The Music or the Misery?

(Or: Why life seems so much better with sad songs in it)

sad music wallow

Are you one of those people who listens to upbeat, happy tunes whenever they feel down in the dumps? Or do you dive headfirst into a heart-rending ballad, wallowing in the sadness, letting the melancholy melody wash over you in a wave of blissful catharsis?

Well in case you haven’t guessed from the description above, I’m a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the latter. I live for this shit. I need it – to quote Bon Jovi (yup, you read that right) – like a poet needs the pain. At the ripe oldage of 37, I’m still a moody, grungy overemotional teenager at heart. In some sick, twisted way, it makes me feel light years better to hear all those churning, dark, magnetic, gut-wrenching feelings from a position of ‘once removed’; like if Eddie Vedder can perfectly describe how I felt about a particular breakup or a jaunt down the one-way street of unrequited love, then it saves me the work.

Many an hour would be passed in secondary school by me simply writing out lyrics pertinent to my emotional situation. From a wide assortment of artists, I would fill page after page with the works of the great masters such as Hetfield, Di Franco, Morrison, Dylan, Amos et al. I was, and still am, a bit of a Rain Man when it comes to retaining song lyrics, so I could go on unchecked for tens of pages at a time, depending on how boring I found the lesson. Pity the auld Leaving Cert was never presented in song form; I’d have been a 600-pointer for sure.

I’m quoting Nick Hornby a lot while discussing this topic, but he’s got the best take on it in his book High Fidelity:


No contest for me, I was of the former. I was a clinically depressed, miserable, tormented, stereotypical teenage child of an ugly divorce, so much so that while my parents were in the middle of taking a verbal sledgehammer to the crumbling walls of their marriage, I stuck Pearl Jam’s Ten album on at full blast to drown out the anger outside my bedroom walls and give me a dose of the anger I felt within. To this day, I can’t listen to the song ‘Once’ without being transported back to the blood-red walls of my teenage bedroom and feeling the sky fall down around me.

My music gave me a lovely soft place to fall. I didn’t have to make sense of or verbalise what I felt, or try to ignore it – I just needed to (apologies to all the young folk out there) stick on the right cassette. It was like having your favourite musician as your own personal well-being advocate. Imagine Axl Rose sitting your feuding parental units down and roaring at them, telling them to get their shit together and stop fucking with your head or else he’ll fuck their telly out the window. How fun.

Some folk find it worrying that someone could be so immersed in sad melancholy music – to them, I say ‘CHILL’. Better that it’s out there rather than being buried deep down, only to resurface when you least expect it. Your brain is a dickhead for that sort of thing. Trust me.

I suppose it depends on how each of us uses music. Some use it to help transform their mood; others like me use it to express & enhance the mood I’m already in. To each his own.

You can buy this - click on the pic!

You can buy this apparently – click on the pic!

I wonder why it’s so much easier to become attracted to dark, depressing music and poetry? Along with those aforementioned musicians, all of the great classical poets that have etched their initials on the tough, bark-like exterior of my heart were all a bunch of miserable, Emo, navel-gazing bastards. And oh, how I loved them for it. Dickinson, Plath, Woolf, Shelley, Poe – I’d sit them all at my fantasy Dead or Alive Dinner Party any day. Hopkins and Wordsworth with their daffodils and fawning over nature’s glory can fuck off back to Disneyland. There’s no room at my dinner table for Shiny Happy bastards.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a rollicking good peppy-as-fuck tune on occasion. Show me ‘Footloose’ in the club, and I’ll show you dance moves that would make Kevin Bacon vomit with jealousy. Happy tunes have their place in the world, obviously. However, there’s something far more visceral, dark and delicious about a deep sad song that pulls you in for a slow, languid embrace, telling you it’ll all be okay. It tells you they’ve been there where you are, they feel it too, and they’re going to save you the trouble of having to put words on something, the description of which evades you. They have it worked out already through the medium of song – and it’s utterly perfect.

Go on, press play again. Let it wash over you once more.

Someone pass me a tissue…..

sad

SIX SONGS SO SAD THEY’LL GIVE YOU AN EMO-BONER

(click on the song title to give your ears a tearful hug)

1:  Bon Iver – re: Stacks 

2: Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat

3: Pearl Jam – Black

4: Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were

5: Tori Amos – Silent All These Years

6: Ani Di Franco – Both Hands

Why ‘The Secret’ is a load of old bollocks…

The Secret is...people will believe anything if they have to pay for it.

MY LIFE SUCKS. If only there was a quick, easy-fix solution that involved me not taking any responsibility for any of my actions. If only there was a book I could get my hands on that would tell me everything I wanted to hear and offer to fix it without actually getting up off my ice-cream-loaded ass and being proactive enough to change things…but wait. What’s this? There IS such a book? It’s called ‘The Secret’? I’m intrigued already. It sounds so mysterious. Why would they call it that if they didn’t know some serious shit that could change the world?? I have to have this book. Let’s have a look. Oh, wait. It’s all sealed up. Wow. It must be unbelievably awesome. I MUST HAVE IT. It’s a bit expensive, but if it changes my life the way I think it will, then those few euros will be but a drop in the ocean of my massive wealth. I’m off to put all these universe embracing nuggets of wisdom into practice. Wish me luck.

Love

Dramatisation: DID NOT HAPPEN IN NANCY'S.

Friday night, Nancy Blake’s pub, 12.30am.

The Secret tells me that I need to act like I want to attract relationships, I can’t be negative, I need to be open to the prospect. So I wore an ‘I Heart Men’ T-shirt, wandering around packs of men singing Natasha Bedingfield’s ‘Single’ at the top of my voice and grinned like a Cheshire cat at anyone I found remotely attractive – just to let the Universe know I was ready for love. I saw one particular ‘target’ so I decided to focus all my energy on him. I fixed my gaze and visualised him walking over to me, asking for my hand in marriage, and we had a beautiful wedding surrounded by 1500 of our closest family and friends. When I came to some hours later, the pub was closed and the bouncer was rifling through my wallet trying to contact a next-of-kin because he thought I’d had a catatonic episode. I tried to explain that I was just visualising my future husband, but he just put me in a cab and shook his head sadly as it drove off. I must have done it wrong.

Health

And she STILL had a better run than me.

Having been unsuccessful in my attempts at finding lasting love, I now relied on the wisdom of The Secret to help improve my health. The opportunity presented itself not long after the Nancy’s disaster, when I caught a horrible head cold from after wandering around in that skimpy t-shirt in the shitty weather for so long. Instead of my usual four pints of Benylin 4-Flu and seven hot water bottles put into a duvet cover to make the ultimate warm bed, I decided this time, I’d harness the germ-killing power of The Secret. Armed with nothing more than a strong sense of optimism and a vision of my body being an absolute powerhouse of strength and disease immunity, I decided to go for a little 10km jaunt to show off my new-found bacteria-fighting power. I took off like a bullet, ignoring the coughing and sneezing fit that kicked off 30 seconds in. “Not this time,” I thought. “The Secret will power me through….”

Coincidentally that, apparently, is what I was repeatedly muttering in the ambulance as I was driven away with an IV drip in my arm and an oxygen mask strapped to my face.

Money

I'm just one positive thought away from all this...

With two failures under my belt, my faith in The Secret was starting to wane. Only one essential area remained that needed taking care of; the immeasurable wealth that I was assured would be mine, if only I just visualised it. Fair enough, I thought. I had been labouring for years under the misapprehension that if you worked, you could get paid, and if you saved as much as you could, you’d have money to spend. What a gullible tulip I was.

Being in possession of the knowledge that money could be exchanged for goods and services, which made life easier to bear and indeed far more enjoyable, I was very much in the market for more. So I sat in my house for up to four weeks, ignoring upwards of eleven phone calls offering work and gigs, and visualised stacks of cheques winging their way to my door. I imagined checking my bank balance at the ATM machine and seeing an amount the size of an international phone number staring back at me. It was awesome.

So armed with all this spiritual knowledge and the strength of my visualisation, I marched into the bank one Monday, proud as punch, and politely asked the lady behind the counter for ten thousand of their finest euro which, I assured her, was most definitely mine – according to The Universe. The fact that my account balance said €0.74 on the computer screen was merely a glitch, I reassured her. (Obviously imaginary cheques written on behalf of The Universe take as long to clear as personal ones down on Earth.) Nevertheless, I pressed on, arguing my case, content in the knowledge that I would be leaving the bank a reaffirmed devotee of The Secret.

With the help of the nice security man and a ride in the back of a cop car, at least one part of that sentence came true.

Conclusion

Go on, try it.

Four weeks and one competency hearing later, I am clear-minded and realistic. I now understand that The Secret is most definitely a way to make an absolute fortune – if you’re the author. Apart from that, you’re up shit creek…and down a couple of euro for your trouble. Not that I’m bitter or anything after my experiences, but I can’t pass a copy of that stupid fucking book without laughing hysterically and giving it the finger…and when I’m allowed back into the Crescent Bookshop again, I’ll probably do the same thing a couple more times.

You can bet your ass I won’t get fooled again. What a load of shite. Who pays for that shi…hang on, what’s this? ‘The Power’? Oooh, it’s by the same author. I wonder is there anything different in this one? She wouldn’t have written a second book otherwise. I just have to pop over to Amazon there for a second. Be right back…

Same as it ever was…

It’s diary time again…the time when I trawl through the many volumes of gibberish I used to write in an attempt to keep myself sane, and inflict them on you, the unsuspecting public. I’d apologise, but we’re way past that now.

It was June 1999, and I was living on the island of Rhodes, Greece. I gigged for a living with my best friend Louise, and had the best – and most insane – time of my life there. More about that in another blog post (once the names have been changed). This list was born out of not having a telly, or any of that internet madness that was sweeping the world at the time. So armed with paper and pen, I sat down and had a right old go at feeling sorry for myself. Turns out, looking back, I didn’t really have much to go on. But God loves a trier. Illustrations and everything. If all else fails I can make a living breaking into people’s houses, finding their personal journals and adding delightful drawings to their innermost feelings…

You bet your ass I blacked out the names...

Yes, that is a Robbie Williams quote at the bottom of the page. Mortified. I can only blame it on the constant exposure to the sun and cheesy Club Med tunes that permeated the Faliraki landscape when we worked there. Please don’t hate me…

1996? All a bit of a Blur to me…

In the midst of my diary-keeping days, I went to my first ever open-air big concert. It was June 1996, and at the height of Blurmania. I was always on the side of Damon Albarn. I had no time for stupid Oasis and their big hairy faces and mad sneers. So, being almost eighteen, I was allowed to go to a Blur / Supergrass / Black Grape concert all by myself. To say I was excited was an understatement. It was such a big deal it got a two-page spread in my diary. Yup, THAT big. Here in its entirety is my documentation of the day (as written). Well, as much as I could write before I got distracted by something else just as awesome. The picture below is the first page, and I’ll transcribe the rest so you can actually read it. There’s so many cultural references in it your face will hurt by the time you’ve finished reading. Names of participants have been changed, naturally. Enjoy.

I was in a collage-type mood in the 90's. I regret nothing. Except the 'Doin' him tomorrow' phrase. Ugh.

4th July 1996

Omigod. The Concert was Fantastic! It’s 4th July at 11.45am before I get ready for Summer Camp. Let me take you through the day of Saturday 22nd June 1996 from start to finish.

11am – left house wearing white v-neck t-shirt, ‘short’ shorts, Levi’s hoody and Doc Marten boots. I brought a pair of knickers with me to throw at Alex. (Bass player from Blur – I didn’t get to thrown them. To this day he doesn’t know what a lucky escape he had.)

11.30am -In town chillin’ with Jo, Sharon. Laura + friends went their own way. We followed this Jonny Depp lookalike around Arthur’s Quay, buying drinks n’ stuff along the way.

1.30pm – The ticket said ‘Coach departs 1.30pm Sharp – LIAR!

2.15pm – Finally left Spaights. Bored already. Sharon dying for ‘drink!’ Good craic on the bus all the same. I sang along to every song played on Atlantic 252. I swear if I don’t hear ‘Mysterious Girl’ by Peter Andre ever again, it’ll be too soon! Good all the same, though. Stopped in Portlaoise at Supermac’s, and we just got worse –> maxi-hyper would be an understatement!!

5.30pm – Saw queues outside RDS, plus a multitude of empty beer bottles –> Sharon is muttering about what a waste it is, just because she didn’t get any….

10.00pm – Unbefuckinglievable! This is what I want! Screaming crowds, singing along, mass hysteria – YES! I WILL do this….I will be there soon…! On the way back, Peter Collins played ‘The Universal’ on the radio for all the Blur fans at the concert!

So there you have it folks. That was my first concert. Knickers and all. Thanks, Blur…

 

 

If A Young J-Ro Made Greeting Cards…

I knew there was a reason I hated all those stupid Facebook slogan pages that people ‘liked’. You know the ones; face-melting cringey slogans like “If you love someone, let them go..” and other such wishy-washy bullshit that people latch on to in order to make their existence more palatable. The reason I hated them so much was because I used to write that very same shit myself in my diaries as a young ‘un. At least I made them up myself. Maybe I should go into business. I’d make a fortune selling them in Easons.

This one that I found recently nearly made me turn inside out with the mortification. Naturally I’m showing it to all of you. Don’t worry. I have many volumes of diary-related gold just waiting to be unleashed. You lucky things. Enjoy…

Date unknown, probably in my late teens / early twenties...note the symbolic illustration of the disembodied hand, and the irony of the 'Don't let Go' slogan next to it.