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Sunday, 22 April 2012

~Kitten Wine~#34: Awakenings prt2: Tonight Were Gonna Party Like It's 1999

In the second of my Blogs about the late 1990s, we look at the events of 1999, possibly the most transitional period of my life, and how it was soundtracked by an oddly beautiful album called 'Overcome By Happiness' by the Pernice Brothers.....
So 1998 evaporated into 1999, and I was still pounding the streets after my re-awakening from the wilderness of self-inflicted isolation. 1998 had played out in what is now, rather shamefully, known as 'the Summer of Single Mothers' (and yes, it probably means exactly what you think it means!), but I still could not have seen the juggernaut that was 1999 coming hurtling towards me.
1999 began with an incident with a mad girl named Alison, and was followed almost immediately by a strange relationship with a married woman (who was actually 7 years younger than me, and had married young) called Melanie. Melanie's (moribund) marriage meant that there were no strings attached in any way, so when one night, exactly 13 years ago this week, I was introduced to someone new, there were no hard or awkward feelings between me and Melanie.
It was Ray who did the introductions....some girl he used to work beside came over and started talking to him as we frequented the weekly Bannockburn meat-market-parading-as-a-disco, and he pointed out that she was the daughter of one of our old High School teachers. This was like a red rag to a bull with me, and I immediately followed her and began talking to her, something I would never have done in the preceding four years. Almost as soon as we began talking, the world seemed to shift on its axis....from that very opening sentence my whole life changed and went in a direction I could never have foretold, nor have ever expected. The girl's name was Elizabeth, but everyone called her Libby, and we've been together from that very first introduction, getting married two years ago.

"I feel better now you're gone// A minute in the sunlight// Can take away a whole life// Still, there's something about you"....the opening lines from 'Clear Spot', a track from the then latest album by the Pernice Brothers, 'Overcome By Happiness', which I had just bought that afternoon, and had played several times before going out that night. The Pernice Brothers had began life as the Scud Mountain Boys, purveyors of aching, poignant alt-Country, but had now decided to play at being a Pop/Rock band....the transition was seamless!
And that opening line hit the (clear) spot perfectly; I feel better now WHO is gone? The depression? The self-enforced exile? The other girls who walked all over me and left their stilettos in my heart? A minute in the sunlight can make you see clearly that all you previously thought you knew was wrong, and it can eradicate a useless existence. There's something about you....and there was....

(the video below says 'Overcome By Happiness', but I assure you this is 'Clear Spot')

'Overcome By Happiness' is a peculiar album, as it features upbeat songs about suicide, heartbreak and desolation, and slow aching songs about true love and contentment. Take for example the song 'Chicken Wire', it's all about a girl who gasses herself in her garage. That's all it is about! We never really find out much about the girl, but we know that the garage is full of chicken wire, along with Winter tyres and an old lawn mower....but it's one of the most beautiful songs you will ever hear....

The whole album is bathed in a particular beautiful light that you only see at certain times in your life. That magical, late Summer light when it's still warm enough to sit outside after 10:00pm, sharing a beer or a bottle of wine with friends, and you feel the first thoughts of Autumn encroaching upon that last ray of sun against the bruised sky. The same light you only see when you're in love.
Take, for example, the track 'All I Know' with it's Beach Boys Smile-era string arrangements and honeyed tenor vocals, it's a song that fully encapsulates that golden late Summer sunshine tinged with the melancholy of that first Autumn day....and that's before we even look at the lyrics; "All your friends may go// And your luck may go// but you'll never feel as bad as when SHE goes// It's all I know". Add to that the verse "All the time you were happy// It makes the end so hard to take// How a voice can fill the room like singing// The crooked moon upon her face" why did a beautiful song about the end of a relationship resonate so deeply at the time? Because, as with 'Clear Spot', it was my old life I was bidding farewell to. Don't ask me how, but I knew from the very start that this was the girl I would spend either a long time, or the rest of my life with. And it was time to put away the childish things, to bid adieu to tiresome nights in the pub, to hang up my wild years, to stop feeling like a ship without a rudder, flailing about in stormy and damaging seas of my own making, and to finally get my life into some kind of cohesive order....

Finally, after a decade of unhappiness and blank existing, I could bury the previous 10 years and start again. It was like being back at the tail end of 1989. With Libby the days and nights, especially in that first year or so, would be filled with concerts, going to the movies, restaurants, days out, nights in, and a sense of well-being that I had long believed would elude me forever.
In the gorgeous 'Crestfallen', there lies the exact summation of everything I felt at that time; "Oh I Need somebody who won't see through me// Was happy living a lie// Thought I was fine// Then it breaks without a sign// It's hard to read a simple mind// Leaves me looking back for a thing I'll never find// It's a long way to fall// When you find out how it never was// It's a long way to fall// When you find out that it never happened at all".....

And so, here we are, 13 years on, and Libby and I aren't just still together, but we are now married. Two years ago we got hitched in what became something of a ~Streetlamp~ wedding as both Griff and Ray were my Best Men. It was a spectacular day, almost certainly the happiest day of my life, and something I would have never thought possible back in that grim period of 1994-98. My only regret on the day was that I didn't get more say in the music that was chosen for the occasion. Maybe, I should have chosen a Pernice Brothers track, but maybe the time wasn't right for evening sun-dappled tales of existential anguish, suicide and melancholy.
All I know is, that from the moment I met Libby, all that waiting for something special to happen....stopped!


Dedicated to Libby....I Love You xxx 

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