Thursday, 28 July 2011


I never thought I would see the day I would receive two incredible texts arriving within 30 seconds of each other informing me of Amy's death. I mean, yes, I knew she was a caner obviously out of control on various substances and/or mental illness. But somehow, some way I always seemed to dismiss the whole sordid spectacle as a gutter press beat up or some anonymous tool uploading videos online purely to then vent abuse about her skankiness. We've all been shitfaced in our time and half the stories I read just seemed like rock n roll behaviour exemplified - 'high spirits' mixed with money, fame, celeb friends, a crazy personality and a newspaper-selling, car crash image. It just seemed to reflect what 'the kids' of contemporary London got up to and characterised what Camden, in particular is like.

Amy's membership to the 27 Club is obviously extremely regrettable and her loss means far more to me than any of that notorious club's other illustrious members. Cobain may have been closer to my generation, but he was American, male and (worst of all) grunge. Couldn't really get any more removed from my own personal experience. Amy, on the other hand, wove images (both lyrically and musically) utterly infused with the emotion, drama, chaos and sassiness of what it feels like to be young, female and fucked up. Laura Barton posted an insightful take on Winehouse's lyrical legacy on the Guardian's music blog yesterday, an excerpt of which I've included below. She touches on all the reasons why Winehouse was such a powerful performer and resonated in particular, with so many women. Read the full post here

Pop music had often cast women as sweet, bright creatures, but Winehouse's lyrics revealed something mulchier, messier. Here was a woman who refused to conform – not in the eccentric mad woman in the attic mould of Kate Bush or Björk, but a woman who chose to live a little wild, follow her heart and sing of the simple stew of being female. Her songs were filled with broad talk, cussing, drink and drugs and dicks, songs that could hinge on one magnificent, unladylike question: "What kind of fuckery is this?"
She sang openly of female desire – not the squawky, shrill sexuality of Sex and the City and Ann Summers, but something truer, more physical, more serious. She sang about the ache of the body, the need for emotion, the distracting allure of a man's shoulders, shirt, underwear. "When he comes to me, I drip for him tonight," she sang on I Wake Up Alone. "Drowned in me, we bathe under blue light."
She frequently gave her songs a familiar, almost domestic setting, a world of kitchen floors, chips and pitta, Tanqueray and Stella. "I'm in the tub, you on the seat," she sang on You Know I'm No Good. "Lick your lips as I soak my feet/ Then you notice likkle carpet burn/ My stomach drops and my guts churn." It was a verse that started off like a Degas painting, naked and intimate and warmly erotic, but swiftly dissembled into something sad and messy and ruined.And this, too, was key to Winehouse's lyrics – she gave you an image and then quickly swiped it away, a honeyed love scene soon dissolved into wretchedness; over the course of an album it gave the impression of a life of instability, lived from one ramshackle lurch to the next.
But there were constants – namely addiction and passion, the flaming five-storey fire of love she always returned to in Love Is a Losing Game, the ferocious, proprietorial female strength of Some Unholy War, the mind fogged by drugs and love and desire. In Back to Black's great tangle of pride and neediness we found a melding of the two: "You love blow and I love puff," she sang. "And life is like a pipe/ And I'm a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside."
The other constant presence was of self-recrimination and remorse. In her lyrics Winehouse seemed to show how she screwed things up – how she should never have played the "game" of love in the first place, of "teasing" her self-esteem, and of "this regret I got accustomed to". In Tears Dry on Their Own she gives herself a stern talking-to: "I cannot play myself again, I should be my own best friend," she warns. "Not fuck myself in the head with stupid men."

All images in this post taken outside Amy's house in Camden Square, North London, two days after her death. Amy Winehouse 1983-2011.

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