Crystal Ball

Keane – Crystal Ball

I follow the blog One Week//One Band where a featured writer gets to spend a week going into as much detail as they want about their favorite band. It can be a lot to get through and I don’t always read all the entries but I appreciate the passion that people bring to the game.

This week the band is Keane, written by Mary Chang. Here’s a band that I was aware of but really didn’t know any of their work beyond the couple of songs that got radio airplay. I would lump them in with other bands from the UK of their vintage and not really pay much attention. But if you play the video, you’ll see that they are playing a big ass stadium show that is totally packed.

They are still a band I don’t know a lot about but I do know a little more than I used to and I’ve been kind of waiting to see what songs she would highlight. Today I read the entry about the song that has become the song I associate with Keane, Crystal Ball.

About six years ago, the woman who held the VP position that my department reported to, died after a relatively short but brutal battle with brain cancer. There was a memorial service held for her at the church where she and her husband had gotten married and it was standing room only with people from all different periods of her life in attendance.

The first person to speak was the headmistress of a school where the VP had worked for many years before she took the VP job. Second was the president of our company, lastly, one of her brothers-in-law. The headmistress painted a picture of a woman who was half the person I knew but half some other person I never met. Someone who threw great parties, loved music and especially dancing. Our president got up and talked about the person I knew. Then her brother-in-law got up and spoke about the person I never met. Again, talking about her love of music, that she did musical theater in college and more about her dancing. Really talked at some length, describing the way she danced and the joy you could see in her when she was dancing. About how she had turned them all on to the Cure during college and then in more recent years, the band Keane.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. There was nothing in her day-to-day office demeanor that would have clued me in about this aspect of her at all. I wasn’t really close to her but she was only 46 when she died, she had two young girls, maybe 11 and 12 years old at the time, and finding out this news about her liking the Cure and dancing up a storm at parties, I suddenly felt like, this could be me. The president played something on the organ during the service, maybe there had been some other music earlier, I don’t really remember. But when the formal part of the service was over, they played “Crystal Ball” as her husband and daughters and the rest of the family made their way down the aisle. The song sounded huge in the church and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It gave me goosebumps.

In the weeks that followed I spent a lot of time refining my funeral set list. I first started keeping a mental note of songs I would want to have played at a memorial service for me back in college but being in that church made me realize that I needed to get it into some kind of usable format. The VP had written down what she wanted the service to be like, which is how the Keane song wound up there. It dawned on me that no one in my family would know I had this list of songs and, coming from a large, Catholic family, if I didn’t leave some directions then it would never happen. Even worse, there would probably be some church service with prayers and hymns and it wouldn’t convey the person I am at all.

Despite not knowing any of those details about our VP before the service, now when I hear this song I can picture her spinning around and singing along, embarrassing her kids, loving life. That’s what I want people to take away from my funeral setlist too. The music I love is so much more than just nice background noise, it explains me. If you’re listening, and you’re wired this way too, you will understand. Because of this Keane song I found out too late that someone I knew was like me. Life can be short. Don’t wait. It’s hard to be open, really hard, and I don’t do it well in person. But through sharing songs on this blog I am able to reach out to like-minded people and say, this is me.


  1. Awesome post — you really nailed it.

    I’ve been to too many memorial services in my life; I cry at all of them. But the ones that really stick with me, are the ones where we laugh together, and share stories of the person we each knew. And, you’re absolutely right — the person I knew is not necessarily the same as the person who someone else sitting next to me knew.

    Music at these services just slays me. I love it, but it makes me cry, whether it’s a classic hymn or a modern song. There’s something about music that unlocks a direct line to the soul.

    Fred and I have been talking a lot about wills and health care powers of attorney and all that legal stuff, of late. I need to add “wishes for memorials” to the to-do list.


  2. I love that you have a funeral setlist. I do, too. I know nothing of Keane — other than having heard of them — but I love that they played this song at the memorial you attended, and especially your insight about paying attention and thus knowing people who get it.

    I attended a service this spring for my former high school journalism teacher, and he loved theater and music too — jazz — and they had a singer who did “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and something else, maybe Ella Fitzgerald? They were Irish, and the daughter teaches Irish dance, and the family had bagpipers come in at the end and lead the family out. It was stunning — not just because it was beautiful, but also because it was so big and loud and real, like him.

    This is especially timely, too, as I’m working with a group to plan a memorial for my friend (age 47) who just died from inflammatory breast cancer. At the reception, they are going to play songs from a mixtape she made when she left for the Peace Corps a decade ago. It’s really funny, because we were both into music, but the music she liked was SO DIFFERENT from what I like that we never talked about it. (I mean, the playlist is Nickelback and Linkin Park and Incubus.) She read some of my stuff and said she’d never heard of any of the bands I like. Which makes me laugh and laugh in retrospect.

    I love these online communities for finding like-minded music “fans” (isn’t really the word). It’s funny, when I was young, that was THE way I determined who would be my friends, but like your VP, as adults we can’t always see it.


    1. What a wonderful service for your high school teacher! The memorial service you’re planning sounds great too, and so funny about your tastes being so different. I wouldn’t call myself a Keane fan, and they didn’t name any other bands the VP was fond of besides The Cure, but we were close in age so I can fill in the blanks and imagine that we had a lot of common ground.

      You’re right, our music choices did completely define who we were and who our friends were when we were younger. I think as we get older and take on more roles in life, the music “fan” part becomes less prominent. Not less important, just less visible as there are additional things that start to come to the surface. Few of the people I work with or other people I know in our neighborhood would guess all this about me.


  3. I have a friend in England who is a big fan of theirs and she sends me mixtape of things she likes. Keane was on one of the tapes. I like them!


    1. Yeah, I gather they are a much bigger deal over there. There are a whole flock of bands that broke out when I was in the fog of new motherhood and I just missed them altogether or my sleep-deprived brain couldn’t keep them straight.


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