Wish on a rainbow is all I can do, dream of the good times that we never knew.
It’s strange what your mind will go to first at times like this. Lying on the grass in the snow in that bit in front of the library, holding one half of the Walkman headphones each and listening to Screamadelica while gazing up into frosty, misty space. It doesn’t end like other albums, you said. It sounds happy, relaxed, like it’s just twinkling up there and slowly fading further and further into the distance. It comes to make us happy and then leaves knowing it’s done that. That’s what you did too.
Your mind was always fizzing with ideas, and now mine is fizzing with memories.
The first time I saw you, with that cheeky grin flashing out from under a gigantic black bob like someone had just told Toni Halliday from Curve a filthy joke. The ‘creative’ explanation of why you were chewing gum when you weren’t supposed to be, which needless to say put the blame squarely on me. The hours we spent sitting in the station pretending our trains had been cancelled, sprawled on those weird elongated curved brown plastic seats acting out Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson and arriving home late blaming British Rail, just for the thrill of staying out longer than we were supposed to. Your bomber jacket that you decided just wasn’t complete without home-made fairy wings on the back. When you wrote ‘Starring TED ROACH (The Bill)’ on the cover of my A-Level copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That time we watched Manhunter late at night on BBC2 and I was trying to explain the climax with the killer shooting people in time to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida to someone, and you suggested it would have been better if he had gone ‘do do do do do, PNEOW-PNEOW, PNEOW-PNEOW’ in time to the Blue Danube Waltz. When we picked the lock on the shopping centre piano and started playing Mouldy Old Dough until we got kicked out. That Valentine’s Day card you got caught putting through the letterbox. Reciting ‘That sight, those sounds were made by The Pink Floyd’ in unison whenever we got confronted by a posh man for such hideous crimes as queueing for a bus at the ‘wrong’ angle. That woman who offered us money to sing ‘the Bryan Adams song’ into a tape recorder. The cassette with Only Love Can Break Your Heart recorded from Radio 1 onto it that we played so many times it started stretching. That American surplus clothing store nobody can remember the name of where I bought a top that you borrowed and then refused to give back because you had ‘made it woman-shaped’. The lurid delight you took in responding to nosey questions about where you got that scar from – those same railings outside the library we’d later effortlessly scale so many times – with graphic cartoonish detail that quickly and decisively made anyone regret asking. The manky ‘American’ diner that we felt so grown-up and sophisticated eating in, and the threadbare hippy cafes where we would sit for hours because proper coffee was such a rare and exciting commodity. Watching The Word, Nightingales, Moviedrome, The Prisoner, Mystery Train, Virtual Murder, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Naked City, and all kinds of rubbish like Ring My Bell because sometimes some things are so bad that they’re inadvertently hilarious. How much you detested Goodnight Girl by Wet Wet Wet. The Pulp and Saint Etienne joint gig where it really did feel like something exciting was about to happen but it was impossible to say exactly what. How much you loved those first two Paul Weller solo albums, and how they were the sound of someone who’d had enough of being the punchline to every joke and was here to show the world he meant business, then about twenty seconds into The Changingman denounced it as ‘The Boringman’. How we would devour any new issue of Select, especially if it had a free tape. The last time I saw you, in that same shopping centre but this time with us drinking spirits while someone else legitimately played the piano, your hair now down your back and a light blue dress in place of the weird mish-mash of sixties glamour and nineties shabby chic, but still exactly the same you. If you were already ill by that point, you didn’t let it show.
Grief is an awkward, stubborn, contrary fucker. Sometimes you can be philosophical and take it in your stride and be the strong one for everyone else, and other times it hits you like a typhoon. Sometimes it comes accompanied by disbelief, sometimes by relief. Sometimes it’s for someone who finally lost a battle with an addiction and you can’t help wondering if, despite everything, there was still more you could have done. Sometimes someone’s hard partying lifestyle catches up with them and despite everything, you can’t help thinking that’s quite the way to go. Sometimes – more than once, in fact – a senseless act of brutality conducted in the name of an aimless cause that it does nothing to advance and was never going to do anything to advance turns everything you thought you understood upside down. Sometimes you are mourning someone who is still alive but just isn’t ‘there’ any more. And sometimes it’s so straightforward that nothing about it makes any fucking sense at all. It’s exactly like it was with someone else lost too suddenly and too young, and he liked you and I can’t think of any stronger validation that someone is worth crying over.
I hope you know that I’ve cried every day since I heard. And I hope you’d just stick your fingers in the corners of your mouth and just do that stupid ‘urrrrrrrrrrrr’ face as normal. You’d have plenty of reason to do that too, as you know full well that I do not normally write this personally, this exposingly and with my guard this far down, and you’ve finally made me do it. I really am Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, and you interviewers are more than a match for the likes of me.
Nights don’t come any longer, days seem to last forever. Deep inside I’m falling apart, all alone with a broken heart. Now you’re gone, I feel so low. I miss you so.
Screamadelica is about to turn thirty years old, and you won’t be here to give it another listen in front of whatever in the name of all that is unholy they have done to that library by now. But you will be. To me you’re precious, may you always, shine like stars.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.