through the song, Robyn looked our way and saw her singing. It may sound like a load of bull, but he watched her singing along with him until the end of the verse, and then smiled, big and broad, before turning away and moving on. Though I’ve seen better shows, that is far and away my favorite concert memory.

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