Here is a beguiling song. I have always been enchanted by it.
I know the exact lines that stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard them:
They've got a wall in China
It's a thousand miles long
To keep out the foreigners they made it strong
And I've got a wall around me
That you can't even see
It took a little time
To get next to me
Why? Because I went to the Great Wall in the summer of 1992 when I lived and studied at Beijing University.
When I heard these lines for the first time, I knew what the Wall looked like. I had a picture of it in my mind. I knew how it snaked, ruined and dusty, along the tops of the steep hills. I knew that you could ignore the warning sign at the end of the rebuilt, tourist section of the Wall and jump off to wander along the top of the crumbling stones, hopping from one uneven slab to another. I knew how wide and high and marvelous the Wall was even in, especially in its decay.
But it never occurred to me to write a song about the Great Wall.
And then I heard this song. It came to me by way of Annie Lennox's MEDUSA album. That version sent me reeling, wheeling back to the original.