2002 was a strange year for us. My wife and I were both working for a lighting manufacturer that had just been bought out by an American based plc. Rumours were rife about the fate of our factory and its 200 or so employees. Would they shut us down? Would they merge our company with others in the group? What would happen to us, the workers? As the year progressed, apart from the MD being shown the door and a new man appointed, very little, however, changed. The company was making a healthy profit and our original fears subsided. Perhaps our finances, futures, and friendships were safe.

In April that year, I was encouraged to take a working trip to the Far East. Like most UK manufacturers at the time, our company wanted to take advantage of the low costs countries like Taiwan and Malaysia could offer. It was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. Excited and looking forward to experiencing a completely new culture, I flew out of Heathrow on a Sunday evening. My wife stayed at home. Around the same time, the Flaming Lips, a band I’d heard of but knew nothing about, released ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’.

On the Tuesday, Emma, my wife, called me as planned. Her voice sounded odd. “I’ve got some bad news,” she said. “They’re shutting us down and we’re all being made redundant.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could they do this? Then having the audacity of announcing it to me when I was away, while supposedly working for their benefit? Later that day my boss rang and confirmed the news.

With us both working for the same company our income was solely dependent on the fortunes of the one firm. We started to worry. We had two kids, our home and a hefty debt to support. But these things take time and it was announced that the closure would not be completed until December. With three-quarters of the year remaining, we put our fears to the back of our minds and carried on, blatantly in denial, as normal. Almost inevitably, over the ensuing months tensions mounted between us. We all but stopped communicating, in every way possible. In hindsight, it’s easy to see the impending job losses were affecting us more than we’d dare to admit at the time. We were putting on a brave face, a stiff upper lip, as much as for our own benefit as for the kids’ sakes. The result was that we began to drift apart, dealing with our own fears for the future alone, too scared to admit it even to ourselves.

When the closure finally happened it was like a hammer blow. Although both of us had looked, neither had found a new job. Now we had no choice but to deal with the overwhelming beaurocracy that is the benefits system. Our redundancy payments, although small, were enough to keep our heads above water for a while, but I still, rather pathetically, felt I had to get a job to prove my worth to both Emma and the children. Feeling like a desperate failure, I sunk in to depression. Christmas came, and, being cooped up together over the extended holiday period, our relationship suffered further.

A good friend had bought us ‘Yoshimi’ for Christmas. We'd played it once or twice but had failed to recognise either its genius or beauty. Perhaps too wrapped up in ourselves, neither one of us could find much joy or charm in anything at all. By New Year, my depression was all consuming, and our relationship at breaking point. Something had to give, the tension was unbearable. Deluded, I convinced myself our love had died. I packed a bag, told the kids I was leaving and left for my parents’ house.

The next day I returned. After a blinding row we calmed down and asked each other if separation was the answer, and if it was what we really wanted. After talking for hours, locked in the bathroom for privacy, we agreed to start all over again. I went to the doctors and, slowly but surely, the depression began to lift. We decided that work could wait and we would spend some time together. Although we lived under the same roof, it was almost as if we were dating again, with the same apprehension, excitement and awkwardness.

We played a lot of records while we went about our days. Gradually running out of favourites, we started to play the newer ones, the ones that we’d got for Christmas. I can remember the religious like epiphany of truly hearing ‘Do You Realise ?’ from The Flaming Lips ‘Yoshimi’ album for the first time as if it was yesterday. Finally, it clicked. I’d got it. The beauty of lyric, voice, and sounds combining to make one of the most uplifting songs ever produced. Wayne Coyne could have been looking down from on high and speaking directly to me. “Do you realise the Sun doesn’t go down ? It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.”

Having the time to appreciate her, I began to look at Emma differently. I’d mouth the lines “Do you realise that you have the most beautiful face ?” to her even when she wasn’t looking. The very next track, ‘All We Have Is Now’, with its “all we ever have is now” refrain, confirmed that this album was made for us. At that time and place, the album was all the therapy, counselling, or drugs we needed. Although, as a couple, our musical tastes were quite different, I went for punk and country while Emma preferred dance music, the Lips had made a record we both wanted to play continuously. Merging styles and sounds from punk to electro to prog-rock; it became the soundtrack to our rekindled romance.

We did up the flat and completely re-laid the garden. We were blessed with glorious weather too. Spring came very early that year. We would lunch in the garden and talk all afternoon. Even when the clouds closed in, we’d catch a tan just by listening to the album’s ‘It’s Summertime’. When we needed energy for painting, digging or carrying, we would play ‘Are You a Hypnotis ?’ with Steven Drozd’s amazing off beat drumming pushing us on. At the end of the day with a glass of wine in hand, we’d play the instrumental chill-out of ‘Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)’, content to just sit together not needing to talk, happy with our day's work.

Playing the record, even now, takes me back to the garden, the sunshine, and the healing process we went through. And, it will always remind me of how I found, probably for the first time, the deepest love and respect for Emma. We’ve since ‘discovered’ the Lips’ back catalogue and buy new albums on the day of release. The Flaming Lips continue to provide the soundtrack to our lives and love.

Wayne, Steven and Michael I thank you.












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