You might imagine people painting houses, as they're listening to this song

Or maybe you see them driving home from work, or to it. Or maybe they're just standing around in 1986, being younger. I think I speak for all of us when I say, "Hmm." When you listen to music you used to listen to a long time ago, it brings up the same feelings it used to bring up. But now, unsurprisingly, or surprisingly, the feelings are older. Imagine that. A nine-year-old feeling, a sixty-five-year-old feeling. Squirrel Bait is from Louisville, Kentucky. Or, they were, at one point. This song could be construed as the national anthem of a short-lived and violent country that turned out to just be some.

This song, it only takes a few listens to realize, doesn't have any words in it. Nonetheless, or maybe, therefore, the story is very clear and forceful, with little vulgarity and few contradictions. "Big Ship" is an opera about life in a small pond. Listening, you should see gentle grasses and frogs, a circling hawk, a young deer standing completely still, also listening. Maybe water dripping cinematically off a leaf. And then, suddenly, finally, at the right moment, in slow motion, bursting through the smooth surface of the small pond, a breaching whale. Or you'll imagine a different libretto altogether-- no whale, no deer, none of the details above, no details at all. If you look up "breaching" in the dictionary, you'll find that it's done by whales "purely for play or to loosen skin parasites, or it may have some social meaning, or be used to communicate with other whales." Ah, words, dictionaries. Ah, "breaching." It's for communication or for loosening parasites-- something like that. "Big Ship" is an instrumental. No words. A model of composition. The rare song that seems to have written itself, that then seems to play itself, and then seems to end.

I always saw the tuba as an instrument that fell to its unlucky player by some kind of fairly simple height-and-weight-chart default. Find a bellowing kind of kid, maybe with some Europe somewhere in his blood, who is big enough to at least hold the thing off the ground, and there you have it: your tuba player. One of the last two kids left, when the instruments get handed out, the other smaller of whom gets one end of a banner to hold. Then I heard this song. Then I saw small children standing along the nation's parade routes, bored by the majorettes and the more-wieldy instruments, bored by ceremony and commemoration and wishing for rain, until suddenly the tubas came marching by. "What is that beautiful sound?" I saw their curious faces and the storefronts of their little towns reflected in the giant horns. I heard them saying, "That's the sound I was born to make. That's the huge thing I was born to carry." It's a much a happier world when you believe that tuba players are tuba players simply because they wanted to play the tuba. "Wild Billy's Circus Story" has a tuba in it, prominently. The sound sends you back, to somewhere unrecognizable. It's an old-fashioned but un-placeable sound. The notes are round and lumbering, and have a close but somewhat comic relation to gravity and pain. The words in the song are good, too. Yes, sir. Oompah. God save the human cannonball, indeed.