As some of you may have seen, I had a new tattoo done last week. My biggest, most expensive, most painful – and probably best loved – tattoo to date. I wonder if pain, size and money will always work in inverse proportion to fondness like that? My guess is it will do; after all, the more we humans invest in things, the more we feel like we should have got out of them. Even if I hated it, I would never be able to see it that way, having been in pain for so many hours and having shelled out so much money that my wallet actually wouldn’t shut before I handed the wodge of cash over. Not that I do, in any way, hate it – I am entranced with it, enraptured. I’m in love with my hips, just as Roger Taylor was in love with his car.
This is my third tattoo that means something. Given that I have (I think, I keep losing count – numbers are really not my strong suit) 24 tattoos, I think this is a level of shallow of which to be proud. That’s a lot of meaningless prettiness, and let’s face it – that’s the best kind.
The first tattoo I had that meant anything in terms of having some significance more than me liking the way it looks is the fairly crappy dragon I’ve got on my stomach, which is now looking so faded and shabby compared to the brilliant black of the new one. It’s not the greatest tattoo in the world and was picked randomly from a piece of flash on the wall of the shop I frequented in Crewe, where I lived in the third year of my first degree. Would I say I regretted it? No, I don’t think so. I clearly could have put something better in that space, but it does mean something and so I do love it.
NB - I only have one tattoo I actively regret, and that’s the big fairy-with-an-kaleshnikov on my right leg. I had that one done really quickly after the genuinely brilliant fairy-with-an-AK on my left leg and this fairy is just trying to catch that one’s vapours. It’s also the only I tried to draw, and given that I can’t draw, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s not very good. Plus she looks like she’s sunburnt. It’s a shame it’s so very big, but regretting a tattoo really isn’t the ‘my life is over’ disaster that one would think it is. It’s actually more on a par with a hang nail that keeps catching on your jumper. Irritating, but you’ll live. I have vague plans to have a couple of laser sessions on it and have something better put over it, but there’s no massive rush.
So, back to the dragon. I had it done at the end of my first real relationship. My first true love, for whom I fell so hard. I really thought we were forever, and I still think wistfully of him from time to time today, even though he’s now as good as married with two kids. There are times when he looms so large in my subconscious that I can’t quite believe we were only together for a year or so. Our relationship was all fireworks and magic tricks, it was one of the greatest times of my life, but it fell apart for reasons I can’t even really remember now – something to do with his band and me having totally unrealistic expectations, like the foolish 19 year old that I was. It was my first taste of real, grown-up love. In all my memories of that time, the sun seems to be shining. Clearly, this was not the case – but why ruin a good bit of nostalgic mooning with something as tedious as the facts?
What I do remember clearly, though, is getting that dragon done to mark the end of the relationship, to have something on my body that he didn’t know about, so that I was mine again, and not his. Not quite so daft, my 20 year old self, it’s actually quite a canny idea I think. And it means new ink, which is always a winner.
The second tattoo I have that means something – and I only even realised that it does mean something as I started typing this blog – is my trio of Madonna heads, on the inside of my left arm, which I took from a book called Madonna in Art that a different ex boyfriend gave me. I love those Madonna heads.
Madonna means a lot to me. I don’t love everything she does – adopting 12 million kids whose parents, it turns out, are still alive, isn’t really top of my list of Good Things To Do – but nonetheless she is the closest I’ve got to a God, I think. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, and most importantly, the music. Yeah, she’s got it wrong a couple of times, but mostly, she’s got it right, and got it right again and again and again. The longevity of the woman deserves your respect even if, for some odd reason (maybe some kind of childhood accident?) you don’t like her music. I mean, come on – name me one other musician who has been so relevant throughout the 80s, 90s, 2000s and on into this decade… and Kylie doesn’t count! (I don’t really get it with Kylie. She’s got about three brilliant tunes (Come Into My World, It’s In Your Eyes, Confide in Me, oh, and Can’t Get Your Out of my Head… ok, four) and is clearly quite perky and sweet, but other than that, she’s stunningly underwhelming, no?)
The second reason I love Madonna so is that I think she’s beautiful. Her arms look a bit odd these days, but I still definitely would. Have you seen how bendy she is???
The third reason is that, strange baby adopting ways aside, she is a proper inspiration to me on a daily basis. She pulled herself up from nothing and is so totally in charge of everything she does – and everything she does (apart from the babies) (oh, and quite a lot of the movies, I’m not a total idiot) is spectacular. She’s clever and thorough and she’s got balls. We need more women like her in this world. She’s not perfect – she’s got gappy teeth and she gets things wrong sometimes and that song she did with Prince was a massive let-down – but we get so many seemingly perfect women shoved in our faces from all angles that a bit of hard work and grit and imperfection is exactly what we all need.
So yes – that is why my Madonna tattoos mean something to me.
This new tattoo is the third one that has a meaning – and I guess that meaning ties up with what I have just been saying about imperfections.
If I was clever enough, I would now draw a Venn Diagram and insert it into this blog, but it’s late and I’m tired and I’m not sure how I’d go about it. This Venn Diagram would be all the people in the world who have Madonna tattoos, and all the people in the world who have Leonard Cohen tattoos, and where they intersect. If any blog readers fit, like me, into the middle of that diagram, please come round to my house at once so I can marry you.
I didn’t think I liked Leonard Cohen for many years when I was a young, idiot child. This was a time when I thought Derek B (anyone remember his Good Groove?) was god’s greatest gift to hip hop, so plainly, I was not to be trusted. My father is a massive Leonard Cohen fan, a fact that has informed one of the oft-told stories of my heritage. My nan, on hearing this piece of information, warned my mum not to marry him as she thought no man who liked that kind of racket would ever be happy.
I chuckle, but it’s something I don’t really understand. I know the myth is that Leonard Cohen is really miserable – just as the myth is that Morrissey is really miserable – but I don’t really see it. Yeah, both of them have some sad songs, but which decent musical act doesn’t? Bands who only have happy songs end up being like D:Ream, and funny as Brian Cox is, that's not something to be aimed for. Moz n Len also have funny songs, uplifting songs, beautiful songs, fast songs, slow songs… anyone who was just miserable would be the kind of one-trick pony who would get tiresome pretty damn quickly and no mistake.
I realised my error re Laughin’ Len, as I like to call him, around the age of 14. I’m not sure what it was that showed me I was wrong – probably my brother making the same realisation and pointing out my wrong-doing to me. I basically liked anything he told me to like back in those days – apart from the Wedding Present. Never, ever the Wedding Present. I do not approve of Dave Gedge and his dreadful lumpish moaning. But I have loved Leonard Cohen with a love that runs deep and true ever since.
Anthem, the song from which my latest tattoo comes, is my favourite Leonard Cohen song (probably) and it’s a beauty. I had a birthday party a couple of years back which I didn’t enjoy at all – I was ill, and starting to realise that the party lifestyle I was leading wasn’t for me – and I got all a bit overcome at one point and started sobbing. A fairly common occurrence for me. I don’t think it’s really a party unless I’ve spent AT LEAST ten minutes crying somewhere on the premises.
My DJ life partner knew what I needed. She lay me on a soft mattress, stuck some headphones in my ears, and played me Len singing Anthem from his Live in London album. Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in. Listening to that tune at that moment will remain one of my favourite memories forever, I think. I won’t expound upon the greatness of the lyrics for you, as there would be nothing I could say that would add it to. If you don’t know it, go and buy it from iTunes (yes, BUY IT, I said, give Len your money!) and educate yourself for the better.
I used to have the above line from the song as my ‘something about yourself’ on Facebook, but then the buggers went and changed the profile page, and I knew I needed to rectify the lack of this quote in my life.
I had the idea to have it tattooed somewhere on my person on boxing day. I originally wanted it on my head – which was actually why I got my Mohican – but quickly realised it wouldn’t fit. I pondered on it for a month or so, came up with the idea of having it snaking round my hips a few weeks ago, and got it done as quickly as I could because it seemed such a genius idea I felt that if I left it any longer, someone else would get there first. And it is, I think, my favourite tattoo. There is a crack, a crack in everything… that’s how the light gets in. What could be more perfect?
It hurt a hell of a lot, especially directly over my hip bones, and took ruddy hours, but it was worth it. I’m not sure how I’m going to top it. Any ideas? Answers on a postcard, please…