You can keep your Beethovens, Bachs, and Bruckners, all your Bob Dylans, Bruce Springsteens, and Billie Hallidays, cos when I go to my desert island this is the song I’m going with!
My Great Gig In The Sky will begin with this tune.
I’m from the Scottish village of Brigadoon. We don’t get many visitors… In fact, if I’m being totally honest, it only happens every hundred years or so. I was pretty surprised then, around 2008, to witness a fair wandering minstrel breezing down our High Street, like some spaghetti western gunslinger hero; like the laws of nature didn’t actually matter anymore, like she was gonna play us some songs, and the Gods could all go to hell.
She racks-up in the Village Hall, the townsfolk turn out, I fall in love. I wanna check-out, but I know I can never leave. If I do, Brigadoon will cease to exist, vanish; lost to legend for all eternity.
She captivates me, I hang on her words, she says, this song’s called Reasonland. Wow I say, somehow I know this one. I clap loudly. I’m the only one clapping! I shrink into my seat. The seat and I become one. I do not clap again unless the whole world claps first.
Later, there’s a song called Anna “I wrote this song about my grandmother” says Antje. It’s quite nice, but I don’t really get it there and then, and it doesn’t stick with me. I don’t think Antje’s a natural performer; not a showy person, but she’s genuine and her between-song banter is beguiling. I leave the hall with signed CDs and a pathological aversion to public clapping.
The song Anna is track number ten on one of the CDs.
‘And Anna tries to form a thought / But at the end she's forgotten where she started from / There's something she would like to say / But the words in her head seem to have got away / Can Anna come out and play / And over all that is inside her / A curtain is closing in her deep brown eyes / Well it's like someone's built a wall / And through the very last cracks / Anna extends her hand and a little girl calls / Please don't let me fall’
Me, I can be pretty astute sometimes. I soon twig that Anna, Antje’s grandmother, has Alzheimers Disease or some other variant of Dementia. I guess this triggers something in my brain chemistry, some deep dark response; most likely due to the fact that my own mother’s not doing too well in the memory department at the moment.
When I eventually take time out to give the song a really serious listen, It leaves me to a sobbing wreck. Grief and memories and heartbreak, all become one indescribable sadness inside my chest. Even now, even after ten long years, it can still kill another little part of my soul each and every time I hear it. I have to be careful. It is my kryptonite.
So, is Anna the best song in the world, or am I merely hanging my own experiences onto it? I’m only human, and of course, that’s what we do with songs, we attach meaning through our physiological and cognitive responses, even to something as ephemeral as the vibrations of a few tiny molecules of air.
Actually, no… that’s just bullshit. Anna is, without question, the best song in the world. It’s just a plain fact.
If your life has ever been touched by this terrible curse called dementia, listen to this song. It will help you. It will stay with you. It will be there when you need it.