The Quiet Loner’s guide to the top ten Quiet Loners

Ashley Music, News, Timewarp 1 Comment

Quiet Loner is in fact the hugely talented Matt Hill who has released a series of excellent albums the latest of which, The Greedy Magicians is a passionate, politically charged suite of songs that has already got many incredible reviews.

Here is his list of other Quiet Loners

“He was a quiet loner who kept himself to himself”. So goes the media news reports as they explain the latest serial killer or lone gunman rampage, almost as if a withdrawal from society was reason enough to explain the murder and violence.

As a species we’re sociable creatures, so what about the ones amongst us who go their own way and won’t join in the party games? As the news reports show us, loners are feared, we are suspicious of them and we expect the worst from them. As a society we seem to find it hard to accept that someone might not want to belong.

In the last 30 years as we increase our knowledge of Autistic spectrum disorders like Aspergers Syndrome we offer up a medical model for some of the character traits and social awkwardness we often associate with loners. As if we fear it so much it is now something that needs to be “cured”.

Yet we also admire our loners. Author Tom Robbins thought them brave, he said “Courage is required to reject the secure blessings of society, in order to woo the unpredictable ecstasies of the solitary soul”. Loners say what the rest of us dare not to say. Their outsider status allows them to think the unthinkable and say the unsayable. Or it would do if they would only come out of their bedsits and talk to us.

Here are my top ten loners

Shamen (historical)

In cultures across the world from the frozen wastes of the Arctic circle, to the deserts of central Australia, to the lush rainforests of the Amazon, Shamen were the original outsiders. Their journeys to otherworlds, through the use of psychoactive plants, and their contact and dialogue with the ancestral dead, placed them apart yet also at the heart of those societies. They were relied on for advice, counsel and for healing the sick. These early loners were essential: Respected, feared and revered.


Bill Hicks (1961-1994)

American comedian Bill Hicks was one of the 20th century’s greatest artists. As a jobbing stand-up Hicks travelled relentlessly playing in small clubs to audiences that mostly failed to understand him. Increasingly Hicks came to see himself as an old Wild West gunslinger riding into town tackling fear and injustice and blowing away the bad guys. Hicks the loner railed against mainstream culture for it’s superficiality, mediocrity and banality, seeing these traits as oppressive tools of the ruling class designed to keep people stupid and apathetic.

Mark David Chapman (b 1955)

Having just fatally shot John Lennon and seemingly unaware of what he’d done Mark David Chapman calmly sat down on the pavement and staring reading his copy of Catcher in the Rye, patiently waiting for the police to arrive. And so Chapman became the archetypal “quiet loner” of the media. He didn’t fit in, we shunned him so he got bitter and killed our hero to spite us. The truth of what really happened to Chapman is a little more complex and remains elusive.

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Greta Garbo (1905-1990)

According to a very knowledgeable friend of mine, patriarchy demands that women cannot be loners. The lone woman is feared as a witch or condemned as sexually predatory. No surprise then that the classic loner type is usually male. Yet occasionally there is a woman who bucks that trend. Swedish actress Greta Garbo was one. She is remembered for her famous line “I want to be alone” – so unusual and beguiling it became as famous as she was. Almost as soon after her career took off, Garbo became known as a recluse. And that mystery only made her more desirable. Throughout her lifetime she refused to do press interviews, she never signed autographs, she didn’t go to social functions and she never answered fan mail. The beautiful loner intrigues us.

James Bond (fictional)

Ian Fleming’s creation is a man who works alone. He has very little human contact outside of his work. He shuns company, seeks women purely for sex and is generally contemptuous of human beings. This makes him a great killer, and that’s what James Bond is – a hired killer. Yet despite his loner status we see rare glimpses of his humanity – his friendship with Felix Leiter, his admiration for M, and briefly his love for Tracy his wife. When Tracy is killed he becomes the loner again. Detached, cold and driven by his desire to avenge his wife’s death.


Brian Wilson (b 1942)

Brian Wilson is the classic artistic loner genius. At the height of the Beach Boys’ fame in the sixties he refused to go on tour and had to be replaced by Glen Campbell. Increasingly paranoid and frightened by the world, Brian retreated to the studio where he wrote and recorded his masterpiece “Pet Sounds”. By the next album “Smile” in 1967 he had retreated even further – to a sandpit under his piano. He didn’t come out until the 1990s.

Travis Bickle (fictional)

Travis Bickle is Robert De Niro’s lead character in Martin Scorcese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver. One of cinema’s most iconic characters, Bickle is a loner. A former Marine who served in Vietnam, Bickle has problems fitting back in to society. He is socially inept, and doesn’t have any friends. He takes a job as a night time taxi driver in dangerous neighborhoods where his customers are pimps, drug addicts, and thieves. He is disgusted by them, and begins fantasising about “cleansing” such “filth” from the streets. It can only end in tears.

Nick Drake (1948-1974)


Singer Nick Drake died tragically young after battling with depression for years. He didn’t tour much, he recorded very little and towards the end of his life retreated to his childhood bedroom at his parents home. And so Drake is often portrayed as a loner. His music has a wistful sad and indeed lonely quality to it. Yet friends speak of a gregarious and outgoing young man who was popular and sociable at school. Behind every loner cliché is a more complicated story.

Scott Walker (b.1943)

After a critical peak in the late sixties by the mid-seventies Scott Walker was back in caberet playing Working Men’s Clubs in the North of England. Then after 1978’s Nite Flights album he began a slow retreat into a period that saw him release only three albums over the next thirty years and earn himself a reputation as a Garbo-esque reclusive loner. More recently we have seen that this wasn’t quite what it seemed and that Walker is actually quite a sociable and funny man driven by his art but dismissive of mainstream pop culture.


Veronia Sawyer (fictional)

Portrayed by Winona Ryder in the 1989 film Heathers, Veronica Sawyer is your classic misunderstood teenager. She doesn’t fit in at a school where a powerful clique called “the Heathers” top the social pile. When she meets Christian Slater’s character J.D. she unwittingly gets embroiled in a spate of killings that spirals out of control and that only she can stop. Her loner status is assured when having witnessed Slater blow himself up with a suicide bomber belt, she walks to his smouldering remains and lights her cigarette on the flames and walks away alone.

Article originally appeared here.