When the black dog barks, there’s always a song to be sung

Have you seen those Facebook posts, urging you to copy and post in friends’ Timelines?


I don’t know how useful this is. But I do know this:

You wouldn’t want to live in my head.

There’s a never-ending conversation going on in there and it simply will not shut up. Sometimes I’ll be reading and the conversation gets louder and louder till it drowns out the words on the page. No wonder I watch so much crap on telly.

And this conversation – it’s deadly serious. What’s wrong with the world, what I would do to put it right, how stupid are the people in charge, and why are none of them fucking listening to me!!!!!?

Are you paying attention?

You’re not, are you? Well, good for you. Not paying attention is surely the answer.

I saw a Facebook post last week that nearly broke my heart. It was from a FB ‘friend’ – we don’t know each other, but we’re connected through a musical network.


A few weeks ago I referred to Lucy as a “stunning young woman of somewhat bonkers demeanor” and left you a video of her performing Not Your Type At All. Watching her apparently total commitment to appearing bonkers, you would never guess that she’d rather have been a world-class ballerina.

I know exactly how Lucy feels. I gave up making music thirty-odd years ago because of frustration at not being as good as the musicians I worked with. I wanted to be Steely Dan; my band practically were Steely Dan. I could not compete, and I was never going to be able to.

It took me thirty years to understand that my gift was my songs, not to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, or to sing like Otis Redding.

And then I saw this from Lucy –

and realised we probably had even more in common.

Cheryl Rad’s reply gives the clue: “Lucy what’s all this???”

I think Cheryl sensed, as I did, a red light for danger.

I was in the process of recording a song about mental health. I felt compelled to ask Lucy if I could use her FB posts in the accompanying blog post. I told her I was bipolar. She said she wasn’t. “Common or garden clinical depression is all”.

“Common or garden clinical depression” strikes me as the response of someone who feels the weight of responsibility not to burden friends. So maybe that Facebook meme does have a role to play. Yes, indeed – let’s ‘stop sweeping mental illness under the rug’.

In another post, Lucy listed things ‘I should be doing – reading, writing, dancing, listening to music, singing …..(and lots of other things); what I am doing….sweet FA, losing it’. Others in the grip of depression will recognise that immediately, and only we know that the answer is not as simple as ‘pull yourself together’.

Which brings me back to the song I was recording. It was written by my friend Lon Goddard. As soon as I heard it I knew I had to record it. It really hit the nail on the head about the mess inside my own, even though he was describing the mess inside his.

It’s about getting a handle on yourself. It’s called Handle. Isn’t simple great?

It’s hard to explain the inside of your brain, but there are those of us who prefer a dark room to bright sun. I used to love gloomy winter afternoons. The lights and fires in people’s front rooms were always more inviting and evocative than beaches and palm trees. Mind you, there weren’t many palm trees in Wolverhampton, plus you could never find a beach when you wanted one.

And fog. I bloody loved fog. Stupid environmentalists ruined that. Talk about the law of unintended consequences. What’s a melancholic depressive to do when the air’s so clean fog won’t form?

Well, there’s always a song by another melancholic depressive to cheer you up. It was The Beatles’ Rubber Soul that introduced me to that concept. Norwegian Wood, You Won’t See Me, Nowhere Man, Girl (aah, girl!), In My Life – tailor-made for the less cheerful.

Then came Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. Joni Mitchell filled some of the gaps in between with her tales of vaguely unsatisfactory relationships and a jaundiced view of the world (Both Sides Now). Later, the entire Hejira album fed my soul for years (and still does, when I need it to).

I’m a bit better now. I won’t sit in the sun, but I do like a blue sky and a shiny sun. Just as well. I’m going to Cuba for Christmas.

But, y’know, meds notwithstanding, this thing never really goes away. Which is why, when I heard this lyric from Lon –

Now I need a hole into my brain
What a lot of bullshit I could drain
I could watch it go and let my whole life
Flood out on a plain

– I just knew I had to sing it, record it, put it out there.

So here we go Lucy (and Lucy’s dad Norman who I’ve known, on and off, for nearly fifty bloody years), and anyone else who struggles to get a handle on their life.

But mostly, of course, to Lon Goddard, who saved me from writing my own song by just doing it better than I would have.



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