"Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the light. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. And God said "Let there be light" and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."
(Genesis 1:2-4, King James Version)
Here we sit, in the void with darkness all around and the light consumed by the darkness. Death stalks the land.
Fear resides in the bravest of hearts.
Liberties have been sacrificed for the hope of something better to come.
Lives are on hold.
Life is no longer that which we knew.
These are troubled times.
Voices, as they have done in times of turmoil for millennia, cry out to God; "My God, my God, wherefore art thou? Why hast thou forsaken us?" and, as ever, the sound of silence washes across the waters of life and we are left no wiser.
The righteous, the faithful, will tell us that God is not responsible, that He has heard our prayers but that we have not exercised enough faith and so we must suffer still. Or, worse, they will cry out "Repent" and so tell us that this is a crisis of our own making...that we are to "blame".
Light is good.
Light is the antidote to the trouble that lurks in the shadows.
Without it we cast no shadow, there is no shade...only the darkness.
One source of light has arrived from an unexpected source. From the world of rock 'n' roll and its tales of debauchery, selfishness and excess comes a new tale. A tale of coming together, of bonding, of healing, of joy and of selflessness. The greatest story ever told might just be taking place on your Twitter timeline. But this is no (faux) outrage mob delighting in the wrong speak/think of some errant soul, this is not a public shaming to delight the trolls and the ghouls of the social media universe and this is not a video of a dog running into a glass door while dressed as an aubergine. This is something purer and more delightful.
Charlatans singer Tim Burgess has decided to do something at a time when very many people feel paralysed...including our "leaders" (of all political stripes) in Parliaments around the world. What he has done is something so simple that it seems it must be incredibly complicated. He has taken the thing he loves, the thing that has shaped and formed him, the thing that defines him to so many and used it to give people a precious commodity...hope.
Burgess has reached out to friends and others in the music industry and made a simple request..."Will you listen to one of your records and tell us about it as you go?". Simple. Then when people have agreed Tim has invited everyone, and I do mean everyone, to get involved and listen along at the same time. All around the world people have pressed pause on their worry, settled into a comfy chair and dropped the needle onto records they know and love and then listened. As they listen they share thoughts, feelings and memories. The people responsible tweet pictures and stories from the time. They answer questions. People are united.
At first people came for the records they already knew and then as a sense of community began to develop they stayed for the ones they didn't know. "Some Friendly" by The Charlatans was up first and I lurked in the background of the tweets, enjoying what was unfolding but delighting in the chance to listen to a great record from start to finish. Then came "The Joy of the Return" by Slow Readers Club which I didn't know but I decided to dive in, found it on Spotify, pressed play and...found myself falling in love with something new (to me).
Do you remember when you would make a mix-tape for that girl/boy you really fancied? Carefully selecting songs to explain your feelings in musical form...from the collection of 14 7" singles, 23 albums (three of which were from your gran last Christmas and included something by Jimmy Nail) and a collection of C90 cassettes of the charts you had recorded yourself.
It doesn't matter, you get the general idea.
Tim's Twitter Listening Party is a bit like that...except this time you have the whole of musical history at your fingertips and the bands themselves to explain what the songs are really about. Just think how impressed Nadine is going to be on Monday morning when you give her a tape that doesn't include "Shake Your Love" by Debbie Gibson but that has "All The Idols" by Slow Readers Club instead? Man, she is going to think you are so cool.
What is also happening here is that people are being given the chance to be something other than an image on a record sleeve or the front of a magazine...they are able to speak directly to the people who bought those records and who helped put them on the front of those magazines. The line between artist and listener is being broken down...we can say we love you and they can say "We are glad you do...thank you".
There will be a listening party taking place tonight...maybe it's an album you already own and love, in which case you should get your thoughts and questions ready. Maybe it will be an album you don't know, in which case you can settle down with that last Rich Tea biscuit and a fresh cuppa and get ready to find out why somebody else loves it so much.
Thank you Tim, thank you to all the bands who are participating and thank you to all the people who are joining in...you are making things better, showing how easy it is to be kind and helping shine a light into the shadowlands.