Gimme Shelter has had a seriously profound effect on me – to the extent that I have the lyrics from the first verse tattooed on my thigh. What makes it such a big deal to me is the fact that it can be relevant and applicable to anything you want. Now, I know that it was originally written about the tumultuous, war-stricken world everyone was living in in 1969, but I really do believe that the indirect nature of the lyrics allow it to become far more personal to each individual listener than it may first seem.
The reasons towards my great love of this song are two-fold, firstly I adore the backing vocals of Merry Clayton – the moment her voice cracks due to the strain and emotion she is putting into each note always gives me chills and her voice compliments Mick Jagger’s perfectly too. The strength of her emotions when singing the line “rape, murder, it’s just a shot away” is to this day, incredibly powerful. This line is one of many in Gimme Shelter that is sadly, just as relevant today as it was in ’69. It’s lines like that one, that force you to reflect on the world and what is going on in it – and to me that makes it one of the most intelligent and thoughtful songs ever made. Not only because of its longevity, but because no matter what generation you’re from, you can connect the lyrics to the uncertainties and fear of what’s happening in the world around you.
The first lines of the song “Oh, a storm is threat’ning, my very life today, If I don’t get some shelter, oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away,” exudes anxiety and gives the impression that the band and most likely a lot of people felt a great sense of foreboding when thinking of the future. To me it also represents the notion that you have to be able to get away from it all every now and again; otherwise you’ll just burn out. Therefore, on a more micro level, I identify with it because for as long as I can remember, not knowing how things will pan out has always majorly stressed me out, often to the point where I feel like I’m going to break. So Jagger’s plea for respite rings home in a big big way.
The first time I ever listened to Purple Rain was, and I’m not making this up – in the rain. I was in the back of the car, at night time and in the rain. Whether or not this contributed to how strongly I feel about it I don’t know – but what I do know is that no song up to that point in my life had ever affected me like it did. The second those iconic chords started I was mesmerised. What makes Purple Rain so special to me is its sincerity; the lyrics take you on this journey of yearning and angst, culminating in Prince almost wailing, “I only want to see you” repeatedly.
I interpret the song as being about how time always changes things and takes it toll on relationships. It’s this theme that led to Purple Rain being a song I have relied on a lot throughout my life – whenever I am consumed with uncertainty, or my anxiety is playing up I listen to it. When listening it’s as though for a few moments someone else is relating completely with my life and how I feel – which gives me great comfort.
On a more surface level, Purple Rain has everything you could possibly wish for from a song; banging chorus, soulful vocals, emotional lyrics and atmospheric music. Prince created something truly beautiful, which will resonate with me forever – and even with all his diva-ish behaviour (the latest being removing all his music from every streaming service except Tidal – thanks for that), I will always be thankful to him for giving the world Purple Rain.
Yesterday and today my university has been running the “Time to Talk” campaign in the students union. Throughout the days they have been releasing blog posts written by people with mental health problems and also giving out support to those who need it. These aspects of the campaign are useful as they allow us sufferers to express their issues in their own words, rather than having someone dictate what it is like with a particular issue and also informs sufferers of how to get help so they can get support they need more easily.
However, the rest of this campaign leaves a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth. The stall in my Students Union and posters of other stalls from around the country are all daubed in flowers and smiley faces and smothered across my universities one is “come and have a chat and some cake,” “free cake here,” “cupcakes,” “be happy” etc. All of this in my opinion is rather tiresome and mildly patronising, implying that we need to be lured in with promises of smiley faces and free food. As if we are wild animals that need to be caught. The presentation of the stalls also ironically promotes the idea that we are all unhappy all of the time, need to be loved and have a person show kindness towards us, which is exactly the kind of stereotype they are attempting to change and combat. People with mental health conditions do not have a set symptom, we are not autonomous and as someone who suffers from severe depression I am not constantly in need of a hug and some kind words. This approach of kittens and cuteness also somewhat dumbs the issue down and hides the true nature of how terrible life with a mental health can be. It is not a fluffy topic so presenting it as one does not help in the slightest, if anything it trivialises it.
Instead I feel that this campaign would be much more educational and actually of some help if there was a day where people could gather in-depth information about each illness, thus educating people and allowing them to spot warning signs in friends or relatives. And also to make the day more about the people who actually suffer from said illnesses rather than emphasising how great it is that non-sufferers are reaching out to us and giving themselves a metaphorical gold star.
All in all, in my opinion the “Time to Talk” campaign has good intentions but is currently not being implemented in the most effective or tactful way. Instead, it just makes me even feel more isolated and “different” compared to everyone else.
Having just experienced my first exam season at university, I have just gone through one of the tougher times in my life. I have fluctuating anxiety disorder and one thing that causes it to flare up hideously is exams. As soon as I began to revise over Christmas a niggling part of me knew that history was going to repeat itself when I got into the exam room. You see I have a history of getting sat down with the paper in front of me and freezing up. The anxiety induced panic attack leads me to have a complete and utter mind blank (handy….nice one brain) and stare dazedly at the paper for the length of the test. This has happened 3 times already and sure enough my brain decided to leave me and I wrote nada.
Now, although it is somewhat of a disaster as I will of course be given an ungraded mark, there is some consolation. My condition along with my depression is on record with the Disability Support Office at my university. This allows me to apply for a mitigating circumstances form and hopefully be given an uncapped retake in the summer. Which is what I want more students who suffer from mental health conditions to be aware of. There is help available if you tell someone. I have had an entire support plan put in place which is tailored to my specific needs. So please don’t struggle in silence. Speak to student services, they will be able to help you. Make them aware of everything, even things that you may think are irrelevant as they will take them into consideration and try to find a solution.