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Music has always played a huge part in my life. My musical taste has definitely changed over the years, but whatever I was into at the time has, for the last 38 years, provided the soundtrack to this rollercoaster I call 'My Life'.
This started from the very first track, which "i" bought at the age of 7 and a half. I proceeded to illegally duplicate this track on cassette to sell to people (my parents ) at around a 500% loss. So not only did they buy the original song for me, they had to endure listening to it on repeat for 6 weeks non stop and then I had the nerve to take one of their cassettes ( Meatloaf - Bat Out Of Hell probably) stick some sticky tape over the slot, and then had the audacity to ask them to pay me for the copy of the track they had paid for, which had deleted the album they had paid even more for.
"What was that record?" I hear you cry. Well, it was non-other than Do The Bartman by Bart Simpson and yes I instantly became a bratty cocky American kid after listening to it.
The point is, that music had already started to have a big influence on my behaviour and emotions. It continued to soundtrack key moments in my life, from the song my beautiful wife Kirsty walked down the aisle to at my wedding to (Sea Of Love by Cat Power), to the crippling fear and anxiety I felt when Kirsty had an emergency operation on her stomach and our Son Presley was born 3 months prematurely (Wires by Athlete). Even now at 38 and a half, I eagerly await the latest record I want to listen to on iTunes (Brightside by The Lumineers.
At that early age, from 'Do The Bartman' onwards, I would listen to whatever made me happy, whatever I happened to be into at the time (SlamJam by World Wrestling Federation Superstars or whatever ever was the background music for important moments. (Three Lions by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds ) .
It was only in my teens that music started to take on a different form. Looking back at these years, it was clear to see that this was the time the symptoms of my bipolar started to manifest themselves. It's a period of any young lads life, where they start to notice "changes". Puberty, girls, heartbreak and general teenage angst were all around me. Combine that with the divorce of my parents and the beginning of manic highs and depressive lows, it became a lot to cope with and I would find myself taking solace with my favourite bands and singer-songwriters. They became more than just that though, they became friends, at times it would feel like they were reaching directly into my head and singing exactly what I was feeling. I became very protective of the music I liked and would argue passionately about the singers and their lyrics as if I'd written them myself. So it became a way of being able to deal with the rest of the world and to realise that it wasn't just myself feeling the way I was.
When I started to go to gigs, it began to shape the way I dressed, acted, the type of girls I fancied and I began to drink and surround myself with similar people. This drinking was always binge drinking and looking at it now was my way of self-medicating when the chaos in my head got to too much before I was diagnosed and prescribed anti-psychotics. Music became a form of medication and helped me through some very difficult years. I think it was more the journey of discovering myself and the soundtrack those songs provided, as well as the influence on who I associated with and how that moulded me as a person.
My relationship with music has changed again since my diagnosis. It is still a friend, but a wise old friend. A wise old friend whose advice I listen to, that I have chosen to stay friends with this whole time, instead of the scattergun 'i'll listen to anyone once' approach of my teens. This is now the friend I lean on when I'm feeling down and need some hope. I know which songs lift me when I'm down (Ghosts That We Knew by Mumford & Sons ) and which songs remind me of the important people in my life (Mae by The Gaslight Anthem).
Music has also helped with my bipolar. One thing I struggle with is verbally describing how bipolar feels, which is why I use imagery. However, there is one song that helps me explain how it feels and that is Better Son/Daughter by Rilo Kiley
Not only are the lyrics an accurate depiction of the thoughts I often have, and how the lows and highs can feel. But the low slow marching beats of the intro to the uplifting euphoric tone and melody of the chorus, make you feel how it can be to have those mood swings. This song also lets me know that I'm stronger than I think.
Music has led me to places I shouldn't have gone, to people that were bad for me, but it has shaped me, saved me, named my son Presley and soundtracked my life. Music is good for the soul and a life without it would be a much darker place.
So as I tuck Presley into bed tonight and he asks for the usual "Daddy's song". As I sing We're Gonna Be Friends by The White Stripes to him, I'm safe in the knowledge that he will be surrounded by music in his life to help shape him, support him and that he will find his own soundtrack and if ever needs it, I'll be there to sing to him and be part of it.
As the tattoo on my chest say's "If you've lost your faith in love and music, the end won't be long..."