A Tout le Monde

After my last unsuccessful foray in to blogging about football I think I’m playing with fire once again by discussing metal music. But I beg your indulgence for just a minute or two.

In 1994 Megadeth released the track “A Tout Le Monde” from their album, “Youthanasia”. While Megadeth are one of the “big four” metal bands with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, they had by this time diluted themselves in to a mainstream metal act, playing slower more commercial-sounding music. The fact that they released a track with a French language chorus was bizarre enough – surely this was a hit in the making?

Well it would have been but MTV – happy these days to purvey increasingly sexually gratuitous videos – interpreted the song and video as being about suicide and subsequently banned the $300,000 clip. The single was shelved as radio followed MTV’s lead and a beautiful song remained known to only fans of the band.

Last September the track showed up on the radar once more as Kimveer GIll, responsible for the Dawson College shooting in Montreal, proclaimed it as his favourite song. He killed one student, injured nineteen others and turned the gun on himself.

Megadeth lead singer Dave Mustaine, somewhat superfluously, said: “The song doesn’t belong to the killer. The song belongs to the people of Montreal. If anything, it belongs to me and it was my gift to them. It was never meant to be misinterpreted like that.”

Mustaine, a founding member of Metallica before he was fired in 1983 for alcoholism and cocaine abuse, has always claimed that the song is not about suicide but was inspired by the sudden death of his mother. That’s a difficult assertion to prove as as analysis of the lyrics shows.

Don’t remember where I was
I realised life was a game
The more seriously I took things
The harder the rules became

In the context of the song this seems to indicate the person concerned is having a hard time dealing with the realities in life. If you were to take the song as being about suicide then this is possibly the breaking point, the moment the singer realised that it wasn’t worth going on anymore.

I had no idea what it’d cost
My life passed before my eyes
I found out how little I accomplished
All my plans denied

This is the next stage, the person has attempted suicide and reached the point where it is said “your life flashes before your eyes” just prior to death. The lines I found out how little I accomplished/all my plans denied seem to vindicate the singer’s decision (in his eyes) to end it all.

So as you read this know my friends
I’d love to stay with you all
Please smile when you think of me
My body’s gone that’s all

This is where things get confusing and has given Mustaine a platform to argue that the song is not about suicide at all. The words as you read this indicate a suicide note but the line I’d love to stay with you all, he says, indicates that the speaker doesn’t want to die at all therefore how can it be about suicide? It’s a fair argument but it is not inconceivable that the singer merely realises as they slip away that they will miss those they are leaving behind.

The chorus:
A tout le monde (To everyone)
A tous mes amis (To all my friends)
Je vous aime (I love you)
Je dois partir (I have to leave)
These are the last words
I’ll ever speak
They’ll set me free

The use of French seems to be merely a songwriting tool rather than have any specific context in the song – I like it though and it was certainly a very bold move from the band at the time. The meaning is clear and again builds on the confusing nature of the previous verse. Is this the passing of someone of natural causes or are they the words of a tormented person who has taken their own life?

The second verse
If my heart was still alive
I know it would surely break
And my memories left with you
There’s nothing more to say

For me the first two lines are one of the most powerful couplets from my music collection. I loved the overwrought imagery of how this now-dead person was broken at leaving but there was nothing they could do. If anything the line is inspiring and again calls in to question how it could be about suicide.

Moving on is a simple thing
What it leaves behind is hard
You know the sleeping feel no more pain
And the living are scarred

The division of feelings between the dead and the living was highlighted effectively in both couplets.

So “A Tout le Monde” could be a song about suicide – it could be a song, as Dave claims, about a sudden death. One theory is that the first verse is about Dave’s own attempts at suicide (also touched on in the song “Skin O’ My Teeth”) but then it segues in to a song about his mother or just someone who has died suddenly. But that explanation doesn’t really make sense and I think it’s unlikely.

Regardless of whether or not the song is about suicide is hardly here nor there for me. It’s not as if it encourages or romanticises it for a start. I heard this song when I was 20 and in something of a down period myself. I was never suicidial but this song was very special to me and encouraged me to try and get myself together. I found solace in the beauty of the music and the meaningfulness of the lyrics.

I found further solace in it in 2004 when I adapted part of the verse in the eulogy I delivered at my grandfather’s funeral (“As you sit there, know my friends/I’d love to stay with you all/Smile when you think about me/My body’s gone that’s all”). For my grandfather the words felt appropriate. The fact that the words came from a heavy metal band was an irony that made me smile a little.

The reason I’m blogging about this is that the band have teamed up with Christina Scabbia of Italian goth-rockers Lacuna Coil on a re-recording of “A Tout Le Monde”. Mustaine – under fire from fans for the move – has been scrambling around to justify the decision musically. He has talked about doing a duet on the song for years but most fans expected a b-side or a live album version. He’s talking about it being on their new album (“United Abominations”) and being the lead single.

Criticism has also been directed with regard to the timing of the move. One of the injured students from Montreal, Hayder Kadhim, debatably stated that the song “triggered Kimveer Gill’s actions”. The media will lap up this sort of thing as the release gets closer.

So what’s the right thing to do?

Unless a work gratuitously promotes hate or tasteless acts, I don’t believe that art should be held responsible for the actions of individuals whose thought processes are not like yours or mine. Millions of people have probably heard that song (“Youthanasia” sold over a million copies in the USA alone) and as far as I’m aware it did not spark a world-wide murdering spree.

So is it approrpiate to put this song out there again?

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Hang ups and how I deal with them (or not)

I’m as open a book as I possibly can be but there are some things in life I disguise all the same. You’ve got to have some pride in yourself, right? Not me. Here are my top five hang ups for the world to see.

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Ken Fischburg

1. Buying toilet paper
I don’t know why but for me buying toilet paper is like buying condoms (yes I can remember back that far). Everyone knows it is necessary but you’d rather they didn’t catch you in the act – with your pants down, some might say. For some reason my local supermarket love putting special offers on toilet paper: six rolls free, twelve rolls of Andrex only €5.49. Sometimes an entire aisle is dedicated to the art of ass-wiping. Just incase you didn’t get the point they have replaced the chocolate at the check-outs with single rolls of toilet paper. “Go on, you know you’re gonna need some later,” it seems to say to me, winking knowingly in that way that toilet paper probably does. If you can imagine such a thing.

But when I’m feeling at my most vulnerable regarding my toilet paper habits I simply log on to www.toiletpaperworld.com and check out the smiling and proud face of Kenn Fischburg (left), the Toilet Paper Encyclopedia President. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

And if that’s not enough how about you check out the history of toilet paper or learn how to change a roll of toilet paper. Perhaps print them out and have a good read next time you are sitting on the ceramic throne.

2. Driving a car
It’s true that I don’t drive now but that’s because I didn’t like it when I did. There is just so much to do when driving: reversing, moving the stick thing while pressing your foot down, turning the wheel, looking in mirrors (usually my favourite passtime) and having to know where you are going. The thing I like about public transport is that you don’t need to do any of that. They reverse (well actually they don’t reverse do they?) … ok, so they do all the gear-changing, mirror-looking and wheel turning for you. They also know where you are going which is of course key for public transport. It does take the unpredictability out of travel though. Just once I’d like to hear: “This is the Number 28 bus to Carrickmines. Today, for a change, we’ve decided to take you to Donnycarney as Carrickmines is a bit rubbish.”

It’s not just driving a car that wrecks my head but being a front-seat passenger too. No matter who I’m in a car with I always think I’m in a better position than them to evaluate the various risks. Coming up to a red light, if I feel that my driver is going too fast, I’ll “apply the break” myself. By this I mean I will pointlessly push my foot to the floor and stare at their foot – which is actually on the break – in the vain hope that this will telepathically exert the correct pressure and subsequently save our lives.

3. My hair
There’s no doubt that I’m the vainest man on the planet. Think Hasselhoff and multiply it ten-fold. Then add water. I’m telling you, no shiny surface is safe from my reflection. My hair is my worst addiction. Even when I was a pre-pubescent young ragamuffin (some might say puberty is still pending), I’d spend ages toying with my shock of wiry red hair (“strawberry blond” as my euphamistic-friendly mother used to suggest calling it) making sure that my pseduo-eighties bouffant sat perfectly symmetrically on my head.

The less area my hair takes up on my head through my advancing years, the more time I spend on it. Any night out will be preceeded by a run-through with the GHD – got to eliminate the curls, I’m not Brian May – followed by a debate with myself over what way to wear it. Usually this will involve sticking my head out the window to judge wind velocity and direction. Precipitation will also be evaluated. Should the results of this analysis come back negative then I am likely to wear it “up” so as to avoid frizz. Frizz can be hard to address once you are out of the house even if I bring my trusty “mini brush” with me (can be used secretly in a cubicle).

Unless it’s about 80F with less wind than a jellyfish convention, I won’t leave the house without covering up the head completely. A wool hat will cover the top part with the rest of hair shoved down behind my collar. To the average observer I’m a short haired guy at that point. I love this effect because once I get in to a building and “de-robe” I can release my follicles and shake my hair like Andie MacDowell. This of course causes most people to look at me momentarily before returning to their pint to say “what a twat”.

4. Eating junk food
I’m not really in to the fast food scene. I surprised someone recently by telling them I hadn’t had a McDonalds since 2002 which, as far as I can recall, is accurate. But in Ireland our culture is more closely associated with the traditional Italian-run fish and chip shops. While Chinese and Indian take aways have been growing in popularity in recent years, the top destination of anyone on their way home from the pub is their local Borza, Marsellas, Macaris or Silvios.

My favourite one locally is Macaris and – conveniently – my night bus home from the city stops right across the road from it. The only problem for me is that I’m one of these irritating people who constantly harps on about healthy eating and all that. So indulging in something dripping with more fat than Lardy McLard from Lardsville is a real case of do as I say not as I do.

Because I don’t do it all that often – but mostly because I’m usually plastered – I tend to make the most of a visit to the chipper. The snack box is my first port of call – this consists of two pieces of deep-fried chicken and a sizable number of deep-fried potatoes cut in to rectangular shapes known as “chips” (or “fries” to the North Americans). This would be enough for most people but not me. Oh no. I’m not gonna be here for weeks so I’m throwing something else in with it you can be sure.

Because the above is universally recognised as a meal-for-one, I then have to use gestures that indicate I’m ordering for two so as the guy behind the counter doesn’t think I’m a greedy bastard. Usually that involves the following conversation.
Chipper man (usually Italian): Yes?
Me (drunk but desperately trying to appear far more together than those around me): Yes, hi. Can I have a….
[momentarily considers ordering the three-piece dinner box rather than the snack box]
Me: … snack box please.
Chipper man: Snack box.
Me: Oh…and…em…what was it…
[looks towards the ceiling as if trying to recall an order from someone back at the house]
Me: …a battered burger as well please. Yep.
Chipper man: Battered burger.

I know, I’m fooling no one except myself.

The Rockers!
The Rockers!

5. Wrestling
I think it was Christmas Night 1990 when myself and my brother switched on the TV and found a wrestling program on. Now I had heard the guys in school talk about wrestling but just like I did when they talked about “Airwolf”, I feigned interest. Now we watched with interest. It was a re-run of Wrestlemania 6 featuring such illuminaries as The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, The Million Dollar Man and the big match between the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan. I had no idea who any of them were with the exception of the Hulkster who was a household name already.

From that day on though we began to watch the Friday night WWF Wrestling Challenge show as muscular men with silly names battled complete no-hopers called Tom Stone and The Invader. It was such silly entertainment. We looked on horrified as Earthquake squashed Jake “The Snake” Roberts terrapin (just kidding, he squashed his snake), we cried out in dismay as Shawn Michaels put Marty Jannetty’s head through the barber shop window (ironic they were in a barber shop considering the state of their mullets) and sat in stony silence when The Undertaker sent another soul to hell.

So as we grew up, like all adults, we did of course stop watching wrestling…erm…

Come on guys, I know the truth. You still watch it – maybe not religiously – but you still watch it. When you are in a group and wrestling comes up in conversation, don’t say something like “Kurt Angle? Oh, yeah…think I know him…” or “Yeah, the Undertaker…is he still around?”. You know, you know.

Just like right now we all know that the 23rd Wrestlemania is coming up and that wrestler-cum-fillm-star John Cena is fighting the mullet-less Shawn Michaels and that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is set to make an appearance as a Special Guest Referee where no doubt he will drink a lot of beer, give everyone the finger and the Stone Cold Stunner.

I know, you know and they know that we know. So stop with the pretence and admit that you never really grew up. After all, what’s the point?