I proposed the song ‘5.15’ as theme music for my previous post. The Who, from my perspective now, seem to me to have represented better than anyone else what it was like being an alienated adolescent in the 1970s. And, of their many takes on this subject, ‘5.15’ (about a stoned teenager riding a commuter train out of London) is, I think, the best. So many things are captured in this song – the free-floating sexual frustration, the sense of detachment from the adult world (‘Why should I care? Why should I care?’) – but my favourite verse is:
Magically bored On a quiet street corner Free frustration In our minds and our toes Quiet storm water M-m-my generation Uppers and downers Either way blood flows
‘Magically bored’ is perfect!
See also, obviously, ‘My Generation’, its stammering refrain referenced in the above verse, but for me in particular ‘See me feel me’ is the other stand-out. This is more of a fragment than a song, but its eight, several times repeated, opening words can still bring tears to my eyes, so powerfully do they represent the longing and fear of a 16-year-old from a somewhat dysfunctional family who has never been kissed, never even met a girl of his own age in a social situation, who has only just begun to make real, if rudimentary, friendships, but knows that in another year, he will have to go out into the world.
It’s an odd thing. To my 16-old-self, anyone over 40 was in some way emotionally already dead (‘…The things they do look awful cold/ I hope I die before I get old…’), so, if he could see me as I am now, that adolescent me would probably not recognise me as being in any way like him, but I feel an affinity with him all the same, a greater affinity, in a way, than I feel with all the other iterations of me that have existed in the years between. Why is that, I wonder?
Perhaps it because, now, past the age of retirement, with my bus pass and my pension (yes I know, baby boomer, alright for some… etc etc), I have reached a kind of second adolescence, when I am no longer required to go to work every day or to have long-term plans, and when I can, if I wish, spend a Tuesday morning sitting around for several hours, listening to songs, and asking myself what they mean to me. The difference, the magical difference, is that I no longer have to cry into the void ‘see me, feel me, touch me, heal me’, because I have the things I feared I would never have. I feel seen, touched, understood.