By The Landlord
Not untypical of a Thursday in early May in the UK, today - 5 May - brings a raft of elections - local council, Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, and of course the acrimonious race to be London’s mayor. Let’s not also forget other impending elections around the world, including of course the utterly terrifying but real prospect of Donald Trump being Republican presidential candidate. People of America, are you fucking stupid?
Anyway ... without getting embroiled into the actual policies here (well, none of the politicians are), while Trump appears and certainly says he’s determined to be himself and not like other politicians, you’d have to be born yesterday to imagine that anyone standing for an election is doing anything other than pretending to be something they are not. A classic other recent example would be Tory London mayor candidate Zac Goldsmith, who in a recent interview claimed, in a desperate attempt to rally votes among the Asian community, to be a massive fan of Bollywood movies. You can see what happened next:
The creepy David Brent section is the uploader’s amusing parallel addition, but for me the hapless Goldsmith comes slightly more The Thick Of It crossed with Harry Enfield’s “Tim, nice but dim” (well, without the nice bit).
But such a desire to become or at least appear to be someone different, or at best, be more than what you are, is not confined to the often pathetic and paranoid world of politics. Money, power, ambition, wanting to better yourself, and for some, even do good as much as do well (there is a distinction) underpin much of our existence. Sometimes it is noble quest for betterment, but sometimes flawed and often self-deceiving. And while the mantra of so many self-help books may point to a zenith of “being yourself”, in reality we spend so much of our lives not wanting to be ourselves at all. Peer pressure makes us feel inadequate, or we simply get bored with ourselves and our habitual lives. And perhaps this is also because humans are hardwired, or adapted to employ least at two sides to our character when mixing with peers, parents or other groups, and as left and right hemispheres of the brain work in harmony or conflict. So how is this revealed? In everything from curriculum vitae to tanning centres, talent shows to acting, barristers taking on a side in a legal case to simply sucking up to your insecure arsehole of a boss. If you decide not to do the latter, then perhaps start your own website.
But there are few more creative, nuanced, or effective ways to express or act out the need to be someone else as in the genre of song. Even the desire to perform, and wear an artistic disguise, is an expression of wanting to step outside of yourself. And this theme pops up in all sorts of genres and ages. Take for example, concerns over appearance and wanting to change yourself - desires instilled in adolescence and compounded by the media. Boob job dilemma? Eating disorder? Time for some TLC. It’s a very important, and legitimate subject, though slightly undermined by how non-unpretty these three singers are.
Meanwhile I always felt a certain pathos for Carnie in the band Wilson Philips. Why doesn’t she get to dress like the others?
For a more philosophical question, try this rather catchy track by the newish post-punk indie Manchester band, Spring King: "Tonight I just wanna be someone else, somebody new/ Tonight I just wanna be something I can say is true."
But the desire to be someone else has really been around for eons. So now let’s draw on a old escape classic. Pina coladas, anyone? And don’t forget your coat.
An interesting comparison of course comes with the alternate identity story in Kate Bush’s Babushka. Try to be someone else, but you end up being yourself of course, even if you are dressed up like a sexy character from the Fry’s Turkish Delight advert and getting fresh with a double bass. Well, I’m not complaining. That was my adolescence awakening…
Most of us want to escape into the guise of someone else at some point, whether that be at a dressing up at party, and as some of my female friends do, actually as Kate Bush. Of course this can go to extremes. And then again there real extremes. Extreme extremes. I’m talking about those known as ‘maskers’, people, well men, who dress up in bespoke rubber doll suits. Prepare to be slightly disturbed if you haven’t seen this before. Suits you, sir? Er … it’s a bit hot in here, mate.
But to move to a higher brow (and not one made or rubber or indeed ‘real hair’) two of the most fascinating literary examples of wanting to be someone else are found in works by Iain Banks and Christopher Priest. Banks’s 2009 novel Transition is part espionage political thriller, part fantasy about a shadowy organisation called The Concern (also L’Expedience) in which multiple narrators flit between different identities by ingesting a drug known as septus, inhabiting different bodies and lives, all of which is set in a quantum mechanics theory-based context. So here people can actually become someone else. But is it a bed of roses? Well no. Sometimes it’s a bed of thorny geraniums. Banks of course very successfully flitted between a brilliant writer of this genre and different of sci-fi with his other name of Iain M Banks. This also throws up two big categories for song suggestions - those where you want to become someone else who already exists, or someone else in your imagination?
Priest’s The Glamour (1984) meanwhile is all about characters who can lose their identity and become invisible, not by actually physically disappearing, but by behaving so anonymously nobody notices them, so they get free cinema tickets, free hotels and dinners and lots of fun and and naughty free stuff without fame at all. Both books are great to lose yourself in, if not become someone else when you come out the other end.
Some people want to be someone else, and some people do it but don’t like it at all. Oh yes, life is so messy. So of course this occurs in hilariously good but also utterly awful film Face/Off with Nicholas ‘notice my serious actorly pauses’ Cage and John ‘don’t stare at my dimple’ Travolta. So for example, in one scene, Cage, as Travolta, stares at mirror shocked and outraged that he looks exactly like Cage before smashing it. Confused? You will be. Time for another manic grin, Nick? That’ll do it. Now, just be yourselves, guys …
So then, being utterly no one else at all but the totally terrific treefrogdemon that treefrogdemon already is, treefrogdemon is however also being this week’s guru, making this week’s playlists. So make your song suggestions in comments below on songs about anything related to wanting to be someone else, or indeed actually being someone else. Last orders? Monday, after which, on Wednesday, when I’m sure tfd’s results will be something else - in a good way of course.
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