I ate myself, I am a pie
– “Hello Mailbox/332 2.54 am. You have one message in your mailbox…”
– “Hello Damon. It’s Brendan. Sorry to call you at such a ridiculous hour in the morning. I’ve just had a call from Karen at Parlophone and she says Steve Sutherland is going absolutely mental. He needs the piece, err, now… because they have to work on it today for the deadlines. Can you fax it through to the office now, or when you get up… end of mailbox. Thank you.”
– Thank you, Mailbox. I’m in a hotel in Magic America. There is a Strauss waltz piping through the hallway and someone is listening to the porn channel at full volume next door.
What follows are a few obscure thoughts about pop people and about myself.
Pop people are defects. Pop people are funny in the head and the more pop they get, the funnier their heads become.
Pop begins in bedrooms and ends up in supermarkets.
I ate myself, I am a pie.
Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, described herself as, “A person who had no idea how to function within the boundaries of the normal, non-depressive world.” Then she found Prozac.
Until last year, I had been someone who had never in their life felt even faintly depressed or suicidal. They were emotions that were as foreign to me as Japanese. Then, completely out of the blue, just after ‘Girls and Boys’ had come out, I woke up depressed. It was like the first day at primary school and a very bad hangover all at once. I found my whole upper body becoming incredibly tense. I had pains in my back and shoulder, panic attacks, and the only relief was to cry. I couldn’t rationalise what on earth was going on in my head and I was pissed off with myself for being so weak. Things like this just didn’t happen to people like me.
So I went to see a Harley Street doctor (the irony of this, I assure you, was not lost on me) who asked me whether I had been doing any drugs. I said a bit of cocaine, dope, quite a lot of drinking, nothing very out of the ordinary. The doctor, who I thought was a bit of a prat, took my blood pressure, looked in my eyes and said that cocaine had affected my nervous system. The doctor slapped my wrist, gave me some anti-depressant pills and told me that it could take anything up to a year for me to feel completely normal again.
I tried the pills for a couple of days but they did nothing for me other than make the world appear to be coming out of a transistor radio. It was no help at all, so I stopped taking them. As our workload increased, I began to feel worse and insomnia became another little demon in my head.
I remember being at ‘Top Of The Pops’ for the single ‘To The End’ and thinking, “I can’t cope. Please, somebody switch me off.” I tried a back man, a herbal man, and an acupuncture man, nothing really helped and everyone had a different reason why I felt the way I did.
To cut a few months short, I didn’t go on to Prozac, take heroin or anything faintly cool or rock’n’roll. I did stop taking the small amounts of cocaine that I had done before (for people with bodies like mine, it’s actually a really stupid and dangerous drug to take). I stopped drinking coffee, started playing football and going down the gym twice a week. I still drink a lot and smoke a bit of dope but generally I think I’ve learnt how to be a sane pop person (except at times like this when I’ve got jet lag and it’s five in the morning).
I think my period of “otherness” was just part of a transition from one mode of living to another and not really proper depression (although there are strains of it in my family), and I don’t mention it because I want to jump on the misery bandwagon. If anything, it is because I loathe the idea that pop people are in a position to hand out some kind of DIY guide to depression and suicide. When I was 16, The Smiths were the best band in the world. We all wanted to dress like Morrissey, give up meat like Morrissey, and some of us went the whole hog and became Morrissey. The most important thing if you were Morrissey was to be miserable, so if you wanted to be Morrissey, you were miserable, too.
Yes, I have a very cynical perspective but pop people have pop emotions and they are not to be trusted. If Morrissey and happy Kurt gave you a run for your money, they are nothing on Courtney Love. She makes them seem bland.I’ve always thought her and Pamela Anderson should merge into one being: Pamela Love, the Tabloid Medusa.
In the ’60s, people took acid to make the world weird.
Now the world is weird, people take Prozac to make it normal.
Pop people seem to be preoccupied with not being forgotten. They are all trying to join the Immortality Club. Some try kicking down the door and shouting, “Let me in! I’m for real, me!” Others go and give someone else’s name on their application form. Some sneak in through the toilet window and a few go and kill themselves or get killed.
There’s a brilliant bit in a book by Milan Kundera which is called ‘Immortality’ where he imagines two immortals moaning about where they’ve ended up. Here is a bit of the conversation between Goethe and Ernest Hemingway.
“That’s immortality,” said Goethe. “Immortality means eternal trial.”
“If it’s eternal trial, there ought to be a decent judge, not a narrow-minded schoolteacher with a rod in her hand.”
“A rod in the hand of a narrow-minded teacher, that’s what eternal trial is all about. What else did you expect, Ernest?”
“I didn’t expect anything. I hoped that, after death, I would at last be able to live in peace.”
“You did everything you could to become immortal.”
“Nonsense, I wrote books, that’s all.”
“Yes, precisely,” laughed Goethe.
“Don’t you forget about me,” was the popular stadium cry of Jim Kerr in the scary ’80s rock band Simple Minds who have, unfortunately for them, been largely forgotten but who, in a peculiar way, feature in my next pop cul-de-sac.
I witnessed one of the more obscure products of this condition a few weeks ago, while on my way to rehearse with The Pretenders (first link being that Chrissie Hynde was once married to Jim Kerr) for an ‘Unplugged’ thing, playing piano on a version of ‘I Go To Sleep’ (a song written by club member Ray Davies). As my cab drove up the road that the studio was in, I was distracted from my nauseous self-preoccupation by the sight of ten youngish girls hanging around outside the entrance to a particularly nasty ’80s riverside development. Later, I walk past the same building on my way for a quick drink. The girls have an alarmingly Stepford Wives-like manner about them. I ask one of them who they are waiting for and find out it is none other than Luke Goss, half member of scary ’80s pop band Bros.
This has worried me slightly so I have a couple of drinks in the pub. Later, back at rehearsals, I find out from someone that they follow him everywhere and that it’s a very organised operation involving portable phones and tip-offs from secret contacts in the know.
“Don’t you forget about me.” They certainly haven’t forgotten about Luke (the second link is that Luke is currently in a band who sound a lot like Simple Minds).
Are these people just plain bananas? Are the hordes of girls who wait, in vain usually, for a member of Take That to randomly appear at the arrivals exit at London Heathrow mad?
My mum has a book on Indian holy men, known as the Sidhus, who in some cases spend up to ten years in one place standing on one leg waiting for some form of enlightenment. Walking past those ageing Brosettes on that wet Tuesday afternoon, I thought of the holy men and how confusing the pursuit of immortality can get.
Thought 5: A postcard
When I started writing this a couple of days ago back at home, I decided the best place would be in the front room, looking out at the street. I thought this because I see Alan Bennett every Sunday, on my way to football, writing in his front room. Mr Bennett has got blinds so he can watch people without being watched.
I, on the other hand, am in full view in my front room. You might, at this point, be thinking what on Earth is he talking about? It is quarter to eight in the morning here and I haven’t been to bed so I’m entitled to a little meander.
Anyhow, I couldn’t think of anything to say so I went out for a drink. On my return, I found a postcard.
“Dear Damon. I had a great day in London. Went to Portobello and bought this card and some other stuff. When I popped the letter in, I saw you briefly (I wasn’t spying) and you seemed a bit sad. Hope you are OK.”
If you are reading this, writer of postcard, thank you for your concern. Yes, I am OK. And no, I was not sad, only in a mild state of panic over this piece. In fact, my frame of mind was reminiscent of the way I felt about homework on a Sunday evening when I couldn’t bring myself to miss ‘The Professionals’.
Thought 6: Word count
One last thought. The last time I wrote something for a magazine, I did not have a computer. Now I have an Apple Mac. Before I had to count in my head how many words I had written which proved a very arduous task. On one such occasion, we were approaching Madrid airport on an Iberia flight from Barcelona. I had counted just over 500 words when our tour manager, who was sitting next to me, grabbed hold of my leg. I said, “F*** off Ifan, I’m counting my words,” but he wouldn’t let go so I hit him. I then looked at the other passengers and noticed they had the same look of complete panic on their faces as he did. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “We nearly died.”
Apparently, the plane had approached the runway almost on its side with the left wing no more than six feet off the ground. Just before impact, the pilot had managed to right the plane so avoiding disaster and probably our death. For the rest of the day everyone got completely drunk and told all and sundry how much they loved them. I felt strangely distant as I had not shared the experience. Now I have a computer.
Now I have word count in my life. I have joined the clever stupids.
By Dan Abnormal, Pop Person. 1995.