This chapter is dedicated to Vincent Paquin, a close friend of mine who left us far too soon.
I recently added this iconic Oasis anthem to my "survival" playlist. I say "survival" because it's how I describe what music has done for me over the past few years on my home page: "Were it not for the inspiration of MUSIC, I don't think I would be here today. Music helped me get through some of my darkest days. It has been critical to my survival." And it continues to be an integral part of my daily survival as I still experience some very hard, dark days.
I've listened to it over and over again, trying to figure out what the lyrics meant. I know what they mean to me, but I was curious to see what Noel Gallagher thought when he wrote it way back in 1995. I can't believe it's been 23 years since that song was released! I Googled it and found this interesting article "This Is The Real Story Behind Oasis's Don't Look Back In Anger…". and this quote from it: "Evoking imagery of rock 'n' roll bands and John Lennon and Yoko's iconic bed protest, it tells the story of a woman called "Sally" who looks back on her life without regret." I also found this more detailed article which tells a different story: https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/the-full-story-behind-oasis-dont-look-back-in-anger-760072. There seems to be some discrepancy in terms of what the real story behind the song is!
I wonder how many people can look back on their lives without regret. I would imagine that seldom can. Looking back, I certainly have some regrets, and, as I have come to discover through some emotional meltdowns I've had recently, I also have a fair amount of anger, and sadness bottled up inside. As a child, I grew up in a household with an alcoholic father (and mother) in an environment where no one except our father could express anger. So I was conditioned from a young age not to express my anger, and I can tell you, there was a lot to be angry about. Each time I breakdown, I release some of this pent up anger. I have released a lot, but there is still so much more in there that needs to come out. I've recently started seeing a new therapist to help me deal with my past. She's also focused on helping me cope in the "here and now". I'm hoping to be set free from the anger and bitterness that is still deeply seated inside of me.
I'm also angry with the surgeon who performed my hip revision surgery three years ago, on August 4th. My left hip had to be revised in 2016 because it had worn out. It was 17 years old. Unfortunately, the surgery was not a complete success, and I was left with permanent sequela: chronic pain, stiffness, and nerve damage in and around the scar (neuromas). The new implant has also caused me to develop a Neurogenic Bladder because it protrudes inside the pelvic cavity and applies pressure against the bladder. And, after consulting with a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon in New Jersey who reviewed my post-op x-rays last fall, it was discovered that a critical piece of bone is missing to support the implant and distribute the load evenly. This explains why I have been left with a dysfunctional, painful hip.
Below you will find some photos of my hip replacement. Some of them are graphic, which is why they are blurred with the option to un-blur should you choose to see them.
The surgeon, when confronted, refused to hear me share with him what my physiotherapist had to say with regards to the three areas that were still of concern as far as lingering pain went. He tried to pass the buck and blamed my sacroiliac joint for the pain I was having in my buttock (my sacroiliac joints are both already fused, so pain cannot be coming from them). He dismissed my grievances rather than accept that his surgery had left me worse off than before. I remember looking at him and thinking, "Wow, you really know how to slither your way out of responsibility." I've not gone back to see him since. Instead, when needed, I consult with the surgeon who performed my original hip replacements. He is now retired from surgery but still practices in his clinic. But, as Karma would have it, my new surgeon ended up breaking a hip in a windsurfing accident in the Caribbean just last year. It was quite the adventure I'm told, with him needing to be flown back to Montreal with a broken hip to be operated on here at the Montreal General Hospital. He needed a 2nd surgery to fix a pin or screw that had broken inside. Apparently, he still limps when he walks. This will sound awful, but all I can think is: "Good. Now you know how it feels to have a bum hip!" I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I do. Maybe now, he'll be more considerate towards patients by actually listening to them and acknowledging their grievances.
When I think about this song, I have, but one image pressed between the pages of my mind, and that is, seeing my friend Vinnie show up at my home in Ste-Dorothée, in his mother's red Toyota Tercel with that song blasting on the radio. He got out of the car and said, "Pat! Have you heard this song?" and then proceeded to sing along to the chorus: "And so Sally can wait, she knows it's too late as we're walking on by. Her soul slides away, but don't look back in anger I heard you say". Vinnie was an amateur musician who could sing, play guitar, and piano. In 1995, he accompanied me on guitar when I sang to my first wife at our reception following the wedding. That would be the very first time I had ever sung in front of an audience, and little did I know then, a seed had been planted that day that would slowly germinate inside me only to surface years later. Sadly, no one could have predicted this, but, Vinnie, one of my closest friends, and one of 3 best men at my wedding, was killed in a head-on collision in 1999 in South Africa while on a humanitarian mission with a group of University students who had traveled there to teach the locals how to use the internet. He was an exceptional person, with a beautiful soul and a heart of gold. In his will, which he had drafted up before leaving for Africa, he left me his musical instruments; an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, and a keyboard as well as some CDs. The instruments were yet another sign pointing me in the direction of music. I would later go on to take voice lessons with someone who would eventually become my 2nd wife, but I'll save that story for another chapter! So, I guess this chapter should be dedicated to him because I think he was able to do what the song says, which is "Don't Look Back In Anger." Although he certainly would have had the right to be angry about many things.
Below is the life collage poster I created for friends and family after he passed away. He passed away eight months before my son Sascha was born, so we decided to give Sascha "Vincent" as his middle name.
Now, back to answering Vinnie's question! I was familiar with the song but had only heard it a few times. But at that moment, seeing him chanting the chorus out loud in my driveway, the song etched itself into the music library of my mind. We discussed how "Beatlesque" the song sounded (it begins with the chord progression from John Lennon's "Imagine"), and Vinnie even said something along the lines of "Oasis is our generation's Beatles." Here is a quote from WikiPedia: "Their Beatles influence was labeled as an "obsession" by British media. During their 1991 to 2009 career, the band's widespread success in terms of culture and social reach caused it to be possibly the most popular band since the Beatles." In hindsight, at least for me, I'm not sure if that is a fair comparison, but there is no denying that Oasis left an indelible mark in Rock 'N' Roll. I would rather say that U2 is my generation's Beatles given the lyrical and musical sensitivity imbued in all of their songs as well as their extensive list of hits that spans over 30 years. They don't sound like the Beatles, but they have had the same cultural impact and have a massive worldwide fanbase, just like the Beatles had.
So? What does this song mean to me? It's calling out to me in desperation, saying, "Pat, when thinking about what once was or what could have been, don't look back In anger." We can all look back in anger at something, or perhaps many things! And in my case, it would be me becoming ill at such a young age and the altered life trajectory that transpired as a result of my poor health.
My life took a sudden turn back in April of 1992 when I was first diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. I had no idea what was coming. I was 22 years old, still just a kid really, and I had just moved into an apartment in the West Island with my girlfriend at the time. We were starting our lives together. And, only five months prior, I had landed my first job out of college as a paste-up artist for a toy company working for $7.50/h. Imagine! I had a college degree in Illustration and Design and was working for less than I was making as a lifeguard. But I needed to get my foot in the door somewhere and was just very happy to have a job during a recession. This diagnosis and the ensuing progression of the disease would alter the course of the life that I envisioned I would have.
I also had no idea that, shortly after my separation in 2001 and while in the throes of a new and exciting relationship with my singing teacher Sherrie, that I would end up singing in a rock 'n' roll cover band known as "Out With Jimmy." The boys who asked me to join opened up the door for me to discover a whole other side of me that I didn't know existed. We performed this song during our very first show. I loved singing it. It was one of my favorites. After a few years of jamming, and two shows under our belts at a local night club, one member moved out of the country, and as a result, the band disbanded. But we ended up performing a 3rd show upon his return to Montreal a couple of years later! The drummer practiced the songs while still living in Morocco, and we practiced them here in Montreal without a drummer. We rehearsed twice as a whole band if I remember correctly, and then hit the stage. Anyhow, this would eventually lead to me joining another group that would go on to become known as "Abducted By Aliens." We had a lot of fun playing together and worked in clubs in and around Montreal for a few years. But then, quite serendipitously (I'm a HUGE Elvis fan), we were asked to do a tribute to Elvis as a fundraising event for a music festival in the Laurentians! We eventually morphed into a semi-professional gigging band called "Elvis Rocks" (More on that in an upcoming chapter.) However, sadly, due to my growing health problems, in 2013, we had to put the band on an indefinite hiatus after performing five shows. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Singing was a big part of my life. It was an outlet for me – an important one –, and I have not sung since. My voice and lung capacity have been greatly diminished due to my health problems, which have lasted several years now.
So, rather than sing now, I listen to music every day. I don't get out of bed without first listening to several tracks. And I often fall asleep as my playlist fills my ears and soothes my soul. My iPhone and headphones are my life preserver. I would drown without them. I can tell you that they have gotten me through hundreds of enemas, as I laid on my side or back, staring up at the ceiling or out the window wondering when this nightmare might end. During those times, I lose myself in the songs. With everything I have to deal with each day, I need a place where I can lose myself - a place where the constant stream of negative emotions and fear that plague me are silenced. It helps keeps me sane. I can't imagine my life without music – It would be a cold, dark, baron environment devoid of any joy and pleasure. Thank you, Oasis, for having written and recorded such a magnificent song. And thank you Vinnie for passing along the "musical torch" to me.
I leave you with my favorite line from the song: "Please don't put your life in the hands, of a Rock n Roll band, who'll throw it all away."
- Patrick Franc a.k.a.: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Bionic Man