Give up the ghost, but don’t give up your day job. Give out but don’t give up, give in, give over, give it away give it away give it away now. I’m a change giver, giving all my love to you - it’s a given. Shay Given.
It’s lent, and apparently I’ve stopped making sense during these fast times. Must be the come-down.
“I’m going to stop messing around” sings John Bramwell on I Am Kloot’s Stop, a pretty mild way to start the ball rolling. Or stop it. Luckily Sharon Jones is on hand to pose a more demanding question we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another: What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?.
Nick Drake doesn’t necessarily propose giving up anything in Been Smoking Too Long, but he does just about manage hide his upper-middle class roots for long enough to concede some of the drawbacks of his habit:
Ive got opium in my chimney
No other life to choose
Nightmare made of hash dreams.
Got the devil in my shoes
The answer is in the title of a 1986 Talk Talk song, Nick: Give It Up. A lot of people have trouble giving up smoking, and many have found success through Allen Carr’s idiot book on the subject. Here’s a much better way that worked for me: rather than giving up smoking, simply take up not-smoking instead. Trust me, it works brilliantly. I’m happy to expand on how the system works for the right publishing deal, by the way.
The Stone Roses pretty much gave up being a band during their days of legal limbo, which explains Second Coming. Before that they were a madchester tour de force, so cocky they reversed one song and gave it a new name and lyrics.
Alex Chilton knew a thing or two about being unable to halt negative behavioural patterns, as a lot of his life and work from Big Star onwards sadly attests. A Man Called Destruction was his last studio album to contain original songs, which makes Don’t Stop, as the last track on the album, the point at which he in fact did.
Primal Scream would not be my first port of call if I needed a friend to help me kick a habit, but on Give out but Don’t Give Up they merge a trippy-funk sound with reassurance:
When I’m feeling down, your love is a pick-me-up
And what comes around went that way
And when I’m not feeling up to par
You come along and there you are
Giving me the strength, giving it all I have to give
Giving me the strength
Neil Young quit drugs and alcohol in 2012 after 40 years of plenty. His own personal enjoyment of cannabis contrasted with the destruction that he’d witnessed wreaked on his friends as a result of their heroin use. He covers it first in The Needle and the Damage Done, and then even more explicitly on Tonight’s The Night, an album inspired directly by the deaths of guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry.
Bob Dylan has claimed to have once been addicted to heroin: a claim no-one’s entirely sure about given his predilection for basically making up chunks of autobiographical history. Personally I think it’s less valid than my claim that he gave up singing and harmonica lessons before graduating from either. Here he is sounding magnificent, and making me look a chump for saying that.
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Both Spiritualized and Sleeper want you to Stop Your Crying. If you can’t, you might be suffering from a a neurologic disorder known as Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), which manifests in involuntary crying (or laughing or other emotional responses).
Things start to get serious with Late Night Final, the closing track from Public Service Broadcasting’s album Inform - Educate - Entertain. It samples “What a Life!”, a Richard Massingham (of coughs and sneezes fame) post-war propaganda film, but only the fatalistic, gloomy parts of the script - “No use is it? I tell you, things as never been as bad as this. Seen the headlines? There’s nothing left for it, is there? It can’t go on, you know. It’s the end this time.” The film takes a curious approach to raising post-war morale, portraying two men embarking on a joint suicide attempt. Despite the laughter they share when their attempt fails, questions were asked in the House of Commons, with a Conservative MP asking if it was an appopriate way to spend £9000 of taxpayers’ money.
But hey, don’t worry - Dylan’s back to cheer us up again! Back in spirit, at least, with Nick Cave’s cover of Death is Not The End, from his resolutely uncheery Murder Ballads album. I ask you, what could bring more cheer (other than a balloon, of course) than being given life coaching in song from Shane MacGowan?
Maybe things are getting a bit heavy. So how about a song that reminds you not to worry about the end of the world? Altogether now!
Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs
And to close, an even more positive note. More positive than the end of the world?
HEAL, the 2014 album by Strand of Oaks, sees Timothy Showalter working through and exorcising his darkest days and demons, looking back at and down on miserable times, and coming out the other side better, stronger.
Take it even further back to darker times
When I drank too much and I took too much I lied to all my friends about who I was
But Caitlin listen to me now I’m all grown up
I spent two long years just losing my mind
Thank you Kristian for keeping me clean
And we’re painted like the warriors…
You gotta heal…