Tag Archives: death

Thursday Tune: Johnny Cash – ‘Hurt’ (2002)

Is this the best music video of all time?

In my opinion, unequivocally yes. If you have not watched the above YouTube video, please stop reading, watch it and prepare to be moved – there’s no need to be a fan of Johnny Cash, or the exemplary ‘Nine Inch Nails’ original, but merely a human with a beating heart and brain capable of feeling emotions.This is painfully emotive music.

Done? Then let’s move on.

Before I discuss this sparkling example of a music television, I want to share a personal musing.

This is about our memories, the important ones. The experiences that are seared onto the psyche, the sort of memory you can smell, taste and re-visit as if they happened mere minutes before. Particular songs possess that magical ability to trigger those memories, and drag you back to times in your existence, good or bad, happy or sad

Some of my earliest memories revolve around being driven to lower school in my Dad’s old maroon Vauxhall Cavalier and the music that provided the soundtrack to those short journeys. If Mum was driving, a mix of ‘The B-52’s’, ‘Simply Red’ and ‘Marvin Gaye’ would boom from the tinny speakers. However, if Pop Bilko was at the wheel, ‘Pink Floyd, ‘Genesis’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, ‘The Who, and of course ,‘Johnny Cash’, served as my pre-school musical breakfast – that and a sizeable bowl of Ricicles…always Ricicles.

I was blissfully unaware that this early exposure to a rich and varied smorgasbord of singer types would result in their lyrics writing themselves in to the blueprint of my brainbox. Even today, if I hear ‘Invisible Touch’, the words reverberate effortlessly from my underappreciated vocal chords, similarly if ‘Comfortably Numb’ catches me off guard in B&Q, I am powerless to its charm and find myself chirping out the lyrics like a mental.

Essentially, there are songs for everybody that serve as emotional triggers.

“No shit Sherlock!” I hear you cry, well I don’t hear ‘you’ because ‘you’ is a computer, and computers can’t talk. Actually Siri can talk, but Siri is a disobedient, useless prick that mocks my requests for “Nandos near my location”, instead searching for “Banjo’s near my probation”.

Phew, slight digression. I recognise this blog is in risk of entering in to a massive, fiery nosedive so I’ll cut straight to the chase.

Johnny Cash’s 2002 B-side ‘Hurt’ reduces me to a blubbery husk. Here is a triple threat of revered musical royalty, a heart-breaking video and an already brilliant original song. I won’t pretend I had heard Nine Inch Nails original before hearing Cash’s interpretation, but both are flat-out outstanding. Lyrically, this is dark stuff, touching on suicide, self-harm and mortality but also in a bizarre way euphoric.

NIN’s original is a slow burner incorporating those hallmark industrial crunches and writer/vocalist Trent Reznor’s fractured, frail voice that overlays the morbid proceedings. It is excellent, but today is about Mr Cash’s interpretation.

Cash’s version is similar but manages to bring its own meaning and emotion to the lyrics. Calling this a cover seems unfair, both are unique and equally epic. Reznor penned the original whilst fighting with thoughts of suicide and depression. Cash knew his demise was near and his reading of Reznor’s lyrics gain new meaning.

They dont make ’em like him anymore.

The 2002 Cash cover was recorded and released just months before his death and it’s impossible to not consider this recording to be Johnny’s epitaph of sorts. The video, set in the now defunct ‘House of Cash’ museum, was long since derelict and coated with a layer of regretful dust. The artefacts from bygone years scattered amongst the video serve to effectively taunt the ageing singer as if to say, “that was who you once were, but this is who you are now.”

Director Mark Romanek said, “It had been closed for a long time; the place was in such a state of dereliction. That’s when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny’s health, as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs.”

Stark images of rotting fruit pepper the video spliced between shots of Cash’s late wife, June Carter Cash, watching over her one true love. Tragically, she passed away three months after the video was filmed. Not a second or frame is wasted by director Romanek, each vivid image supplementing the beautiful music.

To watch Cash as a frail, clearly unhealthy and elderly man is difficult. This is underpinned by accompanying shots of a youthful Cash in vibrant Technicolor, bringing forth a jarring contrast of a vital young man that once was to the old man that now exists in his place. His eyes still flicker with the adolescent fire that once burned so furiously but are lined with salty tears as Cash depresses the keys on his piano. Each word appears to punch its way out of Cash’s mouth, the weight of the lyrics weighing heavy on his failing frame.

As the song builds and reaches a near din, I challenge you to not feel tingles. For me, this heady sensation then moves deep into my throat as an inevitable lump grows – tears sometimes follow dependent on where I am or what I am doing. As a fan of Cash, the video is tough to digest. The visual climax is deathly poignant and smacks of finality and closure. As Cash delicately closes the piano lid, we are fortunate to witness the ending to a fantastic and unforgettable career and life.

Widely recognised as the one of the best music videos of all time, Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ transports me to a particular moment in my life, one that I am loathe to reveal on this blog. Yet, my point remains, that music unlike any other medium does possess that freakish ability to trigger untapped sources of pure emotion.

R.I.P Johnny Cash – (February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003)

Below is a live video of the original version by the Nine Inch Nails, both are equally beautiful.

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Tuesday Training: The tragic and cautionary tale of ‘Zyzz’.

Aziz 'Zyzz' Shavershian (1989 -2011)

Obsession.

Each of us, as humans, have the ability to become obsessed. It is both a brilliant and potentially dangerous facet of the human condition. Mostly, we are aware when passion morphs into obsession and we are able to curb it, identify and consequently mould it into the muse we want it to be.

A key example of unbridled obsession would be the former England rugby legend, Jonny Wilkinson. Infintitely talented on a rugby paddock and relentlessly devoted to success, a character driven by unbridled passion. As a personality, he was revered constantly, and unfairly, as a rugby droid, purely because he would not go out shagging vapid trollopes every weekend, or provide a cutting soundbite to the press.

Here was a man obsessed with two goals – to captain England and the second, you guessed it, to lift the Webb Ellis trophy and be a world champion. Everything else was subsidary.

The kick that changed history.

The reason I mention Wilko is two fold. On the surface was a consumate professional and a cast iron role model. His obsession and unflinching desire paid massive dividends. On November 22nd 2003, his world was replaced with a new alien existence. Jonny became a national hero and icon, prime press fodder.

Post World Cup final, his finely tuned body began to creak and misfire. Injury upon injury followed, form dissapeared. Wilkinson slowly slipped from the public conscious. All the seconds, minutes, days and hours spent carving his psyche and technique to becoming a world champion reared themselves in the years that preceded that glittering November evening at the Telstra stadium.In a cruel twist, the work he had done was now creeping up and tearing him apart.

Jonny entered a spiral of deep depression and suffocating anxiety. Silently, he became a recluse – angry at the sport that he once adored and the spotlight that shone so brightly on his career.

From hero to an ongoing joke of the sport, famed once for his consumate temperment, now for his broken body and failed comebacks. His obsession led to the heights he craved but similarly it also culminated in to the darkest, lonliest period of his life.

Fortunately, Jonny eventually recognised this and relaxed his obsessive regimen and learned to enjoy his rugby, moving to Toulon and rebooting his stuttering career and personal life. He identified his demons before they swallowed him entirely.

‘Zyzz’ however, did not.

Aziz ‘Zyzz’ Shavershian

I stumbled across ‘Zyzz’ a couple of months ago on youtube whilst I was searching for a couple of motivational videos prior to throwing stuff about at the gym. The picture heading this blog previewed the video and so my curiosity was tickled and I watched the four minute video that followed.

What a cock,” was my immediate thought.

A minute later, “Cripes, he is in great shape though”.

Three minutes in, “He’s rather funny is this Aussie chap”.

The video ends, “What the shit?!! He’s DEAD?”.

I have a healthy morbid curiosity, maybe it links to the job I do (I’m not a contract killer, despite my obvious resemblance to Agent 47 of the Hitman games). My research began and I started to learn more and more about this internet sensation and cult hero, who was simply known as ‘Zyzz’.

Here was a very young man, who whilst in his teens was trapped within the body of an ectomorph. He craved, like a vast bulk of us gents do, women and he believed that being shredded was the answer. Therefore he began to train….hard. Results came quickly and with his new found adonis-like physique, as did a new personality that would inspire and repulse in equal measures.

‘Zyzz’ was the phyical embodiment of an internet troll, he became a minor celebrity down under. This was reflected following his premature passing with the search term ‘Zyzz’ being more popular than that of the Australian Prime minister.

Watching his videos, ‘Zyzz’ fist pumps and flexes his enviable physique in all manner of inappropriate situations.Whether you approve or not, he coined a number of phrases, that no douby you will have heard farting out of the mouths of teenage plebs at your local gymnasium.

“You mirin’?!” – You admiring?

“Come at me bro!” – self explanatory.

“Sick C*nt” – again, self explanatory.

“FUUUUUUAAAAAARK” – see above.

All inspired, Shakespeare standard fayre I am sure you will agree.

Watching his videos, it is simple to dismiss ‘Zyzz’ as a bit of an Aussie prick – and he is, but this is also a slight disservice. Away from the camera, he openly confided in his fans that the entire ‘Zyzz’ character was just that, a fabricated figurehead for his obsession – to be the king of aesthetic bodybuilding.

His transformation from stick insect to aesthetic god has inspired many. He is also despised by those who consider him a fraud, and understandbly so, I am undecided, but once you click through a few of his videos and read his dry and sometimes hilarious quotes, it’s difficult to not feel an ounce of sadness for his untimely passing. There is certainly a presence about him, good or bad.

Aziz ‘Zyzz‘ Shavershian died in a sauna in Bangkok, aged 22. It is widely reported that he was on a very intensive steroid and fat burner cycle and this coupled with an unknown heart condition put paid to his legacy. Despite his continual protestations that he was a natural bodybuilder, the general consensus was that he indeed did abuse steroids.

I dont ask that you like or approve him, I just consider his story to be quite an intriguing one.

His obsession snuffed out his young life. Dont let obession rule yours.

RIP Aziz ‘Zyzz’ Shavershian March 24, 1989 – August 5, 2011

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