I should have said I love you

More than I did

by Rick Johansen

I should have said I love you,” sings John Barnhart, adding, “More than I did.” Josh Barnhart, you ask? Who the hell is Josh Barnhart? I’ll tell you. Or rather a piece on the Folk Radio website will. It’s from a song called More Than I Did which is the first track on Bernhart’s project-named band Strange Pilgrim. Josh is a genius and this is a magnificent work.

Do you ever hear a new song which is so amazingly fantastic that you have to find it and then buy it, a song that lingers in your head and you write down the title just in case you forget it? I do it quite a lot because I have history of falling in love with a song, humming along with it for years but not knowing what it is called or who it’s by. It’s why I buy so much music because it literally saves my soul.

It was Mark Radcliffe, the Radios 2 and 6 DJ, who took me into the world of Strange Pilgrim. He does this all the time, you see. In 2019, he set said soul afire with the incredible song Skelton Painting by Avi Buffalo. I bought it straight away. I tipped it for greatness but what do I know? In the 1970s, I tipped Vaughan Thomas for worldwide fame with his song I Wanna Be Famous Like My Dad. The song tanked, despite being Tony Blackburn’s Record Of The Week on Radio 1. I sang along night after night, alone against the record-buying world.

Last year, belatedly, I fell in love with Nick Drake, the brilliant folk singer who died aged 26, back in 1974. I missed him back then, as did almost everyone else. How did we do it? I heard Pink Moon and I was hooked. Lots of us are. Next week sees the release of an album called The Endless Coloured Ways: The Songs Of Nick Drake. Various artists cover his songs, not doing ‘straight’ covers, but reimagining them. I’ll probably buy it and I’ve already downloaded (and paid for it from Apple) Cello Song by Fontaines D.C. which I regard as the greatest cover version of all time, by anyone ever, knocking John Lennon’s epic version of Ben E King’s Stand By Me off its perch.

David Berman, he of the Silver Jews, released a record in 2019 under the pseudonym Purple Mountains and by Christ is was heartbreakingly sad. When he wrote All My Happiness Has Gone he really meant it because a few weeks after the album’s release he killed himself. That really shook me up because, so often, I feel all my happiness has gone, too, although tonight I knew it hadn’t because I drove to Pilning to watch some speeding trains pass by and I didn’t want to throw myself in front of one. Music has a connection with the human spirit, whatever that is. I feel it myself, I have seen people with Alzheimer’s Disease briefly regain the power to string words together and sing along with songs when just a minute ago they didn’t know where, or even who, they are.

Old songs and new songs both grab me. On Saturday, on the eve of Elton John’s headlining show at Glastonbury, Mark Radcliffe – yes, him again – said his favourite Elton song was Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, a little known classic, to my mind, from 1972’s Honky Chateau long player and I remembered it was my favourite Elton tune, too. So I went out and bought it (from Apple). To my fading, tinnitus-ruined ears, eras don’t matter.

Head weary, legs heavy, I sought out some music tonight and I feel better now. I’ve got more new music arriving this week, by Grian Chatten, Caroline Polachek and Albert Hammond Jr. Music – I couldn’t have said I love you more than I did because my love is unconditional. And trust me, you, as much as anything, keep me alive.

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