Thursday, August 2, 2007

or how about 'should I stay or should I go'?

Have you ever thought about your funeral?

I'm guessing anyone reading this probably has, since you most likely share some of my tastes for dark music (without, I trust, being anything so cheesy as a Goth or suchlike). If you're anything like me, your main concern hasn't been the colour of the pallbearer's costumes, the wooden logs vs. electric crematorium debate, or whether towers of silence really attract the class of vulture they used to, but what music should be played at that solemn occasion.

For the longest time, I used to favour the song 'Don't Follow' by Alice In Chains, off their Jar Of Flies EP. It's a beautiful, sad and even elegiac acoustic ballad, soaked through with mournful harmonica and sweet, sad country-tinged harmonies. It also has a take-off at the end that builds to one of the most spiritually moving moments on any grunge-era record - and I say this as a conformed sceptic and disbeliever in all things spiritual.

I still think it's a beautiful song, one that brings a tear, or at least a speck of dust to my eye each time I hear it. But I'm not so sure it would be right to appropriate it as my funeral song anymore. It seems more fitting as an epitaph to Layne Staley, as do a surprising number of Alice In Chains' songs, in retrospect. In any case, the song is shot through with a deep unhappiness, a depth of sorrow that I probably can't equal, having never locked myself away in my house to picnic on stale pizzas and heroin, or played guitar on a later-day Ozzy Osbourne album.

Sometimes, I incline towards the apocalyptic deathbed bravado of Nick Cave's song 'Lay Me Low', off his Let Love In album. It's the song of an unrepentant sinner, imagining the upwelling of denunciation, hatred and relief that will follow his death. 'They'll interview my teachers,' Nick Cave intones, deadpan, 'Who'll say I was one of god's sorrier creatures, they'll print informative six-page features, when I go...'. It would be incredibly cocky and funny to have that played at my funeral, but perhaps in questionable taste. I'm still considering it, though.

Lately, however, I've been very taken with a song off David Gilmour's last solo album, On An Island. Gilmour, apart from being a surprisingly mellow guy for someone how used to play for the world's most neurotic band, is also an avowed atheist, and his song, 'This Heaven' speaks of the contentment and integrity that someone with no imaginary friends in the sky can find in a life well-lived. 'This earthly heaven is enough for me', and that's what I'd like the people who will be there to remember - that I held no faith in some reward to come, but tried to find my fulfillment in what this world has to offer. If there ever was a heaven for an atheist, I would already have been in it, to the extent that I managed to live according to my ideals and fulfill my dreams.

And after that, I'd want them to let loose with Obituary's 'Slowly We Rot'...

What about you? What would you like to have played at your funeral, and why?


H R Venkatesh said...

jp, obviously this isn't the first time you've thought about this - i can attest to that. if I remember right, you were very taken with Electric Requiem, the Queensryche song as a young 'un.
me, i would like this song, 'the one ring' alternately called 'gollum's tale'. heard of it?!! The reason - not so much why, as why not.

JP said...

Good thought Venkatesh. You'll have to die before me, though - I think I'm the only other person in the world who knows how to play that one!

Kakul said...

A delayed comment from me. I would like the sound of a pan flute in the background of my death, I think. A suitably hollow, myterious tune will be nice. I have always associated this instrument with the particularly eerie tune in Picnic at Hanging Rock - and in fact that tune will be perfect for my death. Please inform others if you outlive me.