Thursday, October 23, 2003
There are three tragic things about the recent (apparent) suicides of singer-songwriters Matthew Jay and Elliott Smith, and the “music world’s loss” isn’t any of them. The first tragedy is the loss of two human beings; sons, brothers, lovers, friends and more, no doubt, to the various and individual people around them. I cannot begin to comprehend how the people who actually knew these two young men (24 and 34 respectively, almost the same as me and my eldest brother) feel, and I shan’t do them a disservice or disrespect by even trying.
The second tragedy is that they will no doubt be added to the pantheon of musicians, pop and rock stars, who led sad or crazed lives and who died early. The myth of the romantic soul shall remain undimmed; the artistic temperament too fragile and beautiful for this world, chewed up and spat out by the music industry. It stretches back to Keats. No; it stretches back to Jesus. Lennon, Cobain, Joplin, Hendrix, Drake, both Buckleys, Coltrane, Aaliyah even. You can count James Dean too. Canonised by death. Is it a basic human need, to try and understand death by mythologizing it, by making those who die young somehow seem more special and wondrous and delicate than the rest of us? Perhaps. Perhaps it’s a capitalist thing, the need to use somebody’s myth and image to market what little product they managed to create in a short lifetime to as large an audience as possible? No. I’m not that cynical. The fetishisation of the talented young deceased will continue, I’m afraid, and it makes me sick to my stomach.
The third tragedy isn’t a third at all, but a refraction of the second. Or, rather, the second is a refraction of the third, which is the simple fact that here we have the lives of two young men, two amongst thousands every year, who felt unable to continue living in this world. People who thought, for whatever reason, that they had no option, no chance, no reason, to make their life into whatever they felt they needed or wanted in order to make it worth prolonging being alive. Two young men who felt so bad, in fact, that they had to desperately stop being alive.
I can’t pretend to understand depression. I am, I think, to aware (read ‘solipsistic’) to find myself in a position where I felt I no longer had control enough over my own life to make it worthwhile. I have felt low. I have felt my feet slipping into the undertow. I have wanted to run away or leave or break things or change who I am and who sees who I am. But I know that’s nothing. I’ve seen too many people I care about be reduced to real and persistent mental and emotional anguish, anguish so severe that it requires medication, counselling, and training to ameliorate. Not cure; ameliorate. (As much as I can care about anyone after being raised to think in a language where the self-singular pronoun is privileged over and above any group or singular ‘other’ pronoun, capitalised, no less, I, made more important than you or them or us. And a language where I can make no linguistic distinction between a friend and a stranger, between someone who sells me a train ticket and someone I share a bed with; they are all you. You can claim the English language is the richest in the world but compared to the French, with tu and vous to distinguish between and demonstrate affection towards people other than yourself, our single, dismissive you is a barbaric and damaging term.) I don’t like the term clinical depression but the fact is that 50% of people in the western world (and we think we’re so civilised because we have phones that you can play games on) will experience a period of it at some time; clinical because it is diagnosed and treated. God only knows how many people who feel the same or worse, who should go to a doctor or counsellor, never do.
The fadeout of Blue by Bark Psychosis might just be the saddest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. At least today, anyway.
I had Matthew Jay’s first two EPs, but gave them away a year or more ago because, while I thought they were pretty enough in their way, I couldn’t care for them. I have only ever, to my knowledge, heard one Elliott Smith song (“Baby Britain”), which was on a compilation CD made by Embrace and given out to fans who attended one of their secret gigs a couple of years ago, and which I remember thinking was wonderful. Not, however, wonderful enough for me to go out and buy his records.
Olly, this is why I’m worried about you, and why I alternately want to walk away from you or kick your arse. Who you are really is only limited by your imagination and your ability to see through what you imagine into actuality.
10/23/2003 08:27:00 pm