Lately we’ve seen on the box, in the news A few individuals get knocks – can’t excuse Some behaviour that’s proved underhand and uncouth That’s played fast and loose – sometimes planned – with the truth It’s not exactly news to say short term gain Produces, like night follows day, long term pain Things that get covered up for weeks, months or years Have an unfortunate habit of ending in tears; So what is the antidote to this kind of thing How can we help life not stall but, well, sing? A tip to ensure we don’t go ‘on the blink’ Is to care a bit less about what people think In the right way, I mean – it avoids so much stress When you don’t get fixated on chasing ‘success’ The best way to chart a steady course, not go bust Is surely our God up in heaven to trust Counting on the Father to make our paths straight Is a winning approach you can’t too highly rate Choosing the route that’s not easy but right Leads to broad happy places of life, peace and light
In our rational world any talk now of God Is for heated debate a lightning rod We think we’re sophisticated, clever and wise So any God-talk – we easily despise Some of us embark on a spiritual search Meditation, chakra (not often church); What if we altered our approach to this art A little less intellect, a little more heart… What if my defences I could surrender A chance I might find a God wild and tender? What if I admit, on my own life is sour Might I then savour some spiritual power? Being too cerebral, life can be pale Let’s open up, get some wind in these sails I’m tired of pursuing a shadowy course God let me feel – your hurricane force Don’t let me shrink back, retreat or retire I want now to taste some spiritual fire I let go of my stuff God, I’m up for the ride I wanna be shaken and stirred, purified Not just tread water the rest of my days Hold me and mould me God, set me ablaze
How do we reckon with histories of pain That simmer and burn, and flare up again, Smouldering anger, how do we quell And not let it grow or continue to dwell, How through intractable grief find a way To build up a justice that lasts and will stay, How can we unearth the best, not the worst Till someone lets go of their pain, and moves first?
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