#75 – Didn’t Feel A Thing

9 Feb

slvfreaksremaster5

Didn’t Feel A Thing (Live at The Maze Bar, 29/04/1986)
Didn’t Feel A Thing (Live at The Library Theatre, 2/07/1986)
Didn’t Feel A Thing (Instrumental version by Salmon92)
Didn’t Feel A Thing at Pulpwiki

“The male is completely egocentric, trapped inside himself, incapable of empathizing or identifying with others, or love, friendship, affection or tenderness. He is a completely isolated unit, incapable of rapport with anyone. His responses are entirely visceral, not cerebral; his intelligence is a mere tool in the services of his drives and needs; he is incapable of mental passion, mental interaction; he can’t relate to anything other than his own physical sensations. He is a half-dead, unresponsive lump, incapable of giving or receiving pleasure or happiness; consequently, he is at best an utter bore, an inoffensive blob, since only those capable of absorption in others can be charming.” – Valerie Solanas, SCUM manifesto

We’ve gone to the dogs again, but this time instead of sniffing haughtily at them, Jarvis is gleefully joining in with the macho bullshit. It’s all done in the cause of making fun of others, naturally, but this time a sense of humour is (thankfully) evident too. Jarvis tells us the impressive things he’s done, from falling from high buildings (and ending up in a wheelchair) to kissing “fifteen mouths in one evening” – and not feeling anything in either case. The joke is that being utterly dispassionate doesn’t demonstrate bravery, and that boasting about it indicates that, on the contrary, he feels more than he’s comfortable with. At one point we even enter into a metaphorical “sheathing” of his heart which just needs quoting:

“Don’t worry I’ve taken precautions
Yeah, I’ve stopped it before it could start
Well, they’re rubber and ribbed for protection
And they fit like a glove round my heart”

It’s a bit of a silly joke, but well enough constructed, and it’s unlikely that anyone paid much attention to it anyway.

‘Didn’t Feel A Thing’ was a new song, premiered at a few gigs in 1986, and was unlucky enough to fall into the cracks between the recording of ‘Freaks’ and the writing of ‘Separations’. A shame in this case, as it shows signs of being worked out into something special. Listening to the three circulated recordings, you can clearly hear the band working on it each time. The first recording, from the Maze Bar at Sheffield University is wonderfully frenetic. Magnus raps on what sounds like a wooden crate, Manners joins in with a nasty, rumbling bassline, and Russell adds what Mark Sturdy adeptly called “violin that suggests the flight of a particularly deranged bumblebee”. It’s a bad quality recording, but the performance has a great energy to it. The second recording is from the Adelphi club in Hull later that year. It’s much more polished, and the lyrics have been properly worked out – but the clarity just serves to highlight how out of tune Russell is, and it goes on a couple of minutes too long. The final recording is from the Library Theatre in Sheffield. Again, it’s not the best audio quality, but the performance is better, with frantic drumming and adept theatrics from Jarvis.

And then the band split, and the song was thrown onto the “last year” heap with all the others, which was a bit of a shame. Russell later said that “it was a shame that one never got fleshed out. It was one of my favourites from that time – sort of Eastern European punk.”

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