When I was in high school there was a terrible day, an awful day I don’t think I’ll ever be able to think about without ending up in tears. I was in Transition Year, and a really special girl was in the class with me. She wanted to be a journalist (at that time, who knows what she would have ended up being. But what ever it was in the end, I know she would have excelled at it.). She was beautiful. She was smart, I mean cutting herself on herself sharp. She was easily the best student in the year.
Then she went to a concert, and died.
I can still remember the last time I saw her as if it were happening right this moment. She was laughing at the reaction of the rest of the class to her having dyed her hair. She’d used one of the then new, Schwartzkopf colours. So her hair had this almost holographic purple sheen to it. She was so excited to be going to Dublin to a concert the next day. The last words we ever spoke to one another were.
“I hope you have fun.”
“Aha, see ya Monday.”
I never saw her again.
If you’re a fan of The Smashing Pumpkins from those days you know precisely what happened next. The crowd surged at the stage. The band asked them to chill-out. The crowd ignored them. And somewhere in the crush that girl was swept from her feet, and died a horrific death. That was 17 years ago, and I still some times have nightmares where I imagine how she felt, what she thought, how it hurt her.
All I can say for sure is that they had to have a closed casket funeral. I sometimes wonder if that was a gentle blessing, or the worst curse to those of us who remember her. I know that after her funeral I refused to ever go to a funeral again. And to this day I haven’t.
If you’re wondering why this all affected me so deeply, it’s probably important to know that I had a huge crush on her. To the point where that last sentence I spoke to her had been the most words I’d managed to string together for her in weeks. I’d hoped to ask her out before the holidays, I didn’t expect a yes, but…well anyway. That’s the heart of why.
I’m not proud of what I’m about to say, but here goes.
I hated The Smashing Pumpkins after that.
Every time I heard even the first bar of one of their songs, I would feel sick, then want to smash something, or someone.
I wanted them to just fail, go away.
I wished they’d never formed.
It took me 16 years to realise how, nuts, my reaction was. It took me sitting down and forcing myself to listen to the entirety of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” to realise that it wasn’t their music I hated. They’re music is pretty good. I mean, to me at least, it’s pretty middle of the road, semi-maudlin, overly opinionated 90’s music. Rather typical of the era. But it’s definitely good.
Once I came to that realisation I decided to sit down and work my way through their back-catalog. And as I listened I started remembering all the times I saw her listening to them on her Walkman (Damn I’m old.) before class. How much she smiled when she listened. How happy they made her. And after 16 years it finally clicked.
I blamed the bands music for the death of someone I liked.
Not the band as such. But the music itself.
These days I rather like The Pumpkins. I don’t actively seek them out, or own any of their songs or albums. But if they come on I don’t change the channel anymore. Which is pretty big progress I guess.
Well anyway, ya, that’s my story.