More than a feeling

Flash Fiction

 

Al was a gifted Daf player, he had spent his entire life immersed in playing this Iranian cultural drumlike musical instrument with chains that beat rhythmically, intricately against the skin. He also played the Dayareh, and pretty much anything that could be tapped in the sequences that played through his mind even when he wasn’t playing. He even drummed in his sleep, his grand children teased him about it one night when he woke them up by sleeping through rousing pattern of thumps and tumps. Not wanting to harm him, having heard all the urban legends about waking sleep walkers, they danced wildly about as he played and once finished, he put down the drumsticks, returning to bed and having no further recollection in the morning.

He was disappointed, none of his three sons showed the remotest signs of interest in playing. As his eldest Jab said one day recently, they never thought they could ever be as good at drums, when they were all so good at other things. Jab was good at talking – he was a criminal lawyer that never lost a case, Bel was good at cards and fast women and lived a single life his father almost envied, and Zed was a cunning businessman. It was a little disappointing to think that they would never really change the world for the better, or contribute much to the world’s offerings, but they’d married well for themselves and the grandchildren made up for it almost. His daughter Mol quite liked playing the drums. Strangely enough this annoyed Al more than anything his sons had ever done. She wasn’t good enough to be allowed to continue. There was a limit, and Al couldn’t have her practicing drums poorly being heard by the neighbour.

Some days you wake up and wonder if today is the day you’re going to die. From the age of about sixty, that was what Al found himself wondering every day. And so, he lived his life as if his last day was today. He played his drums. He picked a flower in memory of his recently passed wife – just in case she was waiting on the threshold of the afterlife – he didn’t want to give her something to complain about. He found that he’d missed the complaints more than he’d thought that he would before she died, considering it was incessant, the silence had been a shock. Yet, he didn’t want to give her cause for complaint.

And so Mol continued learning the Daf, and the Drums, eventually discovering that she quite liked the Iranian flutelike Ney instrument, and as it turned out, she was quite good at it. Being pretty, she’d made a good match and her husband let her get away with playing her music, as long as it was discrete. For a select group of friends, Mol was allowed to play.

Then one day Al woke up and he was correct. It was his death day. He wondered, as he always wondered, and he played the Daf, the Dayareh, and a few other instruments he’d always played. It was his daily meditation after all. As he was preparing to go to his youngest grandson’s piano recital, he slipped down the stairs and was rushed to hospital instead. The wounds were extensive, but there was just enough time to get the family gathered around to say their teary goodbyes before he slipped down the tunnel of light to the great beyond he’d spent every day of his life wondering about. He told Jab that he was proud of him, he told Bel to settle down and father some legitimate children with a proper name, he congratulated Zed on having steel nerves and heartless dispassion that led to wonderful financial rewards to the tune of trillions, squirreled away all over the planet. Moreover, to Mol, he said, “If you are blessed to have a son, please name him Al, and if it’s a girl, you may use your mother’s name.” And nobody thought it was weird at all because within their family, this was perfectly acceptable behaviour.

So Al tootled up the hill of white light, his life flashing before his eyes. Some realisations started coming clear with all the haziness of confusion dissipating. He could see his daughter didn’t seem as upset as his sons. It didn’t bother him, she was just a girl, she was living God’s will for women since Eve disobeyed God’s direct order.” He saw his late wife, she was also called Eve, she didn’t move toward him, she simply stood for a while before disappearing. He didn’t much like the look on her face.

And then he was in a white room. Nothing surrounded him for quite some time until a figure appeared. It looked exactly how he’d imagined God would look. He held up a hand to prevent Al from bowing down before him and instead said kindly, “I see you had a large family. You played Drums very well. You accumulated a lot of wealth…” and in a process indescribable within 3-D terms, gave Al a perspective of himself as told from each and every person that Al had ever come into contact with. As you can imagine, by the end of it Al felt wrung out, and desolate. Every poor decision had been inflicted one upon the other, until he could just watch with the dawning realisation that the things that he’d considered victories in his living life, were actually failures in the greater scheme of things. That he’d had so much faith that he’d lived his life according to the rules, without stopping to consider the wider implications of those rules, and whether or not a benevolent being like the God he worshipped would hold with the more nasty rules, the ones he cringed about following once he realised what they’d meant.

He also discovered by means impossible to describe that his daughter was almost about to be pregnant and that God had him in mind to be the baby. Al wasn’t happy with that, but he was informed that the alternative was a random place in the middle of nowhere with a low vibration related leg of his family that required some intellectual upliftment. This time he would get it right, this time he’d stick to the way, this time he’d take his drumming places and be the best drummer in the world.

He entered the slipstream to birth, perfectly calculated to engage maximum conception, and entered into the warm fuzzy pink glow of foetal development.

“What will my name be?” he found himself wondering… and resonating deep within his arms as he tapped out the familiar drumbeats he’d played everyday in his life as Al, was one word.

Eve.

 

 

Monday Meh: Three Articulate Women (and a Man with the Blues)

Songs are poetry set to music. Some are the perfect marriage of sound and message while others are just wasted creative potential. Monday Meh is about presenting the best musical offerings and a little backstory to get you through to hump day.

It was really difficult wading through the mire of break up songs written and performed by women. Some have great music, and horrible lyrics… others have wonderful lyrics and half-baked music… I’m not going to name and shame anyone here because music is subjective. I found three different kinds of breakup songs, though the territory is somewhat depressing and maudlin coming from where I am in my life. But we’ve all been there.

Last week we had the Three Angry Men and it was fairly straightforward picking the ones I wanted to use. There is a subtle difference in the way the material is handled. I’m sure there are good examples from both sides of the fence (and in the gap in between), but I think good break up songs performed by women tend to tell some kind of story everyone can relate to on some level.

The first song I thought of was written by Dolly Parton. Elvis Presley wanted to perform a cover of it but wanted a share of the publishing rights, something Dolly Parton agonised over, but decided against. Whitney Houston made a brilliant cover of it but I think she really only borrowed it and made something that was beautiful to begin with, even greater.

“My songs were what I was leaving for my family and I wouldn’t give them up,” she told Mojo in 2004. “People said I was stupid. I cried all night. I would have killed to hear him [Elvis] sing it. But, eventually, when Whitney recorded it, I was glad I held out.”

The best break ups are like this. If only we could all be more like the elegant and gentile Dolly Parton. I have loved her for all my life and I am constantly in awe of her sheer amazingness. Relationship break-ups like this, don’t come around often (and admittedly this is more about the end of a business partnership than a personal one) but this is about that rare breed – a relationship that ends gracefully with minimal drama, where both people agree to mutually and respectfully move on as decent human beings because they’re done.

“So I sang this song, Porter [Wagoner] said you can go, providing I can produce that record… and he did… and it was the best song I ever had.” – Dolly Parton

And I hope life, will treat you kind
And I hope that you have all
That you ever dreamed of
Oh, I do wish you joy
And I wish you happiness
But above all this
I wish you love

Dolly Parton, 1974

For my second song, I thought about using Madonna’s Heartbreak City from her new album Rebel Heart. There’s some really biting lyrics in it. Unfortunately no live version with good production values exists yet. Recommend doing a search for it, hope it does well. It’s so angry and it is about the kind of breakup where one party has been taken advantage of and only discovers just how much afterwards. This seems to be a common theme in break up songs in general, “He/She gave them everything, they took it all, and left the musical party with nothing.” .

The second song is therefore, Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and tells a story of her personal relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, giving away the most painful details, right at the heart of the issue.

It’s hard to watch videos of Amy without feeling a lingering sense of regret that her voice will no longer grace anything new. Perhaps she was doomed to feeling that way, but she was incredibly unhappy. It didn’t seem like therapy or rehab helped in a sustained capacity, perhaps it got way too hard when she was opened up to the brutality of online opinions by every human and dog able to pinpoint with peculiar accuracy everything she’d ever thought about herself in her darkest hours, and indiscriminately lay it open for hyper-critical dissection. I remember heckling a comedian at a comedy club one night who was hoping to have a laugh at the expense of Amy Winehouse’s cocaine addiction. Yes. Funny stuff huh. I don’t remember what I wrote on his little slip of paper he handed out trying to garner cocaine jokes, but he pointedly avoided all further eye contact with me sitting up there in the first row for the rest of the night.

This was the first song Mark Ronson wrote with Amy Winehouse. He is quoted in Mojo in June 2010: “I’ll never forget the first day I met Amy – because it changed everything for me. It was in New York, March 2006, in the studio I used to have on Mercer Street. She told me she presumed I was some old guy with a beard – like Rick Rubin. I just thought, Let’s talk about music, see what she likes. She said she liked to go out to bars and clubs and play snooker with her boyfriend and listen to the Shangri-Las. So she played me some of those records, which turned into a crash course in girl group productions. She was staying at the Soho Grand around the corner and I told her that I had nothing to play her right now but if she let me work on something overnight she could come back tomorrow. So I came up with this little piano riff, which became the verse chords to ‘Black in Black.’ Behind it I just put a kick drum and a tambourine and tons of reverb.”

Amy Winehouse disclosed in the Oct, 27 Sun Newspaper – “Back to Black is when you’ve finished a relationship and you go back to what’s comfortable for you. My ex went back to his girlfriend and I went back to drinking and dark times.” – Amy Winehouse

We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to
We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black

Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson, 2006

The third song by Jewel is Foolish Games. For me, the worst kind of love is unrequited love. Breaking up with someone you never were really with, hung up on them for so many reasons – reasons that are over-articulated a million times more, made sense of, torn apart, put together, torn apart again, reinvented, reframed, reignited and even after years of being able to reconcile with the bitter disappointment, these people can still somehow get under your skin.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Jewel demonstrated how determined she is, “I can move every muscle in my face, I just remember, like in 4th grade science class, they said your muscles in your face were involuntary. And it just pissed me off. I was like ‘they’re my muscles. Bullshit! They’re my bitch. I’m gonna dominate!’” I know, I should have talked about that time she was Homeless because she refused to lay on her back for a recording deal, but everyone knows that story already. I can also move all the muscles in my face (and wiggle my ears) though it never really occurred to me that I couldn’t.

Her full name is Jewel Kilcher and she will be featured in future Monday Meh posts because she’s totally underrated. Her songs are lyrically amazing, accompanied by really good music that just gets better as the years march on.

You took your coat off and stood in the rain,
You’re always crazy like that.
And I watched from my window,
Always felt I was outside looking in on you.
You’re always the mysterious one with
Dark eyes and careless hair,
You were fashionably sensitive
But too cool to care.
You stood in my doorway, with nothing to say
Besides some comment on the weather.

Jewel, 1997

And as a Bonus just for today, you get a fourth track, Gary Moore’s Still Got the Blue For You, Just Because. It’s a brilliant example of an Unrequited Love Song, and his death anniversary was a couple of days ago. Released in 1990, he died of a heart attack in his sleep at age 58, 6 February 2011 – he’d had WAY too much to drink!

Who needs great lyrics when you can make your guitar cry like that?

Used to be so easy to give my heart away.
But I found out the hard way,
There’s a price you have to pay.
I found out that love was no friend of mine.
I should have known time after time.

If you’re looking for a lot more break up songs, do a google, bing or duck… there’s more out there for the sad and lonely than you realise. If you have any other information about these songs, or similar recommendations, other videos of the same quality… y’know… pop them in the comments underneath. I’d also appreciate a heads up if you find any broken links. Follow me for future updates.

Monday Meh: Three Angry Men

Songs are poetry set to music. Some are the perfect marriage of sound and message while others are just wasted creative potential. Monday Meh is about presenting the best musical offerings and a little backstory to get you through to hump day.

The pen is mightier than the sword when it comes to songs about breaking up. It was quite a challenge having a listen to lots of music on this subject, so I included my hubby, the inimitable Captain Kirk in on the process to ensure he didn’t feel like it was all about us – it’s not, we’re good.

At the moment it seems people around me are going through the end of a significant relationship (or similar), and in the process of finding their ways through the storm. There is a lot of reflection going on as they encounter the reality of singularity in the present age. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

This week it was tough choosing. I found three great songs where I think that the music and lyrics work well together, told from the perspective of men and none of them are similar. It’s like Snow White turned three of her compadres into Happy, Shitty, and Guilty.

First up is Happy relating the best advice to extract the ultimate revenge – Living a Good Life with the happiest, danciest song I have ever heard relating to breaking up, it’s the Mavericks, founded by Raul Malo, with Dance The Night Away.

First released on their album Trampoline, the song went to number 4 in the UK and remained on the charts for eighteen weeks and I kinda wish it’d make a bigger revival on the easy listening wavelengths.

This one is good for light-hearted break-ups. You know, I wouldn’t ever recommend this kind of extremely happy music when you’re bawling your eyes out and your tears are the size of two pound coins. There’s something oddly surreal about wailing and blowing-nose to happy dance music that feels a bit too much like a Tarantino flick… or maybe that’s just me.

The Mavericks’s influences include Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and unsurprisingly, Los Lobos as they combine neo-traditional country music and latin into aural chicken soup. Here’s a live video of a gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the sound quality is excellent.

 

I just wanna dance the night away
With senoritas who can sway
Right now tomorrow’s lookin’ bright
Just like the sunny mornin’ light

And if you should see her
Please let her know that I’m well
As you can tell
And if she should tell you
That she wants me back
Tell her no
I gotta go

The Mavericks, 1998

Next up is Shitty, and this one has always conjured up the image of a dingy bar, a mountain of tequila shot glasses and a general fiery finger of fuck-you approach to dealing with heartbreak. This song kind of blew me away the first time I heard it at age 17… I had never really thought about it quite like this before! Rock and Roll! Use your Illusion had just come out and I’d gone through all the popular songs first on the cassette taped copy-of-a-copy, before just letting it run through a few hundred times until there was no magnet left. Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 were one of the first CD sets I ever bought when I finally earned cash by full-time employment.

The song was one of several written by the co-founding member of Guns N’ Roses, Izzy Stradlin, who along with Axl Rose enlisted Slash, Duff and Adler to create an awesome band that had its ups and downs. Axl Rose wanted to give it more kudos, to raise it up to the heights of Queen and co. But alas, t’was not meant to be, Axl believed he was possessed by John Bonham, and he accused Courtney Love of possessing him too –I’m still not quite sure what to make of that… and then Chinese Democracy, then poof. A whole other story.

You Ain’t the First is indeed the least Guns N’ Rosesy song being more bluesy, with an acoustic sound, Slash providing the atmospheric twang of the slide guitar-work – the man is brilliant. I always thought this song, along with the others written by Izzy Stadlin balanced out the album by creating a powerful aural contrast.

After Izzy left somewhere in the aforementioned mess, GNR included him as Easter eggs in post-Izzy work — like the sign that says “Where’s Izzy?” in Don’t Cry, and they used his picture on the milk carton in Live and Let Die. Make of that what you will.

Time can pass slowly,
things always change
You day’s been numbered
And I’ve read your last page
You was just a temporary lover
Honey you ain’t the first
Lots of others came before you woman
Said but you been the worst
Sa’ you been the worst

Izzy Stradlin, Founder of Guns ‘n Roses, 1991

As for Guilty, it’s the time-honoured classic that still sounds as good as it did in the eighties, Careless Whispers. George Michael is a legend and this well-covered song is so well known that it’s unlikely you’d meet anyone that hadn’t heard it at some point or another. Although most Wham! songs were written by George Michael, this one was also credited to Andrew Ridgeley.

George Michael said that he was taking the bus to his job as an usher at a cinema and BAM was inspired to write “the silver screen” in the first verse (I paraphrased). and it had nothing to do with anything he was going through at the time. He came up with “Guilty feet have got no rhythm,” demonstrating sophisticated song-writing skills. I still find it hard to believe that George wasn’t doing something he shouldn’t have been… (who George Michael? No!?! Okay.)

George Michael has previously stated that he’s had more compliments on his writing of the sax solo than anything else, and it’s likely because it is undeniably distinctive and an amazing piece of music.

George Michael once said, “I’m still a bit puzzled why it’s made such an impression on people… Is it because so many people have cheated on their partners? Is that why they connect with it? I have no idea, but it’s ironic that this song – which has come to define me in some way – should have been written right at the beginning of my career when I was still so young. I was only 17 and didn’t really know much about anything – and certainly nothing much about relationships.”

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool
I should have known better than to cheat a friend
And waste a chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Wham!, 1984

If you’re looking for a lot more break up songs, do a google, bing or duck… there’s more out there for the sad and lonely than you realise. If you have any other information about these three songs, or similar recommendations, other videos of the same quality… y’know… pop them in the comments underneath. I’d also appreciate a heads up if you find any broken links. Follow me for future updates.

Mwah!