I’m struggling a little, I’ll say it, be blunt About what’s happening in India, where they’re bearing the brunt The weight of the suffering, we see it, we know That they’re stuck, they can’t breathe, they’ve got nowhere to go ‘I can’t breathe’, now if you recall that’s a phrase That we heard quite a lot, dating back to last May George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, it was only last year That nine minute video got us hooked – now we’re here And I know that it’s different, but there’s something the same It’s not about feeling bad, finding someone to blame It’s about trying to connect with the pain of another Imagining it, feeling it, for my sister, my brother Cos we’re one global family, and if we’ve got heart and soul Then if part of the body hurts, we feel it, the whole So let’s not wait for one icon, one publicised case When we see the pain etched on a suffering face And let’s not forget we have Asian friends here Let’s feel for their anguish, connect to their fear You know, when it comes to relating to pain That our God’s got it down – sends the sunshine and rain On the good and the bad, and when a small sparrow falls He notices and cares, and he doesn’t have walls Between people or nations, more ‘worthy’ or less In his eyes we’ve all got great worth, and I confess That the change that I most want to notice and see Is for us to follow his example – that’s you and that’s me
This week in the news well you could say we’ve seen Some things that’ve taken off power its sheen And one of the topics that’s kinda been trending Is a particular flat refurbishment spending Dodgy dealing in politics ain’t anything new Though odd for soft furnishings to be in the mix too Now the public, we don’t wanna be taken for fools We wanna see everyone stick by the rules And it’s not too old-fashioned to want to be grounded In truthfulness, justice, real and rounded Not get caught napping, adrift or asleep Cos we know in these things, well our God, he looks deep Seeks out integrity in whole not in part Sees way past appearances – down to the heart.
I didn’t see it coming. Like a thunderbolt, that exultant first line lyric and guitar lick blasted out from the car radio, seized my audio pleasure centres, and for the next three and a half minutes wouldn’t let go. I cranked up the volume, only realising minutes later that it was so loud I couldn’t even hear that the car indicator was still going.
We were on our way to Bridlington, Anna and I. We pulled up at a small garage, just in time to take my hands off the steering wheel and launch into an exuberant air guitar solo. Then, almost as soon as it had started, the nineties pop behemoth wound up. I sat back and bathed in the ecstasy. Anna was dumbstruck. The garage attendant looked concerned.
To identify this track that launched me into such a frenzied performance is, in terms of kudos, the equivalent of wearing belted jeans pulled up above the waist – or styling floppy hair, outside of the 90s. It is indeed the one and only ‘The One and Only’ – by Chesney Hawkes.
There, I’ve said it. Put your head in your hands if you will. Refuse ever to speak to me again. I don’t care. It may indeed have cheese levels to rival certain regions of France, but I bloomin’ love this song and, to throw in some Emmental, ‘you can’t take that away from me’. I feel toward the Ches a bit how I feel about the child actor from The Shining. That boy was in only one film, and never acted again. But it doesn’t matter. It was ‘The Shining’! Likewise, Chesney, ‘mister one hit wonder’ himself – but it was ‘The One and Only’! Worth ten average hits if you ask me (which you may never again after this). What’s more, this equivalent of an audio caffeine burst has triggered an unanticipated trail of discovery. Until a week ago, I knew next to nothing about either song or artist. Now it’d be harder to list what l I don’t know.
It was penned by Nik Kershaw – who bought two houses from the earnings. Chesney crashed and burned a bit afterwards – which is why many of us never really heard from him again – but became a cult hit at student unions, and is still a working musician, putting on zoom gigs, and living happily with his family in LA. Seems a nice bloke in interviews. Supportive of mental health initiatives.
I’ve seen one or two of the original performances on YouTube.
A young Chesney owning the stage, curling his lip and drawing screams from his teenage fan base, like a blonde Elvis. This was thirty years ago. There were no mobile phones or anything! I was in my first year at uni. Chesney was jetting around Europe, girls were camping outside his home, while I was grappling with Flaubert, essay deadlines and fragile self-confidence.
It’s all sparked some thoughts. About the wonder of a pop tune that becomes a hit, the strange alchemy that allows a particular sequence and timing of musical notes to trace a path which burrows its way into your head and stays there. That sent a song flying up the charts to occupy the top spot for five whole weeks.
Also about youth, aspiration, aging and the passing of time. There’s something poignant here. Though still a working musician, in mainstream popular imagination Chesney is frozen in time as the ‘beautiful boy’ who a long time ago belted out a megahit, then like a brief firework faded from view. It is, in my view, primarily faith that allows a more enduring ‘youthfulness’ to dwell and grow in the spirit. As Paul said, ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’. A theme I may revisit. Suffice to say for now that I believe it allows you to walk with another dimension of ‘dignity and pride’.
It’s not very long (unless I’ve got this wrong) Since Easter, that marks resurrection Which (let’s not be blind) to the scientific mind As a theory, seems far from perfection To hold in your head someone rose from the dead Stretches credulity at best Some are inclined to think we should find Ways to put this idea to the test. The problem right here, to be perfectly clear Is it’s not something easily repeated But to turn round and say that it’s bunkum, go away Is no way for the thing to be treated For a moment just think (it might make you blink) We once thought (cos we’re standing still) The idea this place, is now barrelling through space Would have made the average punter quite ill But when someone suggested (it was sorely contested) That we hurtle full pelt round the sun This novel solution sparked a revolution In our views (that must have been fun). In a similar way, I ask in our day When the notion of God is derided And pushed to the brink, maybe time to rethink Some ideas that we long ago decided I don’t mean to plod, but just think, if God Like the sun is what life goes around Then the thing that seems weird, that some bloke with a beard Came to life, might just get off the ground.
Good Friday: its meaning has tended to fade In our world been forsaken, neglected, mislaid We have some inkling of Jesus, he died For ‘the faithful’, their faith now a fast ebbing tide What if we found though, and fresh understood That Jesus, like none else, was radiant and good That somehow he soaked up our rage, sin and pain To lead us to God; could it move us again?
Sometimes in life we must stay still and wait Unsure what’s coming, we sit, ruminate Life can then feel like a prison, a tomb For purpose and pleasure, we find little room Where do we turn when our comfort is gone How do we cope, when of hope there is none Like a faint gleam when we’re low and forlorn We can be sure, swift approaches the dawn
Resurrection remains an intriguing idea In popular culture, its resonance clear The records are tantalising, strange and oblique In tracing a thing so surprising, unique Gospel accounts hint and beckon, invite To see what’s beyond that which lies in plain sight The bold thrilling promise remains: if we choose To connect to this life, it both fills and renews
What a strange year for the world to endure For the trauma, the loss, there’s no quick easy cure Sadness and loneliness, trouble and grief Enough to test anyone’s faith – and belief Something to think on this Easter weekend In the midst of a trial that’s not yet at an end Something to muse on, to dig deep and ponder This traditional season of life, hope – and wonder Something that burns deep inside me this hour Is a hunger, a thirst now for resurrection power There may be a ‘road map’ to guide us through trial But where to find hope – that lasts more than a while? I long, yes I do, that every bruised battered heart That struggles and thirsts, could find a drop, yes a part A portion, a helping of this marvellous thing That like liquid gold fills the soul, makes it sing That doesn’t just endure for a short fleeting night But like the sun soars through the spring morning bright
What I wonder, here’s the question, will we find in that word ‘Lent’ Is it old and worn and tattered now, and is its meaning spent? What I wonder can we plunder from this practice, ancient, strange Is there still treasure in age of leisure, are its riches out of range? Give up chocolate, fags, the booze, we harbour notions slightly quaint Do it at all? We’re free to choose, but it still has a pull, though faint In our times, these troubled climes, perhaps a chance to heed the call Because it’s not just old, gone cold, but it’s fierce, demands our all… Nowadays you might think “Oh, ok, I’ll give up something sweet” Where brave souls once encountered thirst, and worse, like desert heat Either way the call of Lent still beckons, reckons with each heart Asking, will I make space, for grace, face my fears, take part Maybe in that place I’ll find something wondrous waits for me A sight, a sound, and cords unbound, fresh living, wild and free.
This Valentines, we’re all locked down – that’s guaranteed to make love frown Steals its thunder, pushes it under, makes it blunder, takes its crown And instead of a love-heart and flowers and take your loved one out You’ll be lucky if your Beth or Bart just showers n doesn’t pout If he just cooks, or she just books a takeaway tonight At least content to look the part – not run for it in fright.
Love’s important, makes the world go round, and we want to express It kinda neatly, not too sweetly, and keep calm, you know, not stress But we still worry, frown and fret, and get all tense and anxious, yet If we could just relax a bit, that’d be by far a better bet.
Love’s intense, can be immense, gets you-off the fence, spare no expense You feel you’re flying, I’m not lying, gets you swooning, laughing, crying You’ll scale a wall, feel ten feet tall, and ask “It’s late, can I still call?” And agonise, fall down then rise – and then forget about it all.
I believe it – take or leave it – that the world vibrates with love It’s all around, and it abounds, it’s deep within, without, above As I learn to let it burn down in my heart and in my veins I find I’m falling more in love with its melodious strains This love divine, I let it shine in me, it fills and it redeems Has power to transform human love, so – with glory – it gleams.
For BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Bradford & other stations…
February fourteenth, Valentines, red hearts, romance – you know the signs The ads and fads (a lot quite bad), the schmaltz and cheesy lines They say that love is blind, it’s in the heart and in the mind But every February we find, the usual tropes revert to kind We’ll take any chance to shine – with just a sweet romantic line…
This year we’re all locked down – that’s guaranteed to make love frown Steals its thunder, pushes it under, makes it blunder, takes its crown And instead of a love-heart and flowers and take your loved one out You’ll be lucky if your Beth or Bart just showers n doesn’t pout If one just cooks, or the other books a fancy takeaway tonight At least content to look the part – not run for it in fright.
The day of love, when push comes to shove, is actually always fraught Because we’re human, we get in a stew man, and it’s easy to get caught In all the pressure, expectation, and some bad sleep deprivation In houses up and down the land, and all across the nation Love’s important, makes the world go round, and we want to express It kinda neatly, not too sweetly, and keep calm, you know, not stress But we still worry, frown and fret, and get all tense and anxious, yet If we could just relax a bit, that’d be by far a better bet.
This is me now, don’t you see now, I’m just talkin’ as one fella I’m no Valentine-o fanboy, I’m no ‘day of romance’ seller If I was I’d leave now cos I’ve no ambition to be toast I’ll just say hey, you know, we all want to be loved by someone most It’s so intense, you know, immense, gets you-off the fence, spare no expense You feel you’re flying, I’m not lying, gets you swooning, laughing, crying You’ll scale a wall, feel ten feet tall, and ask “It’s late, can I still call?” And agonise, fall down then rise – and then forget about it all.
What makes this one day special is the secrecy of course To be the admirer of Luke or Lyra, speak in code, you know, like morse And there’s something we adore, we want it more, the mystery Of wondering ‘who loves me?’; I don’t mean brotherly or sisterly When you send a card, and be a love bard, you get a magic thrill, a shiver Like running down a bank and jumping starkers in a river And if you find you’ve got that kind of place in someone’s heart There ain’t no poet that can quite express the feeling, there’s no art.
(pause). But the thing that most excites me, daily smites me, makes me quiver Is to think these tributaries of love flow to a bigger river The mystery of love at Valentines – it leads us on And shows us something deep about the heart of things, no con I believe it – take or leave it – that the world vibrates with love It’s all around, and it abounds, it’s deep within, without, above As I learn to let it burn down in my heart and in my veins I find I’m falling more in love with its melodious strains This love divine, I let it shine in me, it fills and it redeems Has power to transform human love, so – with glory – it gleams.