Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Tragedy of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool

I like listening to all kinds of music and enjoy the thrill of exploring and discovering new bands or artists, at times by perusing sites such as youtube or soundcloud. One band that I came across is the idiosyncratically named British synthpop group Ou Est Le Swimming Pool.

After listening to and enjoying one of their singles, The Key, I was surprised to find they only had one album released and were only active for a year. Further delving revealed a tragic tale involving the death of vocalist and frontman Charles Haddon - which abruptly ended the band’s career.

So what? – one might say, musicians die all the time. However, this particular scenario was especially saddening as not only was it revealed that Haddon’s death was a suicide, but also that the events leading up to it were particularly tragic.

After having read up on the facts that were widely reported at the time, the sequence of events is roughly as follows:

Just after the end of a performance on stage at Pukkelpop festival in Belgium on the 20th of August 2010, an over excited Haddon suddenly dived into the audience. Caught by surprise, most of the crowd in the vicinity instinctively moved away instead of catching him and he ended up severely injuring an unnamed young girl and causing a ‘near riot’.

“I’m sure he didn't mean to hurt anyone,” an eye witness was reported to have said, “The look in his eyes when he stood up and they pulled the girl from the ground was very scary.”

The view of the girl on the stretcher deeply effected Haddon and the performance was cut short - the band later reported to have a ‘furious argument’ backstage. The girl suffered injuries to her leg and four vertebrae and fearing that he may have crippled her for life, Haddon despaired and committed suicide a few hours later by jumping from a telecommunications mast in the backstage car park.

Two further points added to the tragedy of the events. Firstly, Charles Haddon was only 22 years old. Having previously supported for La Roux, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were just starting to make it big and had a number of other festivals in Europe lined up as well as a tour of Australia. Secondly, despite her injuries, it was later revealed that the girl was likely to make ‘a full recovery’, but by then Haddon was already gone.

Some have called Haddon selfish, but even though we may understand the circumstances, it is hard to fully comprehend the feeling of being racked with guilt that he must felt at the time. It was also speculated that he may have already been suffering from depression at that time and that the incident simply spurred him on to take his own life.

The only album released by the band, entitled The Golden Year, was released posthumously - and listening to it with the knowledge of the aforementioned events adds to melancholic undertone of the songs (frequent lyrics about coping with loss being particularly poignant) despite their initially cheery synthpop presentation.

Of course, this is likely just the power of hindsight influencing our interpretation, but its hard not for me to feel a sense of sadness every time I listen to The Key. If you havent already, watch the video for it (made up of performance footage) and you will see what I mean – Haddon’s final bow being especially affecting – forever linked in my mind somehow to his tragic fate.

10 Feb 2012

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