Friday, May 23, 2008

Nothing compares 2 U

If people still know the-artist-once-again-known-as Prince in a hundred years, this song will be among the reasons why. The cover version by Sinéad O'Connor shuffled up from the depths onto my iPod today and reminded me in a rush of emotion of the first time I heard it.

In the winter of 1990 I was working at a Great Big Computer Company in Sprawlville, commuting to and from London every day — except when train strikes or boozing with the lads prohibited this. On one such occasion, I camped at Smiler's house after a particularly intense beer-and-curry session. It had been a very late night and I had had far too much to drink, so I was dog-tired and still half-drunk as we got into his car to drive to work the next day. Smiler pulled up at a tobacconist and went inside to get his fix. As he closed the car door, this song came on the radio.

It was the first time I'd heard it, and in my weakened condition the song — and Sinéad's delivery — just devastated me. By the time he returned the tears were rolling down my cheeks and I was literally struck dumb. I could not have spoken a word to save my life.

Smiler earned big karma points and my undying respect and gratitude for what happened next: He saw nothing, heard nothing and said nothing, neither then nor ever after. He even stopped for gas on the way to the office (though the tank was three-quarters full) to give me a few more minutes to pull myself together.

This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but seen within the yobbish cultural ideal of The Lad which reigned in England at the time it was an act of singular generosity and kindness, a demonstration of true greatness of spirit. English humour has always been based on cruelty and insult, and within that culture reputation and popularity were held to be zero-sum games: I can only improve my standing with the Lads by damaging yours. He could have shot up in the pecking order by cutting me off at the knees that day, and others of my so-called friends would have done so without hesitation. "Well, it's jus' a larf, innit? Can't you take a joke?"

Shabbat shalom, my dears; and wherever you are, Smiler: thank you.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Dale said...

Oh yes. That song.

May 23, 2008 at 8:27:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Bobby said...

Certain Bjork songs do that to me. Drunk or sober. Morning or night.

May 23, 2008 at 9:39:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Zhoen said...

Sometimes the tough guys, the one's you'd least expect, show themselves to be real, whole human beings, under the suit. Just like some of the fluffiest ladies show themselves to be tough minded pragmatists in emergencies. You just never know.

May 23, 2008 at 11:45:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Both Sinead's version and one I've heard by Prince singing a duet with someone get me each time. It hurts and pleases at the same time.

May 26, 2008 at 5:52:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

The emotional power of music can be quite overwhelming. Thank you my dears, and Zhoen: you are quite right, people can and do surprise us.

May 27, 2008 at 9:11:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Bobby, welcome aboard, nice to have you here.

May 27, 2008 at 9:11:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Pacian said...

I guess I should keep my comment to myself then. o_O

May 27, 2008 at 11:56:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Whatever else you might be, dear Pacian, you are clearly not a Yob, and very likely not a Lad either. Fire away :-)

May 28, 2008 at 9:57:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger stringer3221@gmail.com said...

omg, Udge, that song ... *sigh* ... cannot hear Sinead and that song without thinking about 'her' ... that one that nearly killed me. Damn, gonna have to go youtube the thing now and suffer for a few more minutes ... *soft smile*

May 30, 2008 at 3:03:00 PM GMT+2  

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