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Music, motifs and mental illness

Last Chance Saloon is the story of Neil 'Twink' Tinning, a troubled, magnificent man living with bipolar disorder, and his unique attempt to understand the science behind his, and many other, mental health conditions - all while getting ready to play the biggest gig of his life.

In the final episode, rehearsal time is over as The Tinstones take to the stage for their first ever live gig, in front of an audience containing many of the scientists who helped Twink on his journey. Rick Buckler, former drummer for The Jam, provides a friend's insight into what it was like to see Twink succumb to bipolar disorder. Twink shares his thoughts about the impact meeting the scientists has had on his understanding of his own condition and mental illness as a whole.

Previous episode: Part 10 - Bipolar and Nick's farm

Watch from the beginning: Last Chance Saloon 


[Previously on Last Chance Saloon…]


Scientist: When you’re a psychiatrist, when you’re dealing with mental health you’re dealing with the big questions of existence really, the big questions of us as human beings, what it is to be a person.

Twink: We don’t know enough, we don’t know enough about the brain, we don’t know enough in research terms about bipolar, but I still want to continue doing the films.

My imagination of the gig is what you’d expect Oasis to be emotionally committing to at Knebworth. It’s that huge a gig for me.

[Sound of feet stamping followed by cheering]

Twink: In sales there’s a thing called a close, and a close is a clinching argument for somebody to either sign a document or buy a certain product or buy something or buy into something. So my close for this particular pitch was let us learn from yesterday, let us live for today and may we have hope for tomorrow. Bipolar research is not a matter of life and death, or life or death, bipolar research is not a matter of life or death, it’s just more important than that because bipolar research saves lives.

What’s happened over the course of the films, and perhaps it’s part of the rehabilitation thing that I’ve been going through, is I’ve bounced back and that’s a huge benefit for me, because my previous experience for 16 years would be I’d get these intrusive thoughts and it would just get worse and worse and worse. There’s been periods when I’ve been like that but I think I’ve bounced back. I think it’s been a tremendous transformation, to be honest with you.

When you write a song you’re writing about the emotion that’s not seen, so you do feel a bit naked in an emotional sense. The music, I’m fairly confident about the music and the performance, because I know we can play these songs. Whether we play these songs and we get enthusiastic response at the gig is a different matter.

[Cheering following by announcement]

Nick Craddock: What I’m going to do is I’m going to ask our very own reader, reader in academic bluegrass, Ian ‘the doc’ Jones, to come and introduce the band.

Ian Jones: Thank you very much Nick. Ladies and gentlemen, on February 8th 1961 the Beatles played their first ever gig in the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Everybody there would dine out on that for the rest of their life. On March 28th 2012, the Tinstones played their debut gig at the Staff and Social Club in the University Hospital of Wales. You will have been there at the start, you will be able to tell your children, your grandchildren, that you were there at the beginning. Ladies and gentlemen, move forward to the stage, put your hands together, make a lot of noise and welcome the Tinstones.

[Cheering and stamping]

Twink: Tonight is all about enjoyment, tonight is all about you, the talent in the room. I’m not talking the looks, I’m talking the brains, yeah. [Laughter] So we’re going to start off and we’re going to ease ourselves in with some blues and it’s called ‘Love in Vain’.

[Music starts]

Yeah, c’mon.

[Music continues]

Rick Buckler: I’ve known him for years, I sort of got him into the gig as being the official photographer for The Jam for the last couple of years, 1980 to 1982 and he followed us around everywhere. You know, the gigs and the dressing rooms and the sounds checks and hotels and all that sort of stuff, just taking photographs. And when The Jam split up, I think Twink moved back to Newcastle so I didn’t see him for a number of years.

[Music continues. Song ends followed by applause]

Twink: Come on, you’re not close enough, I’m not feeling you, let’s heat it up, yeah. This one’s a song about my experience in a locked psychiatric ward.

[Music starts again]

Rick: His whole circumstances had changed, he was no longer running a busy business, he’d become a lot more withdrawn, and withdrew from the world as such.  I mean I didn’t really understand it at first, I think a lot of people find that they don’t really understand what’s going on. I mean I just sort of bumped into him as an old mate and you know, picked it up from there, not really realising exactly what had happened to him. And it was because we were good friends, you know, he sort of sat down and explained exactly what was going on and what had happened. And I suppose because he’s a friend of mine I’ve always wanted to support him in nearly everything that he’s wanted to do in that respect. An awareness I suppose really, that’s probably why I’m here today, plus the fact that I love sort of going out and being with Twink and some other mates that are down here.


Twink: Okay, this is the last song, but the one you’re all going to enjoy. This is a song about Nick’s smallholding.

[Song starts]

There’s two things, I think, which have come out of the filming that we’ve done. One is that we don’t know enough. That’s been a bit of a shock and that’s sort of motivated me to think about how can we develop that, how can we get extra funding for this vital research. And the other thing that I’ve found doing these films is you’ve got these different diagnoses, whether it be post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar or schizophrenia, but there’s a lot of commonality in the experience of somebody with schizophrenia or somebody with ADHD or somebody with post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar or post-partum psychosis. There’s a lot of commonality in what the sufferer feels. Because as a bipolar sufferer I’ve always felt very isolated and very alone, because I always thought it was only bipolars suffered these issues, and that has really been a fantastic education for me, because I thought bipolar, oh well you know, you get these ups and downs and you get the suicide ideation or you get the mania or you get the delusional thinking and there seems to be a lot of commonality between the different diagnoses. And we’re only just really scratching the surface at understanding neuroscience and understanding how the brain functions.

[Cheering and stamping]

Thank you. I’m overjoyed. Thanks very much for coming tonight, honestly. Being a bipolar sufferer, happiness is measured in minutes and you’ve made me very happy, so thank you very much for that. Good night.

[Cheers and applause followed by music]

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