Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jagged Little Pill

I remember laughing out loud while I was watching “Trip to Italy” recently. Two men in their forties driving around Italy in a little sports car. One of them brings the music for the trip. The only CD he’s brought along is Alanis Morrissette’s “Jagged Little Pill”.

I had to laugh.

Nearly 20 years ago I reckon I played this end on end for nearly a year.

So with a bit of daring, I removed a CD from the stacker in my car. I haven’t done this since I bought the car about three years ago. The same six CDs have been on rotation. (In my defence, I’ll play music on my phone most of the time in the car.) Portishead’s seminal “Dummy” album. The Best of Cat Stevens and four best of compilations from the Triple J Hot 100 range. Dull, I know.

Cat Steven’s lost out. In went Jagged Little Pill. 

I cranked up the volume.

Immediately, it was 1995. I was living in London in the upstairs flat in a row of terrace, sharing with a guy named Colin who of all my flat mates was probably the most idiosyncratic of the lot of them. In the middle flat lived a couple of optometrists. We didn’t see much of them. The most remarkable thing about one of the girls was she had one dark brown eye and one light green eye. Nice woman but her gaze was a bit disconcerting.

Then there was the flat downstairs. An Aussie/Kiwi/South African flatting arrangement where there could be anything up to ten people living in the three bedroomed flat at any one time.  I could be found regularly either drinking a beer in their garden or lounge room, talking in the kitchen or attending one of the their many parties which were held on regular occasions. They also used to have the occasional ritual couch burning out the back – one of the housemates was a removalist. The flat had a number of mismatched sofas. When a donated sofa came into the flat, more often than not, the least comfortable one was take out to the back yard, doused with kerosene and set alight. This happened a few times over the years I lived there. Great neighbours we must have been.

I hear “Jagged Little Pill” and I remember going to drama  lessons after work, followed by a trip down the pub, where a pint washed down a plate of jalapeño poppers.  This was mixed in with the music of Blur, Oasis, 4 Non Blondes and a few other groups that have never been heard from since. The denim was acid washed and came up to your navel. T-shirts covered your breasts and not much else. You wore lycra to the gym. The only hair products available for your hair was mousse or gel. There were very few micro-breweries, gastro pubs and a mobile phone was expensive and the size of a house brick.

Jagged Little Pill takes me back to these carefree days of drinking far too much far too often. The days of inappropriate, disposable men. Of never being sure of myself. Of the angst of being a twenty something in the big city. Funny, I have seen a few episodes of “Girls” – set in New York about a mob of 20 something girls – and I cringe. Were we really like that? Probably, a universal truth that women, like wine, grow into their complexity and are appreciated for it. In your 20’s you’re as robust and raw as a wine box of Fruity Lexia. In 1995 I was 27. Some of the edges had been chipped off, but not as many as now. I like me now. I’m pretty sure I didn't like myself then, Amazing what time and therapy can do.

So you listen to “Jagged Little Pill” some nearly 20 years later and you listen to the lyrics.’ You ought to know’, the angst ridden anthem for the women of my generation.  (Just as Do-Re-Mi has as singing “your pubic hair upon my pillow...” There are some great lines.  The angsty voice moans, ‘An older version of me, is she perverted like me? Does she go down on you in a theatre?”... I don’t remember lines like that.

What strikes me, nearly 20 years on, is that we all identified with this album. Alanis Morrissette was willing you to chuck on your docs, line your eyes with kohl, go down the pub, stick a cigarette in your hand and go be a predatory female, scoring, then getting dumped and getting mad about it. We thought this was normal back then. 

It's still a great album. 

I just don't know how I ever found myself relating to the lyrics back then. Did I really relate to what she was singing about?

The only really feral thing I remember doing at this time was helping another flatmate get a bit of retribution on another. It came time to dissolve the flat after many years. One of the last guys standing was this fellow from Durban. Effeminate, painful, selfish and just a complete tosser to be around. He was going back to South Africa and had his tea crates packed ready for collection ready for shipping home. Wait for the guy with the truck he said, before he disappeared for two days.

We knew that he's stolen a high end sound system from the five star hotel in which he worked, complete with Issey Miyake uniforms and signature scent. He had pilfered a couple of uniforms too. He was a bit caught up with labels this fellow.

Helping one of the other last men standing in the flat, I helped to give the lad a bit of a surprise in the following months when his tea crates arrived back on the dock in Durban. The high end stereo still has pride of place in the other flatmate's kitchen some fifteen years later. A large piece of steak was placed in each of his suit pockets in preparation for the trip. As we were cleaning out the kitchen, a couple of open jars of chutney and jam were placed in the box containing his underwear, along with a couple of roaches (butts from a spliff). The boxes were sealed up once again an given to the movers an hour or so later.

I moved to a friend's place the following day. The fellow I helped to tamper with the boxes moved out the following day.

We never heard what happened to the South African.

Ah, those were the days.

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