Friday, February 22, 2008

Please feel free to ignore this...

I'm feeling very ambivalent about this week's topic, aware of a temptation to start getting possessive or proprietorial. It's strange - maybe this is just me - but it seems to be easy to accept that everyone will have their different experiences of love, sex, family etc., and so easy to accept that they'll have different soundtracks for them (still can't get my head round some people's idea of 'sexy', but I don't take it personally). However, because mental illness isn't a universal experience in the same way, it's almost harder to accept that other people's perspectives are equally valid. The fact that I was worrying on the blog about people trying to privilege their choice of songs by referring to their own experiences is obviously because I'm struggling not to do exactly the same thing...

This also gets entangled with ambivalent feelings about the songs themselves. We can get embroiled very easily in arguments about authenticity, heroising the sickness of individuals like Cobain and Richie Edwards and condemning the less convincing or artistically persuasive pain of, I dunno, Alice in Chains. We can equally well get tied up in guilt about voyeurism and Schadenfreude. My mention of Charlie Parker's shambolic 'Lover Man' brought to mind the comment of the jazz critic Gary Giddens on the subject: "Does it appeal only to the voyeur in us, or is it musically valid? Why did so many musicians memorize the solo down to the last painful misstep?" Put another way, isn't the Manics' 'The Holy Bible' equally problematic if we enjoy it or identify with it, or both?

I like a good wallow as much as the next person, when I'm feeling reasonably up. When really down, I can't listen to anything. Oddly enough, when teetering on the brink - have we had a list of 'Songs that Saved My Life', or was that one of the suggestions when Dorian hinted that he was running out of ideas? - my customary recourse was to Kraftwerk, especially 'The Mix', which somehow seemed the most human and humane music in the world, bringing calm and order and peace without ever seeming trite or alienating.

Sorry about this; it's been a long week, but I feel better for this ramble...

14 comments:

treefrogdemon said...

Mental illness not universal? Well, it's 1 in 4, mate, so if you haven't had it yourself chances are you'll know someone who has.

lukethedrifter said...

its important to keep in mind the distinction in the topic. This is not 'songs reflecting mental illness in the singer', but 'songs about mental illness'. Thus, no songs by Alice in Chains really fit (who I love, btw), despite the fact that almost all of them clearly reflect a man in the midst of intense depression and self-loathing over the heroin addiction that was eventually killed himself and long before that killed all his relationships.

as a complete aside, the point about them perhaps not being so convincing as Cobain and Edwards is probably misplaced - Layne Staley's death was about as depressing and lonely as it gets, and no-one tries to make him into a hero.

DarceysDad said...

I'm kinda with you on this, Abahachi.

This topic is like the 'sexy' one in that it is going to be hugely subjective and intensely personal. Unlike 'sexy', we won't be able to smooth the waters with double-entendres or self-deprecating humour: by definition, it simply isn't a topic that lends itself to having a laugh at ourselves.

So if "this ramble" of yours is a tool that lets off some steam, then more power to your elbow, mate.

Me? I consider myself very fortunate that I have only had two episodes of emotional-low / mental-fragility in my life, but even the one prescription for Temazepan was enough to glimpse a place I never even want to visit, let alone find myself inhabiting.
So yes, self-medicating with music helps me to bring some calm back ... I will not be offended at getting precisely zero seconds to my suggestions this week, yet perversely some of them will mean more to me than in most weeks.

Ho hum!

goneforeign said...

The more I read from our contributors, the more I appreciate them.

treefrogdemon said...

And talking of self-medication, it's nearly time for my frozen margarita!

Abahachi said...

Homebrew for me; I sleep better, even if the dreams get a bit bizarre.

@Luke, I didn't intend to have a go at Alice in Chains, though I'm not a big fan. The reason they came to mind is memories of the tirade of abuse and accusations of inauthenticity when the first album came out - and for some reason they stuck, even as it became obvious that Staley wasn't faking anything.

Mnemonic said...

Because RR is a public blog (and so is this, even though it feels less so), I thought very hard before I posted "Behind Blue Eyes" because my original response, back in the early seventies, to it and the rest of the album was intense and had a personal element. So I played it three times, decided that it was also applicable in a more universal sense and I editd my original recommendation hard before hitting send. I've been reassured by the amount of seconding it's had that I'm not alone in thinking that song is right for the topic.

I think one of the biggest problems with mental illness is that we don't talk or joke about it enough. Retrospectively, it can be very funny. A friend's account of her failed wrist slashing had us both in fits of laughter once and a bipolar friend used to write letters to her MP from the Maudsley and when we teased her about it, asking how she expected them to take her seriously, had the last word "But I'm a doctor, they'll think I'm on the staff".

Frogprincess said...

Abahachi - it was good to get that one off your chest. And there must be a sense of "how can they possibly know"? for a lot of people reading. Support also for Mnemonic's post - that the only way to beat it or make it more tolerable is to laugh at it. My favourite Woody Allen quote is "How're you doing? - Oh, nothing that a prozac and a croquet mallet wouldn't cure..." What saddened me a little on the blog were the clear misconceptions on what mental illness is. Tourettes? AUTISM?? Interesting how much hogwash can be spouted in this context...Raising my "picon bière" (beer with a shot of orange bitters) in your general direction...

Abahachi said...

I'm afraid that 'Behind Blue Eyes' for me will forever be associated with the performance by Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - but it's still a great song.

treefrogdemon said...

I thought Giles was quite good actually.

ejaydee said...

As long as you don't have Fred Durst's version burned into your brain, you're fine.

steenbeck said...

Wish I knew about transferring tapes to digital, Abahachi, because I'd love to hear your stuff. I've also been meaning to say I was glad to read what you wrote above. I've been feeling ambivalent about this topic myself. Partly because, well as tfd said so many people suffer from mental illness, including someone close to me, and I"m sure people important to many RRers. I understand the need for humor, and I think it's important to talk about, but it's not as easy or as fun as some of the other topics. Anyway, thanks for what you wrote, and I hope someone has some answers about going from cassettes to digital. Did you google it?

Mnemonic said...

Tapes to digital - from your very own Grauniad offers

http://www.guardianoffers.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/GuardianOffers/_TRUURECORD/-/Transfer%20Vinyl%20and%20Tape%20to%20Digital%20with%20U-Record

Blimpy McFlah said...

Overspill housekeeping: I demand a wee picture with every post, please. k, thanx,