“WHEN the dying’s finally done and the suffering subsides/All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind.”
It must be nice to be the sort of person who turns on the radio — no particular station — and is happy to whistle along to whatever is playing. The Shipping Forecast, for instance.
I’ve never been that relaxed. Well, there was that period at about 12-years-old when I possessed a Shakin’ Stevens album, but after that... After that, I tended to turn to songs that contained lyrics such as the above, featured on Purple Mountains’ 2019 debut album, released just prior to singer David Berman’s suicide.
All the signs were there to point me in a different direction, such as my mum’s collection of Jimmy Savile 1960s compilation albums and the tacky nightclub I had to frequent to get a drink after 11pm in my early 20s. Named After Dark, it being a night club and all that, its “award-winning DJ” played the worst songs possible, including the likes of Oops Upside Your Head, Agadoo and The Birdie Song — and the assembled throng who had paid their fivers to get in there were happy with this or too drunk to notice.
Meanwhile, I would be standing just off the dancefloor bemoaning the fact the music was trash. Most music was trash unless it was “serious”, by which other people took to mean “depressing”. Depressing to who? I happen to like a bit of heartache. Good job really.
Trust your instincts — mum’s warning after son’s battle with new Covid-related illness
Drug dealer caught selling super-strength cannabis
Call for action as NHS staff attacked
200 cars seized in Christmas crackdown
It took a lot of effort for artists to make it into my music collection. As with most people, I had to actually like the song. Then there was the lyric test. Then there was the investigation into what type of person the writer was.
Even if the likes of Phil Collins had been able to write a decent lyric they would have failed the final part of that challenge. Not that they would have cared. They already had millions of pounds in the bank. Come to think of it, my brother contributed to Phil’s bank balance, though he might deny it now.
So it was that “tax avoiders” like Gary Barlow, public school folk fakers (Mumford & Sons) and punk protest singers who went to Eton and whose fathers were chief execs of BHS (Frank Turner, to be precise) remain untouched.
So it also was that indie, new wave, Irish punk folk, political and rebel music appeared in my collection as I grew up, but I have tended to play the same 20-30 or so artists as I have got older and it hasn’t surprised me to discover I have stuck with the same ethos that drew me to certain types of music.
For a blast of favourites, I’ll reach for Echo & The Bunnymen, The Pogues, Manic Street Preachers, Pulp, Pete Wylie and James, and for a Saturday night alone with a few drinks the likes of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Tindersticks will determine a downbeat mood come Sunday — try the latter’s My Sister, Tiny Tears or Travelling Light if you fancy a hefty dollop of misery.
It’s not really misery though. It’s considered, well thought-out, well written and maybe better suited to poetry, a short story or novel than pop music, which possibly explains why these songs don’t always do as well as those churned out for mass consumption by pop’s hit factories.
It must have been that Showaddywaddy album my brother bought when he was about 13 that turned him into such a happy-go-lucky adult. If I’d just stuck with Shaky I would have been all right — “There’s an old piano and they play it hot behind the green door...”
Maybe not then...