Nobody Home by Chris Green
I first met Floyd Singer when we moved to Darkbridge and I started at St Dominic’s Junior School. This was a big move for my family and I did not know anyone there. Naturally, I was worried about how I was going to fit in at a strange new school in an unfamiliar town. Given all the changes, I cannot be sure of the chain of events. It was all a bit of a blur. But I inadvertently joined Floyd’s gang, a loose group of about a dozen boys, whose sole aim seemed to be to court danger. Floyd first made an impression on me when one wet afternoon in late November, we were hanging out by the river. Although there were threatening black clouds in the sky and we could hardly see the riverbank, let alone the footpath, Floyd seemed determined to press ahead. The rest of us held back. We could see there was going to be the mother of all storms. Furthermore, the Dark is a fast-flowing river at this point. Given the hazardous conditions, it would be foolhardy to proceed. But Floyd was foolhardy. He wanted sweets and this, he said, was the quickest way to the sweet shop. Or perhaps it was cigarettes he wanted. Looking back, this seems more likely.
Floyd had to be rescued by air ambulance but he survived the episode with little more than a scratch, a bruised ego and a parental reprimand. We were just ten, but the episode seemed to provide a template for Floyd’s teenage years. He continued to live dangerously. Time after time, he chanced his luck on some ill-advised adventure, and by the skin of his teeth, he always managed to somehow pull through. Floyd challenged others to play chicken on the mainline railway and always won. Floyd stole cars and never got caught. Even when he was expelled from school, he managed to talk them into taking him back. Not only was he fearless in those days, he was skilled in winning people over. He seemed to live a charmed life. Blagging was his forte. But this is not to say that there was nothing to back up his bravado. Floyd was an immensely talented guy.
Floyd was the one who started the band. While Barry, Luke and I were accomplished musicians, The Paper Suns would have amounted to nothing without Floyd. He was the vocalist and lead guitarist. He was the main songwriter. He was the one with charisma. He stood out in a crowd. On our debut album, New Dawn, he wrote all of the tunes. He quickly followed this with a wealth of stunning new material for a second album. His talent seemed to know no bounds. This made it all the more sad to see Floyd in his later years, his vacant stare focussed on some phantom in the mid-distance that no one else was able to see. There was nobody home.
Although he had always seemed to be in control, in retrospect, there were telltale signs we may have missed. Carried away by the drama of our overnight success with New Dawn, and being so young, we perhaps took our eye off the ball. Floyd meanwhile began to move in more rarefied circles. We saw less and less of him, and when we did see him, he seemed more and more incommunicative. Floyd’s decline was unquestionably hastened by his voracious appetite for drugs. He was constantly looking for new experiences in life, and in the case of drugs, this pattern proved to be no different. We were living with the hedonism of the nineteen-nineties and there were endless opportunities for experimentation. This was the age of designer drugs and Floyd was keen to try anything and everything. Sadly there was always someone there to supply him with anything and everything. He had acquired a reputation for excess, and wherever he went, dealers were queuing up to take his money. By the time the second album hit the shops, Floyd could hardly remember how to plug in his guitar. He had paid his last visit to the sweet shop. He had written his last three-minute masterpiece. He had played his last six string F-chord.
So it was that The Paper Suns found themselves without their charismatic leader. To make matters worse, our manager, Izzy Eeing seemed to have been seduced by the musical scene in California and lost interest in us. As a consequence, the album Deus Ex Machina sold badly. Without our meal ticket and without a guiding hand, the band was in danger of falling apart. We did not know how we would be able to continue to maintain our popularity. Floyd had been the driving force. To all intents and purposes, The Paper Suns were his band. Barry, Luke and I were little more than backing musicians. Up until this point, none of us had shown any interest in songwriting. This had always been Floyd’s role.
But Floyd was clearly in no fit state to continue with the band. To fulfil our contractual obligations, in desperation, we drafted in our old friend Davy. We knew Davy could play guitar reasonably well and he could sing a little, but he was no substitute for Floyd. Barry then had a lightbulb moment. Without making it seem too obvious he was writing about Floyd, he decided he would write a song about his decline. He struggled a little at first with some of the lyrics. He was in this unfamiliar territory. He was in any case more of a plodder than Floyd. But by and by, he came up with Nobody Home, Parts 1 and 2. These were not snappy little three-minute songs like the ones Floyd had composed, but slow brooding ten-minute numbers with extended instrumental solos. However the album Nobody Home caught the mood of the times and The Paper Suns found themselves another best-seller to promote.
We toured the album worldwide and it went down well with audiences. We were back. We saw no reason to change a winning formula, so over the next eighteen months, Barry came up with another set of songs about a burnt-out rock star, loosely based on the details of Floyd’s breakdown. Again, each of the numbers was a lengthy opus with dreamy instrumental breaks and narrative overdubs. Before we knew it, we had enough material for a double album. Dark Side of the Wall came out at just the right time to take advantage of the millennium celebrations and has been selling steadily ever since.
Floyd Singer died from a rare blood disease. For the last decade of his life, he lived as a virtual recluse. His family discouraged visitors. It is said, towards the end, he was little more than a vegetable. Regretfully, none of the band saw him in his latter years, so it is difficult to know if he was even aware of our music by then. What a sad ending for a visionary artist!
Copyright © Chris Green, 2022: All rights reserved