Religious, atheist or spiritual: It makes not a jot of difference. In grief, you find yourself searching for signs. Little things that make a difference to your day, things that can lift your heart and make you think there might just be a purpose to it after all. If you’re religious or spiritual these signs will cement your faith or beliefs; if you’re any type of non-believer – and I fall into that category – then you at least feel a raising of your spirits.
I found solace in mixing the past with the present, in both a literal and figurative sense. On evenings I would otherwise have spent with Gail, I tried to do something constructive and transfer a number of mix tapes that I had stored in the loft onto Spotify.
Spurred on by the Celebration of Life compilation I had used at her after-funeral (Gail had insisted it be a Celebration of Life and I’ve never called it anything else), which I had compiled on Spotify and passed to many people who requested it, I decided to use the medium to update my musical catalogue. I’d never bothered about online music much before Gail’s passing but, once created on Spotify, the only way I could retain the Celebration of Life list was to subscribe monthly, and if I needed to do that then I may as well use the the fee constructively.
This meant buying – years after I got rid of them all! – a cassette deck (Look how hip I am buying a boombox in 2018!) on which I’d play the tape, note the track and add it to a similarly named library on Spotify.
Most of these tapes were given to me by Gail or, on occasion, some I had given to her (She had several moves since 1988 when I’d first given her a magical mixtape and they hadn’t all survived unlike mine). Occasionally, so overwhelming was the emotion on playing these, I’d have to add the track to a Facebook or Twitter with some comment as to what meaning it had for me or some story it invoked. This turned into an occasional series I called ‘MixTape88’ which ran online from late 2018 to the end of 2019.
The following is a MixTape’88 post I felt I wanted to post here as it demonstrates one of those coincidences that you make your own mind up about.
Well, here’s another one of ‘those’ moments where you wonder if greater forces aren’t at work.
Released in ’87, the Christians first album flew under my radar until Gail introduced me to it in Jan ’88. “Heard this?” she asked, before putting it on and – you may want to avert your gaze here – dancing to this very track in front of me. And my God, that woman could dance… *Nurse! Can we have the screens and one of Mr Blagg’s tablets please? He’s having a turn*
The album became a staple in the spring of that year and I’ve played it every year since at this time because it just reminds me of those months. I bought tickets to see them for me and her but, sadly, by the time the gig came around in May ’88, that part of our life had collapsed and she (at my insistence) went with her best friend Rose. It was a desperately sad time.
Despite a couple of other hits the Christians were really about that one album. So as I played this the other day I wondered what they were doing now. I googled and … what’s left of the band (essentially the lead singer Garry Christian) are still touring and are.. wait for it…. playing in Chelmsford on Friday night this week – just 20 miles up the A12 from where i write this.
So I have a ticket and looking forward to making up for what I missed in the spring of ’88. I desperately wish we could do this re-visitation together but I’ll be thinking about THAT dance and the lyrics to this.
I loved that gig. The hall itself was not much more than a social club hall – and Gary could see the humour in that and mentioned that ‘we used to fill out big venues, you know?’ (To which I thought ‘I know Gary I famously wasn’t at one of them!’) but The Christians were as wonderful as they were on that first album.
I’m not ashamed to admit – fanboy like – I hung around after the gig hoping to be able to tell Gary that, while for him it might be another night on another road, for me the evening had magical qualities that helped me a lot. Sadly, he didn’t come out as quickly as I’d hoped and, aware I probably looked like a sad old git trying to get an autograph, I left.
It was a good night though and a beautiful memory that didn’t ease the pain of not being able to go with her to that first gig but did, in some other way, mean I could take her in other circumstances. Not ‘Born Again’ perhaps. But as close as I could get to it.