Wednesday, 16 December 2009

35. Lay All Your Love On Me, Susanna (2008)

Sunday night. The train back from Cardiff, the sky turning black, the realisation that he hadn't done what I asked him to. Outside Kings Cross station, gulps of breath, stinging eyes, the phonecall, protestations, no apologies, my voice raising and raising and the finger on the cancel button, the fuck you as I did it, the storm whirling me up York Way. Emily meeting me at Kings Place, the friend I'd give anything for, the friend who knew exactly how it felt, the dark room, the cold seats, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra slowly digging their fingernails into us, lifting our hearts out, cutting them up with the shining piano strings, her ghostly voice and the silence our surgeons for the night.

Lay All Your Love On Me finished me. The lyrics – spread out against the sky, anaesthetised upon a table – the words of a woman, grown-up, asking for one last chance, her desperation moving into numbness, a cold blast of acceptance. The reminders of our insane early days ("I was sitting like a shooting duck/A little smalltalk, a smile, and baby, I was stuck"). The madness when I met him ("I still don't know what you've done with me" – the "with", rather than a "to", showing how completely your mind can be taken away). The need for him to be there ("don't go wasting your emotions/lay all your love on me"); the soft, icy terror of it ending again ("I feel a kind of fear/When I don't have you near"). Turning round to Emily, her seeing my eyes, us both knowing what was coming.

Six weeks after I told him to go, there I was, in the back of a minicab, coming home to an empty house after a Christmas party, and suddenly ABBA's original was coming out of the radio. I heard hope in its heart for a moment, hope springing eternal, until the magic started to fade, and the real world returned. Then the fare, the closed door, my return to our ghosts.


  1. You know, songs heard in cabs and in other people's cars have a special purpose, it’s like the music is asking you to make sense of the random song and landscapes. For me, these songs always seem to signal some sad and steely truth, the end of something that has yet to begin.

    My first experience of this, I was 19, working at the Miles Platting post office depot with the worst crush on someone I barely knew. It was 5:00 a.m., sometime in 1980, Manchester-wet and dark , heading north on Oldham Rd. Several of us in damp flannel uniforms crammed into the back of a co-worker’s worn Cortina. She said she’d give us a lift that morning so we didn’t get soaked at the bus stop or ripped by the (Yorkshire) Ripper.

    Her radio was set to Piccadilly 261 which played actual music throughout the night- still a new-ish concept in prehistoric Manchester- and Odyssey’s If You’re Looking For A Way Out came on. It had been a Top 20 song so I had previously ignored it. Half buried under postbags, looking up through the side window at the vaguely abandoned Victorian shop fronts while this unbelievably sad and grown up American song reached out and showed me the ghost of Romance future. Such a beautiful song, quite wasted on the fella in question. Actually, not even meant for him. When I think of endings, I think of that song and Joan’s Cortina, and how I was told by the radio of how it would all end, long before it started.