I don’t know about the world and I don’t care about the world but Shirley Manson, you must know on your birthday that I survived my teenage years and could live to see my 27th birthday because of you, and your music which continue to inspire me. During my darkest days I played ‘So Like a Rose’ on a rusty tape recorder (Yes! A tape recorder!) and pressed the junk player against my ears at night so that I wouldn’t wake up my parents. I didn’t have earphones!
I always wanted to be like Gwen Stefani during my childhood and probably she and her spectacular band No Doubt helped me to listen to you more. It is quite funny in fact. There was a time when the No Doubt and Garbage fan boards used to be active. Really active. Back in those days, we did not have Facebook or Twitter or even Blogs to network and communicate with other fans. The fanboards served the purpose of being a tool to communicate with others who listened to similar kind of music.
Most No Doubters in 1999 and 2000 were also Garbage fans, which I think is quite true to this day. I was more into No Doubt than Garbage initially, and I think I have a few funny confessions to make. Let me tell you a few dark secrets about myself. I would get pissed off when people would compare you with Gwen Stefani, and how Garbage was cooler than No Doubt. When you are 14/15, such comparisons can trigger off strong emotions. I registered myself on the pink Garbage fanboard (Ah, how I miss it!) and began to participate on the forum.
I couldn’t keep my bitchy mouth shut, and started threads like ‘Holy No Doubt and Garbage War’, which served the purpose of not only being the star of the board for a few minutes, but also fed me with enough fodder to believe I could start a revolution to prove that No Doubt was somehow so much cooler and better than Garbage.
I mobilized a few No Doubters, and I don’t really remember the names. One was a 12 year old girl who wanted to look just like Gwen and used to tell me how I could train my voice to sing like her, but my voice ‘broke’. She and I went on a rampage on the board, and one of your greatest fans Walid Awadh, who went by the name ‘mysteron’ on the pink board would remember the details.
The number of tunnels that I walked through, and the number of ‘darkened halls’ I have lived in have faded my memory so much so that I don’t remember what my nicknames were on both No Doubt and Garbage fanboards. While No Doubt continued to be one of my favorite bands, I began to listen to you, Shirley Manson more often. Ah, let me also tell you how I ended up listening to you and just you. In a fit of rage and madness, one day I burned all my photographs and tapes.
When I went to the local music store in a town that I lived in India, they only had Garbage, the self-titled debut album. I was happy to get back one of my burned tapes back and being poor as a church mouse that I was, listened to the album day in, and day out for about 3 months. When I could manage to purchase Version 2.0 and Beautiful Garbage, I was lucky enough to find most of the other tapes which I had set alight as well. Thus my tape collection continued to grow, and so did my scars.
The more I listened to Garbage, the more comforted I felt, and gave me the strength to fight my demons and my scars. When Bleed Like Me was in stores, I had a CD player finally and that album strangely prompted me to consider majoring in psychology. Until today, I have not come across a simpler, more minimalist and stronger song that depicts mental illness in all its forms and in all its incomprehensibleness.
Garbage as a band helped me to discover new music, and I began to listen to Hole, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Tori Amos, Marianne Faithfull, Blondie, Nico and before I knew, a whole new world of music opened up right in front of me. One cannot of course ignore the importance of Internet as a medium in helping listeners find the music they want in places they may not be physically able to purchase. Moreover, physical tapes and CDs are redundant now, and I thank the darkest of angels of that.
The last 11-12 years of being your fan has not only helped me to fight my own demons, but I have found other musicians, bands and writers who think like you, sing like you and feel similarly about the way things work. I know, that is a really vague way to put that across, and I don’t think I am even making sense anymore.
What prompted me to write this lengthy, almost confessional and probably naive post was your birthday. I had typed the first few lines of this blogpost on my cellphone in an attempt to put it on your Facebook wall. The damned phone would not allow me to type beyond a certain number of characters. How could I show my gratitude, love and say thanks to you in just a few words? Thus, I had to write this letter-sort-of-thing which may not make sense, may appear juvenile (Aren’t we all?) and fanboy-ish. I don’t have any qualms in saying that this could be the most subjective piece I have ever written, and I mean every word I say.
Apart from introducing me to a world of new genres, artists, and subcultures, you and the boys, and No Doubt (I hope they release their album soon!) have been extremely important in shaping me in becoming the person I am today. Like I said initially, many of Garbage’s songs are life-savers. A few of them continue to save mine. And you continue to be a catcher in the rye to me and other darklings around the world. I shall stop my praises here, before I appear too corny. Happy Birthday Shirley Manson!