There are only two certain things in life: death and taxes. Unless you’re in U2, when it’s death and the best cryogenics offshore money can buy. It’s tricky to find much to enjoy in either, although if you’ve got as much minor admin and catching up on Line Of Duty to do as I have, death is particularly inconvenient. There’s so much preparation to do for it too. When my death was prematurely announced on Instagram by a disgruntled band member recently, my first thought was, ‘Shit, I didn’t wipe my hard drive’.
My second, of course, was ‘but what song shall I have at my funeral?’ Because, as we all instinctively know, in choosing the song you’re burnt or buried to, you run the risk of ruining your entire lifetime. You could spend every day for 60 years cycling 100 miles a day to ensure you volunteer at child leper sanctuaries with a zero carbon footprint, but if you’re buried to Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ your closest friends will suddenly realise you were a prick all along. ‘Angels’ always seemed a thoughtless choice to me; I picture thousands of weeping widows being forced to imagine their dearest departed rampaging around some free-love afterlife like a transparent Russell Brand. ‘Thanks for all the affection, love and protection, but I don’t love you anymore,’ it seemed to say, ‘I’m balls deep in seraphim now’.
Yet there it was, high up on the latest list of most favoured funeral songs, which read to me like a litany of extraordinary lives reduced to chaff. There is nothing that destroys a hard-won reputation for uniqueness, individuality, rebellion and shattering all convention than getting buried to ‘My Way’. You’re not on a ‘Stairway To Heaven’, you’re being slowly lowered into a soggy worm pit. Maybe the first couple of cards buried to ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ raised a chuckle, but everyone since has posthumously admitted that they were basically David Brent.
A newcomer amongst these evergreen cark songs is Ed Sheeran’s ‘Supermarket Flowers’, a poignant ode to his late grandmother. It’s all angels and wings and the usual quasi-religious guff that’s designed to get even the most hardened wake crasher blubbing like a Tory campaign manager. But all it’d take is some grief-stricken aunt on the decks cueing up the wrong track and suddenly you’re sliding through the curtain to the words “I’m in love with your body”, your emotional send off gone a bit Ted Bundy.
You just can’t be flippant and populist when picking a funeral song. What one pop song could sum up all the joy and misery, pride and shame, ecstasy and frustration, fomo, tube rage, fidget spinning, mysterious booze injury and regretful ghosting of a human life? If you’re getting buried to anything on this list you’re reducing yourself to a statistic, acknowledging an ordinary, unremarkable, pointless sort of existence. A funeral ‘Angels’ is the sign of someone who didn’t give much thought to the precious intricacies of the life they just finished living, or if they did, didn’t have much to say about it. You might as well get cremated in a shopping trolley and have your ashes scattered across Fernando’s.
Now, with every new health benefit they discover in drinking Rioja I’m increasingly convinced that I’ll soon be declared immortal but, being midway through an on-the-road feature with Fat White Family, I’ve naturally been giving it some thought. The months of national mourning when I shuffle off to Hell’s longest Merlot-only Bastille gig will need a substantial soundtrack if it’s going to encapsulate my ruinous rollercoaster of a life. The entire back catalogue of The Magnetic Fields on repeat, interspersed with ‘Song 2’ and ‘Feelgood Hit Of The Summer’ every three hours or so, might cover it. If time is an issue, my lengthy, alternating bouts of churning existential misery and relieved jubilation could be reflected by playing Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’ three times. There’s certainly some merit in more credible comedy moment – ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ will always be a non-corny way to laugh in the face of mortality. Or, to mash my whole life experience into just one sound, a loop of My Bloody Valentine’s ear-splitting ‘Holochord’ for an hour or so is probably the closest you could get, sonically, to Being Mark Beaumont. Perhaps remixed to the drumbeat of ‘The Drowners’.
But ultimately, a song wouldn’t do. For my funeral they’ll need to create some kind of cinematorium and screen Sideways. Wine-guzzling struggling novelist loses shit on an extravagant road trip. Could be my epitaph.