The world is filled with webpages that’ll teach you how to be happy. Presumably that’s what people want, constant happiness. Lo and behold if you have a negative or deep thought. This has become a crime almost, especially in social media. Our lives must be incredibly cool and blissful all the time. I heard about this guy who went to the lobby of twelve fancy hotels during his vacation and took pictures in each of them. Then in the course of three years, he posted these shots, one by one, lying to everyone that he was abroad on yet another vacation and staying in these places. I don’t want to criticize the younger generation but the world has gone crazy. It really has. When I was young, something like this was unimaginable.
Perhaps this is the reason why I find The Who’s “Melancholia” so enticing. At least it deals with something I can relate to, the state of depression and unhappiness (LOL). Written by Pete Townshend in 1967, but not released until mid-nineties, “Melancholia” finds The Who in a transitional period. The song is not quite the Tommy-era Who but it definitely would have sounded out of place on their debut My Generation. In retrospect, it is incredible how quickly Townshend’s songwriting skills were developing. Mind you, only two years separate “Legal Matter” and “Melancholia” – yet in many ways, they are worlds apart.
Townshend's lyrics are darker, more mature and more multidimensional. Anybody who has ever been depressed and knows how depression works will appreciate them.
My coffee's cold, my paper's old
My heart is sold to melancholia
My clothes are torn, my shoes are worn
My heart is born to melancholia
What’s more, on “Melancholia,” The Who is slowly starting to sound like the band they ultimately evolved into. You can already hear bits of Tommy, Who’s Next and even Quadrophenia in the track. Daltrey’s singing is spot on: close to pitch perfect, strong and confident. Keith Moon is as violent as ever behind his drum kit but he has also developed a fantastic sense of style and place. On “Melancholia” his drumming is more economic than before but it also comes from a different perspective. His aim here is clearly to cater to the song rather than to his own ego. Same could be said of Entwistle, who was blooming as a bass player around this time. He is skillful and fast but has not yet entered his period of excess playing. Townshend, as always, sounds fantastic and more to the point, like nobody else – the true mark of a legendary guitarist. Listening to this track makes you wonder why it was left out of The Who Sell Out album. Wax in the ears perhaps?
Reading the lyrics of “Melancholia” a few times and recognizing the state of mind the song portrays makes you wonder if depression is unavoidable in life. The world is, regrettably, an unfair and harsh place at times. It would take a miracle to avoid it altogether. Well, some people have nerves of steel and some people are lucky. Unfortunately, I belong to neither category.
However, some have it even worse than others, yet they still manage to stay positive and enjoy life.
A long time ago, when traveling extensively in Greece, I met a blind man. This guy had become blind due to a work-related accident and his world was far from ideal. Vacation wise, there was very little for him to do, except to sit at the bar in the lobby of the hotel he was staying at. His wife was gone most of the day with his kids on excursions he could not take part in and even at night, when the family went to eat, it wasn’t exactly easy for him to tag along. In his place, I would have been utterly depressed. He wasn’t. Each time we chatted, he was laid-back, relaxed and displayed a great sense of humor. I asked him what his secret was. His response was: low expectations.
At the time, this didn't make any sense to me (I was nineteen) but it sure does now. The true challenge, however, is how to keep your expectations low enough for disappointments not to hurt but still high enough to stay interested. This is what I still haven’t figured out. In fact, it seems to be my biggest obstacle in my endeavors to battle difficult situations in life. I seem to be able to lower my expectations but that’s usually followed by a need to promptly move on to a new job, relationship or band. Perhaps, I start lowering them too late or slightly too much. Either way, I have a long way to go in mastering this life strategy.
Another vivid memory of the week I spent chatting with my seeing-impaired friend just came to mind. After what can only be referred to as fantastic conversations, it was very difficult for me to remember that he was blind, so each afternoon as I got ready to leave, I’d say to him, “See you tomorrow.” He would always respond in the same laconic way, “No Tommi, we won’t.”
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About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.