Choosing your mood

‘Why can’t you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and then be in a good mood once in a while?’

Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything…, 1989.

 

I first heard this quote in a Scroobius Pip song (not my usual music taste but he’s good). Pip references the character of Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusack in 1989’s Say Anything, as someone he interacts with whilst on a dream-based journey. Along the way he meets several people who lay some life truths on him. I’ve always found most of his lyrics incredibly thought provoking and somewhat philosophical, but this one just about floored me as it’s something I’d always had a rather guilty view of myself.

I always felt guilty believing that people can just choose to be happy. We live in a world where mental health issues have reached epidemic level; I understand for a lot of people it isn’t a choice. I guess my argument isn’t for overall life happiness but maybe isolated incidents?

Scroobius Pip’s ‘Angles’ album, featuring Dan Le Sac, was released in 2008 and instantly had a huge impact on me. It deals with some major issues such as perception of others, personal philosophies and even suicide. It’s incredible. His work is probably often categorised as British rap, but it’s more like spoken word or poetry to a beat. Quite often he is literally just speaking but it’s the words and the power behind them.

 

‘Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say…”In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.’

Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey, 1950

 

The first character Pip meets is Elwood P. Dowd, lifted from the 1950 movie ‘Harvey’ featuring James Stewart. The great thing about Pip’s track is that he manages to merge the movie quote into his lyrics as if they are his own.

 

In this life you can be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant, For years I was smart; I recommend pleasant, Being smart can make you rich and bring respect and reverence, But the rewards of being pleasant are far more incandescent.’

 

I can’t think of too many rappers who deal with the issue of what makes you happy in life beyond ‘bling’ and other things that require aster*sks (see West, Kanye). I’m a firm believer that the world needs to get nicer before it gets smarter. We have managed to make tremendous advancements in science, medicine, engineering, technology and many other fields but we are yet to come up with a plan for peace.  Perhaps a shift in perception and focus can literally save lives.

After this, Pip even offers some advice on how to choose your mood and be more pleasant. He does this not through quoting a movie character, but this time another stranger (Billy Brown) paraphrasing some off Scroobius Pip’s other work;

 

‘If you can’t forgive and forget, how’s this? Forget forgiving and just accept that that’s it.’, See that’s how it’s gotta be, Then you can fall in love, get on with your life, and be free.’

 

Quite often in life we are guilty of allowing moments from our past sit inside and rot away. This does nothing good for us. It just prevents us from repairing relationships with those we have had trouble with, whilst also creating a more belligerent version of ourselves and creating more and more rifts in our life. The last word ‘free’ seems ambitious and fanciful but truth be told that’s exactly what would happen; we would be free from resent.

There is finally a verse where your new favourite rapper (Pip) has his last interaction. This time a gentleman named Walter Neff attempts to take the wind out our sales. Riding high on the epiphanic journey throughout the song Neff (a murdering insurance salesman from Double Indemnity, 1944) suggests that no matter the nature of the man on this planet, there is some evil within us;

 

‘Whether it be greed, lust, or just plain vindictiveness, There’s a level of malevolence inside of all of us.’

 

It took a few times listening and reading, but I think the way this is twisted towards the end is that whilst it is great to ride the crest of this positive wave, it is important we stay on board long term. The choice to be happy, pleasant and forgiving is for life. We continue to be defined by our actions until the last breath and we need to make sure we continue to be what Neff is not.

The scene and sound of Pip’s music is very unbefitting of the poetic yarns that he weaves. The truth is I could recommend any number of his songs with some sort of significant message within them but I’ve always felt a special resonance with the teachings of ‘Waiting for the beat to kick in’. My original intention with this blog was to discuss the psychology and philosophy behind choosing your mood but I couldn’t help but head down this road of some sort of life philosophy/song review hybrid. So what better way to finish off the article with the continuation of the first quote I referenced;

 

‘That’s all I have to say ’cause it’s a straight up fact, You control your emotions, it’s as simple as that’

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)

 

(Song – Scroobius Pip vs Dan le Sac – Waiting for the beat to kick in,

Album Scroobius Pip vs Dan le Sac – Angles,

Movies – Say Anything…, Harvey, Double Indemnity)

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My top 5 motivational songs

Guns n Roses – Paradise City

The album that really kicked off my appreciation of ‘proper’ music. I first heard my big brother’s copy of Appetite for Destruction when I was about 7 and instantly the pop culture of Steps, the Vengaboys and the Spice Girls was in the bin. Whilst I wouldn’t exactly describe GnR as a motivational band, there are few things that get someone more pumped up than a good rock song. With the heavy drums and the classic sound of any guitar played by Slash, it gets the blood flowing. It would be an awesome entrance song to walk on stage to!

 

The Beach Boys – Then I Kissed Her

A little before my time. In fact I wasn’t even born until 1988. Yet this band, formed in 1961, were actually the first band I saw live. It was in Copenhagen some time around 2002. With my mum, my dad and one of my brothers we went into Tivoli Gardens just for a bit of sight seeing. There were arrows pointing in the direction of stage saying ‘Beach Boys Live this way’. We followed them assuming it would be either a tribute act (it wasn’t), fully booked (it wasn’t), rubbish seats (it wasn’t) or too expensive (it wasn’t). So we managed to get into the standing section less than 100 yards from one of the most iconic bands of all time for the entry fee in Tivoli Gardens. This was all a week before they were playing Edinburgh Castle back in our home town for £70 a ticket. What an experience as well as an amazing introduction to a whole new field of music.

 

Macklemore – Same Love

A great album for various reasons, but this song in particular has such an amazing message in it. The lyrics are strong enough to be a political and moral broadcast alone. Regardless of political persuasion everyone should battle for equality and standing up for the rights of all those around you. This song puts that into words alongside the amazing vocals of Mary Lambert and it works perfectly.

 

Oasis – Rock n Roll Star

I knew from the start that Oasis would be in here, but narrowing it down to one song has been really difficult! Ended up with Rock n Roll Star for the simple reason that doing the work we do at Tree of Knowledge, you have to portray the confidence of a rock star on that stage. There can be however many doubts floating about in your head before an event, but you need to walk up like one of the Gallagher brothers with a bit of a swagger and use that to make it awesome. ‘Tonight, I’m a rock n roll star’.

 

Circa Waves – T-shirt Weather

As the name would suggest, this is an awesome summer song. I believe one of the things we should look for in an inspirational song is something you’d like to drive along too. Not a drive when you’re in a rush and stuck in traffic; but a drive on the open road at your own pace and, of course, in the sunshine. Speaking from experience this song absolutely does that. It makes me think of nothing else in my life other than the amazing feeling of the sun on your back. There’s an amazing open and free feeling that summer can give, symbolised by the t-shirt and when it gets to the time of year when that happens, the good mood just comes naturally.

 

Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)

Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)