Marcus Berkmann

Taking a break

Taking a break

Tired. I am exhausted. For one reason and another the workload has been intense recently, and the pressures have been unyielding. After a while you wander through the days in a numbed haze, faintly aware of passing deadlines, and thinking only of pillows. The occasional hangovers hit as hard as Mike Tyson circa 1988. Look in the mirror in the morning and you see the way you will look in ten years’ time. Look in the mirror in the afternoon and you see that this is actually the way you look now. I even dream of sleep, which is a little weird.

What is the soundtrack to this strange state? Years of unquestioning belief in the fundamental tenets of pop music — tunes, rhythm, guitars — seem to have been swept aside overnight. Too many of my CDs suddenly sound fusty or overdone or, simply, too loud. Radio is intrusive: the cheery northerners of 6 Music are like nails on a blackboard, and even Terry, and Ken and co. on Radio Two seem rather demanding. If I still had the taste for it, classical music would probably do the trick, but to my ears now most of it sounds like the bones of music, the flesh having long since withered away. An hour spent listening to Classic FM felt like the afterlife, plus adverts.

In the event, the most unlikely music has provided solace. Elderly Eric Clapton albums, the ones with languid blues workouts where songs should have been, enabled me to finish a particularly knotty project, but the day after, when I just wanted to listen to something, they just sounded ridiculous. (Has any rock performer ever been in greater thrall to his own legend? When he sings a proper song Clapton sounds almost apologetic, as though he is doing it because he should and not because he really wants to.

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