From the recording Ian Curtis
In my last story, I took some cheap shots at my good friend Jason Cardenas, because….well, I am a dick that abuses my friendships for the amusement of myself and others. Remember that the next time you are saying to somebody, “That Andrew is such a nice guy” (because, you know, people walk around saying that shit all the time).
On deck today is a song that features Jason’s greatest wish in my songwriting. It’s depressingly suicidal. Literally.
I wrote this doozy of a downer on the celebratory occasion of my birthday. That’s how I roll. Ask anybody, I’m just a contrary bastard. The night before, I had watched a documentary on Joy Division. I was struck by the interviews in which several members of his band, managers and producers said something like, “We knew he was having troubles, but it was such a shock when Ian killed himself. Looking back, it was all right there in the lyrics, wasn’t it? But we just kept getting more popular, and we all just sort of cheered him on”. I am paraphrasing that quote. I haven’t seen the documentary in a couple of years, so take that translation for what it’s worth.
Still, the concept of this just broke my heart. Here you have a guy, crying out for help, literally singing it from the top of his lungs for the entire world to hear, and everyone just cheers, “GO, IAN, GO!”
I was contacted a few days ago by Bart Mendoza for a column he is writing for The Reader. In it, I described an absurdly surreal experience I had with this song. Erin and I were performing as a duo… just me and my guitar and Erin and her cello.
Right as we started this song, two girls decided the bar was just too crowded for the importance of whatever insightful twattery they were discussing at the top of their lungs. Never mind the performance going on right behind them, they turned around and stepped up onto the stage to continue their loud, drunken discussion in peace. Clearly, they had some extremely important drama that required their own space. Again, never mind that it was OUR FUCKING SPACE!
That said, the irony of the next song on my set-list was not lost on me. So instead of kicking them off the stage, I stopped the intro, stepped within two feet of the windhags, turned my microphone to face them, and launched into this song, singing not at the audience, but directly at them. After all, who was I to undermine the singular importance of their lives? I was just being paid to entertain everyone, but clearly the whole bar should be focusing on them.
Do you think they noticed?
So I performed the whole song this way while they went on obliviously, so loud that even with a microphone I was having a hard time competing. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t kind of love this. There are only two ways to respond to this kind of thing. You can pack up and quit in a huff, or you can use it to fuel the fire of your performance. I chose the latter, singing with a bitter seething honesty that I wouldn’t have summoned without them. I am a huge Velvet Underground fan. They’ve recorded songs with inane banter running through them and this had the added drama and feel of performance art, which Lou and Company would truly appreciate.
As I hissed through clenched teeth, “The more I sing, the less you seem to care, as I throw all this shit out in the air”, how could I not be in love with the irony of the whole situation? So I grudge-fucked the hell out of those bitches. But much like the long history of my sex-life, I did this mostly alone without anyone much noticing.
So Jason, this one is for you. Are you happy now? Or do I have to put on a record of Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot”, stand on a stool and tie a noose to the light fixture in my kitchen? Is that what it takes to make you love me, Jason? Is that what it takes?