I’ve been enjoying reading singer fro Everything but the Girl’s Tracey Thorne’s book ‘Naked at the Albert Hall. She has a lot of great insights into the art and craft of the vocalist, but also of the importance of signing to us as people and as communities. Something I never thought about is why kids sing all the time, and adults used to as well, but it’s somehow relegated to childhood, like so many fun things. But singing is more than fun, and it can transcend time and place. It has a euphoria we can all relate to:
I get frustrated when club music goes through phases of being completely instrumental. The Streets’ ‘Weak Become Heroes’ is Mike Skinner’s paean to the nights and days of rave, but in the euphoric landscape he describes, all rising pianos and floating emotions, it’s not so much the dancing he remembers – in fact he barely mentions it. What seems to be the emotional core of this song, the proof he offers that i those few moments everyone around him was bonded in a way he had never known before or since was the fact that ‘we all sing, we all sing’. I can’t hear that song without a tug of emotion, and not out of nostalgia, for it was a scene I had no part in, but because, unlike anything else that’s ever been written about rave culture, this song makes me envious. It’s the image of everyone on the dance-floor together eyes closed, singing. ‘Sing to the words, flex to the fat one, the tribal drums, the sun’s rising. We all smile. We all sing.’ It’s a melancholy, elegaic track so it’s no wonder that it’s moving – he’s talking about feelings he’s never been able to recapture – but I love the fact that in trying to encapsulate what was essential about he experience, he settles on the fact that everyone was singing. It immediately conjures up for me other moments, memories or imaginings, when people have sung together, spontaneously, n unrehearsed situations, and it has been something joyous, unpredictable and unifying. Most vividly, it brings to ind a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, ‘Everyone Sang’, written about the end of the First World War. You might think hat’s stretching it a bit -that the euphoria occasioned by he ending of years of slaughter can’t really be compared to the dance-floor hedonism of a crowd of pilled-up ravers.But they move me in similar ways.
‘Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom, ….
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shake with tears; and horror drifted away…
O but everyone
Was a bird; ad the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.’
We all sing, and we all sing together and, thankfully, it will never be done.