If music be the food of love, play on.

To say that 2017 has been somewhat ‘challenging’ would be a massive understatement. I feel emotionally, mentally, physically (though, that’s mainly down to eating my way through a lot of Nandos across the year apparently – as my tax return likes to point out) DRAINED. ZAPPED. Most definitely ABSOLUTELY like a lot of people – I have very much struggled this year. I have, at times, felt like I’ve been drowning… engulfed by a sea of political shit-storms, financial instability, professional uncertainty, all too fleeting waves of success, overwhelming social scenarios and all round anxiety, at times, that I may potentially be what people like to call ‘a failure’. One minute, I’m riding high. The next, stood in standstill ‘life traffic’. In a deep pit without a rope ladder.

2017 disguised itself as a massive steel-capped boot that walked on over to my already batshit crackers, extreme highs/lows life… and gave me the biggest kick up it’s ass. And boy, did it bloody hurt.

I do, however, want to share my experience with the emotional ibuprofen that I so often bang on about. An antidote.

To say that Music has saved me would sound dramatic to some but it has done just that. Through various jammy ways, working as a muggle for the majority of my year, this year I have witnessed a lot of live music. A lot of fucking GREAT live music, for the mortifyingly bargain price of handing out drinks samples and showing people to their seats.

And on every single occasion that I have been in the crowd, listening intently, I have asked myself:

‘Is there really any pain that cannot be relieved by the power of Music?’

I mean, even Justin Bieber helped me deal with a particularly dodgy life event. And on that note…

Growing up, I have always taken great pride in how diverse my taste in music is. There’s very little that I actively detest when it comes to musical genres. I even enjoy myself a bit of country nowadays, tripping to Nashville being a huge contributor to that. I stood on the Ryman stage where Johnny Cash proposed to June Carter and fell head over heels in love with the sucky, tragic romance of it all.

I’m reminded of memories through music, being the nostalgic tit that I am.

This year I saw Celine Dion in concert. It immediately took me back to winning my Primary School talent show singing My Heart Will Go On and listening to the Let’s Talk About Love cassette with my Papa, in a holiday  apartment in Turkey, way back when.

I saw The Killers and it took me back to Leeds Festival 2008.

I saw Green Day and it took me back to the Music Room in Secondary School, where I’d attempt to play drums to Wake Me Up When September Ends without flaring my nostrils – don’t ask.

I watched Blondie for a second time in my life, Phil Collins, Tom Petty two months before he tragically died, Stevie fucking Nicks, Elbow, Madness, Kings of Leon (who were shite but hey ho – free show)… all in the space of a Summer.

October came along. I turned up to work to find that I was, in fact, working a Morrissey gig. I’m gonna be honest, I say ‘work’. I did very little work that day.

Now I understand Morrissey is a marmite kinda guy. I watched as radio management had kittens whenever he mentioned anything remotely political or unjust, live on air. But you cannot deny that his voice is quite close to literal magic.

Material wise, his new album cannot be put in the same bracket as his classic hits with The Smiths. In fact, I can only really remember possibly one song he sang that day and I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed, upon reflection afterwards, that he didn’t whip out This Charming Man at the very least.

But what I do remember is being truly captivated by the presence of that geezer onstage. I remember hanging on his every word, hanging on every chord… absolutely fascinated by him. Fascinated by how he creates sad, folky tones and then unleashes a jazz-style vibrato to keep you guessing.

I remember taking in the crowd and how united everybody was. United and caught up in the same  moment. Amazed by how a voice like that can transcend the years and appeal to people in both their 50s and their 20s. I’ve never felt a connection like it throughout my years of going to gigs.

I left work that day on the highest of highs, with the realisation of how powerful music can be in bringing people together. I checked my phone and was greeted with the news of the Las Vegas shootings. I then got really fucking angry that the solace of music, for those people caught up in the awful happenings in Vegas, had been abused and tainted. Likewise with the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester and Eagles of Death Metal in Paris.

Because that’s exactly what music is to a lot of people, what it has been to me this year and what it will continue to be for years to come, regardless of the arseholes out there who have tried to stop this from being the case.

Solace.

Sanctuary.

A getaway car.

We celebrate with music. We grieve with music. We fall in love to music. It’s personal. It’s relatable. There is always one song that fits a moment and that is the beauty of it.

In true ABBA style, I’d like to say thank you for the music. I love you.x

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MEMORIES MAY BE BEAUTIFUL, AND YET… Confessions of a Nostalgia addict.

nostalgia
nɒˈstaldʒə/
noun
a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.
“I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my days at university”
synonyms: wistfulness, longing/yearning/pining for the past, regret, regretfulness, reminiscence, remembrance, recollection, homesickness, sentimentality
“there is a nostalgia for traditional values”

I have a pretty messed up relationship with Nostalgia.

I don’t just mean the ‘classic’ nostalgic ideas, like the different sweets I used to eat as a kid or Barbie memorabilia (I had some bloody great Barbie jeans) or the Spice Girls era, though all of those set off all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings in my tummy… but I mean full blown, addicted-to-the-past, yearning to relive past moments and the ideal outcomes I used to dream about within those moments, Nostalgia. The love I felt for people, before they broke my heart. The major highs I’ve floated on in past jobs, before the contracts came to an end. The safety and security I felt living back at my family home, before I exposed myself to being an independent, self-sufficient human two hundred miles away.

I’ve found that past midnight, and before the ungodly hour of 7am, is primetime for a nostalgic episode.
I’ve spent days on end stewing over writing this essay, lost for words. The minute the clock strikes midnight, and I actually decide it’s time I try and catch some sleep, it’s like my brain kicks into overdrive and instantaneously declares ‘NOW is the time I shall reminisce! Bring on the memories, good and bad. LET ME HAVE ‘EM’. (Around about this time is the time I start to regret my decision to have a cup of tea at 10:45pm.)

Similarly, my brain likes to do this whenever I have an early rise. I’m talking about those mornings that you’ve upped and left the house before the majority of the human race has snoozed their alarm for the first time. Those mornings when the sun has barely rose, the sky is the palest of blues. You’re the first person to breathe in that day’s fresh, crisp air and it feels so uncontaminated… clean. The streets resemble that of an apocalyptic themed movie, not a single soul in sight. Deathly quiet. Peaceful.

And I feel all weirdly cosy and comforted, wrapped up in my big coat with a woolly hat and my hands tucked into my pockets. But, in the same respect, I feel on edge. Uneasy. Because I start to think about little moments in time that I’ve felt this exact feeling before. Where was I when I last felt like that? Was it when I awoke pre-5am in Sydney, Australia, for my early flight to Melbourne or when I similarly hopped out of bed at 7am to go for a brisk morning walk around Manly with my Mam and Uncle? Or was it way back when I was younger and I’d have to shoot out of bed super early to go on our annual family trip to Flamingoland? Like a usual dose of deja-vu multiplied by 100.

Visiting places I’ve frequented in the past, with particular people or at a particular eventful time in my life, brings back all the vibes too. In particular, one of the biggest triggers is Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The sea, the breeze, the sand, the ice-creams… BOOM, achey achey heart.


Music is also a massive nostalgia trigger for me. I have a strong emotional connection to music. Whenever I feel remotely emotional, I hop onto Spotify and jam out some tunes to fit whatever mood I’m in. It’s probably the one thing I’d say really feeds my soul and fills me up.
Different songs, artists, albums are all attached to memories and places and feelings. Whenever I play specific pieces of music, I am transported back into the moment I’ve connected that piece to, in the past.

For example, whenever I listen to the Lianne La Havas – Blood album, I’m instantly transported back to the time I walked through the backstreets of Kyoto, Japan. Completely alone, as it poured with rain. I remember how quiet it was but how safe I felt. Taking in the old Japanese teahouses with their lanterns hanging outside. The track Green and Gold, in particular, I find comfort in.
Any of Alabama Shakes’ stuff makes me think of coming up with lyrics whilst taking a shower. Don’t ask me why, I haven’t the foggiest idea.
The Grease Megamix running straight into Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go reminds me of making up dance routines in my living room as a kid, as they both followed each other on the compilation CD I used to play religiously.
The Fray – Over My Head (Cable Car) reminds me of the glorious MySpace era and Secondary School.

All of the above reminds me of how powerful music can be and how it has the ability to affect us emotionally. How good is music, really? It has the ability to provide relief and to heal. Why any government would want to cut Arts funding to seriously affect the production of such a powerful, healing art form, ESPECIALLY in the type of world we live in and with what’s going on today, is BEYOND me. But that’s a whole different ball game…

I’m used to taking great comfort in that warm, fuzzy feeling but lately, my thoughts have shifted. Maybe I’m a little too cozy living in memories? As a result, am I not living in the present? Am I missing new, precious moments right now by longing to be back where I was 5 years ago? Do I choose to love the past because the present has become more difficult to comprehend and deal with, when our world seems to be going through a political global crisis right now? I’m pretty damn lucky that I have such great memories that I’d want to relive all over again, I guess, but I often feel so stuck and unable to move forward and is that because I’m just so obsessed with them?

This thought actually came to head when I watched La La Land for the first time, a film that exhumes Nostalgia. The colour-grading, for one, is filled with splashes of pastel hues, there are countless beautiful sunrises and sunsets, then that edgy argument scene that tinges all of that with a feeling of dread and uncertainty. I came out of that cinema bewildered and a blubbering mess because I related that much (what a d*ckhead ey).

Then I listened to an interview from the Golden Globes (I think?), just after Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling had swiped their awards, in the press conference room. Damien Chazelle, the director, made a comment that really struck a chord.

‘Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake is not a place to live, you should honour the past but actually find a way to push that forward, whether it’s in how you love or how you make movies or how you make any art.’

And like that, everything made sense. I just knew that the next step for me was to break out and start living in the now. So often, I’ve read quotes and had conversations about living in the present and all that jazz, but it took this for me to have the realisation of what that truly meant. To have such beautiful past events as part of my history is completely a blessing and being reminiscent and sentimental once in a while isn’t a crime. But I have now come to realise that by living in my past, and not dealing with the present, I’m taking 12 steps back and 0 forward. And that’s no way to live when life on earth is so damn short. We must continue to keep moving forward, even when shit gets hard. As the late, great Abraham Lincoln once said:

‘I walk slowly but never backward.’

Feel shit? Dance it out. v.1

Now, it’s no secret that one of my favourite TV series is Grey’s Anatomy.

For those who are unaware, Grey’s Anatomy is a U.S medical drama that was specifically designed to destroy souls. Ok, that’s not true. It’s incredibly well written by the talented Shonda Rhimes. So well written that you actually believe that the characters are a part of your life; you look for them in bars, you try to call them when you cut your finger open whilst chopping up your sweet potatoes etc etc… You become so connected to these people that, when one of them makes a ‘dramatic exit’ (no spoilers obviously), you go into mourning for a whole week. Full on mourning and I’m not even joking.  Also, you start to believe that you are an actual doctor. I was convinced for some time that I could probably muddle through a pulmonary heart valve replacement. Luckily, nobody’s ever asked me to perform one for them…

But one thing that I have definitely learned, as a result of watching all 12 and a bit series (so far) of Grey’s, is how to dance it out. 

This is one of the many ways I use art to deal with things that life throws at me, as commented on in my recent post Art. Is. Important.

Last year brought me a few rejections and a few tricky situations. These rejections and tricky situations brought me anger, frustration and upset. A lot of the time I was able to deal with situations logically, after thinking about them for a time and making a few wise decisions. At other times, I felt helpless. I had no clear idea of how to solve the issues without still feeling a little bit angry, frustrated or upset.

When the characters in Grey’s Anatomy feel like this, they put their earphones in and dance it out. On one particular day, when I felt completely hopeless, I suddenly had the idea to follow in the footsteps of my best mates from Grey’s. So I put in my earphones, opened up Spotify and I danced. Like, full on throwing myself around the kitchen as Phoebe from Friends probably would, that type of dancing.

And for that time that I was alone, dancing around my kitchen to the sounds of Taylor Swift – 1989 (I am not ashamed), the horrible situation that had been eating me up and shitting on my day ALL DAY LONG seemed to slip my mind for around 25 minutes. It felt, along with absolutely hilarious, absolutely CLASS.

Since that day, I have made it a thing to dance it out whenever I feel remotely shitty about myself. It sounds daft, I know, but I’ve found that it helps me to not take myself too seriously. Dancing it out is probably my way of telling myself to ‘GET OVER YOURSELF’.

Anyhow, the point of this post is to essentially share my favourite ‘throw yourself around the kitchen or a huge clear space’ songs. So here they are. Be warned:

  1. The Jam – A Town Called Malice
  2. T. Rex – I Love to Boogie
  3. Barry Manilow – Copacabana
  4. Taylor Swift – Shake it Off (obv)
  5. Daryl Hall & John Oates – You Make My Dreams
  6. Blondie – Atomic
  7. The Smiths – This Charming Man
  8. House of Pain – Jump Around (that one’s for my mam, she loves that bit in Mrs Doubtfire)
  9. Madness – Baggy Trousers
  10. Arctic Monkeys – I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it folks.

I obviously hold no responsibility for personal injuries or accidents. Oh and don’t blame me if you lose two months of your life binge watching Grey’s Anatomy, I’ll deny all accusations.