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  • Writer's pictureMarcas Mac an Tuairneir

Jimmy Somerville


I haven't really reacted to Mark [Ashton's] death. That's fine if you're like that for a couple of months, but it's still the same. It's almost as if it never happened. I think it's got a lot to do with the situation I was in. We were in Spain doing some promotional TV. I'd seen him in hospital before I went away and we were under the impression that he was getting better. I was in the middle of a rehearsal when someone telephoned to tell us that he'd died. I was actually singing (pause], we were doing, "Don't Leave Me This Way'. There were all these Spanish kids laughing and jumping around. I couldn't react really because it was such a surreal situation. I wasn't there. I just felt so lost because I was nae there.

We talk about Mark, but at the same time we don't. I don't think anybody's said this, but I think it's because we all know that one of our friends are going next. When, who, how, we don't know. I think we are secretly privately saying, "Keep something for the next one. Your approach to death becomes completely different to what it would have been before, if there hadn't been AIDS. This probably sounds ridiculous, but you incorporate death into your life like waking up in the morning and washing your face.

I was really angry when Mark died because you were so scared about expressing your grief, you were so scared about what people thought, 'Oh, just another queer who's got AIDS and died. That's why we done 'For a Friend', because it's just so awful the way the gutter press deal with IDS. They don't see these people as having friends, as having family. They just see them as another scandal, another shock story. Nobody wanted to do anything about the sad side of it, the emotional side of it. One review in the Record Mirror was, 'Oh, here we have another AIDS record." The record industry won't deal with AIDS. Most people who appeared on the Nelson Mandela Birthday Party were all asked to do International AIDS Day and most of them were saying, "Too busy.'

When Mark and I met it was almost like we needed each other to grow and expand and discover everything. At that time I think we were too much for other people to cope with. Both of us bit our nails, we would just chew them to bits (laughs). Both of us sat at a table and everything would shake, we had so much hyperactivity between the two of us. When Mark died I didn't want to be sad about him because there were so many things about him which were so wonderful. And he could be a nasty, selfish queen sometimes. That's a good way of dealing with it. The other thing is I like to think is that when Mark died he was just going to sleep one night and he says, "I think I won't wake up. I can just imagine them, they'll all be running around screaming and squealing. Because it won't be the same twice round or three times round.' Because he was the first it was such a shock to us. And you just feel, another first! He had to do it first. I always think that. I makes me deal with it a bit better.

I remember Mark running round at Pits and Perverts, organising everyone. I used to love it when Mark got excited about something - he just used to glow, you could just see the passion radiate. I felt so chuffed with him. LGSM, I think that was the greatest thing any of my friends could have done. He really achieved something really fab.

Taken from Walking After Midnight: Gay Men's Life Stories Routledge, 1989

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