Friday, June 30, 2023

More mental heath and music musings


Lewis Capaldi’s episode at Glastonbury is a timely reminder of the precarious nature of celebrity, writes Michael Taylor. 

The fact he's honest enough to admit to needing a break makes you think about what so many others are bottling up.

We don’t get that much feedback on our show. Most of it is quite nice. But in the social media age, everyone is fair game.

Our own Angela Rayner spoke recently about the scrutiny and abuse women in the public eye get on social media. It’s as true of politicians as it is about musicians, actors, artists of any description.

Full disclosure, I’d find it unbearable to get that much abuse and scrutiny. I’m much more comfortable in the relative obscurity of local media, thank you very much.

I’ve spoken before about how I’m a terrible critic, and no kind of music reviewer.

I just can’t bring myself to trash the work of someone who has way more resilience and courage to get up and do what they do, than I could ever dream of. 

I therefore err on the side of saying nothing, rather than being mean. Simply playing someone’s music and saying we like it is as far as we mean to go.

Choosing tunes is subjective enough. Personally, I just don’t rub along with the music of Elton John. Yet he clearly has got on absolutely fine without my patronage and endorsement.

Which brings me to music, mental health and personal resilience. 

I don’t equate the two, by the way. 

But you can’t just look the other way and think a pile on, a media scrum and an open season on someone’s personal life is a price worth paying.

In the music world that’s got to be linked to the prevalence of artists who take their own lives. The successful ones we hear about, but what about the ones who could have been, but only ever got a snide review on page 78 of the NME that finished their career in 1983.

How do you live with that?

But I picked up a book a couple of weeks ago, Bodies, by author Ian Winwood who explores the music industry’s many failures, from addiction and mental health issues to its ongoing exploitation of artists. 

On the face of it, money, freedom, adoring fans: professional musicians seem to have it all. But beneath the surface lies a frightening truth: for years the music industry has tolerated death, addiction and exploitation in the name of entertainment.

Winwood explores the industry's reluctance to confront its many failures in a far-reaching story which features first-hand access to artists such as Foo Fighters, Green Day, Trent Reznor, Biffy Clyro, Kings of Leon, Chris Cornell, Mark Lanegan, Pearl Jam. Much more than a touchline reporter, Winwood also tells the tale of his own mental-health collapse following the shocking death of his father. 

I’m enjoying its warmth and humanity, but at times quite shocked by his bracing honesty, especially as Bodies is also a deeply personal story where he displays an enormous amount of vulnerability. 

The paperback edition I got has an additional poignancy with a brand new chapter covering the death of Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters drummer, and his massive Wembley memorial concert.

We call our show Music Therapy because we both get the link between music, mental health and the capacity it has to make us feel better.

We’re not blind to the toll however that the production of that magic takes on its creators. Bless them all. 

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