You may have noticed a lot of musical references in the titles and blogs.
I have a YouTube playlist collecting these tracks in one handy place.
Some context may help to explain this collection, why I’ve picked the songs, the memories associated with it and what they mean to me.
Kodachrome Ghosts – James Dean Bradfield
Now I’m here in this room
With your life on my knees
A shoebox full of memories
The song that gives the blog its name. The solo material is much underrated and the album was the soundtrack when I was unwell so it has a place in my heart. The imagery of photos as ghosts is quite potent too as the few photos we have of the boys frame my memories of them and its those images that dominate my thoughts more so than actual memories.
Disorder – Joy Division
I’ve been waiting for a guide to take me by the hand
The title for the sitemap / contents page of sorts. Is a dual reference to both Joy Division and The Crow original comic (“Go to Hell!”, “I’ve been waiting for a guide to take me by the hand”). The latter goes quiet nicely with another Crow quote “this isn’t Hell but you can see it from here”.
Dead Trees and Traffic Islands – Manic Street Preachers
Paralysis through analysis / Now I feel so weak / I show little defence / This purgatory for beginners
So many great lines in an odd little b-side with a big driving beat, great bass, classic JDB lead in the chorus and some lovely flute thrown in before a haunting coda. This is an old comfort song for me. The actual chorus is strange but the lines above are good ones to
howl sing along to. Paralysis through analysis is an apt summary of one of the main features of my grief as I distance myself from the raw feeling by endlessly analysing and dissecting it. In looking for this I found a great ukelele cover so I added it as well as the original.
Going to your funeral – eels
Going to your funeral and I’m feeling I could scream / Perfect day for perfect pain / look at all the people with their flowers in their hands / put them on the box that’s holding only sand that was once, that was once you
An openly raw song about the rush of emotion of attending a funeral and trying to square the disconnect between all that you have lost and the smallness of the physical remains. A menacing groove runs throughout with some light breezy slide guitar breaking up the gloom before a distorted scream and a squall of feedback sums up the howl kept within.
You’re tender and you’re tired – Manic Street Preachers
You’re so fragile tonight / It’s not trivial like they think / Yes, you’re desparate and you’re hurt / Rebuild the void with flowers
The whole song is relevant. The sense of loss and comforting someone from the perspective of having suffered too. Embarassingly for a diehard Manics fan I’ve misheard one of the lyrics as “we fill the void” rather than “rebuild” but the sentiment remains the same. Trying to fill an emptiness with either useless symbols or with ephemeral beauty depending on current mood / view point.
Don’t Tell Me – Madonna
Not so much the lyrics for this as its instant association when I read the title of the poem. That and the snappy guitar riff that underpins the track. That’s why I’ve included an instrumental cover rather than the original.
This is yesterday – Manic Street Preachers
Do not listen to a word I say, just listen to what I can’t keep silent / The only way to gain approval is by exploiting the very thing that cheapens me
Someone somewhere soon will take care of you / I repent, I’m sorry everything is falling apart
Much like Tender and Tired, pretty much all the lyrics resonate for this song. A beautiful song (especially on acoustic guitar). At the same time wistful as it is mired in despair (“why do anything when you can forget everything?”). A rare moment of calm on the none more bleak Holy Bible album.
Caldey – Manic Street Preachers
So you tell me man is an island
Stuck between sanity and asylum
When the words you use won’t work or fit
They just hang around and always miss
Retrace your steps again and again
Your strength and virtue now coming to an end
This purgatory, this constant battle
Pack your bags, wave goodbye to struggle
If the isolation destroys the worry
If silence stops you saying sorry
If the rain comes down and drowns the anxiety
I’m giving up, I’m sailing to Caldey
A song in the vein of Australia and Ready for Drowning – a song of seeking solace through escape. Unlike the other songs it’s not the exoticism of Australia or Patagonia but a rain soaked Welsh island of retreat. This song features many of the Manics recurring themes of anxiety, escape and purgatory. All with a jaunty tune! Fun to play on cat piano too.
Acceptance – Akira Yamaoka / Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
From one of my favourite games of the Silent Hill series, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The songs from these games often reference or heavily foreshadow the events of the game so I won’t go into too many details. This little Moonlight Sonata type riff underpins quite a gloomy message.
Deep in the night you think everything’s right
Tell it to yourself. Say it’s just a nightmare
Something is telling you nothing can change where you are
Cold faded photos, they lay by your side
Something in my room, never mind the reason
Visions are lying and reasons just live to survive
If this acceptance it is one of the more brutal versions of it. A cold, chilling realisation rather than any warm, reassuring sense of comfort.
The Unnamed Feeling – Metallica
Been here before couldn’t say I liked it
But do I start writing all this down?
I’m frantic in your soothing arms
I can not sleep in this down filled world
I’ve found safety in this loneliness
But I can not stand it anymore
Lose myself in a crowded room
You fool, you fool, it will be here soon
This song nails the feeling of anxiety and fear of succumbing to the worst impulses. Much like the shadder, there is no running from the feeling as it waits in the place we go to hide.
The song comes from the much maligned St Anger album. It’s easy to mock rock stars for any hint of ‘woe is me’ (and something that Metallica have mocked themselves in Poor Twisted Me) but James Hetfield has gone through alcoholism, depression and anger issues.
St Anger was very much a product of a band in therapy (documented to unintentionally comic effect in Some Kind of Monster) and knowing this makes me look at it more kindly than most. Stripped of the horrible production and over long detuned workouts there are great songs of raw pain and fragility. The Unnamed Feeling is one of those tracks.
Until it Sleeps – Metallica
Where do I take this pain of mine?
I run, but it stays right by my side
So tear me open, pour me out
There’s things inside that scream and shout
And the pain still hates me
So hold me until it sleeps
In the same vein as The Unnamed Feeling a song about confronting the ugly feelings inside and embracing vulnerability by appealing for help. Also has similar chord riff to Radiohead’s Street Spirit!
Melodies of Life – Nobuo Uemastsu
We had the instrumental version for the funeral but it has lyrics.
Alone for a while I’ve been searching through the dark,
For traces of the love you left inside my lonely heart,
To weave by picking up the pieces that remain,
Melodies of life – love’s lost refrain.
The melody for this is beautiful and this was played as people walked out of the funeral so we had a moment to say goodbye to our boys alone. I can’t listen to this track without crying as it takes me right back to laying my hands on the tiny caskets before walking away so we didn’t have to see them go into the fire.
Fragments of Memories – Nobuo Uemastsu
This is what played as everyone took their places. It was played a little earlier than it should have been leading to an awkward moment while we waited for the song to end to start the ceremony.
Herzeleid – Rammstein
Referenced heavily in one of my previous posts this is an ugly song hiding a poignant and poetic message.
Preserve each other from heartache
because short is the time that you are together
Because even if you are united for many years one day they will seem like minutes to you
Preserve each other from togetherness
You wouldn’t know it from the tense dissonant guitar riff and icy keyboards.
The day the whole world went away – Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor is often derided for being maudlin and self pitying. A testament to his song writing comes from the fact that Johnny Cash agreed to cover Hurt and much like Metallica, strip away the noise and there are solid songs underneath.
Here the noise is essential to the dynamics of the song with LOUD LOUD LOUD LOUD quiet, quiet, quiet, quieter…LOUD LOUD LOUD again. Aside from the title of the track it has a force of its own that captures the extremes of the day our whole world went away. The loud bits are particularly good as you can hear the guitars being played so hard that every note is bending under the force of the attack.
As an aside my favourite Nine Inch Nails material is the instrumental freebie album he did. All the music and no lyrics!
The Weeping Song – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
A wonderful over the top silly song about weeping with a big beer hall filling chorus.
Father, why are all the children weeping?
They are merely crying son
O, are they merely crying, father?
Yes, true weeping is yet to come
Build that wall / Mother I’m Here / Setting Sail
This little trio comes from the fantastic video game Bastion.
As described in a previous post I played these songs as lullabies to the boys when they were in the womb. One of the quirks of these songs was that they are all in a weird tuning so to play anything else required a level of faffage I couldn’t manage at the time. After the boys died my guitars pretty much stayed in this tuning and I played these songs over and over as a comfort and distraction.
When You’re Gone – Akira Yamaoka – Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Still you ask me how I feel
I feel lost – that’s how I feel
A very apt song for counselling / therapy.
I know, I know
There’s something I’ve forgotten
Like a time, a place
A shattered memory
A song about questioning what you think you know, what you think you remember.
Black Dog on My Shoulder – Manic Street Preachers
References the description Winston Churchill gave to his bouts of depression. For a long time I didn’t like this song. Now I’ve come round to its breezy tune and soaring chorus. I listened to This is My Truth Tell Me Yours obsessively before going to university and each track takes me back to those days of packing up my room and going to see them play in Margate the day before I went to university.
My dilemma but not my choice
Winston Churchill can you hear my voice
Melodrama there in my kitchen sink
The kitchen sink remains my nemesis. Not for the ha ha reasons (I’m very domesticated) but because the blank state it suggests allows my mind to wander in all manner of unpleasant ways. Melodrama, psychodrama, ghosts and demons all in a swirl of soap and dirty water.
Gratitude – Killing Joke
I got into Killing Joke through the Metallica cover of the The Wait and checking out Night Time after reading about the Nirvana Come As You Are hoopla. One of my favourite bands blending politics, conspiracy theories, the occult, mysticism and riffs, oh man, the riffs. Geordie Walker is one of my favourite guitarists and he plays these mind shredding riffs effortlessly.
You look at me but I’ve been looking at you
We only were a mirror to show what you could do
Oh innovator, oh enlightened scholar, play and write
Rewrite the old books, rennaisance, perform new rites of light
And when you find yourself upon the untrodden path
Remember me with a smile, a drink, a gesture or a laugh
A more fun recent memory calls back to an older one. Whilst trying to distract my son from his usual changing meltdowns and waiting for a baby change room I started bouncing him around singing the riff to Change
He found it hilarious. “BAM BAM BABA BA BAM BAAM! CHANGE!”. When we got home I found it on youtube and played it to him and he started doing some fine toddler min-moshing. He chanted “again!” once it finished and the video he found staright away was the live performance from the Royal Festival Hall in April 2011. This was the concert I went to with my wife (“it was good but all the songs kinda sounded the same”) when she was pregnant with the boys.
Sepia – Manic Street Preachers
This is another one of the go to comfort songs from long ago. I came to the Manics in a big way during an early bereavement. The Manics are a band steeped in history, loss, rage, melancholia and intelligence. This along with Design for Life was one of the first songs I learned to play when I started to play guitar.
Experience is lost on me
I am melancholia eternally
But i still smile so stupidly
Sepia the stain that I remember
And these unwritten diaries that can never breathe, never breathe
And just like that moment in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
I’m perpetually stuck in sepia film
The bleeding inside, I manage to keep it all in
Keep it all in
Fixxxer – Metallica
One of my favourite Metallica songs from the unloved Reload album.
But tell me
Can you heal what father’s done?
Or fix this hole in a mother’s son?
Can you heal the broken worlds within?
Can you strip away so we may start again?
Can you heal what father’s done?
Or cut this rope and let us run?
Just when all seems fine
And I’m pain free
You jab another pin
Jab another pin in me
Rewind the Film – Manic Street Preachers
If you’ve read this far you should reward yourself with a visit to her blog.
A song about nostalgia, not for a time or old television but the comforts and certainty of being with those you love, have loved and lost.
Rewind the film once more
Turn back the pages of my past
Rewind the film once more
I want the world to see it all
I want to feel small
Lying in my mother’s arms
Playing my old records
Hoping that they never stop
There’s too much heartbreak
In the nothing of the now
I want to see it all
Never want to let it go
I want the world to see all the love
And security, my childhood dreams
But now I am a busted flush
And I am waiting for the night to come