Saturday 9 October 2021

Needing a reboot when you are fifty nine, fat and falling apart

 Regular readers will notice that I haven't posted a blog for a week. This is the longest break I've had from blogging since the blog started back in 2008. Previously, if I've gone away, I've loaded up a whole series of blogs, so that my fabulous, amazing army of readers can be kept entertained. What has happened, why has there been no Barnet Eye for a week? I was planning to write a blog last Sunday to explain. The tweets of the week was meant to be the last for a week. This is what I was going to start the blog with "Firstly, I'd like to say adios amigo's. I will be taking a break from blogging for a few days. I am working on an important project and I need to get away from the distractions. So this will be the last blog until the next one! So check back in sometime around this time next week and God willing I may be back!"

However, I didn't for the very simple reason that there were not enough interesting Tweets to justify a tweets of the week. We were in the height of the petrol panic and it seemed there was nothing else people wanted to tweet about. I found five and gave up. I was asked to post a blog by the Save the Midland Campaign. I decided to schedule this for Monday, as I tend to prefer to do serious blogs in the week and fun at the weekend. 

So why didn't I post up a few blogs in advance as I would normally? Well in truth, I was completely exhausted and lacking in energy for blogging. The last 18 months has been almost impossible for us all. For much of it I was working 7 days a week on my own, just keeping the business going, with most/all of my staff furloughed for much of the period. It has been a struggle. Over the period of the pandemic, I've done a lot of soul searching. In August I had my 59th borthday. I'll be sixty next year. I had a bit of a crisis between About August 2019 and January. I've spent my life making music. I play in a band mainly influenced by punk, ska and psychedelic music. But when you are coming up to sixty, should you put away the guitar and pull on the slippers and start smoking a pipe in your rocking chair? A man approaching sixty singing about going out all weekend and chasing girls, etc is a bit of a sad, isn't it. Of course, if you wrote the song forty years ago and it's a good song, then fine, but our band has always been about writing new material. Although we've always written left field material, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I was writing at a bus stop, where the bus had gone. What shook me out of my torpor was a tragic event. Our drummers son sadly took his own life. I realised that I had to get the band playing again, just to get him to have something else to focus on for a couple of hours. The problem was the singer in our band was unable to rehearse with us. 

This gave me a small problem. Most of our material was set up for his lyrics and vocals and it didn't suit my style of singing. Of course, we have a huge backlog of songs, there are covers etc. So we started there. But I soon got frustrated. I've always written for other singers. Covers are by definition not my songs. Usually they are written for better singers than me. So I stated writing songs for me and for my voice. At first, this was challenging. Then I realised the problem. I wasn't writing for me. I am fifty nine, fat and falling to bits. If there is an audience for me, then they will pretty much be the same. So what do people who are fifty nine, fat and falling to bits care about? I found three themes. One is nostalgia. I decided to write songs that were unashamedly nostalgic for the era in which I grew up and reference the characters I knew back then. I also wanted to pay tribute to the music of the era. The other subject that I wanted to write about was the struggle I am having and many of my friends are also going through with cancer. There are few songs that chart this journey. I wrote two. One is a pastiche of my dark moments with a swampy bluesy feel and the other is an impassioned plea to men to get serious about health, done in a humourous, Anthony Newley manner. 

Having rehearsed these to a suitable standard, I played them to a good friend, Boz Boorer, a top music producer. Boz loved them and invited the band to his studios in  Portugal to record them. Although we have our own studios in Mill Hill, after the year we've had, we decided that a week in Portugal, with no distractions would be a far better environment to record than in Mill Hill, where every time a drain blocked or the dog needed a walk, we'd be distracted. As myself and Fil (our bassplayer) work at the studios, we felt that a different environment would be beneficial to the creative process.

So we flew out on Monday and returned on Friday. We return with six brilliant songs in the bag. The time in Portugal, in the mountains of Monchique gave me a bit of a reboot. There is no internet or phone signal in Boz's studio, so there are no distractions. It was amazing to see the other boys in the band unwind. On Weds night, we were grilling sardines and sampling the local Madrona hooch at 1am in the morning. It was glorious. I think we all felt like human beings for the first time in nearly two years. 

I've realised that we all need time to unwind, we need to do the things we love and give ourselves time. I've also realised that we need to adapt. I am fifty nine and comfortable in my skin. I am blessed that I am surrounded by amazing musicians who allow me to make great music with them. I've realised that the band needs to adapt. Our primary audience is our peers, those who still love organically produced music, that gets you excited. As we sat in the bar, on our final night on Tuesday in Faro, I was watching all of the beautiful young things socialising, dancing and having a good time. The music they listen to is not my music and I've left that life behind. But that does not mean I've lost the love of life or music, I just have a different pace of life. When I go to a bar on a Friday night, it is with friends, not to find them. I have a partner, so I am not looking for one. I went to Portugal needing a reboot. I return feeling like the luckiest man on the planet.

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