Do you feel like your life is on hold? Do you feel like 2020 is the year that didn't happen? I'm sure these are feelings most of us have had at some point over the last few months. But the timer is ticking, none of truly know how long we have, whether it be a a 100 seconds or a hundred years. None of us know whether a meteorite is hurtling towards us, or whether medical science will extend our life span way beyond our expected years. But really that doesn't matter does it? If the meteorite is heading this way, then there isn't too much we can do, but if we have a goodly chunk of time, we have it within our power to make the best of our time.
There is an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. My mum would often say that, as she saw me moping around the house after yet another gig, where I'd be nursing a sore head the next day. She really rather missed the point, as I wouldn't change a thing about my youth, but she was spot on in that I didn't really have the life experience to fully understand that the energy of youth is a fleeting thing. As a teenager, I divided my time between partying, watching and playing gigs and playing football. Sometimes we'd do all three at the same time, with impromptu party gigs, which would be finished off with a game of five a side football in an illuminated car park.
The inspiration in my life came from watching some amazing musicians and performers and listening to their albums. Often I'd go to a gig, hear the DJ playing a track and have to ask them what it was. I'd then buy it at the first possible opportunity. There was one DJ that I bothered so much that he'd actually get spare copies of records for me. One time, I was awoken at around 10am by my Dad saying there was some strange bloke on the phone for me. I'd not been at a gig he was expecting me to attend and he had a single for me. He was wondering if everything was OK. A friend had said I was ill, in actual fact I was rehearsing with my own band. He got me put on the guest list for the gig he was doing that night, as he didn't want to be out of pocket. I ended up watching a band I'd never heard of, who happened to be rather good and coming home with a copy of a single that was also rather good ( I wish I could remember the band and the single, but I saw/bought rather a lot in those days).
To this day, it is only really music that gives me that buzz, the feeling that I want to do something different, dip my toe in dangerous waters. Every so often, I hear a track that makes me want to write something, something different to anything I've ever written before. The Fall were one such band. Whenever I bought one of their early albums, I'd have a songwriting frenzy. I soon learned that trying to write like Mark E. Smith was a pointless exercise, but his approach to songwriting inspired me to develop my own style.
Another band that always inspire me are Wire. They have continued to develop and release music that, for me , cuts the mustard. These days, there is no such thing as the NME to point people like me at new, upcoming underground artists or new releases from artists I love. So I have to remember to regularly check their websites and social media feeds. Sometimes I simply forget, sometimes for years on end, and I miss stuff. Sometimes I then go on a binge of listening to them, to 'catch up'. In the case of Wire, I discovered a track that was posted on Youtube ten years ago. I was rather surprised to find out that not only was it a great track, but I felt motivated to write some music and play some music.
For me, writing is an organic process, sometimes it happens straight away and other times it develops over a period of time. My current songwriting partner, Allen Ashley is on lockdown, so I have a couple of ideas to present to him. I decided to convene a rehearsal of the other two False Dots last night, to really get the juices flowing. I wanted to play through a few short passages to see how they sounded live. As Allen wasn't about, I took the vocal duties (never a great idea). We also played through a few of my old songs and a couple of covers just for the fun of it. One of the songs, we played for the first time in Ten years, since before Allen rejoined. Grahame hadn't played it for 30 years and Fil had never played bass on it (he had played guitar).
It is a song that I really like. I wrote it whilst doing a songwriting course in 1985. I nearly 'sold' it to a major artist, but we couldn't agree terms (as in I made a very poor shout). But it doesn't really fit the existing set, so we don't do it at the moment. I recorded it on my phone, just for my own pleasure, but actually really liked it. The song was inspired by the vocal style of Paul Young, the exercise was to write a song for an artist in the charts. I chose Paul and tried to write a slightly soulful pop song. Sadly, he never heard it and hasn't sung it. I felt a bit embarrassed about it for a while, as it was a bit too poppy for our band. That changed when a friend who is a great vocalist came down to a Dots rehearsal in 1988 and asked if there was anything he could Jam on. He did this song for a couple of years in his set.
Listening back to it today, I realised that however grim 2020 is, however little there is to do, we can still do something. Playing with the Dots, listening to Wire, all of these things inspire me. Listening back to the track, it is a bit loose, but to my ears sounds great. Live music should be played with passion and should take chances. To me, the track encapsulated that, and it was great to hear something that was just three guys enjoying playing good music together. I hadn't intended making this public, but when I got to thinking about it, I thought it is a perfect example of why you should take chances and push yourself.
I have a recording studio and access to the worlds finest musician, but I just wanted to give you a flavour of what sort of sound three guys paying together, off the cuff can make if they are having fun. This song won't change your life but if it makes you pick up the phone and hook up with someone you should have spoken to ages ago, then it has done something good.
My message here really is, try and be spontaneous. Things don't have to be perfect to be great. I don't know if the fun we had last night comes through in this little video, but I hope it conveys something positive.
As to the track. I was thinking about the Wire track that inspired it. 23 years ago was 1997. It was when I got the Dots back together after a seven year hiatus. I had fallen out of love with music. My ambition in getting the boys back together, was simply to record this and a couple of other old tracks, to try and flog them and get some royalties. I found I enjoyed playing and writing, after a long break. The plan was scrapped and the band started gigging again. I have no intention of stopping just yet, until fate intervenes.
Here is the Wire track. Have a listen. I hope you enjoy it. I hope it inspires you. Don't wait until it's 23 years to late to do what might change your life for the better today.