ARCHIVES OF PAIN
"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not"
(Isaiah 53:3, King James Bible)
"...publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull, who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall..."
(Howl, Allen Ginsberg)
Ask Steve Lamacq about how real that was.
My life story.
Bits of it.
Bits of me.
Pieces of it.
Pieces of me.
Whispers of a life I thought I had left behind.
We never really leave anything behind. Especially not the stuff we want to leave behind. The pain, the trauma, the shame, the ridicule, the ridiculous. We just carry it around. Forever. 4-EVA.
We just drag it along...out of sight, never out of mind.
All of which brings us to “The Holy Bible”.
I spent a lot of time in my childhood being consumed by THE Holy Bible. Not just on Sundays at Church, at home with my family. My vocabulary, even before school, was shot through with thou’s and verily’s, lo’s and whatsoever’s.
So did Satan.
Not as concepts.
But as real concerns.
God loved me.
Satan sought to separate me from Him.
He was everywhere.
It was terrifying.
That Holy Bible is filled to overflowing with poetry, imagery, inspiration… and some more troubling matter too.
We move on.
All of which brings us to the other Holy Bible.
There are people who really like "The Holy Bible".
They think it is cool.
They like the bit about "dumb cunts" and chopping off someone's cock and calling him Rita.
Like people who enjoy sneering at people on the myriad poverty porn television shows that clutter up the schedule of Channel Four...the bastion of "liberal" values. Safe on their sofas in their semi- detached, new build, double garage, suburban estate, homes and their job in HR or "finance".
The horror of the mundane.
For them this is an album they think they should like.
They think their tough day at the office gives them a window into suffering.
“Hey you silly kids with depression, why not pop on a groovy album on the drive home…you’ll feel much better, then just fix your problems the next day.”
Having the "grumpies" or the "blues" allows them, they believe, to empathise with the depressed, the manic, the schizophrenic, the dying.
They like it because it got 10/10 in the NME.
They like it because it features in lists of best albums in The Guardian. They like it.
They don't understand it.
It's another album to sit beside "OK Computer" and "The Stone Roses" and "The Queen is Dead" and all the rest of the albums they have been told they should like.
Does this sound sneering?
It’s meant to.
I don’t mean it.
I am green with jealousy.
I wish I liked "The Holy Bible".
The problem is how do you "like" something that is a glimpse, a technicolor vision, into moments, minutes, months, years when the idea of simply feeling "normal" seemed ludicrous, impossible, out of reach.
You don't like it.
You are grateful for it.
It serves as a sonic portrait of the fucking horrors in your mind.
I should be making visits to clients.
Instead I am sitting in my car.
Parked in a multi-storey on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. I've been there since about eight in the morning.
It is now almost five in the evening.
I have eaten crisps and chocolate and more crisps and drowned myself in carbonated piss. Then I've started that again.
Not just this day.
I am doing a fine job of convincing everyone that everything is...fine. It's a form of self-abuse.
I am lying to everyone.
I have a wife who thinks I am working…but I’m not working, I am dying. Aren’t we all love.
I get fat.
Self-loathing joins the depression.
Room mates inside the hollow cavern that was once my soul. One day I don't go to the multi-storey, instead I find a retail park with a
The sun is shining.
Glasgow looks great.
Bathed in a golden glow.
I feel grey.
I’m a dead man walking.
Inside Boots I buy a packet of razor blades, some bandages and some anti septic wipes.
The girl at the till looks at me.
I smile back at her.
“I’m normal. I need razor to shave with, bandages for a wacky fancy dress costume, and anti-septic wipes for…the septic mess that is my mind and my body."
In the car I take off my suit jacket.
Roll up my shirt sleeves.
And I start cutting, scratching, and slashing.
An hour later I am in triage.
"Have you had suicidal thoughts?" asks the doctor.
"No" I say.
I mean it.
I don’t want to kill myself.
I just want to be dead.
I just didn't want to be here any longer...and I wanted to feel something. The pain of the physical act isn't as bad as what comes next. I have to call my mother and tell her what I've done.
I can hear the pain and the horror in her voice as we talk. I don't remember talking to my father.
I must have.
I feel dreadful.
I am sick.
Things don't get any better.
I start to believe that I am being followed...that my employer is stalking me. I go to ridiculous extremes to avoid my imaginary pursuer.
You need to understand this, it’s important.
If a car turned in the same direction as me more than once, I would drive for miles until I was sure that I had “lost” them. I would spend hours of my day trying to shake off people who didn’t exist.
In the middle of this I get a call from my boss, he wants me to take out someone from marketing in London out on some sales calls.
"Sure" I say.
When I collect them from the airport I am confronted with one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen.
We drive into Glasgow and park up for the first call.
At the back of the car I open up the boot to retrieve my sales case.
As I bend over to pick it up the months of crisps and carbonated piss take their toll and my trousers split right up the seam, revealing my underwear and enlarged arse to this Heavenly creature.
We have to drive to a Next to find a pair of trousers.
Neither of us speaks.
What is there to say?
I want to crawl under a rock, or have a large rock dropped on me. It is humiliating.
But I’m not laughing.
I was filled with a sense of shame that was so overwhelming that I still feel it as I write this.
I regretted my entire life at that point.
I wanted to live the whole thing over again.
To change myself.
To take the opposite decision to every decision I had ever made.
The hilarity of a man too fat for his own clothes.
The shame of a man too fat for his own clothes.
The self being destroyed.
The following week I shave off all of my hair.
I tell people it's a return to my teenage self...the skinhead, Mod, boot boy, rude boy, me.
That's not it.
I am trying to exercise some form of control.
To exorcise some demons.
It's all an attempt to control...something.
Who is responsible?
"You fucking are" says the voice inside my head.
I was suffering.
To stare at the sky and have it leave me blind, let me avoid having to look into my own eyes in the mirror ever again.
I needed the pain to be executed, for my pale white body to bronze through the heat of healing, to be made strong by love...or Seroxat.
This is my "Holy Bible".
The sound of my own suffering.
An archive of my own pain.
The solitary solace through the darkest days.
The barbed wire embrace of a fellow traveller.
The bitter, never sweet, symphony of the howl.
It isn't possible to like it.
I can only love it and be grateful for it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t like it.
I’m happy for you.
I envy you.
But I can’t like it.
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”
Why hast thou forsaken me?
So wailed Christ as he hung on the cross.
There was a moment in my life, when I still had faith, when I knelt before my God and opened my heart to him
I prayed with such sincerity, with such belief, begging my Creator to spare me from that which was so troubling me.
Not for a minute or two.
For over an hour.
“Dear God, please help me. Spare me from that which I have not the strength to overcome. Take this yoke from me."
And on and on.
When I finished praying I climbed into my chair and waited for an answer. The answer came in the form of a deafening, crushing, silence. God was dead.
God was deaf.
It had to be one of them.
Neither felt good.
And in an instant I lost my faith.
Over the years since then I have found it…momentarily.
But when I am sore afflicted and I listen to “The Holy Bible” I am never left with silence. Instead I feel heard, I feel understood, I feel that my shame is not mine alone, I feel that my bruises are shared by others, by strangers. Most of all I feel that I am not alone.