It’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it? Most of you reading this will probably know that my footballing allegiance lies in the red and white half of north London, the better half. And so I’m thinking today, mainly, about the departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. But I wrote about that on Arsenal Mania yesterday and have no particular wish to revisit this particular subject here.
So I won’t.
It puts me in mind, though, of how, as the song says, breaking up is hard to do. And how, almost always, people react to that difficulty by using songs to speak for them. Or to comfort them. Usually with a litre bottle of vodka and a family size bar of Dairy Milk in hand. Of course, the situation with Mr Fabregas doesn’t merit that kind of drama, not if you’re over the age of about 12 anyway and, let’s face it, there’s not much in the way of a musical association with the Barcelona boy. No, Elvis and his Wonder Of You doesn’t count. And, for me Right Here Right Now belongs more to the likes of Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp, Pires et al. But back in the real world, there all sorts of songs that can articulate the pain of a break up for you. And not all of these songs would be ones that you would ordinarily look to.
For example, although I am lucky enough to have been in a stable, and happy, relationship since 2004, I can still remember the embarrassment caused when Oasis released Stop Crying Your Heart Out in 2002. A time that coincided with me being dumped. I was a Shift Manager for McDonalds at the time. We always had the radio on. This song seemed to be on the radio permanently and so I would find myself, tears springing to my eyes, running for the sanctuary of the manager’s office on an alarmingly frequent basis. I didn’t even like Oasis by then, the bastards. Don’t Look Back In Anger, you could understand but Stop Crying…? In a similar vein from that time, another band I don’t like- The Red Hot Chilli Peppers released By The Way and the line “I tried to say I’d be there” really hit home then. I still remember how that felt now. The Streets It’s Too Late would prove to be too perfect a summing up of that particular relationship. Not that I realised it when I first heard it.
Going back further. Returning to the dark territory that was my year of isolation in Bilbao and the faithless girlfriend who absolutely and totally ruined Christmas 1998 for me and my mother and sisters- cheers for that, Claire!- The Farewell to the World video that served as an epitaph for the original Crowded House was a really good opportunity for me to sit in a puddle of my own tears, drink beer and commence a lengthy period of insomnia, particularly the songs like Fall At Your Feet, Private Universe and Into Temptation. Perhaps these are obvious, but I’m not sure I would have imagined standing in front of a mirror in Bilbao a few weeks later and switching between two songs on Depeche Mode’s Ultra album; It’s No Good (when I was feeling positive) and Useless (when I was feeling angry and humiliated). I think I probably listened to the second song more.
Blur’s 13 album, released at the beginning of 1999, dealt in themes I could completely identify. I spent, literally, the whole weekend listening to it. No exaggeration. I didn’t get Tender at first, but then I realised that it was the best thing Damon Albarn could have done for me- because he wrote it for me, obviously, not about the pain he was feeling after his break up with Justine Frischmann. Right?
We all feel like that though, don’t we? That songs written by people we don’t know and, most likely, will never meet can help us in a way that friends and family couldn’t possibly hope to. It may not be that way, it just feels like it sometimes. I remember when my mate Andy Birkett was dumped by his girlfriend, Alison, in the summer of 1997 (fate would have them, inexplicably, sitting opposite each other at Claire’s birthday meal later that year). He quoted a line from the Roachford song The Way I Feel to her, he did. Can you guess what he told her? He did it because it was the only way he felt he could express himself. Not that it did him much good at the time.
But life, and breaks up, are a bit like that aren’t they?
It’s Too Late