Day 088: Phantom Songs: The Heights – “How Do You Talk To An Angel”

Phantom Songs is an ongoing series of musical pieces that you can’t quite put your finger on. You have most definitely heard the song before, but are most likely not able to pinpoint who made it, when it was released, and/or what the song is really about. All of the artist’s history and biography was either stolen from wikipedia or made up entirely.

I already had an introduction prepared in my head. I was going to glance briefly on the show, “Party of Five” and how it was a cannon for hit songs in the 90’s. You couldn’t turn on Top 40 radio without hearing a song from the show’s soundtrack and even though it was hammy as fuck, it was one of the most defining and trendsetting shows of the time. But then I did some research and realized that I’ve been wrong for over 25 years. Being wrong about something right away is one thing, but being wrong for most of your life is a real blow to the nads.

So here’s a new introduction.

“How Do You Talk To An Angel” was a single released on September 5, 1992. Led by Jamie Walters, the song was performed by a band called The Heights. Never heard of them? That’s because they’re not real. “The Heights” was an Aaron Spelling musical drama show about a band with the same name. This song was the fictional band’s top hit and eventually became a theme song to the show. It topped the [real] Billboard charts in November of that year. It was the first time since 1985 that a song from a TV show topped the chart and the first time since 1969 that it was done by a fictional band. As soon as the song fell from the #1 spot, Fox went ahead and cancelled the show. Airing 12 out of 13 episodes, the finale never even saw the light of day.

That has to hurt a lot. This song haunted the Top 40 and Soft Rock airwaves for a good decade after its release. I still hear it at work every few days. Everyone involved with the show has to feel mad bitter about a stupid song surpassing the show’s popularity, to the point that some fat thirtysomething blogger thought it was from Party of Five. That’s a special kind of pain that was commonly felt in the 90’s. In a time where film projects weren’t greenlit without a soundtrack in hand, many songs surpassed their source material. But that’s a subject for a different series. One that I swear I will start someday.

But when you really break it down, what in the hell is this song actually about?

I Hear Her Voice In My Mind
I Know Her Face By Heart
Heaven And Earth Are Moving In My Soul
I Don’t Know Where To Start

The songwriter is not using his senses properly. You’re supposed to hear a voice with your ears and know a face with your eyes and/or mind. He should really get that checked out. It doesn’t sound pleasant. He’s also delusional to think that heaven and the Earth are synchronized. The Earth is definitely moving, sure. But heaven is a different dimension, it has nothing to do with Earth. And his soul is definitely not large and talented enough to encompass both of them. That’s a scathingly egotistical sentiment. Lastly, surprise motherfucker, you already started the song. And you did so terribly. In summary, the singer made grand statements about his mental illness and instantly regrets starting a song that way. Hot start.

Tell Me Tell Me
The Words To Define
The Way I Feel About Someone So Fine

Who is he even asking? Is there some third character that we don’t know about? You’re the one writing the song, bro! Deal with it. Like, you’ve already expressed how you feel about this “fine” person. They’re making you mentally ill. You’ve already said enough. But I’m sure you’re not done.

How do you talk to an angel?
How do you hold her close to where you are?
How do you talk to an angel?
It’s like tryin’ to catch a falling star

Oh god, he keeps asking more questions. Apparently he’s in love with a dead girl and he somehow knows that she went to heaven. I hate to break it to ya, but you can’t really have conversations with the dead. However, this guy’s soul encompasses both heaven and Earth, so maybe he has the power to do so but doesn’t know how to harness it. So maybe he’s asking the master that made him so. Regardless of your celestial status, you really shouldn’t try to physically catch and falling star. They are most likely much larger than your hands. Your hands will fall off. It will not be a good time.

At night I dream and she is there
And I can feel her in the air

He is really going through it. There’s not much else to say about it. The song is officially about a guy that can’t come to terms with the death of a loved one, so much so that he’s experiencing grand delusions about his spiritual capabilities. All in all, it’s a simple little ditty. Case closed.

Or is it?

Apparently, if you had watched the show, you’d know the real meaning behind the song. As the story goes, Jamie Walters [or Jamie Walter’s character], is a mousy and quiet songwriter. He has a crush on a girl who plays saxophone for a band called The Heights. I guess the band has no singer or songwriter, because Jamie wrote this song to express his feelings towards the saxophone player. Somehow, she was so moved and not offended at all by the gesture that they let him into the band and he becomes the lead singer. So the song is not about a dead girl at all. He’s actually just dangerously infatuated with her and she backs it up with her siren sax. This song is way creepier than I originally thought.

But maybe, just maybe, angel is code for a saxophone player. He’s trying to figure out how to talk to her because she speaks in sax, much like the teacher in The Peanuts. So he’s trying to communicate to the sax lady with his human voice and she reciprocates. I like that idea. That’s nice. But I know it’s far from the truth. It’s definitely the story of a stalker, the subject who’s flattered enough to build up his ego and the toxic environment that the band was about to exist in.

There’s no way this ended well. But of course, we’ll never know. Thanks, Fox!

– TeeCoZee