And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
(Matthew 27: 46, King James Bible)
You give me such, such hope
And I need you more
You’re all I know
(Jesus Christ, The Longpigs)
That was how I felt then.
Sat on the edge of a bed that wasn’t mine, looking out of a window in a room that didn’t belong to me, staring at the nothing that surrounded me. The walls were closing in. The sun was setting. Hello darkness, my old friend.
I am hopeless.
It shouldn’t be like this.
I have God on my side.
But when I kneel, bow my head in supplication and give thanks for my blessings…I have a horrible feeling nobody is listening. When I ask for the strength to keep on keeping on…no help arrives. God moves in mysterious ways they tell me. He does answer your prayers but either we are not listening carefully enough or we simply don’t like the answer we are given.
Silence is golden I have heard it said.
Silence is crushing.
I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I’m not even sure what the “this” that I can’t stand any longer is. I feel empty. I feel like a raindrop, falling, falling, on and on…but unlike the raindrop I know what’s coming.
“Get a grip” I want someone to say.
But there isn’t anyone here to say it.
So I stand up, walk to the window and pull the curtains.
The darkness welcomes me.
I am living but without Jesus in my eyes.
From faith to faithless.
I have fallen beneath the lows.
There are no more highs to sell.
Waking up the next morning is just another disappointment.
A painted smile that probably looks more like a rictus grin. To the other boys who like girls and girls who like boys I look just like them. Maybe I am. I hope not. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
God isn’t listening.
Maybe he never was.
I need someone to listen.
Somebody to hear me.
Salvation comes from blasphemy.
“I’ve been up here almost too long, it’s only fair they should start to raise the fair, I’ve been laughing almost too hard, you replaced my heart and then I’m left to…stitch it up, and it only goes to show, you can live with what you don’t know, every step you’re ever gonna take now, only thing I do know…JESUS CHRIST I’M ON FIRE when you smile”
I’ve never taken the Lord’s name in vain.
Oh my gosh, always gosh and never G-O-D.
Gee whiz, always gee whiz and never Jeeezuz.
You can live with what you don’t know?
Accept that there are things you don’t know.
Of course there is a girl who breaks my heart when she smiles.
But this isn’t about that…not yet.
This is about the righteous blasphemy.
Taking the Lord’s name and re-purposing it.
No song of praise.
An Allen Ginsberg howl of rage, frustration and desire instead.
One song on a tape that came free with the New Musical Express in May 1995. Cast were on there and Shed Seven. The Cure and the Velvet Underground. Jimi Hendrix and The Who. And 12 Rounds With Jesus…I’m saying nothing.
Re-re-wind, when the crowd say…oh my God this song is what I’ve been waiting for. An answer to my prayers. A sincere and earnest prayer, answered sincerely and earnestly by a band from Sheffield.
Maybe I could be happy again?
I didn’t have any money, my situation was a mess, I couldn’t stand the sight of my face. Now was the time to think things over. Maybe it was better to have change come from the inside, find room to improve from within and not without?
But there was nothing inside.
I needed to be fed.
Food for the soul.
It’s music what matters.
I found a copy of “Happy Again” on the shelves of Sleeves in Kirkcaldy, a plain brown cardboard sleeve…like a dirty magazine being handed over in a brown paper bag. Hiding the shame of desire. Lust lost in the folds of a disguise that everyone could see past. “Happy Again” was no dirty collection of fetid pornography, it was an even more sickening glimpse into my mind. Or that is how it felt at the time.
I was riddled with guilt at this point in my life.
We don’t need to go into that.
It was the usual.
It’s still with me.
“If, somehow, I could make you feel clean in my arms” was all I wanted someone to say to me. Even if they couldn’t cleanse me with their touch, heal me of the scrofula of guilt and loneliness they could at least tell me they wanted to. Hearing a line like that in “Sally Dances” simply cemented the sense that I had found some sort of soothing balm of Gilead.
I cannot speak.
I cannot sleep.
I’m far to weak.
I was weak.
Too weak to say that I didn’t want to be where I was, to be doing what I was doing or to be with the person, people, I was with. I was a canvas covered in other people’s daubings. The careless smears of other peoples thoughts on who I was and what I should be thinking, feeling and doing.
Can you lose something you haven’t ever had?
One day, as I walked towards the entrance to my particular circle of the inferno that was the University of Paisley, heading for a “tutorial” with a woman who was Hell bent on ruining what was left of me I entered the Salvation Army store. A sale was taking place. Everything was a pound. My monastic student lifestyle meant that I had a pound. More than that. Not much more. There on the rails was a blue, wool, three-quarter length, duffle coat. I fell deep in love. Maybe I had seen Steven Pastel wear one…or Mark Morriss…or some other indier than thou, too cool for school, hipster cat. I tried it on and it fitted. I handed over my pound and felt excited about the possibilities afforded by this garment.
It was a false dawn, there were no clothes I could buy that would make me feel like myself. I was too awkward to even pass for someone else. It was just a coat. Not shabby enough for shabby chic. I wasn’t the Byres Road or Carnaby Street. I was just what I had always been, Kirkcaldy High Street. I had imagined a Mr Ben style transformation and had to settle for Mr Bean.
I came to University alone.
I went home on my own.
I talked to myself because there was noone I could talk to like I talked to myself.
This was like an eternal winter of discontent and the only time the sun was out, which wasn’t often was when “The Sun Was Often Out”.
I could shake, shake, shake and shimmy to the joys of “Far”, I could relish the wickedness of “Jesus Christ”, I could find a dozen more wicked words of my own, I could find myself in the times I “Lost Myself”, I could dance like “Sally Dances”, I could find comfort in “Sleep” and the hush of my life in the shadows…but most importantly, more than any of this…
When life felt like it was simply drifting past me…dragging on and on and on and on and on and on…there was a plea to do me no wrong, a yearning for even the coldest shoulder to cry on, an understanding that this wasn’t love, not really and that you could let go. “On and On” was the sound of turmoil, the beautiful hymn of hurt and half-life being half lived. It was tender, romantic, bitter, fragile, hopeless and hopeful, full of yearning and resignation…this was the sound of my thoughts, dreams, hopelessness and hope. It was perfect.
The Sun is Often Out is being re-issued on 180g blue vinyl by Demon Music and can be pre-ordered now…here.