Wakefield, Yorkshire. February 1981
You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
Or you may find yourself aged 15, living in a northern English industrial town, in the shadow of gasometers, your schoolbag full of maths and chemistry and Latin, your head full of poetry and stories and dreams of elsewhere.
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
Or you may find yourself on a frozen sports field while the game goes on fifty metres away. You may find yourself staring at chemical formulae that don’t make sense. You may find yourself in a flailing fist fight. You may feel out of place, out of sync, out of step. You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
You may ask yourself, where is that large automobile?
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife.
You may ask yourself, what’s the point of this? You may say to yourself, who am I anyway? You may tell yourself, this is not where I belong. You may say to yourself, this is not the world I want.
You may turn on Top Of The Pops one night to see the strangest thing you’ve ever seen. A skinny, nervous guy in a suit, twitching like a puppet, a crazed suburban salesman having a meltdown, jerking his body as if someone’s punching him in the face, sweating, trembling, marching, shaking his fist, while in the background African women kneel patiently at some ritual.
You may not understand the video or the song, but its strangeness fascinates you. In those pre-YouTube days, you’ll have to wait for next week to watch it again. But you may go to your local record shop and buy the single, Once In A Lifetime. You may get a Talking Heads badge too, pin it to your school blazer, a tiny act of self-definition. The other lads are into Maiden and Leppard, hairy, macho, denim bands. There is something different about this band. They are weird, artistic, intellectual, neurotic – traits not prized in Yorkshire. You may say to yourself, this is who I am.
Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Listening over and over again. Listening over and over again. Into the shop again, buying the album too. Rhythms you’ve never heard before. Voices you’ve never heard before. Is this the world you’re looking for? Someone sees your badge and a conversation starts. There are other bands, other records. One song leads to another, one record to another. Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Kraftwerk. The world you want is here. The world you want is on vinyl.
You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?
The song is all questions and that suits you, who is certain of nothing. It’s a song of doubt and confusion, but it offers a way out. It leads you to a highway, the song is the highway. You don’t know where it leads, but you know where it started.
Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us.
Time isn’t holding us, time doesn’t hold you back.
Letting the days go by, letting the days go by, letting the days go by, once in a lifetime.
Story © Nick Gadd. 2014
Lyrics © Talking Heads 1981
You may ask yourself, Is Nick Gadd a writer now living in Melbourne, Australia?
You may ask yourself, did Nick write the award-winning novel Ghostlines (Scribe 2008)?