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DR POP’S SONIC SURGERY: Give Me Strength!

Everyone on the planet is basically doing their best, or so we are assured by those motivational memes on Facebook, but there ain’t no one alive who doesn’t feel like they need a bit of extra strength sometimes, and I’m not just talking about hair gel or Strepsils (other throat lozenges are available).

The tendency for chaps is to put up a tough front, make like we’re in perfect control all the time and steadfastly suppress any feelings inside that could give away the fact that we might just need a bit of help. Or a lot of help. And the more we do that, the more help we’re going to need, because, as the old saying goes, ‘What we resist, persists.’ Bummer, eh? (to use the technical term.)

‘So where is this all going, Dr Pop?’ I hear you ask, politely, and yet with a touch of impatience. Well, I’m leading you towards a tip-top musical prescription, my friends – the usual drill as you’ll know if you’ve read my column in the past.

Women tend to have plenty of songs aimed at them that focus on being STRONG, but men are expected to be SO inherently strong that problems just bounce off our incredible stainless steel chests before crumbling into dust at our giant manly feet; we laugh derisively at emotional thunderstorms and certainly don’t need any encouragement at all, from pop singers or otherwise. Now, is that fair? I think not.

Anyway. All you need is a pair of ears, an open mind and a willingness to listen to the songs in the prescribed order and we’re away! Ok? OK! So let’s ‘bring that shit in,’ as Rage Against The Machine so eloquently put it.

1) Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well

Those of you who know this song (that’s all of you, right? RIGHT? Right), will be wondering why I’m kicking this prescription off with a bit of a jaded vibe. Stick with me. It’s because the likelihood is that *you* might be feeling a bit jaded yourself, and that’s why you need the boost in the first place. Why would you go hunting around for a boost if you were already feeling as happy as a clam at high tide, eh?

Anyway, back to the subject. You’re feeling a bit jaded, and so if I fling you forcibly straight into aural jollification, it’s not going to work. We need to chip at those layers first; we need to make sure you feel understood, and that you realise that you are not alone. I’m not lumping you in with Peter Green, necessarily, who certainly had his fair share of troubles, but the lyrics to ‘Oh Well’ are sure to raise a smile of the wry variety whatever it is you’re going through. Basically, maybe I’m not perfect, but, as the great man says, ‘don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to.’ Hm.

This is perfect for the digital age, little did Greenie know, because, my GOD, do we ever feel judged by each other? The desperation to put forward a particular facade online, to have a specific ‘photo face’ when out with our friends just in case a snap ends up on Facebook and we’re terrified of looking natural, to look like we’re having a better time than anyone else, or at least not a worse time…

There’s a competitiveness about it all which is unhealthy, which weakens our psychological immune system, and which makes us feel, ultimately, somewhat discombobulated. Even if we don’t think we buy into it, it gets under our skin. So listen to ‘Oh Well’, feel that bitterness if it’s there and then, crucially, LET GO of it, wave it goodbye and allow those hypnotic guitar chords to wash it all away.

2) Dr Feelgood – Ninety Nine And A Half (Just Won’t Do)

There are more than a few excellent versions of this – Wilson Pickett’s OBVIOUSLY, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s… but for me, and certainly for the purposes of this prescription, I have to hand you over to the other rock ‘n’ roll doc that comes in the four-strong form of tough Essex R&B-merchants Dr Feelgood.

Try to ignore the sauciness of the verses (‘stop messing around and keep the thing up tight’? Crivens!) and focus on the uplifting groove and the chorus. Those words, ‘Ninety Nine and a half just won’t do...’, barked by our fiery, ferocious (possibly inebriated) commander Lee Brilleaux, have the power to shove a rocket wherever it is required and blast indolence and negativity into smithereens. If you need a blazing surge of strength, well, this quality was practically steaming out of Brilleaux’s very pores so this is a good place to start.

Your faithful Dr Pop also has a touch of synaesthesia – where you experience the sensation of tastes / seeing colours on hearing music – and I can tell you that when I hear this I taste a warm, spicy kick of whiskey in my mouth and see an explosion of bright glittering gold and orange, like fireworks. This is musical Berocca. (With a splash of whisky, that is. Who needs a well-stocked drinks cabinet when you’ve got synaesthesia, eh? And no Alka-Seltzers required. Cowabunga!)

3) Gossip – Move In The Right Direction

How modern of me! Well, you know, one must move with the times. I’m not sure I’m prepared to do all that galumphing about, as per the energetic folk in this video – more than likely to bring on my trouble – but this pop-tacular song has exactly the right message, and, now you have sandblasted the blues away, it’s definitely time to check in with Beth Ditto and chums.

One step closer to feeling fine, getting better one day at a time,’’ she trills. ‘I’m moving forward with all of my might…’ Damn straight, daddy-o. No one is going to pretend you’re going to go from feeling totally out of sorts to feeling like an unstoppable Colossus in the amount of time it takes to listen to three songs, but it’s a start, and, as Ditto asserts, ‘looking forward’, is where it’s at right now. You’re doing great, by the way.

Ditto is also a good person to think of when the going gets tough, or more specifically, idiots start getting you down. I remember reading an interview with her, and she talked about when, on one occasion while walking down the street, some morons started hurling insults at her, calling her ugly and so on and so forth. ‘That’s ok,’ she retorted. ‘I don’t want stupid people to like me.’ Not all of us would know what to say or how to react in that situation, to be fair. But I’d say if you need a symbol to get you through those tougher times, just think of Lee Brilleaux on one side of you, Beth Ditto on the other, steering you onwards and upwards like an invisible posse of positivity. (You’d probably have some great conversations too, not to mention parties.)

Transform apathy into healthy anger or frustration first (anger is one step more constructive than depression – as long as you don’t break anything) and then transform that fierce energy into something useful. And lo! You’re up the ladder and out of the funk, breathing in the clear air and feeling a lot better for it too, I wager. Just take it in stages. The important thing is that you’re doing it. While you might not rival Charles Atlas in terms of physique, you’ll be the kind of strong man that really counts, no offence to Charles Atlas. And if you now want to listen to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen, I really don’t think it will do any harm.  Ah go on…

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