All I Really Want
Great songs give you flashbulb memories. I heard ‘A Case of You’ by Joni Mitchell for the first time being played by a male busker in Covent Garden. It stopped me in my tracks. Later that day I bought the ‘Blue’ Album from Our Price for 4.99.
I saw ‘Hand in My Pocket’ on The ITV Chart Show one Saturday morning. I was nursing a student hangover and had planned on spending the day under my duvet watching TV. Instead I took the bus to Bond Street and bought ‘Jagged Little Pill’ on US import. Two copies actually. Paid a fortune for them. I probably couldn’t afford the electric meter that week. Didn’t care. Thought I’d discovered a sweet backwater poet and that she would need all the financial help I could give her. When I heard ‘All I Really Want’ I couldn’t breathe. I did have a moment of concern on discovering that she was only 19 or something. I had delegated my personal growth and spiritual development to an adolescent. Oh well.
I think it’s about the search for the perfect song. Finding someone articulating my experiences, my confusions. Elvis Costello does it, Aimee Mann and Joni Mitchell can do it. Fiona Apple breaks my heart and I listen to ‘Tidal’ and ‘When the Pawn…’ almost daily. But Jagged Little Pill will always be special because it caught me at just the right time. I had never had a song resonate as clearly as ‘All I Really Want’. Like she had read my diary. There are many rumours about Glen Ballard her co-writer being responsible for most of the songs. That the whole rock hippy chick, organic image is as much a media manipulation as Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson. That the ‘Alanis brand’ is a calculated exploitation of unhappy, misunderstood teenage girls. I doubt it, but anyway, so what. Maybe Alanis does spend her spare time eating endangered species, counting her diamonds and trying to make the world a worse place. Does it really matter?
Here’s a true story. I saw Alanis playing Sonny Jacobs in ‘The Exonerated’ in London recently. I was meeting up with friends afterwards, so left the theatre as soon as the curtain went down. There were a couple of teenage girls waiting outside the stage door, clutching their autograph books. I smiled at them. Twenty years ago I’d have waited too, but now I know that meeting your hero is dangerous territory. Then Alanis came out. Smiling, signing the autographs, chatting to the girls. A chauffeured car waiting, engine running. I watched her for a few seconds and then walked on. The car passed me, slowed as it turned the corner. I waved at her. She waved back.
I called my boyfriend to tell him, and I couldn’t speak. I was actually crying. What the fuck is that about?
And I’m not even embarrassed.
I should probably be locked up. But you know, my life, my psychosis. Go find your own.