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January Blues? The Pop Doc is in…

Surgery is now open!  Please take a seat.  The doctor will see you shortly…


Well! A new year, a new start… or IS IT? Come on, let’s be honest. How many resolutions have you stuck to? Eh? Part of the problem is that we go into the New Year all gung-ho, expect way too much of ourselves and then the whole thing just wibbles off into nothingness so that by the end of January we’re back where we started, the same people we were pre-December 31st. And is that ok? Of course it is. I thought you weren’t so bad in the first place, to be honest.

So, now we’ve got that cleared up, it’s time for your musical prescription for the January blues. You might be feeling down because you let your resolutions slide, you can’t stand the weather or you’re just beaten down by the pre-Valentine’s Day vom-fest that is marching towards us, waving heart-shaped balloons in our faces. T.S Eliot may have proclaimed April to be ‘the cruelest month’ (perhaps he had some beastly prankster friends who enjoyed giving him a good old ribbing on April Fool’s Day) but, for us, it’s that period that sees January slime slushily into February which really makes us want to hide under the duvet. Oh, and did I mention tax returns? Yes. Sorry, I’m meant to be cheering you up here. Get down on that imaginary chaise longue and let’s roll the playlist!

So January… I’m thinking seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or just this-grey-cold-weather-pisses-me-right-off disorder. You’re freezing, the natural light contraption you bought is giving you a migraine and you can’t afford to go away. Woohoo! Party!   Well, for a start, don’t try to fool yourself by flinging ‘Here Comes The Sun’ on the turntable.  It’s not coming, it’s going. That’s the freakin’ problem. Same goes for ‘Good Day Sunshine’, ‘Summer Breeze’ and ‘There’s Always The Sun’. Just saying ‘sun’ lots of times doesn’t mean you’re going to manifest some rays. You’re just rubbing it in.   I’ll make an exception, however, for Finlay Quaye’s ‘Sunday Shining’.

Not only does this have a cool guitar lick that I’ve often been known to sway my bottom to, there are lots of mentions of rainbows – and I’ve seen a fair few this January, gleaming away happily against a steely sky. What a Brucie bonus. I wouldn’t have passed that up for a summer’s day, no siree. Ok, so that’s a lie, but still.   If even ‘Sunday Shining’ smacks of denial, then face and embrace the low temperature and press play on ‘Cold As Ice’ by Foreigner. Yes, it’s a revenge song – bad vibes agogo – but damn it sounds good, and it’s the kind of groove that might just lift the spirits.

Same goes for Supertramp’s ‘It’s Raining Again’ – cheery melody and groove… yes, some reference to lost love, but, as Roger Hodgson sings in his curious but comforting falsetto, ‘come on you little fighter! No need to get uptighter.’ No, I’m not sure ‘uptighter’ is a word either but you know what? THAT’S OK.   Crumbs, but I’m mining the classic rock mines here: another goodie is Queen’s poetic ‘A Winter’s Tale’. It’s a beauty. Ok, so Mercury and pals were regarding the magical views of Lake Geneva. He’s just seen a ‘silky moon’, he’s got ‘gentle rain beating on his face’. We, on the other hand, might be regarding the local verucca-swathed municipal swimming pool. Maybe the only moon we can see is the bloke in the flat opposite inadvertently baring his butt-cheeks at us when he opens the curtains every morning.

But we can imagine. And imagination, as Einstein himself once said, is greater than knowledge. We can take ourselves anywhere with it. Off you go then. Not really, there’s more of this column for you to read first.   Is there any way you could learn to love cold weather? Just think, you can bundle up in lots of clothes, your burgeoning beer paunch safely hidden from public, you can roast chestnuts, go on long, brisk walks and get your endorphins going, sit inside with a good book and listen to the rain… But sometimes you’re caught in the downpour. Sometimes you slip on the ice. Sometimes chestnut-hunting is hazardous. Once, on a lovely woodland walk, my mother mistook a dog-turd for a chestnut. In the words of Roxy Music’s ‘Love Is The Drug’, you can guess the rest.    For embracing the cold, I recommend Bjork’s album Vespertine.

It’s twinkly, icy, frosty and some of the songs (‘Hidden Place’, ‘Pagan Poetry’) are completely transcendent. ‘Hidden Place’ is a bit naughty too. Cor. But anyway, back to the matter in… er… hand, if anyone understands – and indeed loves – the freeze, it’s Bjork. Winter nights in her native Iceland are long and harsh, but does Bjork complain? Nope. She writes some ruddy brilliant songs. In fact the reason there are so many creative and productive people in Iceland is largely because of the long cold nights, so cold you can’t go out. So what do you do? Write a poem, create some art, talk to your friends, read a book, write in your journal, cook a great meal. Love those cold, dark days. If nothing else it also means you stick on a balaclava and get away with looking a bit post-Chrimbo-rough for a few more weeks. Cowabunga!   Finally, a total change of pace. This is a song that always makes me think of warmer days to come: Professor Longhair – ‘Big Chief’.

There’s New Orleans heat, gumbo spice and grooviness so powerful that within the first few bars you may find yourself shaking a limb, maybe even all of your limbs, to the extent that you no longer feel cold and miserable at all.  In fact, anything by the Prof is good for this. There’s nothing cold, grey and drizzly about Mardi Gras. Stick this on the iPod and that’s where you’re going, y’all.

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