Category Archives: quotes

Man in the Mirror

I accompany the Gardiner Street Gospel Choir each Sunday evening at the 7.30pm mass in St Francis Xavier’s Church on Gardiner Street. This Sunday was a special service to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Joseph Wresinski, who strongly believed that “extreme poverty is the work of mankind and only mankind can destroy it”. He founded the organisation ATD Fourth World in the 1950s and it continues to bring the voices of the world’s poor to the corridors of power.

Take a moment and read the last letter he wrote before he died in 1988:

last-letter-jw-1988

We sang Michael Jackson’s song ‘Man in the Mirror’ (written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard) after the mass as a special tribute to Wresinski’s legacy.

Such a great track (sidenote: there are apparently two versions in the new Lego Batman movie). The outro is just fantastic. The choir (The Andraé Crouch choir, The Winans, and Siedah Garrett), the synth bass, the whole thing in a slightly other world at the end. The song’s key change lifts us from G major up to A flat major (listen how the electric piano sound is switched out at that point for a grand piano…Greg Phillinganes really lets loose!). The whole last section rests on a variety of the IV chord – D flat sus 2 – which provides the ‘open’ feeling. The bass that punctuates every six bars rather than eight, as we might expect, and this also destabilises the listener. You just have to relax into it. The singers are so confident, though, as is the bass…it leans us out over the edge of the chord, starting on a B flat, but draws us strongly back in…B flat, F, C, A flat, D flat. So satisfying! I love that the song stays in this place right to the end. Michael’s final urging to ‘make that change’ flies off at the end with infinite possibility.

Music for dancing (quote from ‘Every Song Ever’ by Ben Ratliff)

When people start dancing, a kind of ownership ritual takes over. They’ve marked out their own physical space: it now belongs to them. Likewise, they’ve started to take ownership of the music they’re hearing. They don’t want it to stop. After imitating other people for most of the day, or week, or year—their mothers or fathers or supervisors, their smarter or more beautiful acquaintances—finally they’re playing themselves, in whatever form they want. They can be as free as they want, as elegant or debased as they want. 

‘…martyred and mussed, feeble and fussed…’ (quote from ‘The Ginger Man’ by J.P. Donleavy)

Sometimes the sun would sneak in. Then Marion beating barefoot on the linoleum. Entreaties. O do get up. Don’t leave me to do everything every morning. In my heart where no one else can hear me, I was saying, now for God’s sake, Marion, be a good Britisher and get down there in that little nest of a kitchen and buzz on the coffee like a good girl and would you, while you’re at it, kind of brown up a few pieces of bread and I wouldn’t mind if maybe there was just the suggestion of bacon on it, only a suggestion, and have it all ready on the table and then I’ll come down and act the good husband with, ah darling good morning, how are you, you’re looking lovely this morning darling and younger every morning. A great one that last. But I come down martyred and mussed, feeble and fussed, heart and soul covered in cement.

A fragment of summer (quote from Paul Murray’s novel ‘Skippy Dies’)

But Skippy doesn’t hear him. Looking through the telescope, he is watching the frisbee girl again as she runs back and forth over the gravel, jumping and twisting mid-air, upstretching her arm to catch the disc and spinning it off again before her feet even touch the ground, laughing as she scoops strands of dark hair out of her mouth . . . She seems so much brighter than everything around her, a fragment of summer that’s somehow found its way into October; at the same time, she makes everything around her brighter too — she makes it all fit together somehow, like in a musical where someone bursts into song and everyone else starts singing as well…

Emotional sound barrier (quote from John Cleese’s memoir, ‘So, Anyway…’)

One night I did, as near as dammit, a perfect show. I got every laugh, never missed a beat, my timing was exquisite; I was relaxed, disciplined and hilarious. There had been nights when I’d got most of the sketches dead right, but never before had I done the whole show impeccably. I was superb. (Please remember we did about 180 performances and this happened just once.)
The result: exhilaration. And then, the next day, depression. Because I realised I’d never do it so well again. Every night from now on I would go on stage and do it less well than I was capable of — it was going to be downhill all the way. And for a week or so after that, doing the show became a struggle: I was having to push myself through an emotional sound barrier, going on stage to do an imperfect performance that was going to dissatsify me. It was a ridiculous expression of perfectionism but it made me belatedly realise that that’s why I always called myself a writer-performer: I wanted to write something, perform it perfectly just once and then move on. Of course, I eventually found the right professional attitude: to keep it as fresh as possible every night, and take pride in your discipline, but now it always felt like work. 

Chaff and grain (quote from Christopher Stevens’ biography of Kenneth Williams)

The quote that most often closed his letters (sometimes in full, sometimes indicated with just the words ‘chaff & grain’) was from a forgotten Victorian novelist, Mrs Craik: ‘Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.’