• Private Hell

    Music & lyrics by The Jam

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    Ladies and gentlemen, let me escort you to my humble abode,” the Devil might say to you. No, after all you don't need him to show you the way! For only God moves in mysterious ways. However hard Sartre tried to demonstrate that “hell is other people”, a bit of unbiased soul-searching should allow you to agree that hell is mostly a private thing. Of some rare literary quality and remarkable insight for a rock musician just emerging from his teens at the time, the lyrics of this song conveniently popped into my mind as I was measuring my own suffering to the much worse circumstances some friends of mine are currently enduring. From the temporary relief such relativisation may bring while repressing what should actually be expressed and addressed instead, the bitter irony of how our ego and psyche have been conditioned by this pernicious system suddenly hit off full blast: never complain for there will always be someone worse off than you and never feel content either as there will always be someone better off. So yes indeed, hell is other people. Still everyone goes through their own private hell... alone. What the f***!


    Closer than close, you see yourself,
    A mirrored image of what you wanted to be.
    As each day goes by a little more,
    You can't remember what it was you wanted anyway.
    The fingers feel the lines,
    They prod the space,
    Your ageing face,
    The face that once was so beautiful,
    Is still there but unrecognisable,
    Private hell.

    The man who you once loved,
    Is bald and fat and seldom in,
    Working late as usual.
    Your interest has waned, you feel the strain.
    The bed springs snap on the occasions he lies upon you.
    Close your eyes and think of nothing but
    Private hell.

    Think of Emma, wonder what she's doing,
    Her husband Terry, and your grandchildren.
    Think of Edward, who's still at college,
    You send him letters, which he doesn't acknowledge.
    Cause he don't care,
    They don't care.
    Cause they're all going through their own
    Private hell.

    The morning slips away in a Valium haze,
    And catalogues, and numerous cups of coffee.
    In the afternoon, the weekly food,
    Is put in bags as you float off
    Down the high street
    The shop windows reflect,
    Play a nameless host,
    To a closet ghost
    A picture of your fantasy,
    A victim of your misery and
    Private hell.

    Alone at 6 o'clock, you drop a cup,
    You see it smash, inside you crack,
    You can't go on, but you sweep it up.
    Safe at last inside your private hell!
    Sanity at last inside your private hell!

    © Paul Weller, 1979

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