#61: Alice In Chains – ‘Down In A Hole’ (1992)

aic

I have to confess off the bat that I don’t find ‘Down In A Hole’ to be a sad song or even a depressing, angry, or particularly harrowing song. It’s strikingly pretty, it is sweeping and plodding; dramatic, sure, but Jerry Cantrell’s harmonies are the main reason for this – in a previous life he was undoubtedly a Gregorian monk. It’s expertly constructed and played, and felt deeply within every inch. But it doesn’t sound that defeated, despite the desperate lyrics, and Layne Staley certainly doesn’t seem to be down in any kind of hole while singing it. He was a drug addict, sure (he was actually smacked out while recording the vocals to this song) but Alice In Chains had sold over a million records by the time they entered the studio to record this track, and were about to hit a career high, selling five million copies of ‘Dirt’, the album from which this comes.

Songwriter Jerry Cantrell has claimed the song is about his long-term love, and their inability to stay together in the face of the band’s success. “It’s hard for us to both understand…that this life is not conducive to much success with long-term relationships”, he wrote of the track’s inspiration in the liner notes to 1999 boxset ‘Music Box’. Staley’s addiction deepened in the years following Dirt’s success, and after his girlfriend, the stunning Demri Parrot, died of a heroin overdose in 1996, he seemed to completely give up on any further attempts at straightening up.

Layne Staley spent his final few years holed up in his Seattle condo, his millions of dollars allowing him to build a wall between him and the world, while he had drugs delivered to him around the clock. Friends tried and failed to get in touch with him, his escalating heroin use resulted in him losing most of his teeth, and in April 2002, after his accountants realised he hadn’t withdrawn any money in a fortnight, police kicked in his door and found his body on a couch, surrounded by drug paraphernalia. He weighed a shocking 39kgs.

His death was dated as April 5, the exact same day Kurt Cobain had died eight years earlier – a bleak bookend to the heroin-ravaged Seattle music scene that thrived in the early ’90s. So maybe this song isn’t a particularly sad one when taken at face value, but the story certainly is.

It’s easy to search for meaning in music after a tragedy, but it’s hard to deny that, despite riding high at the time, Layne Staley was down in a hole while recording this song, and he never managed to dig himself out.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

Nathan Jolly’s book ‘Sydney Is For Strangers is out now. Buy the paperback version on Amazon, or digitally on Kindle.

Advertisements

#60: Ben Folds Five – ‘Cigarette’ (1997)


There’s a story, almost certainly apocryphal, where Ernest Hemingway made a ten-dollar bar-room bet that he could write a complete novel in six words. The bet was taken, the money collected (no doubt in a bowler hat), and then he wrote on a napkin:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

This has long been held as the prime example of word economy, and although nobody has matched it for brevity and emotional weight since, there have been numerous examples of this in the world of popular song, as we all call it. The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’ manages to paint an entire lonely world in only a handful of lines, while – as discussed – Cat Stevens nailed the disconnect between generations in ‘Father and Son’ without a single stray syllable. Less poetically, NOFX really captured the urgency of having to pee in just three words in their classic ‘I Gotta Pee’ (although there is also a two-word refrain of ‘call-911’ and a one-word twist at the end).

‘Cigarette’ by Ben Folds Five slides into this lineage beautifully, a spare 98-second interlude which documents the selfless, worn-down life of Fred Jones, his struggle as anonymous and familiar as his name. He spends his days caring for a wife stricken with either drug addiction, terminal illness, or perhaps both, yet he isn’t even granted respite during the nights, as he is constantly on guard in case she accidentally sets the house ablaze with a dangling cigarette. It’s tragic: he is a silent hero, and it makes me deeply sad and tired to my bones just thinking about it.

The song sits on the back end of Ben Folds Five’s breakthrough album ‘Whatever and Ever Amen’, and is one of numerous heart-wrenching moments on this landmark record. Folds deals in both flippancy and dark character studies equally on this album – the track is followed by a jaunty tale about a guy who keeps throwing himself farewell parties but never quite leaves, a necessary emotional reset after the heavy air of ‘Cigarette’ (Sidebar: An ex-girlfriend and I used to have to watch an episode of ‘Futurama’ after watching the brutal prison drama ‘Oz’ late at night on SBS to achieve a similar reset).

On Folds’ debut solo album ‘Rockin’ The Suburbs’ – released in 2001 – Fred Jones’ lonely tale is fleshed out further on ‘Fred Jones Pt 2’ which details his final day at the newspaper he has worked at for 25 years – presumably having being laid off – where, “there was no party, there were no songs, ‘cos today’s just a day like the day that he started.” His sad desk accoutrements sit in a cardboard box; a younger man waits to escort him downstairs.

It’s a terrible story, and hopefully Folds will write a Part 3 that involves a beautiful new bride, a lotto win, and a life of happy luxury – but somehow I doubt it. Folds is – unfortunately – too good a storyteller for such easy endings. I’m sorry, Mr. Jones.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#59: Paul Kelly – ‘When I First Met Your Ma’ (1992)

paul

‘When I First Met Your Ma’ is one of the finest love songs in Paul Kelly’s canon, but that doesn’t mean it’s a ray of sunshine.

Kelly recorded the song twice, once as a jangling full-band version on 1992’s ‘Hidden Things’ – a collection of B-sides, and rarities recorded between ’86 to ’91 – and then as a stripped-down acoustic version included on his first best of collection, 1997’s ‘Songs Of The South’. The latter is the version most people are familiar with, and the better of the two, with the focus rightfully on Kelly’s voice and lyrics, accompanied only by a slightly-muted acoustic guitar.

It begins as a blissful tale of falling in love, with all the messy details smoothed out, angry fathers turned into cartoons, spurned lovers into bit-players. It details Kelly’s early romance with first wife Hilary Brown, who he met at the Kingston Hotel in Richmond after his “foolish girlfriend brought her there.”

I’m sure the son (or daughter; he doesn’t make this explicitly clear, but I’ll be writing with male pronouns because I guess I am inherently sexist) wasn’t too thrilled at hearing the tale of how his parents had sex for the first time, but it’s hard to deny the rush of young love presented after he was booted by his future father-in-law – “I walked two miles in Melbourne rain, but I could have walked ten more.” That’s how it feels, isn’t it? The rain cannot get to you when you are walking on clouds.

Despite the rose-coloured romance at the heart of the tale, the crushing turn comes with the line, “Love like a bird flies away” – this tale is of a love which has long died, poisoned by all the things that cannot withstand bounding fathers, Melbourne rain, or long distances.

The following line is even more painful, and true: “you’ll find out the only way.” It necessarily negates any lesson in this story – he can warn his son of heartbreak, he can even wrap it in a beautiful metaphor, but in the end the only way he will truly find out about love’s sometimes temporary status is to experience its loss.

Paul can’t shield his son from this inevitability, but he can warn him it’s coming. Still, it won’t be of any real use. One day, he will feel the pain himself, and then he will know – unfortunately, it’s the only way.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#56: 2Pac – ‘Dear Mama’ (1995)

Rather amusingly, the greatest ode to parental love opens with a mother kicking a son out of her home at 17.

While it’s often the parents with the limitless threshold, here it’s Tupac Shakur that holds a deep understanding of how people’s flaws aren’t the features you should focus on. Within reason, of course. He takes his share of the blame, looking back with adult eyes at the sacrifices his mother made for him. He understands. The hook/crux/point of the song is a simple, “you are appreciated.”

Shakur recorded this song just days after his 23rd birthday; equal parts gratitude, love, and acknowledgement of past wrongs. It’s always tempered by an understanding that the dramas that surrounded are further evidence of his mother’s strength. He realises the murky grey areas in life are often driven by decay and desperation, and notes these seeming contradictions throughout: the mother who was both a “crack fiend” and “made miracles every Thanksgiving” with food scraps; the drug dealers who were also loving parental surrogates to him; being able to finally provide for his mother bring counter-balanced by the darker truth of where that money came from. 

It’s easy to have clear-cut morals when they aren’t actually tested. As Chris Rock says – albeit about infidelity – a man is only as faithful as his options.

Shakur trusted his audience could handle this soft touch; despite his reputation, the majority of his catalogue is absent of the gun-toting, thug-life, you-claim-to-be-a-player-but-I-fucked-your-wife bravado that permeated some of his later music. Speaking to the L.A Times in 1995, he brought up Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ as a surprising source of inspiration for the track, stating: “The lyric on that song is so touching. That’s how I want to make my songs feel. Take ‘Dear Mama’ — I aimed that one straight for my homies’ heartstrings.”

In 2010, the song was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for its “cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance”. Even his own mother, arguably the only one who can take this song personally, prefers to focus on the universality, saying upon its induction: “It is a song that spoke not just to me, but every mother that has been in that situation, and there have been millions of us. Tupac recognised our struggle, and he is still our hero.”

It’s only one shard from his towering legacy, but it’s the sharpest one.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#55: Ben Lee – ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’ (1998)

benlee

Toxic relationships are often apparent to everyone but the two people inside of them. Like cigarettes, they will eventually kill you. Like cigarettes, sometimes it’s easier to just delay the inevitable hard slog of breaking the habit and all the restless, anxious nights this entails. People who quit cigarettes act like total dicks. People who were just dumped exhibit similar dickish behaviour. Both are chemical upheavals. The fact that it will take many, many decades for these things to kill you means it’s rather easy to put off the decision to quit them; you rarely wake up in a crack den with dry blood in your hair after a hardcore tobacco bender, so it takes far too long to realise that you are – in fact – doing severe damage to yourself. Plus it does look cool.

But this isn’t about the dangers of cigarettes, in fact this song isn’t even about that. The title was pinched (kinda) from the Verve song ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, and the only link seems to be that both cigarettes and sunshine-stealers (phrase borrowed [again] by Jenni Konner) are bad for your health.

In ‘Cigarettes Will Kill You’, Ben was blind to his girlfriend’s conniving, ladder-climbing ways, but his friends weren’t. Props to them for warning him about her, too; often it isn’t until after a relationship is dead that the true-feelings-autopsy is performed on a friend’s partner. “They swore you’d steal my steam to feed your dream and then be gone”, he sings in the chorus, before delivering the knock out blow. “I wish I could say that everyone was wrong.” Ben was used, plain and simple, and somewhere deep inside he must have known this. Maybe not though; it’s pretty damn easy to block out any unwelcome dissonance when you are in those early stages of love. Red flags look like regular flags when you are wearing rose-coloured glasses.

Ben Lee had just turned 20 when he released the ‘Breathing Tornadoes’ album, and was dating actress Claire Danes at the time. Considering she was coming off the back of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ fame, it’s doubtful she was the aforementioned steam stealer/dream-feeder in question. The pair met in April 1997, at her 18th birthday party (meet cute? more like meet-awesome) but it is conceivable that while in the flushes of new love, he was also casting his mind back to another failed romance for inspiration. Or maybe he just made the whole thing up. It doesn’t matter.

(A side note: If Ben Lee ever wished to form a cult, we should all be extremely concerned. Watching the excellent documentary ‘Catch My Disease’ about his life, it is astounding how many brilliant, gorgeous actresses fell completely under his spell,  platonic or romantic: Claire Danes, Winona Ryder, Michelle Williams, Jason Schwartzman [not technically an actress, but hey] – they all seem enthralled by him, and in each case they seemed to do the chasing, too.)

The song’s nursery rhyme melody and jaunty piano hook meant it was a fast success, helping push ‘Breathing Tornadoes’ into the mainstream charts – his first entry – and eventually being voted #2 in the 1998 Triple J Hottest 100, beaten to pole position by the charming novelty hit ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’, which received a flood of votes despite the fact that almost no Triple J listener admitted to liking the song at the time. Lee did himself some minor credibility damage when he claimed ‘Breathing Tornadoes’ was the greatest Australian album ever (it’s actually the 76th best, FYI) during the press cycle, after which Powderfinger vocalist Bernard Fanning memorably called him a “precocious little cunt.”

But this was just a blip in what has flourished into an interesting, artistic life, which includes a concept album about Ayahuasca, a Hindu marriage ceremony, being crowned PETA’s World’s Sexiest Vegetarian, breathing workshops which I am annoyed aren’t named ‘Breathing Tornadoes’, a stint on The Voice, and even a reunion record with his scrappy, charming teenage rock band Noise Addict. Come to think of it, that cult idea is sounding great.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#52: Radiohead – ‘Fitter Happier’ (1997)


Fittingly, for an album which offers up such a relentlessly bleak and dystopian view of life in a busy, digital age – the beating heart of 1997’s ‘OK Computer’ album is a song voiced in a monotone drone by a Macintosh SimpleText program.

Basically a laundry list of self-help slogans, ‘Fitter Happier’ bleats out catch-calls for a better, more comfortable life; “the most upsetting thing I’ve ever written”, as Thom Yorke cheerily calls it. The song was briefly intended as the album’s opening track, but this was deemed too off-putting at the time – seemingly the last time Radiohead ever considered public sentiment or commercial viability when making decisions.

Talking to Caitlin Moran in Select magazine, Yorke recalls that he created the song in ten minutes after a long spell of writer’s block, while the rest of the band were “rockin” downstairs. “I was feeling incredible hysteria and panic, and it was so liberating to give the lyrics to this neutral-sounding computer.”

This neutrality makes for an extremely hostile-sounding song, a stream of advice bleated by a machine that knows not what it suggests. In 2016 – as we are bombarded by advertisements specifically targeted at us based on our online reading and shopping habits, Google search terms, age, marital status and sexual preferences; hell, even by ‘keywords’ in our supposedly private email missives – there is something oddly comforting about ‘Fitter Happier’s scattershot approach and lack of consistent messaging. The clunky wording of resolutions such as “Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries” and “will frequently check credit at moral bank, hole in wall” are as intrusive as Viagra pop-up ads on the Facebook walls of teenage girls, while “no killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants” is charming in its lack of real ambition. Even the computer voice is charmingly retro – a frightening and possibly ironic side effect of the march of technology inbuilt into this album’s messaging10110010100</endtheory>

This song acts as both a sarcastic, and a very real guide to better living, and – like most similar guides – it is inflexible, unconcerned with inherent human foibles, and completely untenable. Like the line “concerned, but powerless”, any attempt to use this as a checklist will no doubt result in an intense overwhelming panic.

This is the point of the song, and the album: the perfect life you are being sold is merely an illusion, and one that will keep you anxious, unhappy, and empty. You will have no inner purpose, no free will, and no real gauge of yourself or your progress. “A pig in a cage, on antibiotics.”

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#48: The Brian Jonestown Massacre – ‘The Devil May Care (Mom & Dad Don’t)’ (1997)


“It’s sad, isn’t it?” Anton Newcombe asks, or rather tells (Anton doesn’t ask) an onlooker as this song echoes out of the studio speakers. This moment is captured in ‘Dig’ – one of the greatest music documentaries ever. The film is many things, but it’s mostly an unflinching portrait of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s troubled frontman Anton Newcombe, who often conflated being an arsehole with protecting his artistic purity. His laser focus and lack of governance results in a sprawling discography, but also sees the band’s lineup constantly in flux, Anton’s personal relationships crumble, and record deals sabotaged before they are signed. For those unaware of the band and their legacy, the film is amazing, but you can just avoid it and start with the first album, and continue chronologically. The BJM catalogue is like a bizarro history of popular music since the ’60s, but with all the shit parts taken out.

This particular song is – as Anton pointed out – one of the most moving in the catalogue, lurching into view slowly before settling into a solemn death march, anchored by an acoustic guitar,  and an ominous vocal drone. BJM are known for hammering out complete albums in the time it takes most bands to get a decent snare sound, however nothing about this song seems hurried; two verses stretching lazily over six minutes.

The title may be ‘The Devil May Care (Mom and Dad Don’t)’ however the fault for the relationship breakdown seems to be squarely Anton’s, as he tells it. Spending his youth with two sisters and a middle-class Mom on Newport Beach, Anton was hardly raised on the mean streets, however he still managed to be somewhat of a juvenile delinquent. His mother eventually got tired of picking him up from jail, and one day refused – thinking it would straighten him out. As she notes in the film, it didn’t. “Say goodbye to mom and dad, the two best friends I never had”, the song opens, but there is no blame, only affection. “Give them all my love so much, I promise that I’ll stay in touch”, he says, but there are caveats. “If I know where I am going, so will you.” He needs to disappear for a while in order to find his path. He is also aware there will be times where he isn’t searching, but merely existing, his current location unimportant. But, ya know, he’ll call if he can. 

Verse two seems to be less about his uneasy relationship with his parents, and more about the general restlessness that comes with being a wanderer. Overthinking complicates his dreams, “It’s keeping me from knowing what to do.” 

If the final lines are indeed about his parents, it suggests that his hang ups from the past stop him from both recognising similar traits in himself, and knowing his parents in a fuller context, where they are no longer parents, but mere humans. “Got to go, I’m losing touch”, he sings. “I think about you way too much, it’s keeping me from knowing me or you.”

A tragic footnote. Anton Newcombe’s dad wasn’t the parental ideal  – he was an alcoholic absentee who was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. Less than a year after this song about their fractured relationship was released, Newcombe’s father jumped off a cliff and killed himself – on Anton’s 31st birthday.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#44: Everclear – ‘Heroin Girl’ (1995)

heroingirl

Of all the drugs, heroin has had the biggest impact on the musical world. Miles Davis helped shape the sound of jazz while hooked on the stuff, James Taylor’s mellow gold was spun despite an addiction which stretched decades, while Seattle’s Space Needle now stands as an iconic, ironic reminder of the damage the drug did to the city in the late ’80s and early ’90s. John Lennon dabbled during the dying days of The Beatles, Slash recorded classic albums with a needle never far from his arm, while Kurt Cobain self-medicated, first as an escape from debilitating stomach pains (which is like trying to heal a paper cut by chopping off the chunk of skin around it), then as an escape from everything else.

The drug’s track marks can be seen throughout numerous genres; its effects both celebrated and mourned. Lou Reed felt like Jesus’ son while on the stuff, while Lennon sweated and screamed his way free of its grip in ‘Cold Turkey’. ‘There She Goes’ is a sun-soaked, coded ode to heroin, equating it to the rush of early love – a beautiful young mitress who elicits pure bliss. John Prine sings of the “hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes”, and Trent Reznor zooms in on “the old familiar sting” of the needle piercing his skin. ‘Beetlebum’ makes it seem ethereal and drowsy; ‘Golden Brown’ makes it sound dainty and antiquated. Alice in Chains makes it sound hollow and creepy; Elliott Smith makes it sound beautiful and lonely. “Every junkie’s like a setting sun”, Neil Young warned in 1971 after seeing two of his close friends succumb to the drug, while in ‘Under The Bridge’ – the only RHCP song not about either California or having sex in California – Kiedis threw his life away on the drug (under said bridge). It was written as an ode to Hillel Slovak, who was the band’s guitarist until he OD’d and was replaced by John Frusciante – another addict.

Keith Richards, Evan Dando, Brian Wilson, and Courtney Love have outlived addictions; Sid Vicious, Kristen Pfaff, Layne Staley, and countless others did not. Art Alexisis from Everclear falls into the former list, his girlfriend Esther into the latter. It’s an arbitrary list, because it’s arbitrary who ODs and who doesn’t. Heroin doesn’t care about your plans to kick for good after this shot, or about how much your body can usually tolerate, or whether or not you are a talented guitarist. You can be nice to people and overdose. You can be terrible to people and live. Your entire essence means nothing at all, and as “all the dead bodies pile up in mounds”, as Lou Reed bluntly paints it, you can become nothing but a statistic.

Art Alexisis’s girlfriend in ‘Heroin Girl’ was a statistic. During the first half of the song she was a girl: two pierced nipples, black tattoo, lover of Mexican food. She appears to be the most stable out of the pair, both heroin-addled, sure, but she was the one caring for him and his disease. They were the typical young couple cocooned and sheltered from those “talking in the real world” by their love, their drugs and their happy little hell.

Halfway through the song, Esther became a statistic.

“They found her out in the fields
About a mile from home
Her face was warm from the sun
But her body was cold”

This news crashes in from nowhere, like all the worst news tends to. The most brutal lyrics of the song follow: “I heard a policeman say, ‘just another overdose’. Just another overdose”, he repeats angrily, unable to believe his ears. Sadly, this line is based in reality: his mother overheard a policeman make this comment when she was identifying the body of Art’s older brother – her son – who had just died of a heroin overdose. It’s heartless, but it’s also the numb way most would respond in a world where finding dead overdose victims is so commonplace that the words “just” and “another” come into play.

Esther was wild and nurturing; she drank Mexican beer; she was the entire universe to someone. To someone else though, she was just another overdose.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#43: Joshua Kadison – ‘Jessie’ (1993)


“From a phone booth in Vegas, Jessie calls at 5am, to tell me how she’s tired of all of them.” Considering that Vegas isn’t exact an early morning kale-shake power-walk type of city, I think it’s fair to say that Joshua Kadison got drunk dialled by an ex. And not just any ex, either – this song is reportedly (in other words: it is) about Sarah Jessica Parker, who dated Kadison sometime in the blurry pre-Carrie, post-Flight Of The Navigator period of her career.

Wistful and windswept, ‘Jessie’ is a remarkably poignant piece of songwriting: perennially uncool, defiantly romantic, and the musical offspring of Billy Joel and Elton John.

Let’s say, for libel’s sake, that this is a fictionalised piece of work. And what a piece of work, she is, too (BAM!) calling poor Joshua at 5am and spinning him some fairytale fiction about the happily-ever-after they always daydreamed about and never quite got right. She’s tired of chasing something else, someone else, chasing whatever lifestyle led her to Vegas. Of course, it’s unfair to make a value judgement regarding such a commonplace reaction: pinning hope where there is none; taking comfort in both the past and the future when the present seems so chaotic and unformed. Everybody has blurry far-off dreams, and clinging to these dreams during low points is vital. It’s one of their main functions, to keep us plodding forward – if only in our minds. So give poor SJP Jessie a break!

Jessie and Joshua share an ideal future together, but have different ideas of the present. Joshua allows himself to be pulled back into the romance each time, and each time he believes, and gets swept away in it because he just doesn’t want to give up on this big, messy, love story. Which is totally fine. As long as they both allow themselves to believe in the trailer by the sea in Mexico with Moses the cat, and tequila, and seashells and all those things that exist primarily on holidays or on mementos of holidays – it’s a possibility. “Who knows,” he sings at the end of the bridge, “Maybe this time, things will turn out just the way we planned?”

It’s a nice thought. And when you are in love with a person and a plan – or either one – ‘maybe’ is more than enough.

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly

#40: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – ‘Nobody’s Baby Now’ (1994)

nickcave

When Nick Cave searches for meaning, he really searches.

Consider this song, one of the darkest in a catalogue which contains an entire album called ‘Murder Ballads’. He cannot fathom how a woman he lost is yet to be found by another, such is her everlasting beauty and grace. Not simply content with the idea she may be enjoying her independence, he delves into the great tomes of history to gather a clearer understanding. Or maybe he killed her, and this is why she is nobody’s baby now. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time; I’m surprised more of his murderous claims haven’t been formally investigated, especially the well-publicised Elisa Day case.

Despite claiming in ‘Into My Arms’ to not believe in an interventionist God (and being the only writer to successfully cram ‘interventionist’ into a song), he nevertheless studies the scriptures to “unravel the mystery of Jesus Christ, the saviour.” He pores over anthropological texts, reads poetry, travels the world, but is bereft of anything approaching an answer.

This is a song about dark, driven obsession. He seems to conflate his all-assuming desire for her and the passion that drove this love off the cliff into one and the same. Verse two opens with the confessional, “I loved her then and I guess I love her still. Hers is the face I see when a certain mood moves in.” Hints at violence or infidelity soon enter, with the striking “But there are some things love won’t allow. I held her hand, but I don’t hold it now.”

She tore his many letters to shreds (if you date Nick Cave, one thing you can be assured of is being the recipient of many letters – certainly handwritten, probably in sweeping cursive, and possibly penned with a calligraphy set) and he understands the reasons for this, at least: “I was a cruel-hearted man.”

It is clear, as stated earlier, that he is still obsessed with her. If she isn’t dead, but merely no longer his – or anyone else’s – baby, then the anguish takes on an interesting new form. It’s one thing for someone to choose another over you – at least this can be rationalised by our silly survivial-of-the-fittest monkey brain. But for her to leave him in order to be alone – that’s a direct result of the type of person he was and the way in which he acted towards her. She’d rather be by herself than with him. It’s a harsh, simple truth, and the questions he asks himself have no convenient answers – no wonder he couldn’t find anything in the Bible!

@200sadsongs | @keirenjolly | @nathanjolly