Following my thread of “if something feels weird, let’s call it some kind of existentialism,” I’ve been listening a lot to Badfinger lately.
See who I’m talking about on YouTube.
Of course there’s something a little disconcerting about the passage of time itself, and the fact that, if you’re listening to anything from a few decades back, some of the participants are probably dead or at least can’t sing like that any more, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is the suicide of the lead singer Pete Ham, reportedly largely because of the shitty business situation of the band at the time (bad record deal + another bad record deal + horrible management = multiple albums of work getting shelved, no money, failure). Ham was a member of the 27 club, and it being 1975 when he went out, a lot of the blame goes to substances and that 70s rock lifestyle, but given the situation:
1. Per the phenomenon pointed out by Payne, I feel a visceral need about more information about the actual suicide, as if I could get in there and prevent it somehow.
2. I also feel like I’m in a Dr. Who story, and the suicide is a fixed point that can’t be thought around or denied, much less change… as if it weren’t the case that ALL the details of the past also fall into this category.
3. The poignancy of the feeling of injustice is of course a direct result of how achingly beautiful Ham’s voice and tunes are. Though bassist Tommy Evans also hung himself eight years after Ham, I don’t feel ask keenly about this, except when listening to the chorus of “Without You,” which is all Evans singing in his high, weird way (Ham wrote and sings the verses).
4. As with John Lennon and Kurt Cobain and the rest of them, I feel cheated of the many years of subsequent music that Ham (and Evans) would undoubtedly have recorded, having only as my consolation EVERY SINGLE OTHER THING RECORDED BY EVERYONE ELSE, as if that shouldn’t be more than enough recompense. As if it weren’t equally sad when anyone dies and that potential gets cut off.
So through art, we develop these quasi-relationships with strangers, getting emotionally involved at the expense of using that energy to, say, heap more attention on the people we actually are friends with. Per existentialist cliché, we’re all alone in the night, and no one can stop us from hanging ourselves. I regularly comfort myself that suicide is not just a choice that anyone can just decide on, but an expression of clinical depression, which may of course be exacerbated by circumstance. This means that even if your career is in the crapper and your lover has left you (which was incidentally not the case with Ham; he was on the verge of being a dad!), you still won’t do it unless you were predisposed to do it beforehand. But the truth is that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about in that regard; it’s not like I’m up on the clinical research.
What I can speak to is my (our?) own reactions, where, again, existential self-examination is a matter of locating places where our perception and sentiments are systematically warped by something like Sartrean bad faith. It seems ironic, however, that in engaging in this most literary of procedures, I feel like Mr. Spock. “Sentiments one through four listed above are illogical. Sentiment should be distributed rationally upon its appropriate objects.” This sounds much more like Adam Smith than Sartre.
P.S. Here’s the Behind the Music if you’re into that kind of thing.