Heeey – let’s listen to a party tune! If that’s what you’re thinking – what with this being Saturday night and all – then you’ve got another think coming. And that’s because I proffer to you a ponderous meditation on the human condition at a less-than-sprightly 68bpm. We are where we are though. None of chose to be here – this is just how the fates have fallen. Have a little listen, read the lyrics and I’ll see you later down the page to bring you another scintillating insight into my mental processes.
We were so busy being happy
We didn’t notice we were sad
Oh well. I guess it’s just too bad.
We were so happy to be young
We didn’t notice we got old
Is it just me, or is it getting cold?
Did someone turn the light off?
Or is it closing time?
We were so busy playing rich
We never noticed we were poor
All to keep up with the Jones next door
We were too busy making friends
To realise we were alone
And living a lie, through the screen of a phone
Would someone turn the light off,
Now it’s closing time
Time tells the truth and never lies
(Time is passing you by)
We’re all marking time till closing time
Is there any point in going on
If everything you do and everything you knew is wrong
We were all caught up in the future
We didn’t notice that the past
Had caught up to us, because nothing can last
We were so busy painting rainbows
That we didn’t notice when the sky
Broke into two and started to cry
Would someone turn the light off?
I think it’s closing time
It’s closing time
Isn’t it time that you found out what makes a man?
Are you a man, are you a man, are you a man?
Slow that, wasn’t it? There’s a reason for that, and it’s quite sad and personal, so let’s get that out of the way first. I first used this chord progression, standard though it is, seated at a piano during my most depressive phase. The time where, beset by the troubles I’d brought on myself, bedevilled by failing mental health, adrift from almost all my friends, and never more alone, I necked a load of booze and pills and lay down in a bath to die. As you can see, I didn’t, but it sparked a song at the time called All Fucked Up.
I find it hard to look at that period of my life now, but the music stuck with me. And eventually became the backbone of this song.
Unusually for me though, the main impetus for this came from a lyric: “We were so busy being happy, we didn’t notice we were sad.” There’s something very much Roger-Waters-Era-Floyd about that thought, and the rest of the lyric came pretty easily from that. We’re all distracted by things in life that detract from our spiritual happiness overall. We’re making online friends while neglecting our neighbours. Often enjoying lifestyles we can’t really afford.
And there’s something in the air. Do you feel it? The last couple of decades – from the moment the planes hit the twin towers – have seen a slow unravelling of all kinds of old certainties. Trump might be on his way out of the White House, and the Brexit saga might be coming to some kind of (probably disastrous) end, but it feels very much like something has broken. A wheel has come off the cart of history and we’ve spilled out all over the floor in a tangled mess. We might never put things back together.
Maybe it was always this way. I’m sure if you looked back at headlines from any time in history you’d see panicky jeremiads about how we’re this close to collapse. But… it does really feel like the end of some kind of era is with us.
Hence: closing time.
Are the shutters really coming down on the UK? I don’t know any more than you do. But I do think the country is not recognisable from the one I grew up. Not just in the depth of political division, but in the culture itself. Old certainties have melted like snow in the sun. Old faces and cultural totems have passed into dust. I used to think 5-10 years ahead and feel fairly certain that some things would always be there for better or for ill: The BBC… the NHS… the EU…. and now I can’t even guess what the next 12 weeks hold in store – much less the next year.
Maybe it’s time to find out if I’m a man?
And so, as the song meandered through the self-consciously over the top finale, it felt natural to let the unease spill out into a sprawling soundscape of atonal noise, and clips from Winston Churchill… Enoch Powell… Morecambe and Wise… England football fans… various other things.
Is it any good? I dunno. I like the main body of the song well enough. It’s an unusually cohesive lyric for me. And I laboured long and hard over the arrangement (might still chuck in some more guitars though) but is this worth almost 7 minutes?
Well that, dear reader, is up to you.