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Violent

“They claim that I’m violent, just cause I refuse to be silent,

These hypocrites are havin’ fits, cause I’m not buyin it.”

I always preferred 2pacs poetry to his songs but there are a few which I really relate to, especially in this environment. The above lyrics describe the relationship I have had with ‘the system’ over the last few years pretty well. In short, they start by twisting the truth, then they hide it, and finally they abandon it altogether. What’s more, when you catch them out and try to engage with them on equal terms, they label you.

They might call you uncooperative, they might call you manipulative, or they might call you violent. But these are reflective of their own acts. You are uncooperative with their attempts to twist the truth. You are manipulative because you try to find ways to stop them hiding the truth. You are violent because you take a stand when they abandon the truth. And all of this could have been avoided if they just told the truth.

Is that so much to ask from so called professional rehabilitators?

You can read the full lyrics to ‘Violent’ by 2Pac here or you can listen to it on my playlist.

San Quentin

“You bend my heart and mind and you warp my soul.

Your stone walls turn my blood a little cold.”

After the past year of crap that HMP Wakefield has thrown at me there is only one song that truly describes how I feel about this place now: San Quentin by Johnny Cash.

Once you get past all the Americanisms it is fully transferable to Wakefield in almost every sense.

You can read the full lyrics to the song here and you can listen to it on my all new playlist section.

Daydreaming

I’ve always been a dreamer. Back in school I was notorious for spending longer gazing out of the window than down at my work. And nothing’s changed.

In the past eighteen months I’ve done more dreaming than ever. For a while I actually dared to hope that some of those dreams might come true. And in a place like this, dreams are sometimes all you’ve got.

There is one song which really sums up what it’s like for me, dreaming of a brighter future. You can read the full yrics to Daydreaming by Paramore here, but the first verse is particularly poignant.

“Living in a city of sleepless people

Who all know the limits and won’t go too far outside the lines

Cause they’re out of their minds.

I wanna get out and build my own home

On a street where reality is not much different from dreams I’ve had

A dream is all I have…”

Imaginary

It will come as no surprise to any of you that, in prison, you spend a lot of time locked behind your cell door. It can be very easy to simply lie in bed all day, day dreaming or wallowing depending on your mood. I’ve done that more than ever over the past year. Sometimes with feelings of elation, where I can just kick back with a smile and think about the people I love, and then sometimes under the blackest of storm clouds where I wished I didn’t even have to wake up, let alone get up and deal with life.

There is one song which epitomises the way I feel in these dark times. ‘Imaginary’ by Evanescence really speaks to me in those moments.

In my field of paper flowers

and candy clouds of lullaby

I lie inside myself for hours

and watch my purple sky fly over me.

Don’t say I’m out of touch

With this rampant chaos – your reality

I know well what lies beyond my sleeping refuge

The nightmare I built my own world to escape.

Oh, and in my reality the “alarm clock screaming monsters calling my name” are invariably the screws.

Brighter Side

I still don’t fully understand why anniversaries mean so much to me, but they do. Certain times of year really change my mood. Some make me happy, others make me pretty miserable. Some even make me self conscious or grumpy.

At this time of year I tend to think a lot about the friends I have lost touch with, especially one who passed away. He killed himself shortly after I was transferred to a different prison. There is one song which reminds me of him more than any other. Brighter Side by OPM. I liked it for years before I met him, but now I think of him every time I hear it. Especially at this time of year. For me, the lyrics will always be his and I will never stop thinking of him as a friend. You can read the full lyrics here.

Sometimes I forget that you’re not here.

Can’t believe it’s been a year

since you flew away

and I never got to say goodbye.

They say you don’t know a good thing till it’s gone

but I got to say they’re wrong,

I knew you were a good friend,

a good friend all along.

End of The World News (Dose Me Up)

Tom McRae has been one of my favourite acoustic artists since I saw him perform at the Shepherds Bush Empire when I was 15 and this song in particular has an ever changing meaning and significance for me. Just lately, the lyrics have been reminding me that no matter how much success I have, I will never stop aiming ever higher so, when I feel like it’s all just hard work and I never get to where I want to be, maybe I need to remember that where I am now I would have been more than happy with five years ago, and I will never run out of lessons to learn.

“You wake up to the sound of alarms

and you’re driving your fabulous car.

Listening to the music that reminds you

you used to be young, you used to be young,

and now you’re searching for a sign with your name

to define you the king of the game.

What will you do when there’s nothing left

for you to earn, and for you to learn?”

McFearless and The Troubles

At the end of April I spoke about an interview I had recently with a psychologist. Apart from the one area which, as I said, really messed with my head, the interview went relatively well. However, such interviews are always difficult, especially given that you have to discuss some of the darkest times in your life in such detail.

There are two songs which reflect my feelings about time spent with prison psychologists. One is McFearless by Kings of Leon and the other is The Troubles by U2. Neither is really anything to do with such things, but the lyrics perfectly reflect my feelings on a level which they were probably never intended to. Here’s a taster:

The Troubles

You think it’s easier

to put your finger on the trouble

when the trouble is you

And you think it’s easier to know your own tricks

well it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

McFearless

It’s safe to say

if I don’t get this out of me

I might quite easily

end up dead

or just mad

cross my t’s

and try to dot my i’s

but that’s just blinding me

and I ain’t living that way

I roll my sleeves

to make a better man of me

A Lyrical Life

A while back I was talking to someone about everything that had been going on for me when they said “God, your life is like a film sometimes isn’t it!?” I immediately replied that it was more like a musical.

Sure, there are the same dramatic ups and downs, but I have felt for a long time like my life has been regularly punctuated by music. I think everyone hears a song every now and again which they really feel like they can relate to and very occasionally one will come along which perfectly reflects what you are personally experiencing. For me that happens all the time. Almost every week I come across songs which are so intensely true to my own life that it feels almost eerie.

I thought a lot about this since that conversation and I came to the conclusion that sometimes the best way to give someone an insight into what it is like to be in an environment like prison, with all of the effects that has on so many areas of life, is to reveal the song that sums your feelings up best.

Well, over the past few months there have been quite a few songs which I became drawn to in this way. When things got hard there were some I couldn’t listen to at all (including anything by Ed Sheeran or Kings of Leon) but the song that epitomises my current state of mind more than any other is Let Her Go by Passenger. Particularly in the first verse.

Well you only need the light when it’s burning low

only miss the sun when it starts to snow

only know you love her when you let her go

only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low

only hate the road when you’re missing home

only know you love her when you let her go

and you let her go.