Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Getting Your Sad On

Guide dogs have a really weird effect on me. I'm finding it difficult to put it down in words, but I think it's something to do with this incredible partnership between dog and human, the trust that echoes so clearly between them. It's something like nostalgia and regret and pride all rolled into on, something to do with relishing a sad moment, enjoying an overwhelming joy that comes when someone perfoms so well despite the circumstances. Then again, it's just the fact that the dog has managed to find a job despite the recession that gets me so emotional.

Do you ever watch World War 1 documentaries? It's the same thing. The photographs and anecdotes and history are all so powerful and interesting, but I always sit on my couch enveloped by this niggling sadness in the knowledge that nearly a century later there is nothing that can be done for those poor boys who have already disappeared in the mud of Ypres and Passchendaele. The Discovery Channel apparently feels no remorse for putting me through this, and I spend the rest of the day guiltily reading about Harry Patch on Wikipedia.

You'll be happy to know that this addictive depressant can be imbibed aurally, too. Like employed dogs and the Great War, the music of Nick Drake is the painful cut in my mouth that I just can't stop prodding. The tall, soft-spoken revolutionary of the folk world died at the age of 26 before his fame could catch up with him. He was extremely shy and abhorred any form of public performance and I remember reading once that while recording his final album his self-confidence reached such a low point that he had to sit in the corner of a room and face the wall while he sang. Poor Nick.

Something that makes folk a particularly powerful genre is its ability to span musical generations. A song written in the first half of the 20th century can be recorded and re-recorded by so many different artists that by the time it gets to Spotify people forget who even put it to paper in the first place. 'Blues Run the Game' is one of those hand-me-down songs that I find particulary poignant, especially since Nick Drake performs his own stunning rendition: knowing his sad history makes the lyrics that much more powerful.

I'm sorry if I've now made you want to put on a pair of sweat pants and sulkily watch Wifeswap all day, but I hope you can recognise the bittersweet feeling I've been awkwardly trying to express within this post. Do you also have a song or a subject that you love to torture yourself with? Is there some video from your childhood that chokes you up just as much as it cheers you up?

I won't mind if you can't think of anything, but do go ahead and listen to Nick Drake's version of 'Blues Run the Game'. Fame reached him posthumously but I hope somehow he knows.



  1. Hello, Luke! I found your blog through a rather long and convoluted trail beginning over at Holly's blog, and in the week or so I've been reading this, I've realized that we have exceedingly similar taste in music. And, well, similar aesthetic sensibilities in general.

    I rarely comment on what I read in the virtual world, but (for some reason or another) I felt compelled to with this. So, hi, and thanks for appreciating folk -- it's vastly underrated beauty.

    I noticed that you mentioned Johnny Flynn a few posts back, and I thought I'd point you towards Mumford & Sons (if you haven't heard them already). They've changed my life; who knows, they may change yours too.

  2. Hey Luke, Ryan here. I'm commenting after speaking to you at Tom's. Love the blog! My response to the closing question in your latest entry is to suggest the song 'Streets of London' by Ralph McTell, a song, which a folk Ayatollah like yourself must have heard of.

    I was in Dublin, at an Irish folk night held in a Pub which WB Yeats and the Dubliners once frequented and after the resident folk band there had finished their set, they decided to open the floor to the audience to play or sing whatever took their fancy and I decided to give this song a crack just... well... for the 'craic'. It is a particularly sado-masochistic song to listen to, so sad are the lyrics. But quite beautiful.

  3. Shut the folk up. You like folk music too? I fell in love with it in high school and remain hooked.

    Nick's the best. Completely agree.

    Also, this made my day: Then again, it's just the fact that the dog has managed to find a job despite the recession that gets me so emotional.