nothing has changed but nothing’s the same / and every tomorrow will be yesterday

I thought I’d missed seeing David Byrne in London and then last week I thought ‘fuck it, I WILL see my teenage hero’, so I sniffed out a pair of tickets on eBay and took Rachel along.

I was so excited. I can’t recall the last time I was so excited about a gig. Even the thought of being in the same building as him seemed rather cool.

David Byrne is the only person on the planet that I have ever written a fan letter to. I was proabably 16 and very concerned that not enough people appreciated Talking Heads in 1986 England. So I sent a 8 point manifesto about how we could remedy that and asking a few discerning questions about the lyrics of some of my favorite songs.

Then – around the time of University and Berlin – Talking Heads dipped out of my musical favour. I think it was too deeply programmed into my teenage years to be an acceptable soundtrack for my new adventures in sex and clubland. I needed something hard and new.

And so Talking Heads languished in my musical cupboard for almost ten years. It was like poetry. Somehow, once I discovered that it was OK to be gay – I felt that I didn’t need that cryptic pseudo-cool to hide behind.

But just as I re-discovered poetry, so I rediscovered Talking Heads and indeed that whole golden but tortured period of my teenage years.

In Brazil last October, I fell back in love with the me that loved Nathan Rushin, my boyhood crush, endlessly and vastly. The me that longed and longed and longed. And the me that knew every single word of Stop Making Sense inside and out.

Even more recently I’ve recognised that the unrequited longing that coloured most of my teenage was not a developmental dead-end (as I had imagined) but was actually a vital mental faculty: the ability to long. The transitional space – the space that creates itself out of a crazy pointless longing. This is the space that keeps us fresh and creative. That stops us stagnating in our own pond.

David Byrne saved my teenage from rotting away.

And this evening, bouncing down the steps of the Royal Festival Hall to the very front, to dance and whoop and stand two metres away from my teenage hero, felt like I was closing a loop.

It was the first time I’d seen him live. And his simple, funny, relaxed, snowy white-haired presence was wonderfully un-ideal and comforting. I didn’t feel that complex geometry of cool that used to fascinate me. I was so happy to actually see the man who was so brilliantly geeky in CBGBs, who wrote songs about buildings and food, who still posts pictures of buildings and food on his blog.

I thought he was a poetic trope when I was a teenager and now I was standing next to him as a human being.

For example, I noticed how pleased he was to be appreciated. He looked truely delighted when we all whooped and screamed our rapture at the end. It must still be enormously gratifying.

I considered how it must feel to write a great song 25 years ago with some mates in a cold New York loft, perform it over and over for 2 decades and then hear a thousand people singing back the words to you in gratitude for writing it in the first place. That’s a kind of closing circle too. Our creations connect with people. It is perpetually valid to make a noise, sing a song, create a phrase. No matter what happens to it out in the world.

Everything that happens will happen to day
& nothing has changed but nothing’s the same
and every tomorrow could be yesterday
& everything that happens will happen today

[picture source]

5 Comments

  1. Rene

    April 14, 2009 at 1:11 am

    thank you for reminding me of my straw i held on to
    when i was a teenager. not as cool as byrne, (mark
    owen – take that) at times the music was all i felt
    worth living for. later i met him 10 years later in
    person on a signing and gig, i was so nervous that
    he could notice it on my ‘hi’ i was a teenager again at
    27! it was great. we all have idols live in us, and
    no matter how close we get, something will take
    you back and you come alive.
    your articles here are inspiring! thank you.
    all the best, from a caring heart.
    Rene

  2. Carol

    April 14, 2009 at 5:49 am

    I love how poetic you put into words the impact Talking Heads had on your upbringing. I feel similar about Morrissey. My best friend and I used to listen to him on the way to a club, at a club, or just hanging out at eachoter’s houses. She passed on 3 years agao at the way-too-early age of 32, and whenever I hear “Sing Your Life” I think of her and our cherished friendship so long ago….

  3. scotty

    April 14, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Alistair, you always know just what to write to
    make me turn around, and look at the brighter side.
    Always inspiring:)…and you have a fantastic eye for
    photography..
    can’t wait for your next post
    -scotty

  4. Jeff

    April 18, 2009 at 2:02 am

    Sort of unrelated and I know it’s a bit presumptious of me to even ask, but do you know k.d. lang? She’s Canadian, a lesbian, a Buddhist, and not a bad singer to boot. I have a few of her tunes on my Playlist at the bottom of my page that I think you would like. Nos. 30, 32, and 44. Feel free to check her out if you have a moment.
    Hope you and Dominic have a good weekend.
    Cheers!

  5. dana

    April 22, 2009 at 4:31 am

    …did David ever write you back?
    As far as k.d. lang goes, she is absolutely brilliant.
    Just saw her in Tacoma, Washington last month.
    Best live voice ever.

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