Sometimes I hesitate, unsure of myself, scared to let go at all.  But at others I am driven, swept like flimsy flotsam, deluged by the storm, dragged down and bundled unceremoniously through the blue door.

Often, thankfully, it is the briefest, the fleeting-est of visits; I am barely through the door when I find myself back out again.  Sometimes I stay there a while too long, wondering indeed just how many hours, days indeed, I might stay this time. There have even been times when I believed that behind the blue door is where I belong; where I should stay forever.

I realised as a child where the blue door led to.  My mother said I was sulking, that I just wanted my own way.  No.  it wasn’t that, it wasn’t that at all.  It wasn’t that I wanted my own way – I had no idea where my way was; if I only knew my way, what it was that I wanted.

I was fifteen when it became clearer, when I slowly understood that I wasn’t completely alone – that many of us go behind the blue door.  It was when I heard Paul singing “Eleanor Rigby puts on the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.  Who is it for?”  Well, in my case it wasn’t just for all the lonely people, it was for everyone.  In fact, I felt that I was one of the lonely people myself.  It became clear to me that I too had a mask; I was constantly wearing a mask, a mask of normality, of happy cheeky chappie, when inside I was raging against the darkness, I was crying and no-one could hear my howls of despair.

Another song that affected me was Smokey Robinson “Tears Of A Clown”.  I knew exactly what that song meant.  In fact, I learnt quite early that comedy is simply the other side, the twin mask of tragedy, and that you had very little control of which one to wear.  You joked to hide the desperation you felt inside.

Because what you must know, what you must realise is that there is really nothing behind the blue door.  Just a chill darkness and a terrible feeling of being alone, that nobody understands.  I mean, how could they? How could they ever know how cold and dead, how bleak and desolate the nothingness is.  Unless they too had been there – and as I had never met anyone there; as nobody had ever told me they too were a visitor – I thought I must be the only person going there.

Mostly, these days, I avoid the blue door, and yet even on the sunniest days, the happiest of occasions, the blue door beckons.  It is always there, just in the corner of the room – and sometimes at the height of everyone else’s gaiety I slip quietly away and through that deepest of blue doors.  And no-one ever notices.   I hover above the crowd and look down in amazement at all these fools believing that this is a fun occasion, that life is great; if only they knew.

Over the years I have learnt to resist the blue door – though I must admit I do slip through the portal some days.  And it doesn’t even have to be anything really which tips me over the edge, which brings the blue door into my field of possibilities.  Oh, there were times – dreadful times – wives leaving, children leaving me too – you know those moments of ultimate betrayal, the worst of rejections when you feel that the company of others is the last thing you want, when you hate the whole human race.  When all you want is solitude.  And sometimes all you really want is O-bloody-blivion, the sweet sweet oblivion that lies beyond the blue door.

I have found distraction and comfort in books and music mostly, especially those sad songs of Leonard Cohen, the ‘Blood On The Tracks’ of Dylan, the soaring poetry of Joni.  At those times I slowly come back through the blue door to something approaching normality.  And occasionally you read a book, an author like Jean Rhys with her sad stories of lost women, that makes you realise that actually normality is both sides of the blue door; that indeed you are not alone; that this is just part of the Human Condition.

Maybe we all slip sometimes through the blue door.  Most of us hide it well.  Because there is still shame in admitting one’s vulnerability; ‘Man-up’ they say, ‘Look on the bright side’.  But what if the light on the bright side is so blinding that all you want is to seek the strange comfort of darkness again.

It is almost impossible to understand another person, let alone yourself; we are such complex creatures.  Though at times I suspect we are all made of much the same stuff, mostly wired in a similar way.  Some say that going through the blue door is simply a chemical imbalance, a hormonal disturbance in the brain.  I find that hard to believe. I have struggled to understand why I go there; and it is like peeling onions, there are layers and layers of hurt, you keep scrabbling layers away and all the time you can’t stop blubbing, crying like a child.

But I almost feel that the blue door is an essential part of me; without it I would be half a person, incomplete somehow.  There is maybe an empathy I find there too, an understanding of this condition which helps reconcile my feelings of unworthiness and failure.  Maybe those who never have ventured through the blue door are missing something in their lives.  Another song, by Steve Earle, comes to mind ‘My Old Friend The Blues’.  I know what he means; sometimes there is comfort to be found behind the blue door; even the isolation, the dislocation from reality (though what indeed is reality) can be reassuring.

And mostly I can control my visits to the blue door; I have strategies for coping; there are ways back.  Though sometimes I fear that one day if things go badly, which a part of me always suspects, I may end up taking refuge there.  For in a way the blue door is an escape from life, and secretly I suspect we are all seeking some form of refuge, our own shelter from the storm.

And there are whole days sometimes, when, like a junkie between fixes, I can manage to seem normal.  I walk and talk and even laugh and joke with people – to all outward appearances a normal person – when I know that really there is a great big fat blue door looming between us.

But please do not make the mistake of pitying me.  Your turn will come; one day you too may find yourself alone and cold and seeking warmth and shelter.  And believe me my friends it only takes the slightest of nudges to pass through; indeed, sometimes it feels that the door is perpetually open, yawning wide and grinning, and dragging you inexorably through to the other side.  And whether you hear an almighty slam or just the slightest of clicks – the door is still closed.  The walls are black and seamless, the lighting is dimmed and – twist and turn as you will – you will struggle to find the handle on the other side.  You just have to sit it out and wait for that little crack of light that enables you to slip back to this world again.

Actually, it might well be that the blue door is what makes us human.  Animals do not seem to be affected in the same way, though they can comfort us when we have wandered there – sometimes they drag us back with their unjudgmental love.  For without the darkness, the blank emptiness how can we ever know we are truly happy, how can we appreciate the colour and the light.  And I see that what I have been trying to find all my life, through reading and listening to songs, is that connecting spark, the link to other people, the shared emotions, the knowledge that despite slipping occasionally there is always a way back.  And I now realise that of course I am not alone, we all sometimes go through that door; maybe we should celebrate the fact rather than hiding it in our shame.

Well, I must also apologise for lifting the veil, for letting you see even a small glimpse of the truth.  For one of the abiding sins of this venal world is honesty.  Like the ‘Satanic Verses’ themselves, even acknowledging the blue door’s existence may bring a fatwah down on your head.  We must all remain complicit in the illusion that we are happy all the time in this best of all possible worlds.

blue door images | Door, blue, wood, vintage Texture - JPG ...

My Record Collection 92

Easy All Stars – The Dub Side Of the Moon – Ha. Well this was bought for me by my oldest daughter in an attempt to convert me to ‘Dance Music’. She does this quite regularly and mostly I like the stuff she chooses for me; I in my turn try to interest her in earlier singer-songwriter stuff to much less success.  Anyway, this is quite a fun record, a re-recording of reggae versions of the famous Pink Floyd album.  Pleasant enough.  She also bought me Sergeant Peppers Dub Band – also by Easy All Stars,  Not so successful this time, or maybe one album was enough.


Eels – A band built around singer Mark Everett, known as E.  Almost every song is about hardship, misery, depression and real or imagined wrongs in the world of E.  I must say I quite sympathise, and miserable bugger that I am I love this depressed stuff.  The singing and music is absolutely first class too, the sings are all excellent and his sad sad voice almost deadpan and barely sung hits the button every time.  I first got into the band (or the man) when I bought a CD single (as I have with so many others).  It was from an album Beautiful Freak (1996). This was officially the debut of the Eels and really has never been bettered.  It is strange how certain songs have such relevance; one of my favourites is ‘Susan’s House’ – and at the time I was dating a woman called Susan and used to love playing on repeat this song on the long bus journey to her house.  Other great songs are ‘Novocaine for the Soul’ and ‘My Beloved Monster’.  But this is one of those lovely records that when you revisit it feels like an old cardigan you love and slip on to keep warm on a wintry day.  I have only bought Eels records sporadically since then (there have been quite a lot of them).  Next up is Daisies Of The Galaxy (2000).   Again, some great songs but without quite the shock value of his debut but good even so.. Favourites – ‘Birds’ and ‘Jeanies Diary’.   Not a bad listen at all. Souljacker followed in 2002.  This seems a more hard-rock album, moving away from the slightly pop feel of his earlier records.  The vocals seem as though they are sung through a grungy layer of smog.  This may well be my least favourite Eels album, no tracks really stand out except maybe the opener ‘Dog Faced Boy’.  But the Cd did come with a four-track live extra CD which is pretty damn good.  I was sort of thinking of giving up on the band but the reviews for a new album were so good that I bought ‘Blinking Lights and Other Revelations – a double album released in 2005.  And it is much better, more like his first two records – more poppy, more quirky, but being a double it suffers – as they almost all do from getting a bit boring.  Best songs ‘Trouble with Dreams’, ‘Railroad Man’ and ‘Hey man, Now You’re Really Living’.  And strangely for an album of 30 plus songs not much else sticks in the brain.  There are a lot more quiet piano tinkling songs, much less anger and more reflections on life – this almost would befit an old man’s record and yet Everett could not have been much past 40 when he recorded these songs. So, more or less a miss of an album.  So I more or less gave up on the Eels.   Maybe I will but them again sometime – but not for a while I expect.   I did pick up a live album Eels With Strings At The Town Hall  which is excellent, almost acoustic versions and includes a great version of Dylan’s ‘Girl From the North Country’.  And so far that is it from a great little band.

Beautiful Freak




My Record Collection 91

Steve Earle – more or less solo

Steve was becoming a junkie however and even went to jail for a while on drug related offences.  For four years he recorded nothing and the Dukes broke up.   But he was always an irrepressible character, and he was writing songs in jail.  He disbanded the Dukes and released a solo album in 1995 Trian a Comin.   This was a slightly subdued Steve Earle, less raucous, gentler and absolutely flawless; as if his time in jail had melllowed him somehow, made him reconsider his life and his music.  He was still writing brilliant songs, of course, but these seemed more mature, more comsidered and I loved the record straight away.  And for the first time he included a handful of covers ‘I’m looking through you’ by The Beatles and ‘Tecumseh Valley’ by Townes Van Zeldt.  But Steve’sown songs are brilliant too – the best of which is ‘Goodbye’, possibly the saddest song in his repertoire.

The following year he released ‘I Feel Alright’, another great record, although maybe a slight return to his earlier sound.  Best songs and favourites are ‘Poor Boy’ and ‘Valentines Day’ and the rocking ‘Hard-Core Troubadour’.  It almost seemed that the old Steve was back, though he didn’t have the old Dukes with him, just the best session players he could find.

El Corazon (The Heart in Spanish) followed.  Another tiumph, another great batch of songs – a bit more bluegrass this time and a few collaborations, duets with Emmy Lou Harris and a couple with whole groups that Steve was obviously a big fan of.  Best songs ‘Telephone Road’, ‘You Know The Rest’ and ‘Poison Lovers’.  The whole record seems to have a jauntiness, as if – which I am sure is true – Steve was having a great time.  A couple of the songs still have a Political Edge – but American politics are harder to penetrate than ours; at least to me.  I am still amazed at how – and of course Steve isn’t the only one – such great songwriters can seemingly just churn out album after album of great songs.

The following year Steve hooked up with Del McCoury and the Mountain Band for a whole album of bluegrass music.  This was an indulgence and I am afraid this is my least favourite record.  The Mountain, only really one redeeming song ;The Pilgrim’.

Steve returned to form with his next Transcendental Blues.    Another pretty good collection really, though not so many truly outstanding tracks.  It is a fact that after a certain number of albums which all have a similar sound you get a bit less excited with each new release and start hankering after the early songs; it is the same at live concerts, you just want to hear the old songs again.  But re-listening ‘The Boy Who Never Cried’ and ‘Galway Girl’ stand out.  There was also a 4 track bonus disc with this release which is pretty good too.

Then a 1995 live album came out – Together At The Bluebird Café.  This was a rare collaboration, a concert with Steve, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zeldt – each singing their own songs in turn.  Simply accompanied by guitar these performances are incredible.  Not a poor song amongst them; Steve’s are a bit softer sung acoustic, Guy is a fine songwriter too – I especially love ‘Randall Knife’ and ‘Immigrant Eyes’.  And best of all is Townes – incredibly sad songs and hard-up monologues; best are ‘Katy Belle’, ‘Lefty and Poncho’ and the haunting ‘Tecumseh Valley.  Townes died a few months after this concert, and Steve later devoted a whole album to his songs, which I haven’t got yet (also more recently – an album of Guy’s songs too).  There was a special closeness in these three renegade superb singer songwriters.  A beautiful album.

Jerusalem came out in 2002 – and this was a more political, certainly a controversial Steve Earle.  ‘John Walker’s Blues’’ is written from the perspective of an American born Muslim, written at the height of 9/11 and Iraq.  ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is another angry song.  But I like ‘What’s A Simple Man To Do’ and ‘Go Amanda’.  Amother very good record.

Then a live double album came out ‘Just An American Boy’ with quite a lot of spoken commentary between the songs explaining Steve; political situation.  A good album overall.

The Revolution Starts Here came out in 2004.  Another pretty political recod – ‘Rich Man’s War’ and ‘Condo’ and ‘F the CC’ are all good – but Steve wasn’t really progressing by this time.  He seemed content to simply bring out another record every two or three years.  Mind you, this is pretty well the state of Music for the last 20 years; nobody, it appears, is changing anything they do, just playing to maybe an ever-diminishing gallery.  Oh Well

Washington Square Serenade followed two years later.  Quite a nice record; the usual stuff really; pleasant country rock songs immaculately constructed and played, and Steve’s voice complimented on most songs by girl harmonies.  Best songs ‘City of Immigrants’ and ‘Steve’s Hammer’.  I feel that Steve was inching towards a more mature essence with this record.

And I feel he has found it with I’ll never Get Out Of Here Alive, his album from 2008.  Here the songs seem to have moved away from country music to a more folk and blues style; slower songs, less rowdy choruses and overall a gentler sound.  I quite like it, but I am not sure where he is going next…. Anyway, either I got a bit tired of Steve or there was just too much other music to buy, but I sort of slowed down and have stopped buying his records – though I will again one day. Overall a wonderful songwriter, a socialist and a great artist – just one of so many.