Last Tuesday morning shortly before eight, Cathal Funge played ‘Lost’, Sorcha Richardson’s single released in September, on his morning show on TXFM.
Only a few days earlier he played Big Star’s ‘I’m In Love With a Girl’ in the same peak breakfast time slot. I’ve never before heard ‘I’m In Love With A Girl‘ on the radio, and I would have noticed. I’m going to miss TXFM.
I hadn’t caught Cathal’s introduction and I didn’t know what this song was but ‘Lost’ caught my ear with its opening three bass drum thuds – long, short short; boom… boom boom; and the little rattle of snare. That Phil Spector beat that leads into “The night we met I knew I needed you so“.
A ‘Be My Baby’ beat is to be used with caution. It promises a sweet and deep pop thrill; it gets your heartbeat ready to skip. This sound has a long lineage.
Listening to ‘Lost’, I thought of Camera Obscura alongside the Ronettes, and I thought of Johnny Boy‘s ‘You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve’. I thought of the Ramones and of the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson has been saying for fifty years that ‘Be My Baby’ is the best song ever written. You can hear him worshipping that song in ‘Don’t Worry Baby‘, which has its own claim on that title.
So no pressure, then, ‘Lost’.
But ‘Lost’ honours its lineage. ‘Lost’ is a wonder.
I went back to ‘Lost’ on the Luas and played it back to back all the way to work. There’s a point a few listens in on public transport when you are hoping your headphones can’t be heard by the person standing beside you. You don’t want your neighbour knowing as you’re rolling past Bluebell that you’re having a moment; choked up and happy.
But on you listen. You’re hardly going to stop listening.
On Tuesday I tweeted that I found something very moving about the song and didn’t know what it was, yet. This, I suppose, is what I’m trying to figure out here.
‘Lost’ is a song of love and encouragement to a friend whose heart has been broken. (I’m taking it literally because, in her liner notes, Sorcha does.)
She makes the best of it with bravado “(“She is leaving? You just let her / Cause you’re better off”). She understands: she sings “It’s okay to be this way but you don’t have to be forever” with a tender ache in the grain of her voice that makes me wince a little.
She makes plans to divert him with drink: “I know it’s dark inside your head / Replaying everything she said / So come out with me instead… Penny’s working at the bar / We can go dressed just how we are / Forget that girl who broke your heart”. She feels his pain: “I know it’s bad baby / Come on we can dance it off / Everybody’s feeling lost”.
The chorus is “I don’t wanna see you waste another day / On your heartbreak“. Which is both moving and amusing. I know guys who’ve put YEARS into a good heartbreak.
I should note that the song is brilliantly structured, tightly drafted, colloquial and not overexplaining (who’s Penny?), and, at 2:59 with half a dozen emotional peaks, a tiny bit too short. Another writer would have padded with a minute of an outro, and that would have been OK. But this is better; a tiny bit too short is how long a song should be.
Some of what is moving in ‘Lost’ is the central sentiment – its tender, warm love.
It’s a platonic love, and so the lyric has a selflessness that another song would not have. So many songs purportedly about a lover are about the narrator’s own internal wrangles. Why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this!
And that’s fine. But this is different; this is generous.
It’s not just that she sings “I don’t wanna see you waste another day“; it is of course how she sings it, with full lungs and fulsome compassion. Which is also how my daughter, who’s six, sang it when we played the song together. She belted it out. She understood it. (Not the bit about getting hammered down the boozer.)
A little of what moves me is my memory of that time in my own life, early to mid twenties, when falling in love and occasionally getting together with someone but mostly worshipping from afar and listening to endless AMC songs and pondering the meaning of love with my fellow doomed romantics was what we did.
They didn’t always feel like it but they were gentle and innocent times. We were trying so hard to figure it out. We were so daft and earnest, and those conversations were the most important, high-stakes event in our weeks.
And I thought of old, old friends I haven’t seen in so many months, who I nearly don’t have time to miss, and I thought – Christ, these people are part of me. Like this, music reminds you to be better at being you. (Then you just have to go and do it.)
What moved me about ‘Lost’ on Tuesday wasn’t the moments I would later have in the kitchen with my kids bonding over the song; but then we did, and so that’s part of it now.
There’s a video for ‘Lost’, and when Sorcha posted this I showed the song to my daughter Olivia. She wants to be a teacher and a singer and I just wanted her to see that you can make a song about something as simple as being a good friend. (There’s a particularly hallowed place in our house for songs that everyone in the family loves. You can’t push your taste on little kids but you can’t deny yourself a little squee when you hear your kids singing Sufjan Stevens, or ‘At My Most Beautiful’, or ‘Confetti’, or humming the harmonies of ‘I Need Direction’.)
The video is a sequence of drawings in a lined A4 pad. Olivia’s a draw-er, and she admired the glitterball that pops up for “I know it’s sad, baby, come on we can dance it off“; my son Michael liked the compass assigned to “Everybody’s feeling lost“, because he just got a pair of binoculars and is beginning to fancy himself as an outdoorsman.
We played the video and they asked to watch it again. The next morning Olivia said she’d had the song in her head all night and “Can you put it on again”? And again, and again.
She is like me in her tendency to get compulsively riveted by a song. We’ve had this with ‘Opportunity’ from Annie, ‘Let It Go’, ‘Halo’, ‘You and I‘, ‘A Real Hero’ by College, and ‘Lost’. She is unlike me in that she doesn’t care who knows she’s having a moment.
As much as I may wax nostalgic for those 1990s nights in the pub failing to understand women, I know that these moments now, singing in the kitchen with my kids, are as meaningful and beautiful as any moment I’m ever going to have, and I’m grateful in a way I can’t describe for these songs and to the musicians who make them.
Songs have been everything to me; God forgive me they have taught me how to live to a great extent. And I’m so glad that songs like ‘Lost’ are embedded in my family life. I hope that my kids learn from songs like this like I still try to do. I hope that they will be the friend that Sorcha Richardson is in this song, and I hope they will only allow themselves to be friends with people who will treat them the way Sorcha treats her ‘Lost’ friend, who may be having a bad week but who knows, I’m sure, how lucky he is.