I got into Blur pretty late. I’d liked their singles since “There’s No Other Way,” but didn’t double down on fandom until senior year of high school. That’s when “Song 2” came out and they finally exploded in the States. I went back and gobbled up everything they’d put out before. I loved Modern Life Is Rubbish, with its dreamy, underpolished soundscapes. Parklife, while thoroughly enjoyable, showed glimpses of the woefully detached direction of Great Escape…except for the penultimate song, “This Is a Low.”
If I had to guess, I’d say the only time I haven’t wept during “This Is a Low” is the very first time I heard it. Even that is suspsect. It firmly lodged itself in my heart straight away. It’s the song I play when I’ve had enough, when the pressure’s been building and building for weeks or months, and I just can’t take it any more. I have to put the headphones on, listen with my entire building, and cry myself inside out. I saw Blur in 2003 on the Think Tank tour. They didn’t play it. Somewhere along the line, I got the impression they’d never played it live. Since the song seemed so intimate, I never challenged this supposed fact.
Then one day I looked it up on YouTube. There were several live performances, just sitting there in the search results. I didn’t want to see any of them. I wanted my experience to stay just as it was, not introduce a sour note or an altered riff. I couldn’t trust them to do their own song justice in my eyes.
Until today. You see, I just got a job, on my own, for the first time in my life. No temp agencies. No nepotism. No friends of friends. I managed to get several strangers’ eyeballs on my skills and strengths with a combination of words I cooked up myself. Then I went in today and showed ‘em what I can do in person. They hired me on the spot. I didn’t think anyone even did that anymore. I’ve been mostly out of work since 2010 (by choice - see Wighthouse), actively looking for work since 2012, with dismal results. My last job ended on the 7th with a week’s notice. Add that to an overzealous Christmas, a near-inability to pay rent (thank goodness it’s tax season), and a cessation of anti-depressants due to the related money problems…yeah. It’s been a tough month.
So when I got home and let all the congratulations filter through me (thanks, everybody, I mean it!)…I broke. I dialed up “This Is a Low” from Glastonbury ‘94. I was 14 years old, when going to a pop festival in the UK was on par with flying to the moon, in both joy and possibility. I listened but didn’t want to look, in case Damon was making goofy faces, or Alex was giving Dave the finger, or I don’t know what. I didn’t want them to ruin my moment.
I looked anyway.
These musicians…they write these ballads, and you never really know what they think of them. Maybe it was purely for profit. Maybe it was about a situation that no longer has any relevance. Maybe they don’t actually believe a single word they wrote. Maybe they’re sick to their asses of playing these songs, night after night, to a sea of anonymous faces, blasting something so extremely personal out over innumerable eardrums.
As I watched Damon sing his heart out on the last chorus, looking to the crowd with a tear running down his cheek, a vast, dazzling crowd that had stayed until the very end, perhaps solely so they could hear this wonderful song…I knew. I knew it meant as much to them as it did to us.
And that’s when I completely lost it.