Comes a time when all you thought was nothing after all. A day will bring you down to your knees. Time conveys our rivers of blood through God’s merry fair, riding on this tumbling ball of clay. And once in a while everything stops, the world no longer turns, a life is torn from our harbour of love. Then one by one we deal with the loss.
What is it about the death of a friend that brings such curious grief? It’s a question with no answer. What good would it do? It cannot ease the pain. It will not bring them back. Nothing will reverse the awful news. The ones you trust will stick around, always in good cheer, leave the carousel far too early. We who remain can only carry on.
And so we do. Wake the next morning, shower and dress, enter the nascent day. On the busy street blank faces stare at palms of the urban soldiers marching into battle, blind to all around them, deaf to pleas for spare change. From the ether a familiar voice whispers in our ears: ‘In cosmic terms we’re on this planet for just the blink of an eye.’ But it’s not what you think, not a call from God to get the hell out and live, but a glib line employed in an ad promoting a gig venue chain. Well thanks but not today, this is not the time – a friend has left the building and met Elvis. But then again, maybe you’re wrong, maybe it’s the thought that counts: just keep going, don’t look back. Give the Tube a miss.
For solace, find a song. Make it hopeful, though. You’re not helping anyone staying low. Look up, feel the breeze, let the sun catch your eyes. Listen. Breathe. Move. Now you find you’re walking, all the way to work, or so you’re inclined to think: will you really make it there today? Makes no difference, you’re on your feet, now just keep on moving – soon enough you’ll discover where.
It’s a long long road, this life of ours. Might as well enjoy the trip. Some will choose to travel alone, for reasons sound and valid. Some will yearn to share the joy and burden. Neither path is right nor wrong, just a human choice – a way of heading towards our destination. How’s your journey so far? Are you happy? Are you sad? Does a sense of wonder grace your life? Take your time to answer while roaming through the years – with any luck, you will reach clarity.
There’s that I guess, a kind of hope that age will bring wisdom, something worth waiting for if you can. But now I’ve only questions and no answer will suffice. My friend is gone, and I can’t help this anger.
What happened, Andy? Where did you go? And Christ, why leave us so soon? When the road gets rough, we gotta pull together. We were just a phone call away. We sat side by side, shared the laughter, shared the load, we were Fleet Street pals to the end. Now you’re gone, yet I hear you chuckling at the beast, the daily miracle of building a newspaper.
There you were in print, the Standard carried the news. But nothing will convey the devastation. It’s just impossible to understand, to know you’ve really gone. I never caught you down. Such a chipper bloke. I see you even now, smiling. Maybe I will see you again.
So we play our songs over and over and now they burn as hymns. We gather in farewell, drink to your memory, count ourselves lucky to have known you. What then? What’s left? What shall we do? Best to embrace what we came for, and live. The years will roll on, we’ll stumble, we’ll rise, we’ll learn every day to be thankful.
One day it will end, when the time no long sides, the odyssey will conclude. The orchestra will wait to play us off the stage. Then, for a moment, we’ll cast our minds back to the ineluctable beauty of life and the parties that were lost along the way. We’ll raise a parting glass to those we leave behind, and head towards the promise of reunion.
Miss you, Andy. Love you, mate.
Paul Weller's Long Long Road appears on his 2017 album A Kind Revolution. Here's the YouTube story behind the making of it. And here's a playlist of some of the finest songs by the former frontman of The Jam and The Style Council. Plus: Spotify link to Weller's latest album Other Aspects, Live At The Royal Festival Hall