I'm not going to go off on one about losing another hero of my youth. Last year was a bad one, but I think we all have to accept now, this is going to happen with greater frequency as we count down to our own departures. Facts of life, and all that.
Never mind, here's ten songs in tribute to The Elephant Man, Kane, Winston Smith and The War Doctor...
10. Johnny Cash - Hurt
Let's start with the best song on the list, though in some ways the least relevant. It's a John, and he's Hurt. It seemed to fit the mood too.
9. Biff Bang Pow! - Chocolate Elephant Man
There will be more references to The Elephant Man in this list than any of John Hurt's other films. I'll explain the main reason for that shortly, but there's another reason. The story of John Merrick touched a lot of songwriters and became a metaphor for loneliness, bravery and prejudice.
Released in 1985, Biff Bang Pow!'s song was obviously inspired by John Hurt's starring role in the 1980 film.
8. Todd Rundgren's Utopia - Winston Smith Takes It On The Jaw
I read the other day that Amazon in the USA has currently sold out of George Orwell's 1984.
Todd Rundgren released this, as part of the Utopia album Oblivion back in the actual 1984. When we only had Ronald Reagan to worry about.
See also David Bowie's 1984 and 1984 (Sex Crime) by The Eurythmics, obviously.
7. Catatonia - Hooked
Very early Catatonia single which ends with the Elephant Man sleeping. Shush,
See also Rufus Wainwright's In My Arms for more Victorian hospital beds John Merrick might sleep in.
6. Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield - Nothing Has Been Proved
From the soundtrack of the movie Scandal, in which Hurt played Stephen Ward, the man who took the rap for the Profumo affair, and ended his own life as a consequence.
5. Sparks - I Wish I Looked A Little Better
Another Elephant Man reference, though Ron and Russell turn it into an ode to teenage insecurity...
Turn out the light, yeah, the light4. The Beautiful South - I May Be Ugly
And I might have a chance
I guess I look slightly worse
Than the Elephant Man
Whoa, oh, oh, I wish I looked a little better
Paul Heaton does the same, for a slightly older man. Full of cruel jokes, masking a much deeper sadness. Which is a great metaphor for the pain we cause when we judge others by their outward deformities.
When you feel like London3. Alt-J - The Gospel of John Hurt
And you look like Hull
You think Travolta pulled Newton-John
Who did John Hurt pull?
Sigourney Weaver recalls, "All it said in the script was, 'This thing emerges.'"
No space2. The Pogues - Sally Maclennane
To fit in
AlienOh, coming out of the woodwork
Chest bursts like John Hurt
Coming out of the woods
As you might have guessed, The Elephant Man is my favourite John Hurt performance, and not just because it's directed by David Lynch. A lot of actors would have turned this role into caricature; he found real pathos. I cry every time I watch it.
I already did My Top Ten Elephant Songs though, which included two songs called Elephant Man. I skipped those this time for deeper lyrical references,
But Jimmy didn't like his place in this world of ours1. Art Garfunkel - Bright Eyes
Where the elephant man broke strong men's necks when he'd had too many pours
So sad to see the grieving and the people that I'm leaving
And he took the road for god knows in the morning
And if you don't fill up every time you hear this, you didn't grow up in the 70s.
There's a high wind in the treesRest in peace, Hazel.
A cold sound in the air
And nobody ever knows when you go
And where do you start?
Oh, into the dark