No-one knows what it’s like

Aug 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Ministry

Weddings (or maybe the drink that goes with weddings) seem to bring out the maudlin in people.  Topics of conversation are explored that would never ordinarily be touched upon.

“I don’t know why anyone would commit suicide”, the woman said, “why wouldn’t they come and talk to someone like you?”

It was hardly the stuff of reception small talk.

“I don’t think I would have any answers”.

“Well, if they talked to someone”.

Of course, if they talked to someone . . .  but that’s where the problem of the circularity of the argument kicks in, being able to talk to someone, having the willingness to sit down and engage, probably means they would be less predisposed to suicide.

“There is a lack of qualified people to talk to – people who could really help with the situation; things end up with the clergy, or gardai, and things are usually far beyond us”.

It was no answer at all; but the question had not been anticipated.

There was the temptation to talk about a song by The Who, Pete Townsend’s lyrics express the inexpressibility of feeling pain.

The Who played in Dublin three years ago; memories of the open air concert in Marlay Park are still vivid.

The Irish rain stopped for a couple of hours and we were transported through decades of music. Amidst the casual concert goers like myself, there were real aficionados.  Maybe ten rows in front of us, there was a guy who was a real fan. Dressed in a parka and khaki cap with 1960s haircut and sideburns, he sat on a friend’s shoulders for much of the concert, singing along with every word.

When it came to the song “Behind blue eyes” he turned to everyone around him and joined in the words animatedly.  One of my friends joked that maybe he wouldn’t be singing if he knew what the words were about.  The song by Pete Townshend was intended as a lament filled with anger and angst:

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free

No one knows what it’s like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you

No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through

But my dreams
They aren’t as empty
As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That’s never free

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool

If I swallow anything evil
Put your finger down my throat
If I shiver, please give me a blanket
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

Maybe he did understand the lyrics; maybe that’s why he sang with such force. No-one knows what it’s like to be behind any of our eyes.  Had I had the lyrics at hand, I might have shared them with the wedding guest.

6 comments
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  1. You could make it a double bill with Sting’s Every Breath You Take which people seem to like a weddings. Bitterness, stalking, resentment with a sinister edge.
    In “the olden days” we used to go to the trouble of mishearing lyrics – Careless Wilbur (thanks to one of my sisters for that one), anything by UB40 in the early days, The Skids “In to the valley/ Peas taste like wine…”
    Nowadays listeners are lazy. They merely misinterpret the clearly heard lyrics.

  2. The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was always one of the saddest songs.

  3. I made my daughter miserable the other day by quoting Larkin ‘Afternoons’ (although now quite out of date in it’s frame of reference perhaps?) I didn’t see it as ‘miserable’ – more a reality.

  4. You are very existentialist.

  5. I suspect the song being popularised by Linkin Park has resurrected it somewhat. Sad nonetheless. Doesn’t Ireland have “Lifeline”, it’s a phone line here that is run by one of the charities. Anyone can ring anonymously and they save countless lives. Still, if you’re Hell bent on ending it, no amount of talking will prevent you from taking that final leap I guess.

  6. We have a superb service provided by The Samaritans.

    Sometimes nothing avails.

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