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.

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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.

 

Getting started..

I’m torn. I’m torn between subjects that I passionately love. I’m currently taking an online course run by the Arizona State university in Astronomy. I have burning passion for astronomy, physics and all things science. The only trouble is that my Maths is shit. Now, at 35, I wish I had paid more attention in maths class instead of daydreaming about what knickers Sandy Blake had on and  how do I get my hands in them.

I also love literature. I buy books constantly. I currently have, to name a few, titles by Orwell, Dickens and Twain sitting on my shelf not being read. It’s criminal. Not to mention a few casual books on social engineering, card tricks, a killer shark and an almost finished book about Abraham Lincoln and the American civil war. My problem is:

I want to know about everything. But the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know about a great many things.

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So I signed up to re take my GCSE/O level/High school maths. I start in October. £45. Bargain. One of the questions I have to answer to is “Where do you want this qualification to take you?” I’m tempted to answer “To the edge of the universe” but feel I might raise a few eyebrows considering I can’t do long division without a calculator. So I’ll probably stick to “Further education”

As a musician I always have the urge to set my guitar up and record. I find the hours fall away when I’m engrossed with recording. I’m very lucky, now that my children are at school, that I have a great deal of time on my hands during the day. But I fear when asked what I did today ‘Recording ideas for songs’ might be misinterpreted as ‘fuck all’

I enjoy writing. Blogs, stories, articles you name it. I haven’t written for a long time and it gets me all knotted up inside. I find it soothing, a bit like hoovering really. It releases anger and stress. So I need to do more of it.

I love to learn. I love learning new things. I love to explore. I like to say yes. Saying yes invites the possibility of new things, experiences and people into your life. Saying yes opens the door into an otherwise undiscovered world. I don’t know where I stand. I feel like I’m in the minority. I feel most people don’t necessarily want to learn new things. New skills. New lessons. I feel most people just want to reinforce what they already know. Even if it’s untrue. Maybe I’m talking wildly out of turn or maybe I’m bang on the money. I just don’t know.

All I know is I want the world. I want every taste, every sound, every emotion and every experience I can before my short time on this ball of water is over. It won’t start tomorrow because it’s already started.

Regardless of what atmosphere we are living in the conservation of knowledge must be accelerated. For without it we suffer in stagnation.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” – Carl Sagan

 

Up there, where the air is clear.

As the early morning mist began to lift we walked from the bunkhouse leaving behind our uneaten breakfast and empty cups of tea. We each checked each others oxogen before we boarded the Lancaster. I sat behind the pilot and co-pilot and unfolded maps and various ariel photographs. The ariel photographs were of the usual standard. Buildings partially obscured by clouds, points of interest missing or German defences NOT detailed in our mission brief. As the Lancaster lurched into the sky my stomach fell, as it always does, followed by the feeling of trepidation. Will we return this time? I gave the first heading and we made our way through the skies, over the English channel towards Germany.

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My Grandfather never spoke to us what he did during the war. He was a navigator with the RAF’s infamous bomber command from 1942-44 (I think). I don’t know how many missions he flew, too many. The above is only my interpritation of what might have occurred and just some of the feelings he might have felt. He joined the RAF when he was 18/19 and after two years he was discharged; he was considered a veteran…A veteran and still in his early 20’s.

Sadly he died about 10 years ago, so I never got the chance to have any kind of adult discussion with him. I remember taking family holidays with my Grandparents, being given ice cream and sweets and I always remember him playing scrabble and cards with my father and uncle. I longed to join in, but at age 7 there wasn’t much I could bring to the table. During my teenage years whenever they came over to visit I would always say my hellos, make my excuses and leave. Something I now deeply regret. This theme continued until I left my teenage self behind. But by that time it was too late. I often wonder what kind of stories he could have told. His life experiences must have been unfathomable. But I do know where I get my excellent sense of direction from, just ask my wife. We almost never get lost and I rarely have to ask for directions. The sat-nav always sends us the wrong way and I could have gotten us there quicker…if only I had a map.

How many times have you been stuck behind an elderly person in the queue or walking down the pavement and been frustrated or said something under your breath? Stow your frustration. They were once in their twenties, tearing up the town, going from pub to pub, picking up girls, or boys; or bombing the shit out of Germany or planting explosive devices along German supply lines in north Africa. The elderly population will always have a great deal to offer the world, their life experiences far outweigh ours. They have seen it, done it, designed the T-shirt, saw the original and read the book.

If you still need more proof. Then just imagine yourself, as you are now. Think about all you have accomplished, all you’ve learned and all you have to offer…now add 50 years MORE experience and you should arrive at where our current pensioners are at now. It’s a sobering thought and to have that life experience disregarded by anyone is an insult. I for one am enjoying the long road to wisdom.

If you are lucky enough to have your grandparents around then I urge you to ask them what they did when they were 21, or the first time they got drunk, have they ever been arrested or who first broke their heart.

I would also highly recommend watching ‘The great art robbery’ the latest Derren Brown offering. Which illustrates this point perfectly and was the inspiration behind this post.

“Time, as it grows old, teaches all things.”