(THE LAST GOODBYE) HORSES.
Q Lazzarus – the elusive and mysterious musician who rose to notoriety with her 1988 song Goodbye Horses died last week. The song was of course best known from an unforgettable scene in the Oscar-winning film Silence of the Lambs.
If there’s one standalone moment about the movie that has made a lasting impression on me or better yet, haunted my soul for decades, it’s Goodbye Horses. Buffalo Bill’s “transformation” scene wouldn’t have been nearly as creepy and shocking without Q Lazz crooning the words to Goodbye Horses over that hypnotizing melody as it echoes through Bill’s dungeon basement.
Before the song is introduced in the film, the build up of POV camera shots inside Bill’s lair are pure nightmare fuel. Peeking around the cave-like corners and seeing mannequins, women’s clothing, flying bugs and general filth. It feels like you’re walking through a haunted house and wondering what monstrous thing you’re bound to encounter next.
Then it’s time for Goodbye Horses.
As music placement perfection in film goes, it doesn’t get any better than this. The song starts playing in between close-ups of Bill’s makeup, tattoos and piercings — then switches back to poor Katherine’s desperate cries for help from down inside the underground pit. As she attempts to lure his dog “Precious” to the edge of the pit, the volume of the song is echoey and distant, adding to the atmosphere of being in an actual basement and the music coming from dark, unknown depths.
I’ve never been exactly sure what “sound design” means but if I had to guess, this scene probably defines it. The song gets louder until it’s finally fully exposed and we see Bill applying his makeup and skin. Finally, the infamous “tuck” scene arrives and sends people like my mother turning the movie off and leaving the room in 1993.
You’ll never forget the scene as you’ll never forget the song. They compliment each other to provide maximum effect. What’s also fascinating about Goodbye Horses is how infectious and genuinely great the song actually is. The drums, lyrics and THAT VOICE. It’s a dark and eerie masterpiece.
Before the internet, my friend and I would creep out at the song and wonder what a “Q Lazzarus” must look like. The deep vocal part had us questioning if it was a male or female, which I think subconsciously does wonders for the scene in Silence of the Lambs.
According to it’s writer, “the song is about transcendence over those who see the world as only earthly and finite. The horses represent the five senses discussed in the Bhagavad Gita and the ability to lift one’s perception above these physical limitations and to see beyond this limited Earthly perspective.”
Allegedly as the story goes, Q Lazzarus (real name is Diane Luckey) was a cab driver in New York in the ’80s when she picked up filmmaker Jonathan Demme. She played her demo tape for him in the taxi, and he was blown away. He used her music in not only Silence of the Lambs but three of his other films as well.
It’s amazing to think about the impact she left with just one song. Truly iconic. R.I.P.