One of the few lines I recall from English Literature back in the class of ’73, is, “If music be the food of love, play on…”
Perhaps lovesick Orsino’s opening speech in Twelfth Night touched the heart of a sensitive 13-year-old trying to portray an exterior as hard as the pipes coming out of Kelly’s yard in Coalisland.
With its begets and begats Shakespeare was not the easiest to digest but for some reason I knowest not, Dungannon Academy, a bastion of Catholicism and nationalism, was besotted by the English bard. Perhaps the writings of Brendan Behan would have been more appropriate for the young east Tyrone rebels; “… when I got over it, my expulsion from religion was like being pushed outside a prison and told not to come back” wrote Behan in Borstal Boy (1958).
Dominic Behan composed ‘The Auld Triangle’ used in the play ‘The Quare Fellow’ written by his brother Brendan. The song is used to introduce the play, a story about events in a prison the day a convict is set to be executed. The title refers to the large metal triangle which was beaten daily in Mountjoy Prison to waken the inmates… “The Auld Triangle goes jingle-jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal.” It conveys the story as emotively as the spoken and written word.
Song too can be hugely cathartic. Why pay a therapist when you can sing a song? On the Rant tin, my remit is to be angry. I do try dear reader, but sometimes it is difficult. Music is soothing my soul, taking the edge of the nonsense and skulduggery that affronts us each day. It has taken a while but finally I realised it is better to sing a song than fight the madness.
‘Always look on the bright side of life’ whistled Eric Idle as he was crucified in ‘The Life of Brian,’ a much maligned film when it was released in 1979. It spawned the most popular funeral song in the UK and rather than blasphemous as some Christians shouted, has brought consolation to the bereaved. It has also been adapted by football supporters for those occasions when their team is getting stuffed, so don’t be cynical, you could be needing it soon!
Dare I say it, but BBC 4 is my redemption. Just as the crazies shout, “Ussuns – themmuns!” on Stephen Nolan’s TV show, a flick of a remote control away are the most uplifting journeys down music memory lane. These include the sounds of Top of the Pops 1970s as well as entire programmes dedicated to ELO, The Bee Gees, The Ramones and Irish Rock music with the entire gallery from Phil Lynott through Rory Gallagher, The Boomtown Rats, Stiff Little Fingers… Forget politics! The only pact I am interested in now is between Paul Simon and Sting at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast next month.
The slaves in Alabama expressed their pain through song so too their ancestors in the Civil Rights Movement making their way to Capitol Hill and Derry as they sang, “We Shall Overcome.” Downtrodden, beleaguered, broken-hearted, angst and angry have found solace in music. The beat of the music reaches the beat of the heart and is a valve for human anguish and pain.
I know a lady who was euphemistically dumped by her boyfriend on Jordanstown campus many summers ago. She called him to her room and unable to speak with grief, put on the 1977 Chicago hit, “If you leave me now, you’ll take away the biggest part of me, no baby please don’t go.” Right enough he didn’t resume the relationship but I’m reliably told he is not the better of it yet.
Another buddy who shall remain nameless and blameless, went further into the archives and sought comfort in repeated playings of, ‘Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darlin’ from the 1952 Western ‘High Noon.’
However Gloria Gaynor came like a bolt of empowerment in 1978 with her sensational hit, ‘I Will Survive’ giving the red card to love rats…. “Go on now, go walk out the door turn around now you’re not welcome anymore, you’re the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye, do you think I’d crumble, did you think I’d lay down and die?” …in other words, “feck off louser!”
Most people could make a sound track to their lives. The Waterboys number ‘A Bang on the Ear’ most tickles me as it wanders down romantic highway; ‘Lindsay was my first love, she was in my class, I would have loved to take her out but I was too shy to ask, the fullness of my feeling was never made clear, but I send her my love with a bang on the ear’ and on it goes with healing… and a bang on the ear.
When injustice and bullsh*t is raising your ire, let the music lift your heart; take it away Eric; “If life seems jolly rotten there’s something you’ve forgotten and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing; when you’re feeling in the dumps don’t be silly chumps, just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing, And… always look on the bright side of life…”