After the show you walked right past
Arms reached out for your autograph
And as you flashed your backstage pass
I caught your eye with a camera's flash
When I first heard these words, from an album dedicated to a passion for music, I fell in love. It was the most beautiful evocative thing – the guitar, the pedal steel, the violin, the words, all perfect in place.
My life pretty much revolves around music these days. There aren't many hours of the day that I don't have music playing in my ears - God forbid I can actually hear myself think.
I fall in love with songs. Sometimes, someone somehow draws out the essence of your soul, put words and music to it. You have to wonder about the singer, the songwriter, the musician, the band, the artist, how they do this.
You've never met them, never spoken to them, never spent time with them. But you’ve spent so much time with their music - they’ve kept you company, they’ve been there for you. And you want to meet them. Because you are convinced they must be kindred spirits, and in this world, kindred spirits are so hard to find.
You go to the concerts.
When the band came out they stood behind you
Cymbals crashed, the lights went blue
You stood alone in the halo's haze
Shining guitar hung on gold lamé
And you, you were the lonely one
You were the lonely one
They always look so beautiful in the lighting. On the stage, so close, but slightly higher, on the pedestal you and all the other fans have put them on. You are near the front, if you stretched out your arm you could touch them. You don't, but your eyes are drawn to them, full of adoration as they play the songs, the songs that are your story. The singer is looking into your eyes. Singing just for you.
They sing songs about how lonely they are.
When you perform it's so intense
When the critics pan I write in your defence
I understand I'm just a fan, I'm just a fan
I've never met any of my idols, I guess that’s what they are, in person, never spoken to them. Sometimes at the end of gigs, when they come out to meet a few of their fans, I stand on the side and watch, hesitating on whether to approach. But I never do.
I'm not one to ask for autographs. They're only human, why should their hastily scribbled, barely legible signatures be important to me? Does it even represent a connection made?
And what would I say anyway? What can you say that isn’t awkward and personal and embarrassing, that they haven’t heard a million times before, from people just like you, one among so many anonymous and adoring faces there to pay their bills, line their pockets and inflate their egos? Sure I would remember the brief encounter, probably treasure the memory for a long time, tell all my friends and maybe my grandchildren about it - but to the celebrity, the idol, what am I to them?
Never written fan mail either, though I've often wanted to, to thank them, sometimes to voice my feelings on a new direction the artist has just taken. I have never, because I cannot stand the thought they probably couldn't care less. They probably wouldn’t even read my letter, they get so many.
To be a fan is to be in one of the most one-sided relationships ever.
In the letter pages of magazines you can find many who write in to defend, vehemently and passionately, their favourite artists, as if they're defending a friend, a family member, a loved one. You feel like you know them don’t you? What with their bios and interviews and stories of their childhood. Sometimes I think I’d rather not know too much about them. They are just right in my imagination, and there perfect they will stay.
Used to have so many arguments with friends defending my beloved bands and musicians - if you are a music fan, you know how it goes. You learn to take it less personally as you grow older, but the fact is, to you your music is still an expression, and sometimes an extension, of your character, you heart and soul. You get attached. Someone has put you into song, and you can't help feeling a little hurt when it is rejected.
I guess that is why we spend so much time with compilation tapes, and why so many people still judge others by their musical taste. I'm learning not to do that so much these days, but sometimes it's hard, when you put on a song that you love, and someone else yells, "Turn that shit off!"
It's hard not to take it personally, because what some people don't seem to understand is, it is personal dammit.
When I get home I turn off the alarm
I've checked the phone, no messages on
I play the ones from yesterday
I play your song just to hear you say that...
I used to have a mobile phone. It broke a while back, and I haven't bothered to replace it. The new technological advances mean you can be reached wherever you are - but it makes you too damn aware of the times when they don’t call.
I also have an answering machine. I am often tempted to throw my answering machine out the window.
You, you're the lonely one
You are the lonely one
You, you're the lonely one
You are the lonely one
Feel blessed if you have a friend, a loved one, who you can call up at 3 a.m. simply because you are aching for some human contact, aching to hear a friendly voice. I put on some songs instead. They keep me sane.They're there during your darkest hours, available when you need them. And you don't have to worry about trust and power dynamics and being too close and too open or not open enough and shit like that.
One day I hope to become a performing musician. To give some of this back.
Lyrics to "The Lonely 1" in italics. written by Jeff Tweedy, performed by Wilco, from their album Being There released in 1996.
Lyrics quoted under Fair Use. Permission request sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted to the E2 Quests: Songs and Lyrics