My mind works in an odd way sometimes.
Well ok, most of the time, but sometimes I notice it.
The one downside to the nostalgia I’ve been wallowing in for the last few weeks, thanks to the Facebook page largely populated by those of us who went to the same school, is discovering the number of people who are no longer with us.
I mentioned in a previous post how shocked I was that so many people I knew as a teenager have passed away in the intervening years since school, and the roll call of deceased classmates continues to grow.
Now, this got me thinking about funerals.
Not a very cheery subject for a blog post, I’ll give you that, but bear with me.
Funerals are obviously not occasions to enjoy exactly, but a good percentage of the ones I’ve been to are designed as a celebration of the life of whoever is lying quietly at the front, the absolute centre of attention for the very last time.
And with that focus of attention comes some measure of responsibility.
This is your final big moment, you want to give all those folks that have travelled from far and wide something to remember you by.
Fanatical as I am about it, I think music should play a big part in proceedings and it’s up to you to make sure you pick the right soundtrack.
But by what criteria should a decent funeral song be judged?
Do you pick a syrupy ballad that’s guaranteed to drag wracking sobs from the assembled mourners, go for something a bit more uplifting, a jolly sing-along to cheer people up, or just stick to a sombre drone and let them sort their emotions out for themselves?
I know Robbie Williams has untold millions of fans, but the apparently endless final curtain calls that have been enhanced by him crooning Angels over the end credits suggests a certain lack of imagination on the behalf of whoever assembled the playlist for the big day. (See also: My Way, We’ll Meet Again, My Heart Will Go On, Wind Beneath My Wings, You’ll Never Walk Alone)
The music for your last exit should be chosen by you, for your audience.
At the funeral of a close friend a few years ago, we entered the crematorium to the dirty riffing intro of Welcome to the Jungle by Guns ‘N’ Roses and left, as her magnificent wicker coffin disappeared, to the stomping pomp rock of We Will Rock You by Queen.
Lots of smiles at that funeral, setting the mood for a somewhat rowdy wake, a gloriously nostalgic celebration of Lori, someone whose character was as huge and outrageous as the music she picked for her swan song.
So, what would you pick as the tune that brought the curtain down on your final performance?
Would it be a song whose lyrics were applicable in some way to how you lived your life, or one which had some resonance with you personally?
Or maybe you’d choose something purely on the strength of its entertainment value to the ones who’d come to see you off?
I can’t see there’d be too many sad faces at a memorial service with the Muppet Show theme as the closing number, can you?
Better still, you could always pick something which only you found funny. After all, there’s no rule saying you have to have a musical track. Imagine the satisfaction of breathing your last, secretly knowing that as your coffin vanished behind the curtain, the carefully unlabeled CD, supplied by you for the solemn moment, would be played and Derek and Clive* would be unleashed on the congregation.
I’d like to think that my current favourite choice for my own retirement from humanity is sufficiently odd to be unpredictable for those who might try and guess it (assuming they’re not reading this and have long memories, that is) and yet recognisable enough to some that it will provide that all-important nostalgia kick.
And it will be timed so the assembled throng have to listen to the whole song too, otherwise what’s the point?
There are any number of songs I could have picked, but I have no special wish to pick an arbitrary Favourite Track Of All Time, like some sort of blockbuster’s closing theme tune.
I’m not even that interested in picking one that most symbolises me as a person, whatever that strange cacophony may sound like.
The song I did pick (see link below) is one that will divide the audience, I suspect.
It’s pretty much a love-it-or-hate-it type of record, and for all I know it’s used at many funerals a week, all around the country, but I doubt it.
Although it’s not a vintage classic, or even by a famous band, and it’s far from my favourite ever song, I’ve always thought it has a rather nice pathos to it that would particularly suit the emotionally charged atmosphere of a funeral. (The date referred to at the start has no special significance, before you ask)
Plus, I’ve never been shy of doling out the occasional spot of advice myself…
So picture the scene; as you raise your eyes to the non-denominational stained glass window of the crematorium and then back to the slowly retreating, budget price casket, the speakers crackle and:
(* – contains very strong language. But you know that, because you didn’t read this bit in time.)