Songs in the key of life

I got to do something I almost never get to do last night. I was fortunate enough to play in a 12 piece big band ( I’m not sure if 12 constitutes ‘big’ but fuck it). It was in a field in Kent with 11 people only 1 of whom I’d met before. We had free food and a free bar and for the most part the sun was shining. As I said I don’t get to play with this many musicians on a gig that often but when I do I absolutely love it. As a guitarist it’s a joy not to be told to cover: the brass parts, the backing vocals, piano parts, string lines whilst at the same time fending off some pissed bloke who wants to get up and play Wonderwall with us.


I want to say how much fun it was and how much I enjoyed it. But that doesn’t do it justice. The truth is; it was pant wettingly, ball bouncingly, head bangin riot, arse shakingly good fun. It was like having your arse tickled with a feather. We grooved, we rocked, we jazzed and there was even a rap. Any mistakes were quickly picked up or were brushed under the rug, no one noticed because we were cooking. There were no egos and no prima donnas. We were all there for the collective good. Making the songs sound great and making sure everyone left happy and a little sad that it was over.

With 12 in the band it meant that we all had to work less. That’s right, LESS. I didn’t have to worry about anything other than the guitar parts, as there was a piano and 3 part horn section. I didn’t have to worry about filling out the space. I just concentrated on sitting in the groove. The same also applied to the piano player. With 4 vocalists I didn’t have to worry about backing vocals, plus the singers as individuals didn’t have to worry about their voices getting tired. With a percussionist along for the ride this freed the drummer up to sit back and hold the groove down, which he did impeccably. The icing on the proverbial cake…trombone, sax and trumpet. Sprinkling musical magic everywhere we went.

It was a beautiful evening. 12 people coming together, unrehearsed, for the common good. We had jazz musicians who had studied in some of London’s finest schools playing next to musicians who couldn’t read a lick of music and who referred to musical parts as ‘the bit that goes doo de dee da da bat bat bum’. We had players that had toured the world with big name artists trading licks with people who still practice with the remnants of their children’s breakfast on their unwashed tee shirt. We were of different backgrounds. We were of different sexual orientation. But we were there playing for the song, not the individual. It is a testament to what can be achieved when like minded, focused and dedicated  people come together with a single goal in mind. And it was fantastic.  It’s a shame large factions of the world don’t adopt these principles. We have psychotic sociopaths vying for power and control at the expense of the rest of us. Carving us up into fractions, continuously pointing out our differences and forcing us to focus on our differences rather than our similarities. As part of my daily recovery from addiction, I meditate. It’s not something I profess to doing well or daily for that matter. But when I do I try to picture myself sitting crossed legged on the Moon, looking back at the earth. Watching it spin so elegantly. Gazing at the vast oceans. Watching the thunder storms in South America, the deserts of North Africa and the seemingly invariable rain in the U.K. One thing I don’t see…Borders. Flags. Countries divided by religion or race. Cities divided by sports team. Towns divided by popular talent shows. Because those divisions only exist if we let them. We and we alone have the power to eradicate them. Does that mean we should be held accountable?

I often get tarnished with ‘Left wing dreamer’ brush. I have a belief that the world could be a better place if we all put our differences aside and worked together for the common good. The trouble is we all have a different opinion of what ‘Good’ is. It’s subjective. I get tired of writing it; us coming together. I want to find something less trite, something more inspiring….but when it boils down to it that phrase sums up what I’d like to see. Less murder, less poverty, less war, more education, more love. And that’s good

Maybe you think I am a dreamer. Maybe you think that we can’t come together. Maybe you think that our division runs too deep and we will forever be a race split. But it’s out there, it is possible, I’ve seen it. It happened to me last night.



Being poor isn’t a crime!

Last week the Daily Star reported on Marie Buchan, a 31 year old mother of 8 who lives on benefits. According to the Daily Star, Marie is ‘raking in £30,264-a-year in child tax credits, child benefit and income support as well as living rent-free in a large three-bedroom semi-detached house’

Marie has had her benefits capped at £500 per week (£26,000 per year) and she is now facing the prospect of eviction. After the cap her housing benefit was reduced from £115 per week to just £33 and she has to make up the short fall of £82 per week. She is in arrears on her rent to the tune of £2000.

The article was brought to my attention when a friend posted it on Facebook and I was disgusted to see peoples reaction to the story.

‘Sell a few of those kids, slut’ ‘These sluts are in every town’ ‘Stop fucking’ and my favourite ‘I don’t think you should get benefits over 3 kids’

What upsets me the most about this whole situation were not the venomous remarks, not the fact that a mother of 8 who lives off the state has a larger ‘income’ than me. It’s the fact that people seem perceive this as a real problem in UK, a bit like immigration. We have media outlets like The Daily Star and The Daily Mail to thank for that.

So let’s clear a few things up…

– 93% of people claiming housing benefits, work.
– 0.8% of benefit spending goes on fraudulent claims, which works out to about £1.2 billion. Now compare that to the £11 billion in unclaimed benefits.
– Only 8% of benefit claimants have 3 or more children

There is an excellent article here on the subject

The truth is that the vast majority of people who rely on the welfare system are everyday people. Our friends, family members and work colleagues. The notion that people who live off the state are somehow living rent free in a large house with Sky TV, broadband and all the trimmings is pure fiction. There are 30 million individuals who claim benefits along with 64% of families. With the ever increasing price of houses/rent coupled with lower paid jobs, the end of overtime and in some cases wage reduction it’s any wonder that these figures aren’t higher…Give it a few years.

I will not argue that there are indeed people who abuse the system and I’m sure with a few minutes research you could find said people. But they are the overwhelming minority, and if it’s the price we pay for not letting our fellow human beings die on the street, starving or freezing to death, then so be it. I for one am happy that we live in a country that has a safety net for people to use when and if they fall on hard times.

Poverty in this country has got to the stage where more and more people are relying on food banks, Welfare and hand outs in order to survive;  The Red cross has started collecting food for people in Britain, this is the first it’s had to do this since World War 2!

The Buchan’s are people, and have every right to water, food, shelter and warmth. These are not privileges extended only to those who can afford it. We ALL have a right to them.
If you are looking for someone to blame then I direct you towards the people that run the country. Some of whom live off the state with salary’s in excess of £100,000, with an expenses account, a second home and private education for their children. The IPSA has just given the OK for MPs to receive an 11% pay rise just days after George Osborne announced more cuts to government services.

So if you want to start bashing people who live rent free at the tax payers I say we start at the top and gradually work down.

A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.
~Samuel Johnson