I’ve posted about music several times already in my blog and I’ve no doubt that I’ll post about it several more times in the future. Music is such an incredibly important part of my life. Even my blog titles are taken from songs. It changes my mood, it touches me in a way most things never could.
Music is my main medication in life. If it wasn’t for music I wouldn’t have the friends I have (most of whom I’ve met through music) and I wouldn’t be here. It has, quite seriously and hand on my heart, saved me. My meds work to try and keep me on an even balance, but music is the thing that can really cure me. A song can alter my mood in seconds. Some uplift me, some motivate me, some relax me. Others, a select few, offer me catharsis, that emotional release that seems impossible. I know very few people who can watch the video of Johnny Cash performing ‘Hurt’ without being choked up. The Temple Of The Dog album got me through the passing of my grandad and immediately sends me back to that time in a heartbeat. And as for Steve Earle’s ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ is a perfect meditation on life.
The subject of this blog came to me after I had gone through a bit of a dry spell with my writing. I always have several blog pieces I’m writing and last week I was working on them as best I could but I wasn’t connecting. My writing felt forced and faked. Take a break from it my brain said, even if it’s just a week. So I took its advice and took some time away from it. I thought it’d be a couple of weeks and I’d decided I would only start when inspiration struck with a new idea, not something I’d been previously working on.
The thunderbolt struck me on Sunday night.
I’d gone with Sarah and a friend of ours to see a gig in Newcastle at the Miner’s Institute. It’s one of Newcastle’s most beautiful buildings dating back to the 19th century. It’s quite grand and is very typical of buildings of that era, with marble floors and sweeping staircases. It resonates with me in a different way too as it’s a centre of mining heritage in the North East of England. My dad, my uncles, my grandad and generations before them were pitmen. I come from a strong mining background like most people in this part of the country and I’ve lived in mining villages for most of my life. There’s a sense of community that’s still there. But that’s probably another conversation for another time.
We had come to see a band called The Lake Poets, a band comprised of a young guy called Marty from Sunderland. He writes acoustic songs tinged by folk and country music. A lot of them flow with the life blood of our heritage, especially when you start listening to songs about the miner’s strike of the eighties in these surroundings. They instantly remind you of a once proud industry that is now non existent, thanks to the actions of the Conservative government of the time that seemed to want to create divide across the country and social classes.
I have another tie to the Lake Poets. Last year when I was going through a major episode of anxiety and depression. Sarah and I went to see them perform at a different venue in Newcastle. It had been a bad night before we even got there with long traffic tailbacks triggering anxiety that just seemed to escalate. When we eventually got there we sat on the balcony just above the stage, away from the crowd and giving me a handy exit if the need arose. By the time Marty and his band took to the stage, my anxiety was at a peak. But as soon as he started playing a combination of his songs, his voice and his playing started to sooth me, calming my frayed nerves. I lasted the whole night, shedding a couple of tears due to the power of the performance rather than the results of my illness.
Fast forward to Sunday night in the Miner’s Institute. Part of me was a little worried that the songs’ power would be diminished without the enhancement of an overemotional state. I was wrong, so wrong.
He was part way through his set when he started talking about the story behind one of his songs. It concerned a young girl he was teaching who showed him a huge bruise on her hip that her father had given her. He went on to play Black And Blue, the first song I ever heard from them. When I first listened to the song I was floored. I had to stop, skip the track back and play it several times in a row. I bought the album purely on the strength of that song. I know I’m not only one who’s been affected by the song. A few of my friends have felt exactly the same when they heard it. It’s one of those songs that just connects on a pure, raw emotional level.
Marty was playing the song solo at the Miner’s Institute. His voice and guitar had everyone spellbound. I felt like time had stopped. I didn’t need to breathe. The only thing that existed was this performance. Something inside me felt uncaged. The tears started. Not just tears of sadness, tears of emotional release. I felt like there was a cleansing of all the negative emotions I was still carrying from my last incident. My face and beard were damp. I could tell without looking around that I wasn’t the only one touched by the power of his song, the feeling in the room was tangible. You could feel the relief once he’d come to the end of the it as the entire room seemed to exhale collectively.
Other songs hit home too. Shipyards (about his grandfather who who never got to see him perform), North View (his memories of his gran before she passed away from Alzhiemers) and Vane Tempest (influenced by the Miner’s Strike and it’s effect on his family) left various people, including myself, with tears on our faces, especially when you consider the latter song was being performed in a room steeped in so much mining history. The songs weren’t full of misery either, they all carried a sense of hope and a celebration of the past to them.
I left the room feeling emotionally lighter. I wasn’t quite prepared for emotional release it gave me, but I’m so incredibly thankful for it. So thankful that I felt I was finally able to let go of the extra baggage I wasn’t even aware I’d been carrying, something that medication, counseling and therapy hadn’t been able to do.
The indefinable power of music.
The title of this blog is the first line from Black And Blue (the song I discuss above) from The Lake Poets. A live version of the song preformed at Tanfield Railway (which is about ten minutes drive from my house) can be found here The Lake Poets – Black And Blue (Live).
If you’d like to chat to me you can drop me an email at email@example.com. I’ve set up a closed Facebook group, also called The Order Of The Dog, where you can come and find kindred spirits who suffer from mental health issues and people who want to learn more and support others. Finally, please feel free to share this blog anywhere and with anyone where you think it might be of help.
The Order Of The Dog.