Hey! So again, I’ve been busy and not written for a while, this time because I was ON TOUR. It was great but not what I predicted. The Beatles wrote many of their greatest songs on tour and I wrote nothing. Mostly I just went to shopping centres and used Dyson airblades. But I met some new bands and heard some new songs and thought about some things so here’s a bit of that.
So when I encounter a new band I always ask where they’re from, but really I want to know a lot more than that. I want to somehow instantly absorb that band’s self-mythology. Who they are and why they are that. So it was a great thing whilst on tour when Ellis and I spent a couple of days with T-Shirt Weather who are a pop-punk band from Durham. I meant to listen to their songs before we went but I forgot so I met them as people before I ever heard their music, which I actually think is a pretty nice way round to do things. They grew up together in a fairly pretty boring place (Durham is nice, but boring) and this means they have one of those great shared histories that creates a strong sense of mythology. They have a bench that they sit on sometimes. And a wall at the top of a hill, which they also sometimes sit on. All bands should have that I think.
They also have a song called ‘You had me at “…do you like metal?”‘ which has some really beautiful lyrics in about the relationship between our past and our present selves.
“For you are what you are and you are what you were but what was is not how we will measure your worth
And sexual history, erroneous factor
Sum of your person, the strength of your character.”
In a relationship it is so difficult to get to a grips with who the person you are with used to be; to be healthy and uncrazy about it takes strength I think. Just like bands, people have their own mythologies, places and things that have meanings tacked on. I love the way this tumble of lyrics both accepts the fact of and rejects the importance of our pasts. They are there but they are not everything.
A song that deals very well with the past (amongst other things) is ‘Diamonds and Rust’ by Joan Baez, in which the mythology of a relationship is unpicked with the advantage of age, wisdom and hindsight and just a hint of nostalgia. Obviously writing a song about Bob Dylan is a big deal, especially if he’s your ex-boyfriend. I love the way Baez approaches the subject, starting with the concrete and sorrowful image of “the hand on the telephone” before delving into the past, verging on sentimentality (“ten years ago I bought you some cufflinks”) and immeadiately pulling away from that kind of attatchment to objects and memory (“you bought me something”). To write a song about the legend that is Dylan, and the myth that is a past relationship and to cut completely to the fact of it “Its all come back to clearly, yes I loved you dearly” is an extraordinarily brave and difficult thing to do.
The past must always be set in relation to the now carefully as it is always the present that will define who we are. Its not where you met your boyfriend that matters so much as where you’re going with him tonight. And mythology is a brilliant thing. It helps us to define in our own heads and to express to the outside world who we are and why we are that. It is important and beautiful. But it should always be approached with caution. It should be questioned and unpicked as its meaning is not inherent but created through action. Its not that that bench in Durham is meaningful, but the fact that sometimes, in the summer, a pop-punk band drink Irn Bru on it is just great.