Tuesday, March 12, 2002

My favourite albums of the 90s

5. "Titanic Days" by Kirsty MacColl (1993)

In the public's mind - if they ever thought of her at all - Kirsty MacColl was the other funny, fat one on French & Saunders, the other funny, fat one on Buzzcocks, or that funny, fat bird who sang that song about Elvis working a chip shop. And she certainly could be very funny:

"I've been the token woman all my life, the token daughter and the token wife. Now, I collected tokens one by one till I saved enough to buy a gun."

Funny, yes, but angry, too. The early 90s were not a good time for Kirsty. The hits, such as they were, had dried up. Her marriage had failed, she had come out of an abusive relationship. She was tired of being bubbly and chirpy. She was lonely, needing to be loved.

The opening lines are: "I want to shake up this world, and not to feel so useless. And I long to wake up happy and not to feel so hopeless." The album ends: "Let us part in the rain, so the clouds hide the despair and sorrow I feel on the inside."

Kirsty hid her sorrow well. She suffered from stage fright, yet was always seemingly relaxed and comfortable when performing live. Like all Kirsty MacColl records - like her jolly exterior - "Titanic Days" is packed with sprightly tunes, the guitars chime merrily, the drums shuffle, the strings soar. But this is the tip of the iceberg - the lyrics tell the real story.

"An empty bench in Soho Square, if you'd have come you'd have found me there. But you never did cos you don't care."

It is about coming to terms with depression, admitting the loneliness. It is about empowerment, dealing with problems.

"One day I just woke up, I opened my eyes, opened the door, took a walk outside. And I realised that what I saw was there before. But I opened my eyes when I opened the door, I just woke up."

The sad thing is that this album went unnoticed. There were no hits, and it was her last new album of the 90s. But Kirsty did find love, and a purpose. She spent the last few years of her life in a happy relationship. She spent a lot of time in Latin America, helping the Cuban Solidarity Campaign. She returned in 2000 with Tropical Brainstorm, which sold well, and was a critical success. Kirsty died last year, while on holiday with her family in Cuba. She is sorely missed.

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