When you think about it, in our world everything is based on numbers. They are involved at a base level in the creation and construction of… everything. Certain numbers have a special significance, sometimes just to individuals for various reasons, and other times in a more mystical way. Most people have a favourite or lucky number. For most of us its just a number we are drawn to by some impulse, without knowing why.
My ‘special’ number is 27.
For starters, I was born on that day in the third month, three being the original magic number and three-to-the-power-of three (3 x 3 x 3) giving a total of 27. I was born and raised in house number nine (3 x 3), then moved to another number nine. Nine divided by three is three, three nines are 27.
Elsewhere, my football team, Cardiff City, won the FA Cup for the only time in 1927, and this is the reason a group of exiled supporters call themselves the 27 Club. Last summer I decided to get a new tattoo, the number 27 in Roman numerals on the inside of my wrist (XXVII). It was something I wanted for a long time, but never got around to doing. I thought I should honour my number somehow.
As my sore wrist was healing the news broke that the English singer Amy Winehouse had shuffled off this mortal coil and straight into the VIP lounge of the other 1927 Club, a very exclusive venue for rockers whose lives all ended at the age of 27. Already hanging out there were the likes of Rolling Stone Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Kristen Pfaff and Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers, as well as members of the Drifters, Canned Heat, the Stooges, Badfinger, Uriah Heep, Echo & the Bunnymen, and American Head Charge.
Weirdly, many of the celebrity deaths above are linked by bizarre and unlikely correlations and coincidences. For example, Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison all knew each other and died within a 10-month period, Jones and Morrison died on the same day, two years apart, and Cobain was married to Courtney Love, who was pictured on the back of a Grateful Dead album with Ron ‘Pippen’ McKernan (who himself joined the 27 Club) and played in the grunge band Hole with Pfaff. Hendrix, who was born on November 27, counted astrology as one of his hobbies and said many times that he expected to die at 27.
‘The curse of 27,’ as some people call it, is generally believed to have started with the demise of bluesman Robert Johnson, who is said to have made a pact with the devil. The story goes that after beginning his career as a mediocre guitarist playing on street corners, he met the devil at a crossroads in Mississippi. There, the devil took his guitar, tuned it, and handed it back, giving Johnson a mastery of the instrument and the ability to invent the Delta Blues. Johnson’s popularity soared, and by the time he was 27 he was one of the most sought-after musicians in the area. With his new-found fame came success with the ladies, and his death on August 16th 1938 is said to have been a result of strychnine poisoning, the substance allegedly passed to him in a whiskey bottle by a jealous husband.
The number 27 has been used in the titles of tracks by Fallout Boy, Biffy Clyro, Lagwagon, Cartel, the Silencers and the Dave Mathews Band, while US parodist ‘Weird’ Al Jankovic is known to bury the number in his songs and videos and there is even a band from Boston simply called 27, all of which reinforces the number’s seemingly powerful association with music.
I wrote an article about Amy Winehouse entering the 27 Club for Fortean Times magazine. While I was writing the piece I had a phone call from my cousin. He called to tell me had recently moved house, his new place of residence being, yup, number 27. Most recently, I was on a hot date when the girl noticed my tattoo and asked me about it. I told her my ’27 Story,’ which she dismissed as superstition. Only then did I realize the date. It was the 27th August.
I often wonder how much of this is in my head. I mean, maybe other numbers crop up in my life just as much but I just don’t notice them. So I asked myself is there anything remarkable about the number 27? And the answer is… You bet! It is one of those numbers that recurs time and time again in nature and popular culture. For example, the moon takes 27 days to orbit the earth, the sun revolves on its axis every 27 days, there are 27 bones in the human hand, and human outer skin cells are shed and re-grown every 27 days.
Weird little coincidences…
Everywhere you look.
If you look.
Life is unpredictable, and has a funny way of kicking your ass when you least expect it. A few short months after the death of Amy Winehouse, one of my personal heros, Gary Speed, took his own life. Nobody is really sure why he chose to do what he did, the guy was handsome, charming, rich, one of the most decorated footballers in the game, ex-Welsh national team captain, and current Welsh national team manager. After years of painful obscurity the national side were suddenly undergoing something of a rennaissance, having just beaten Norway 4-1. That was our fourth win in five games, the young guns of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale looking ready to spearhead a new generation of Welsh Nearly-Men.
But I digress. What does this have to do with the number 27? Gary Speed died on November 27th 2011.
Weird? Or is it just me?