As I said, I went to see the Wildhearts on Monday. Now, a little context may be in order here. I've been into that band since 1992 when they released their first single, "TV Tan". They rapidly became my favourite band, pushing out other groups I'd liked before that. I couldn't get over the combination of killer guitar riffs, crunchy basslines and over the top the most beautiful harmonies. I'd always liked my music loud, and I was into quite a few heavy metal bands, but no other band that I'd heard before the Wildhearts managed to pull off the combination of heavy and harmony.
And if this wasn't enough, the lead singer and songwriter, Ginger, wrote stuff that seemed to come out of my own heart. I found a quote that sums up how I feel about their lyrics:
"I used to write in a very disconnected fashion, stories about people, even some political comment. I used to write about things that annoyed me rather than things that actually hurt me. All of a sudden I realised when I listened to 'New Day Rising' that I didn't think about the people writing the songs, I thought about myself, almost everything on that album was about me." - Wiz, Mega City Four.
For me, at that time, the Wildhearts were the coolest band in the world. Even later, when it turned nasty, and band members were being thrown out on a seemingly-daily basis, I stuck by them - because no matter how bad the disputes within the band, no matter how bad the ego problems and the drug problems, they kept producing music that fed into my emotions. I could forgive anything when a song told me that someone else had been there before and survived - that the bad stuff would end and I'd come out of it a stronger person.
Things really came to a head about 1997. Danny, the bass player, the member of the band I'd always been obsessed with in a teenage fangirl sort of way, was seriously ill because of his heroin addiction. The band released an album, "Endless Nameless", a weird fucked-up mess of songs with oddly prophetic lyrics about drugs, with a wall of white noise drowning out the melodies, cancelled their tour "so that Danny didn't have money to buy drugs", and imploded. I was upset, but I was dealing with my own shit, and I had other stuff to worry about. And then, as time went on, the various band members all resurfaced in other bands, and even Danny seemed to be fit and healthy again. The overall opinion of the fans on the Wildhearts mailing list was that a bunch of great bands with happy, healthy members was a better thing to have than one band with unhappy members who were killing themselves.
Fast forward to a few months ago. Things were good in the Ginger camp. His new band, Silver Ginger 5, had done a couple of sold-out shows in the UK despite the album only being available on import from Japan. The audience had been full of ex-Wildhearts, and they were all comfortably back on speaking terms. One night in the pub with CJ and Danny, Ginger decided that it might be a good idea to put the Wildhearts back together for a couple of shows. Fans throughout the world agreed, and hence the mad red-haired one made plans for a June of Rock - two solo shows, a couple of dates with Silver Ginger 5 and six shows with the Wildhearts lineup considered to be the classic: Ginger, CJ, Danny and Stidi.
And indeed, things had been going well. The solo shows and the Silver Ginger 5 shows were an undisputed success. People came out with huge grins on their faces. The first Wildhearts show went well, the second one less so, and by the third some seriously bad stories were going around the net. I missed all this because I was off in Belgium without much net access, so I had no idea just how bad things were until I heard Ginger announce on-stage at the start of the Cambridge gig that Danny was in hospital. I was so hyped up with excitement about seeing the Wildhearts again after so many years that I didn't realise what pain lay behind that announcement. The band had a replacement bassist, Toshi, a man for whom the term "bishonen" was invented, and all seemed well in Wildhearts-land. Having CJ back at Ginger's right-hand where he belonged was so right. Do you know what it's like to see a band live on-stage when you know that everything really is being played live, yet it sounds just like the record? Awesome.
I knew on the way home that a comedown would hit me sometime in the next few days. Anything that good has to be followed by a low. I hoped I could postpone it until after the next Wildhearts show that I was going to, in London. But it was not to be.
I found myself logging on today to read the Wildhearts list and find out how things were. Much speculation, horrendous stories about just how out-of-it Danny was, and then the story that no one wanted to hear.
I feel crushed by this news, and in more than just a teenage fangirl sort of way. I have tried to explain above just how much this band and its members mean to me, and I know I haven't succeeded. Knowing Danny's back on heroin - and in hospital from it - is rather different from when I was 12 and wanted to hang myself because Morten Harket of a-ha had got married. This is someone I've actually met and hung out with - someone who is a real person with a real life. He doesn't deserve to die from his mistakes. No one deserves to die from their mistakes.
The worst bit is that I have some idea what it must be like to be an addict. I'm lucky that I don't have an addictive personality, and nothing I need in my life is going to kill me, but I've done despair and self-harm and I've stared death in the face a few times. It must be the worst place in the world to be. He's supposed to be on tour with his friends, having fun, and instead he's fighting for his life for the who knows what time.
I feel a mess. On the one hand, I really want to go and see the Wildhearts again because they rock, but on the other hand I won't be able to stop myself from noticing the space on the left-hand-side of the stage. This, on top of my existing mood, is more than I can take at the moment.