“I am Jeff Lynne’s Friend Bruce and I Did Not Bring Him Down,” by Miriam Jayaratna

Feb 2nd, 2022 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Hi there, the name’s Bruce, I’ll be your caddy for the afternoon.  You might think you know me from Electric Light Orchestra’s 1979 classic, “Don’t Bring Me Down.”  The words in the chorus sound like, “don’t bring me down, BRUCE,but my name isn’t actually in it.  That song is an earworm, though, and the line that sounds like “Brrrruuuce” is an even tinier worm that crawled in the ear of the earworm and held on for its dear wormy life.

Wow, you’ve got a lot of golf clubs here.  While I figure out how to fit all these fellows into the bag, I’ll tell you the story of how one stupid, misheard lyric brought about my tragic downfall.

Jeff Lynne, E.L.O.’s frontman, was my best friend. We grew up together in Birmingham.  And ironically, I was probably the last person you’d call a downer.  I was in the front row at every E.L.O. show, cheering like mad and passing around my homemade acid brownies. People still talk about the legendary afterparties we had in those days; they’ve conveniently forgotten that I was the one who hosted them.

Once “Don’t Bring Me Down” started topping the charts, everything changed. Concert goers acted like I was handing out cyanide brownies instead of transcendent ones.  The attendance at my parties dwindled, then vanished altogether.  I couldn’t find a date, a flatmate, or — the worst fate that could befall a young British man — an intramural cricket team.  I even failed to match for my psychiatry residency.  (I believe in the healing power of drugs, be they in brownie or SSRI form.)  Hospitals didn’t want to be held liable in case my presumed killjoy tendencies made the inpatients more suicidal.

None of this would have happened if Jeff had just taken my advice.  He wrote “Don’t Bring Me Down” about his pet garter snake, Groos. Caring for a reptile while touring internationally was taking its toll on him — bringing him down, as it were.  I warned him that the allusion might be lost on the listeners. “The true fans will get it,” he promised.

Indeed, the “Groos” reference was too obscure to land. And I was the one who suffered for it.  Everywhere I went, my reputation as a buzzkill preceded me.  It was uncanny how quickly I could clear a room — or in one instance, an entire Carnival cruise ship.  I had become the victim of a mass auditory hallucination that had everyone convinced I was a dark cloud casting a pall over “Mr. Blue Sky.”

Jeff felt genuinely bad about the whole thing.  He said he’d do a “Forgive Me, Bruce” apology tour where he’d set the record straight about Groos.   During the Birmingham leg of E.L.O.’s 2000 tour, Jeff surprised me by inviting me up on stage.  Even when he started playing those famous introductory guitar licks to “Don’t Bring Me Down,”  I still thought this was the moment I’d been promised — he’d explain the misunderstanding and I’d finally be redeemed.

Instead, Jeff sang the chorus directly to me. The crowd went nuts.  Someone in the audience had a bottle of Prozac pills and started pelting me with them.  It was a painful reminder that I’d be a respected psychiatrist by now if that wretched song hadn’t come along and ruined my life. To this day, I’m not sure why Jeff turned on me.  I haven’t spoken to him since.

I spent years struggling to hold down work; once an employer found out who I was, they didn’t want me tarnishing their brand.  My finances got so bad that out of desperation, I agreed to be the face of a new drug for erectile dysfunction (“Don’t let Bruce bring you down.  Get it up, with Viagra!”). Now I’ve got a free lifetime supply, but no companion with whom to enjoy it.

My only physical contact is with the players at this golf course, who pat my bald head for luck to “bring down” their scores.

It seems that with every passing day I more closely resemble the phlegmatic simulacrum of myself that’s come to exist in the public imagination. I keep catching myself singing, “Don’t bring me down, Bruce” to my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I hate to admit this, but even though it brought about my ruin, it’s my favourite song.

Ah, I see you’ve got to tee off now.  Want to rub my head before you go?


Miriam Jayaratna is a clinical psychologist and writer based in NYC.  She writes comedy because Freud said humor is the best coping mechanism, once you’ve blown through all your cocaine.


Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.