Listen to what folks have to say. If you don’t agree with it, don’t just tell them they’re wrong. Show them….
I figured I’d get a jump on this 2014 thing. I’ll be asleep surely tomorrow night at midnight.
I have no resolutions. I try to live the same regardless of the calendar year. Don’t be an asshole. Treat others with respect. Write something everyday, even if it’s just a few lines. Earn my money. Try not to drunk-text. Write some good songs. Know enough to throw away the bad ones. Wear Doc Martens everyday….even if we take a family beach vacation.
I shall definitely release a record this year. Perhaps even two. Twenty new songs in total. Maybe with help from comrades. Maybe not. That depends on the comrades. I have a guitar. I have a microphone. Last I checked that’s all that is required. Money would be helpful but there’s even ways around that. I’ve been dead broke since 1998 and have managed to release a bunch of stuff. Ah the wonders of having a basement (and being the recipient of state grants).
I also have a piano, where I love to tinker. I can’t use the term “play”, because that suggests a certain competency that I do not possess. So “tinker” it is. The later the hour is the better. Perhaps the haze of drink suits me when I sit on that bench. It’s such an expressive instrument, even when played by a person who can’t play it. The thought of taking “lessons” on an instrument fills me with horror. I had 2 formal lessons on the guitar, both from my brother, who was completely self-taught. So chaos was the result, followed by many Yuenglings. From that time on I learned by listening to Who records. I figured (and still do) that if you could play “Magic Bus” you were halfway home. The other half could be traveled in various ways….(Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan…or some Clash records). The Beatles were always dicey because they were British smart-asses who loved to use funky chords and confuse the unwashed. Much more palatable where the Rolling Stones, who mastered the Chuck Berry thing and decided to make a (pretty good) living out of it. “Beggars Banquet” is a record that you can learn guitar by. “Sgt Pepper” buried the guitars and made you wonder if they were even there. I remember learning “Lovely Rita” and feeling quite taken with myself. But then I wondered where I might share my new knowledge. Turns out nowhere….so I kept “Sympathy for the Devil” in the playlist for the next 30 years….and when people ask for Beatles I’ll pull out “Back in the USSR”….which Chuck Berry could have written if he’d been granted an audience with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Actually Chuck may have been in jail at the time over trumped up Mann Act charges….so there’s that. Funny the way history moves on regardless, no?
Half of this music game, I’ve been thinking, is being in the right place at the right time. I make my own variations on that noise. In my own time. From my own basement. Not many are left to filter through what we’re all doing. I’m not clear on who these judges are. I just do what I do. I don’t know.
And then they say…..what do they say?
Does it really matter?
We do the best we can.
You are not going to be famous by writing a song. For a tv show, or a pizza delivery chain, or a car commercial.
They are mining obscure Dylan tracks for that. From 1962. That should tell you something.
But you’ve got a mind of your own. What do you want to get away with?
So you got tunes that are gonna rock the world. Or at least your little part of it. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what interests me. Push. And then push some more. To paraphrase Frederick Douglass, “agitate, agitate, agitate.” If you don’t think you’re hot shit don’t expect anybody else to.
Your next move is….what?
It’s actually a new year. You can wipe the slate and start fresh.
Listen to what folks have to say. If you don’t agree with it, don’t just tell them they’re wrong. Show them. You can meet some of your best friends this way. And always remember that if people talk shit about other people to you, they’re sure as hell talking shit about you to other people. So trust, but verify.
Off we go. Into something brand new, or the same old shit. I suppose it depends on your attitude.
In a bit..
It’s Christmas. Or nearly. I sit up late-night, listening to ‘Prodigal Son’ by the Rolling Stones. From Beggars Banquet. Anything can be a Christmas song if you listen to it at Christmas time.
(I just learned that my good friend Sean from Belfast was laid off from his job at the BBC. He has a young daughter. He’s an outspoken republican in a city still dominated by a British backed Protestant elite. Things that make you go hmmm. I lost a the job I held for over 10 years last year. Four days before Xmas. I know what he feels like. Shite. We talked some. He’s too talented a bloke to not land on his feet. But still…..I wish the world was a nicer place. Sean…I love you brother. You’re a fearsome talent and a gentle soul. No better combination. And you’re a genuine irishman. Shit mate. If you were a woman I’d marry your ass.)
Wow. I’m hearing a live version of ‘Gimme Shelter’ from 1975 now. This song scares me. And it makes me sit up straight and pay attention. Keith Richards sounded like a panzer corps in the early 70s. He may have been a junkie, but he was the most highly functioning junkie I’ve ever heard. A Mozart in open G tuning. One doesn’t hear songs like ‘Gimme Shelter’ anymore. Guitarists figure it’s all been done before. What Keith did between 1968 and 1972 was prove that that wasn’t true.
Maybe now it is true.
I hope not. What a bore that would be.
I’ve got new songs. Lots of them. And old songs that haven’t been heard before, so I guess that makes them new. I’ve got songs I’ve written for others. I’ve got notebooks filled with random verses….lines written, literally, sideways. My guitar is sitting on a chair in the living room, always good for creativity. “It’s not a person“, my wife will say as she moves it to sit down.
What am I supposed to be doing with these songs? Why the hell do I bother? I gave up singing for my supper years ago. I was starving to death. It takes a certain something to throw the guitar in the backseat and wander. I’ve got everything else required in multiples of ten. But that last bit of ambition I lack. I move a few miles away and I get lost. I start looking for the way home again. I miss what I know. My little piece of ground. My steps. My kids. The view from my own window.
“Can’t Always Get What You Want” is on now. How apropos. But one does get what one needs if one tries hard enough.
(What is it with the Stones songs this Christmas? I have no idea. The thing with Ipods is that you spin that wheel…and come across something….and when you stop sometimes you stay in the same spot for days. Or weeks. I was stuck on John Prine for at least a month around Halloween.)
It’s even later now. I can’t sleep. The rest of the house is knackered. I’m surrounded by girls. Wife. Two daughters. Girl dog. Girl cat. Used to have a fish and a hamster. Not sure how to tell with them but I’m pretty sure they were tribe members too. Just the way they looked at me. Eyes that said…”you poor poor bastard…”
“Midnight Rambler” on now. Good song….but songs about maniacal rapists aren’t gonna make me drowsy. Just how did they get away with this stuff? Anyone remember “Brown Sugar”….something about slaves and cunnilingus? My favorite bit of Keith Richards’s bio is when he wrote of Mick’s “tiny dodger”….so at least I know these things were done tongue in cheek. No pun intended. She blew my nose and then she blew my mind indeed.
I could go on and on I suppose. The Stones do have a large catalog and it’s all on the Ipod. It plays in alphabetical order….and it’s up to Dirty Work now…which has to be somebody telling me to enough is enough. If posing for that album cover didn’t kill Keith, nothing will.
Happy Christmas to one and all. I like “Happy” better than “Merry”. Not sure why. For the record, I don’t mind “Happy Holidays” either (Palin and O’Reily et al can kiss my tiny dodger). Anytime somebody wants to wish me well, they can use whatever fucking words they want. There’s not enough glad tidings as it is. I’m gonna bitch about words?
To quote Keith Richards….”string it, and play it low.”
In a bit..
That time of year. Days move so fast. As a kid the wait for Christmas seemed interminable from year to year. Now it seems upon us before we know it. Aging does such things I suppose. I’m now 47. I feel every bit of it at times. When I feel younger, I’m happier. The great deception.
I’ve been reading. History mostly. Not sure why but this time of year leads me to monsters. Read back to back bios of Stalin over the last few weeks. Not exactly the type of thing I’d recommend to anyone not used to such things. The human capacity for evil is staggering. But while the Hitlers and Stalins of history are indeed unique….the “ordinary executioners” (to steal a term from another past read) they induce to do their bidding are what frighten the most. There never seems a shortage of such people. History tells us who they are. They are our neighbors. Evil men need evil men, of course. But they also need good men to do nothing. Why are we so good at the last bit? It’s said that one death diminishes us all. Stalin felt differently. “Death solves all problems” he said. “No man, no problem.” The Russian leader solved over 20 million problems during his reign of terror….making Hitler look like a rank amateur…even counting the Shoah. Yet mention his name today and you’ll get lots of blank stares. “Uncle Joe? Our ally?” Ah….but didn’t the man with a withered arm and webbed toes look so unassuming. Like a dunce.
Well….looks are deceiving (recall that most Americans had no idea their own President could not walk).
Yea….we danced with the devil. Roosevelt. Churchill. Faced with the politics of it all….the propaganda of it all…the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ of it all….it’s a wonder they were able to stay sane. To lead their respective nations through such colossal carnage. Hitler needed to be crushed. Nobody could argue otherwise. If there are no just wars…then WWII needs to be classified as something. One can’t sit idly by in the midst of a genocide. The men who stormed the beaches of France and survived the horrors of Peleliu did not die in vain.
We did sit idle. We do. Still. But…
Who could have done better than FDR? Than Churchill? When you wake up Monday morning and dread your work day….some perspective please.
Then FDR dies and Harry Truman…the former haberdasher who is not considered worthy by his own mother in law….gets the call he’s been dreading. And then….”Oh Harry…by the way….we have this bomb…”
Then he’s sent off to deal with Stalin one on one?
Who could have done better?
Things could have….should have happened differently.
WWI…triggered by a byzantine series of alliances that even the nations involved didn’t seem to understand, should not have happened. Germany should not have been devastated. The world economies should not have collapsed. Hitler and Stalin should never have risen to power on tides of recrimination and hatred. Ordinary Germans and Russians should not have been so captivated by demagoguery….by their own stupidity….”it has to be someone else’s fault because otherwise that means it’s ours….” The Jews. The Kulaks. Neville Chamberlain. Father Coughlin. Lindbergh. Hell, even Joe Kennedy.
That Hitler can be trusted. Uncle Joe is a man of his word. The Pacific Fleet? What about it?
Bah Humbug. Thankfully such days are over. Right?
Thankfully, those who make their living by hating are in such short supply these days.
Right? (pun sorta intended…)
In a bit..
I’ve been writing a lot. Lots of different things. And grabbing a few minutes here and there to get them down. This is exactly what I sound like. No covering up from the built in Iphone mic.
Something about the intimacy of recording this way……it appeals to my non-technical heart. I know these songs will appear in “proper form” somewhere down the line…..but I thought I’d share the process. All songs start out this way (“every sperm is sacred”….as Monty Python once said).