the crack was mighty…

I spent part of the day in the arms of my acoustic guitar, an old friend (closer to a lover) which I’ve neglected and ignored for so long, a friend that has patiently waited for me while I’ve been distracted and moved about, worried and harried and still my Simon and Patrick has waited leaning against the book shelves in the corner.
So we spent time together today, intimate time when I remembered the joy of just doodling on the fretboard with no agenda, no desire to write a song or to keep things moving forward.

I also noticed the scar which I had inflicted on my friend many years ago in Dublin. It was The International Bar, it was a Monday night down in the basement and I was somewhere between starting a three song set and finishing it. There was a pint of Guinness involved, a standing on the tiled floor and a moment when the guitar strap came of the end.
I remember now.
I was holding the pint of Guinness when the strap came off and couldn’t make a attempt to catch, Simon and Patrick fairly cracked and bounced against the floor, the bar when silent in mourning and I picked it up while attempting to look as if I didn’t really matter, but it did I guess.

Looking back now, I wouldn’t take that moment back. I’m glad it holds a battle scar from the basement of The International Bar in Dublin, good times! A time when I wasn’t afraid to sing my song and let my voice be heard in public, unlike now when I hide away like a hermit.
So from now on the crack will serve as a sign of getting out there again and letting my voice be heard in dingy little bar basements and not caring if anyone wants to hear or not or if it’s good or not, just being in the place.

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Songdrawing No.14 – Goldfish, Roy Harper


I haven’t done a song drawing for ages but this song by Roy Harper has been in my head all week.  The illustration in the Youtube clip isn’t mine in case someone thinks it is.

thoughts about writing/recording songs about suffering

Thinking out loud again.

When I started out trying to sing the exile over Lent the idea was to try and be honest and purge the crap, to lament  the state of the world around me and in me and  give myself a challenge because I need borders in place to make things.
I thought I would treat them like Psalm’s or prayers mostly on a personal level but by going through the process maybe it would connect or resonate with other people going through the same sort of thing. Perhaps there would be enough ‘good’ songs at the end to make a small CD or something.

Then a couple of unexpected tragic events happened which shook me a bit and brought me into uneasy territory.  Watching the images from Japan of the wave come in and sweep all before it and then learning on Monday about the tragic death of young man who was loved by so many friends has made me want to lament and ask questions of God. So some of the things I was thinking about the goodness and character of God that day, or wondering if there was a God found their way into the song from that day.

But then that is what brought me into uneasy territory because you never want to think that you’re using tragic events for your own gain or to try and impress other people. Sorrow is sorrow is sorrow and the people involved in the hurt are the main people to be concerned about. At the same time though other peoples sorrow makes you ask questions of yourself and your faith because it could just as easily be you or me getting a terrible early morning phone call and you can’t help wondering ‘What am I going to when/if this happens to me/us?’

For instance on the morning that the earthquake smashed into Japan I went straight into my room and quickly recorded a song. My initial thought was ‘How many have died?’ and the first reports seemed a bit light So a song came out of that.But a few days later when the full scale of the tragedy was unfolding the tune of the song seemed a little bit jaunty or something even though I liked the tune. My feelings at the time where true, but when recorded in song and played back a few weeks later out of context it might seem distasteful

Then there is the thought of would it ever be right to try and sell songs or art that have found their beginning in tragic events or other peoples sorrow, even your own? If at the end of trying to record a song/music/sound every day of Lent there was four decent songs would it be right to put them on CD’s and say ‘Hey guys, I  recorded this over Lent if you would like to by it’

I don’t think so, it would leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I find the idea of taking a song , turning it into a shiny attractive thing that people would want to buy a hard thought to get my head around especially if the songs have been brought on by suffering.

The idea of selling the songs to raise money for something like the earthquake in Japan doesn’t really sit well with me either because

a) people might feel guilted into the songs as they think it’s a worthy cause or something.
b)you might be trying to raise money yourself using  other people’s grief and suffering

Yet by giving the songs away for free you run the risk  that people think  the songs cost you nothing to make or that you  didn’t do work making them. The truth is that every song you record or write (no matter how bad it sounds!)does take time to make.

Because we live in the digital age which allows us to zip around the internet from one song to another we have  lost the sense of the work that goes into writing a song and think that an artist came up with and recorded a music as quickly as we found it on Google.

The very least time I could write a song and have it ready for listening would be about 10mins.
For that you would basically have to pick a guitar without thinking,  play straight away and sing the song straight out of your mouth – 3mins.
Then you would need to listen to the song through and mix it first time and burn to CD – 5 mins.
Take CD to computer and upload to web site straight away – 2 mins.

Of course that nevers happens. I reckon that you’re looking at least 10 times that amount of work for even a basic out of tune song.
So  a very very rough guestimate 100mins for one of my out of tune songs.
That’s  makes it about £10 if you where being paid £6 per hour for time.

It reminds me of those very bad 5min talks I used to do for the kids in church. It might have only been a bad 5min talk but it was sometimes hours in the making because its takes a lot of time to take a big idea and try to whittle it down so that a 5 yr old can understand.

Or its like an iceberg with only a small part  of the whole visible to the naked eye.

Barbour Mill

Passed the old linen thread factory at Hilden. The Barbours Mill was once the largest in the world with over 2000 people working there just over 100yrs ago.
It looks like a proper factory you would see in a LS Lowry painting.
It looks like the sort of factory Bruce Springsteen would write about closing down.
Its derelict now. You pass by, its glory has faded. There is talk in the news about a £100million plan to do it up into houses and flats and offices.

Have been listening to the opening lyrics of a Fionn Regan song ‘Snowy Atlas Mountains’ when thinking about the factory;

‘We came down by the factory
Industrial yarns were my father did work’

Actually, I can’t make out if its yarns or yards. Still both work for me – but maybe I should check. So I’m a gonna.