I’d heard Chan Marshall (aka Cat power) before.
My friend Sheryl had made me a mixtape that included ‘Nude as the News’. Incidentally, it was the best mixtape I have ever been given – it had ‘Cut Your Hair’ by Pavement, some Zombies, some Neko Case; she had cut out a great picture of a 1960s model, in sunglasses and fake fur (but of course, darling), and stuck it on the front cover. Sheryl and I don’t talk any more, which is a shame.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that I fell in love with the song and immediately went out and bought the album ‘What Would the Community Think?’, then the album ‘Moon Pix’. I really liked Chan Marshall.
Did I ever tell you about the time my friend Charlie thought her brother was stalking me? He had a photo of Chan Marshall as the screensaver on his computer; she saw the fringe and brown eyes and freckles and wonky teeth, and she thought it was me. You know, who has a photo of a random friend of their sister as their screensaver, you know? Creepy. Oh, how he laughed when she confronted him.
I digress, again. I guess my point is that Chan Marshall has influenced me. I always had brown hair and a fringe and wonky teeth, but occasionally when I’m getting dressed I will think ‘what would Chan do?’. I would listen to ‘Nude as the News’ and ‘Metal Heart’ a lot in those days. But rarely either of the entire albums.
Then I heard ‘You Are Free’.
Everybody. Come together. Free.
And suddenly: I was. It is a beautiful album and it is aptly named because it’s like my body takes it literally and makes me feel exactly what the song says. Like I am running through a field like the girl on the inside cover.
It’s OK. It’s your right. Come on and take a chance.
Some people say that Cat Power’s music is sad, depressing even. I think it is triumphant. I think it sounds like freedom. It is release and catharsis and surviving against the odds and sometimes dancing like no-one is watching. The album has its sad moments (‘Names’; ‘Good Woman’, which can make me cry and cry in the right mood) but it’s worth it because it always comes with a lesson: I want to be a good woman and I want for you to be a good man – this is why I will be leaving.
I go running along Brighton beach listening to ‘He War’. You were here, you were here – don’t look back. I don’t look back. I run like my life depends on it.
The title track is one I come back to again and again and again. Thinking about it, even, makes me feel brave and free. It’s a mission statement and a battle cry and a wish to the stars and the aeroplanes above.
Don’t fall in love with the autograph. Just fall in love when you sing your song.
Sometimes if you think something enough, repeat it in your mind and under your breath, sing it out loud – you can make it true.
We can all be free.
You. Are. Free.