For years now, I have barely listened to music. Had anybody suggested such a thing to me when I was 20, I would have yelled “But music is my life!” and considered swearing at them, but things changed. I had kids. They are loud. I longed for moments of complete silence. I started working for a music magazine and had to review random things that, for the most part, I didn’t enjoy. Then I lost my mp3 player somewhere around the house and never really bothered looking for it.
I have also turned into a grumpy old woman who increasingly lives in the past. But while this keeps me away from the radio and live music, it has driven me back to the dust-covered boxes that contain my old tapes and CDs. Last weekend, my husband took the kids out for a couple of hours, and while I immediately started cleaning the house (MISTAKE! Leave the house and go for a coffee!), I put on some Counting Crows and soaked the bathroom in tears. I had simply forgotten how much their music meant to me. The next day, I bought myself an iPod and filled it with all the stuff that constituted almost my entire emotional life back in 2002.
I skipped lessons at university a lot that year, because I had decided to start a different course in a different town in the autumn, and had hated almost every minute at university anyway. So I spent a lot of time hanging out with my musically inclined friends, going to gigs and making mixtapes. I was busy compiling the soundtrack of my (not very interesting) life and had just come across Counting Crows on the radio. I bought Recovering The Satellites on eBay and spent day after day on my balcony, hugging my CD player. It had been released six years earlier, but for me, it belongs in 2002. I was bored, I was in a small town, I had no idea what would happen after the summer, and I felt every last bit of despair in those songs.
I wanna be the knife that cuts into my hand
and I wanna be scattered from here in this catapult
What a big baby won’t somebody save me please
You won’t find nobody home
What a big baby, yes. Maybe. But this was me. I was, and still am, fascinated by the repeated mentions of knives and cuts in Adam Duritz’s lyrics. This, too, was me.
The album’s title track sums up the feeling of the whole album for me.
Do you see yourself in me?
We’re such crazy babies, little monkey
We’re so fucked up, you and me
Wishful thinking, of course, because there was nobody there with me on that balcony. I never found a man who shared my love of those songs, and it’s probably for the better. Graham Greene said it best:
Two touchables together, what a terrible life they always make of it, two people suffering, afraid to speak, afraid to act, afraid of hurting. Life can be bearable when it’s only one who suffers. (Graham Greene, Travels With My Aunt)
My musical education continued in much the same vein; there was Fiona Apple, the woman who advocated making mistakes, although I probably didn’t make enough of them. Elbow, who will never make a better album than their first, Asleep In The Back:
Turin Brakes, who are vastly underrated; David Gray, whose older stuff we can all agree on, and Jeff Buckley, who gave my soul a punching I still haven’t properly recovered from:
I’m aching for those days when everything happened in my head, yet nothing changed in my small town. I lived and breathed this music, it was with me (on my last-generation funky metallic Walkman) wherever I went, and I probably wouldn’t even remember those walks twelve years later if it wasn’t for the soundtrack. I see myself crossing the tram lines every time I put on that Counting Crows album, and I know exactly what I was thinking about. I guess I was ashamed of so much emotion for a while, but now it’s all back. And this time, it’s mixed with the things that did happen. I can’t wait to rediscover those songs in another ten or twenty years’ time.