The ‘long white sigh’: some gen-x nostalgia

On the bus this morning, thanks to the magic of the iPod’s otherwise suspiciously un-random seeming shuffle mode: The Clouds’ song ‘Pocket’, from their 1991 album Penny Century.

This is what it sounds like, and these are the lyrics:

Spending all my long days
Searching for a job to do
Any two-bit job that pays
So I can take good care of you

I’ve got love in my pocket
But I’ve got no money
So much love here in my pocket
All I need’s the dough

What could I be doing wrong?
I’m a fighter through and through
Now I’m singing a loser’s song
Don’t want to lose you, too

I’ve got love in my pocket
But I’ve got no money
So much love here in my pocket
All I need’s the dough

Anyway, as I said on Twitter just now, I really cannot think of a song that better captures what it was like to be a newly graduated Generation X 20-something in Australia the early 1990s, in the depths of the recession we had to have. Especially for people who had graduated with some really useful degree like one in music, or media, or any other arts-related discipline. I know it’s not only me who lived through those long, frustrating days and months dominated by the feeling that ‘Pocket’ conveys; something not quite like angst, and really not ironic. Something like a melancholy desire for the imagined possibility of some kind of beautiful, bohemian life, despite the reality of comparative poverty and a sense that actually it was somehow all our own fault that the successful-yet-nonconformist futures promised by 80s success narratives had evaporated. Tom Cruise, j’accuse!

And I remembered that back in 2003 Ben posted a lovely blog entry in homage to The Clouds, where he characterized their music, particularly the voice of Jodi Phyllis in this song, as a “melancholy indie longing, a long white sigh”.

Back on the bus this morning, the song came on just at the moment when I was daydreaming, partly in response to something Mel said, about past, present and future aspirations and disappointments, and thinking about how it has been my experience that surprisingly decent futures can somehow emerge accretively from the apparently frustrating and pointless minutiae of the endless ‘now’ of the present. That is, all the good things in my life have been just as much a result of bad planning and muddling through as the crap things have. I think that’s what I was thinking. I said it was daydreaming.

As Ben says, the moment that Penny Century represents does seem “so long ago” now.

4 thoughts to “The ‘long white sigh’: some gen-x nostalgia”

  1. Thanks to the “recession we had to have” I was a bum, a volunteer at the Guide Dogs, a health care card holder, a connoisseur of 2 minute noodles and a soldier………doesn’t seem so bad really (sigh).

  2. This was a really wonderful post. Only this past weekend I, too, was thinking about how the course of my life has been determined as much by muddling through as anything else – but also (and I’d blog about this if I ever got the time) that there have been people in my life who’ve given me momentum by asking, in the most innocent fashion, “What are you going to do next?”

    Now I am going to dirty everything by suggesting the possibility of a t-shirt that says “Tom Cruise, J’Accuse”. Only because it rhymes, you see.

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