Chimeo Classics: 'Don't Give Up' - Peter Gabriel, With Kate Bush, 1986
Chimeo Classic: A cultural moment / release that is or has been important to one of our team at a key point in their life
A long car journey down the M1 after work. I’m alone but driving to Leicestershire to meet the person who means more to me than anyone else on earth.
Lutterworth is as nondescript as its name, but it is dignified by the fact of its location: occupying a point roughly halfway between Yorkshire and London in the dead centre of England, it is where we tryst on occasional Wednesday evenings, though we often argue about the semantics of travel time. I know as well as she that the distance is immaterial, for as I exit Huddersfield with perfunctory delay, she must negotiate a tortuous passage from Streatham, south of the Thames, north through the city to join the motorway. And anyway, the distance doesn’t matter because for a few sublime hours, I have the undiluted attention of someone with whom I otherwise communicate by letter – we are not conjoined in the glow of the mobile phone, or the computer screen. We do not share cyber space, or the fumbled dissatisfactions of Skype sex; this is 1988.
As it is early summer, we sit outside an inconsequential, motorway-convenient, pub, and enjoy the last knockings of the evening sun, in a brief catching of extreme happiness measured mostly by eye-gazing and hand-holding in unexpected silence. And you couldn’t put a price on the fixed and dynamic blue of those eyes, the thing that captivated me at college, and for long after.
Odd how memory is seduced by music: why do we find ways of describing the ecstasy of found moments in terms of its sly narcotic? Why is a hallowed space in time always best illuminated with an equally meaningful piece of music, as though the latter were an interpretative metaphor?
And why do we repeat the exercise to the point of distraction? My long journey was accompanied – far too often – by a cassette tape of Peter Gabriel’s album So. The album was (is) a wonderfully diverse collection, as eclectic as you might expect from an imagination that resolutely refuses to stand in one place, and gifts the world musical invention at every turn. I did So to death, but one track spoke to me more than any other at that focussed moment: ‘Don’t Give Up’, whose arc of meaning seemed to encompass everything that mattered to me. Still in the throes of Thatcher’s ‘revolution’ and its collateral damage, Gabriel’s languid delivery appeared to address the heartbreak of unemployment, the desperation, the cry for help. Kate Bush’s vocal counterpoint gave the answer: ‘Don’t give up...don’t give in...you have us’. And the suggestion of symbolism – the redemptive lake, the fire – which anticipate a new beginning. The soaring of Gabriel’s voice at the midway point in this remarkable piece of music is a cry of anger overlain with anguish, and it is beautiful.
And for me – for both of us – it bespoke something more than contextual wallpaper; it spoke to us of our love, our attachment, our togetherness in spite of the distance separating us. I still can’t hear Bush’s answering echo without inferring the voice of another, and I can’t fashion any sense out of why the song, and the memory, remain so conspicuous, so obviously present, after thirty two years.