Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. It was a good funeral in a lot of ways; a few people spoke, my friend’s favourite songs were played. There was no religious element at all, which was exactly what he would have wanted, but it made me understand better why most funerals have hymns. I think hymns serve as a cohesive element that bonds the mourners together. Singing together breaks down barriers between people, and nobody understood that better than Roger. Music was the force that drove him most of his life. Listening to Roger’s favourite songs piped over the crematorium’s PA system made me sadder than I can even say. The room was full of musicians. I can’t help but wonder if something played live would have brought us more together?
Thirty years ago Roger and I and a whole bunch of other people, mainly lads in their late teens to early 20s hung out together all the time. We lived in a few squats, drank together, had lots of funny adventures and escapades. He was a natural comedian, but it was never for effect. He was rarely bothered about what anyone thought of him. He was himself, for himself, and everyone else could take it or leave it.
I always felt at the time that there was a strong bond there between all of us in that group, something tribal. Roger had been kind to me at a time in my life when nobody else was, but it was never a boy/girl thing, we were just friends, and made each other laugh so much. He drew me into his group of friends and included me, though I was a bit of an ill fitting oddball. Maybe that’s what he liked about me. Roger was always for the underdog and a befriender of outcasts. Possibly he felt that way himself. It was hard to tell with Roger, it was hard to know what was going on under that ever cheery, affable exterior. He certainly was unlike any other person I have known, highly intelligent, but largely self-taught, he was a mine of odd and slightly arcane information. I always suspected that his depths were so deep even he didn’t want to examine them too closely, preferring to be gliding effortlessly on the surface like a swan rather than focussing on the maelstrom of self-propulsion beneath the surface. I liked his cheeky independence, his extraordinary “gung-ho, Let’s Go!” fearlessness and his philosophical acceptance of the consequences of whatever scrape he got himself (or all of us) into.
That happened quite a lot. It was hard to get angry with him. He’d listen to what you said, and then grin and carry on doing whatever the hell he liked. Completely infuriating, but a quality I think we all envied in so many ways
Roger had been the hub of a lot of other friend groups in his time, but I didn’t have much overlap with many of those other people. I hadn’t seen all that much of Roger since the 1980s, and time has moved on of course. Perhaps that is less true for me than for others. Yesterday there were only a few of my old crew there, surprisingly few. It was a weekday of course, and people have to work, also funerals are never fun, but Roger was such a huge figure in my personal story, that I couldn’t help but be surprised at who was not there as much as I was delighted to see those who were. Perhaps I am the one who is malfunctioning here, but if I haven’t seen someone I care about in a long time, I make a point of telling them how good it is to see them, despite the awful tragic circumstances.
I don’t know what I expected really. Too much I suppose. There was a sense of disconnection, the main thing that we had in common was Roger, and he was not there. I’m not great at social situations at the best of times, but for all my love for Roger, I felt like I perhaps should not have gone after all.
If Roger had been there he would have brought a guitar, he would have got wild and crazy, he would have mocked the stiff, awkward formality of this disparate bunch of socially awkward people and everyone would have had an amazing time instead of feeling, as I did, rather like a fish out of water. Funerals are not the best place to reconnect with people. Roger was not there
Roger was the net that held the many and various social balloons together. Those of us who had not seen him too recently perhaps felt his absence on a very different level from his family and more current social circle. I was not there to witness him in his illness, although I did try to reach out to him. I sent someone over to his place with a message for him to call me whenever he wanted to. But it was too little and much too late of course. He didn’t need me, why would he? I was part of the past, long past when he was that crazy golden college boy with dreams of playing in a band. I lost Roger a long time ago.
Roger was not really a cliquey person, he was alright with you if you were alright with him, whoever you were. He was incapable of being any other way. That sense of being a part of his tribe was something I brought with me, part of my insecurities, wishful thinking on my part to have the sense of belonging to a group, having friends. That was something that was important to me.
I think I learned something about myself at Roger’s funeral. I think he had just one more lesson for me.
Since the 1990s I have always missed him being in my daily life, but now is the time to let go.
Down…. I look down, and away, trying to slide past the neighbour children unseen. They have not been taught, as we were, about manners. They see nothing wrong with making loud personal remarks to a lady, a stranger to them, as old as their grandmother no doubt; laughing and catcalling at my confusion and discomfort.
Down…. Going “down Town” to sign my name at the jobcentre Waiting on a chair so low that the only way out of it is to roll out and
Down….to the side onto my knees and push up from there. In a public building, on my knees in supplication like a penitent, for having no job, no prospect of a job, for being old, and unwanted and poor.
Down…. the fear of falling, that an ankle or a knee might fail, that I will not be able to stand, to walk….
Down…. How these tablets make me feel. Like I am full of poison in my belly and in my head.
Down…. to the doctor’s, to the nurse. I’m like some old bag-lady with my bad attitude, ready tears and anger when they tell me to get a taxi back later as nobody is available to dress my wound.
Down…. I point to my shoes with three inch long holes in and ask if I look like I can afford a fucking taxi
Down….The way Dr Jamie DoubleBarrelled Entitlement looks at me, like I am a squishy caterpillar in his rosebed of wealthy compliant stalwarts who would sooner tear out their eyes than show the least emotion in public.
Up…. being spoiled by my Mum, a wonderful and resourceful cook, Doing the crossword together and the Sudoku. Watching our quiz show with all our middle-class intellectual snobbery to the fore. Rejoicing in the stupidity of the contestants, while knowing full well that under the glare of lights, our intelligence would fly from us birdlike and we would gawp and stutter as they all do
Up…. and online and talking to my friend, who, like someone’s over excitable Great Dane puppy, one can love unconditionally and appreciate all the better for knowing one is not the one responsible for feeding and walking such a creature.
Up…. Loud LOUD music. Fuck you neighbours and your screaming and shouting and violence. In this place I am the world’s greatest singer. I play encore after encore for the dusty books and piles of laundry
Up….Being nocturnal, making pancakes or toffee at 3 am
Up…. a new blog at Writerless. Reading it aloud, hearing my own voice spill into the darkness as the words drop and roll, not to their knees but into air, like skydivers, first falling then drifting gently, alighting on the chaos and confusion that is this place and shedding a light of their own.
I received a big bundle of Alan Merrill/ Arrows CDs at the beginning of August. It’s always great to get a package, but the package arrived on the very day that Arrows former guitar player Jake Hooker sadly passed away, so I felt it appropriate to be a little downbeat and quiet about all my new acquisitions. I decided to take my time over discovering them and life has a way of stretching that process out a little as other things crowd in for attention
Well this “CD maxi-single” turned out to be a series of very pleasant surprises! I’m such an idiot to have let it sit on the stack unplayed for 2 months. I need a slap. This is fantastic.
As with all recently repackaged Arrows material there is an embarrassment of riches here. How Alan Merrill can call anything with more than 4 tracks a single or EP is anyone’s guess. As far as I am concerned this 6 track CD is a stonking huge album.
Wonderful rare tracks from the proto-Arrows band known as Streak which are savage and wild. What a huge rock sound. I feel like this is how Arrows could have been if they had been allowed to go their own way. I love these early tracks.
Also included here are some great rare cuts from Arrows including that famous Granada TV show version of I Love Rock’n’Roll everyone knows from You Tube. The extra track is a snippet of the voices of rock impresario Mickie Most and Alan Merrill speaking in the studio.
This disc was a surprise and a delight. Get one NOW!!