TL:DR. Do songs sound different after not having heard them for years – decades even?
Chances are I heard the Lightning Seeds play this song when I saw them at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in early 1997.
Waiting for today to happen: The Lightning Seeds, Epic 1996.
Given the state of my mental and physical health over the past decade or so, it’s been hard not to look back and try to pinpoint where things went so badly wrong, whether things could have been different, and what learning I and others can take from it all.
“I wish, that, I knew what I know now…when I was younger.”
Rod Stewart Ft The Corrs.
In more recent years, the pangs of the title line have felt stronger and stronger. Yet at the same time part of me thinks that even if I had have gone down a different path in the mid-late 1990s, my own anxious disposition along with the bigger picture historical events and economic shocks may well have left me back here one way or another. I sometimes say to myself that I might have had more fun and enjoyment on the way had I shown more courage!
They walk alone
Again last night I watched people walking alone on their exercise walks so as to avoid the intense heat of the day. It was 30 degrees Celsius at 8pm this evening, and it was like a furnace when I stepped out of the door at lunchtime. It’s hard to recall a summer in Cambridge with a succession of days above 30C – yet we can’t say we were not warned that this would happen with climate change. One of the first songs I heard about environmental destruction was by Julian Lennon in 1991 – Saltwater. How does it sound today?
Two of the songs that are of a ‘lets make the world a better place’ were written by two of the chaps behind Heal the World 1985.
I rated the Lionel Ritchie song more than Jackson’s one. One of the interesting outtakes from the rehearsals and recordings was how Cyndi Lauper got to her bridging line along with Huey Lewis and Kim Carnes, coached by Lionel Ritchie. (Huey Lewis’s voice is far more powerful than on other songs of his I’ve heard.) A few years later, Jackson came up with his entrance for ‘whataboutery’ with his ending of Earthsong. His performance at The Brits in 1996 was gatecrashed by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp – and this was the fallout. One track that was particularly powerful for me but generally ignored by everyone around me was Jackson’s They Don’t Care About us from 1996. Have a watch, mindful of today’s context of Black Lives Matter protests.
The mid-late 1990s – formative years where a lot seemed to happen in a short space of time compared to now. For me anyway.
What’s been a big – and new struggle in recent times is having to reassess pretty much my entire childhood through the lens of institutionalised racism in a way that I wasn’t able to do at the time. Partly because I didn’t really know what it was, let alone how it manifested itself, and partly because it was hardly ever spoken about by anyone. Remember that all of this was before The Internet became mainstream. So those in authority were the ones who had control over what knowledge you could acquire. It wasn’t like: “Why didn’t anyone teach us about atheism and humanism?!?” – not least because when I started reading about these concepts at university in the Year 2000, I found that the British Humanist Association had about 3,600 members – this article from that year examining the decline of both religious and anti-religious institutions. The number of Humanists in the BHA today is 85,000. Which is quite a turnaround.
Affirmation – Savage Garden’s ground-breaking song from the Year 2000
At the time I was struggling with the turmoil of trying to work out why so much of what I had been taught and told at school and church was not turning out to be matching my real life experiences in Brighton. So to hear in music someone coming out with strong statements to the contrary of the old institutions’ teachings was a huge burden off of my shoulders. It also gave me a confidence to face down in particular the religious-based homophobia that I found when I returned to Cambridge in 2002.
A few months before, one of the soundtracks to leaving Cambridge for university down on the south coast (I still don’t mention the institution by name because of the horrible time I had there due to its multiple failings) was this number by Voice of the Beehive.
It was also around the time I started travelling a lot more – both within the UK and across Europe. Again, I still kick myself for not having a) started earlier, b) done more of it and c) done it for longer – eg doing an Erasmus placement. Had I had some decent mentors at the time to have inspired me to have done it, I would have. Hence why ever since graduating, I’ve been really positive about getting decent mentors for young people.
Waiting for today to happen – in a pandemic
With exam results in the news at the moment I dread to think what it’s like for the teenagers of today – not least in the face of such incompetency from central government. It’s hard to get our collective heads around what has happened to children and young people of late: not only have all of their schools been closed, but all of the places where they would meet up with their friends have also been closed. Furthermore, they have been banned from meeting up with their friends. How would previous generations have coped? With me it would have depended on which stage of my education I was at.
One of the many things that worries me deeply is that I cannot see any way out of this in the short-medium term. Not only that, institutionally we are the least well prepared we could possibly be. A decade of austerity followed by a catastrophic referendum call by David Cameron and chums, followed by years of flailing around when we should have been working collectively to deal with the climate emergency, before being left with a pro-small-state administration charged with using the tools of big state to stop everyone getting killed.
The former Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Nick MacPherson linked to this article on the longer term failure of the British State. One that also incorporates the Banking Crisis and the decisions to get involved militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan without detailed planning and worldwide consent.
And that leaves a very big dark cloud as we wait for the thunderstorms – ironically welcoming said storms even though with the climate crisis this increases the risks of flash flooding. Awkward?
Bringing back live music
I started off this rambling post mentioning live music – which is one thing that I’ve missed in spades. The last gig before lockdown I saw was Caravan Palace at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, which was probably one of the best gigs I’ve been to. I’m just crap with strobe lighting, so had to have my head down/eyes closed for too much of it!
My music director at We Are Sound Music, Andrea Cockerton has been working on a new live-streaming platform “Diuo”, to overcome the problems caused by the lockdown. See her quoted in this NME article.
I hope it works, but also I hope the scientists find a vaccine or a cure sometime soon, because what is life without art, music, literature and drama? Also, I want to sing in more concerts like this – the first time I found myself on stage at the Cambridge Corn Exchange – to a full house.