Saturday, May 29, 2021

Bands and Music and People

You get used to not seeing friends who play music for long periods of time because the nature of making music is that it's episodic. You have intense, focused relationships with other creative people, you make a tour or a gig or a recording. You share jokes, you eat together, travel together, get on each others' nerves. You need clean clothes or you should have had a shower. Things that are not funny seem hilarious because they... are. Collectively, you meet people at venues and in audiences. If you're lucky you become part of  a loose network of people who will say 'yes' to anything musical in any of it's forms. Amongst you there are people of supreme musical talent, people with basic skills but who always turn up on time (so valuable, those people!), people who know how to bring an audience, and people who seem to who entirely consist of ideas, mostly really good ones. Some people can read music, most can't. Some people's egos overflow out of a room and hallway to pour down the road: others are so self-effacing they seem barely there, until they pick up an instrument and let rip so uproariously you wonder where they were keeping all that energy.

So many people you come across, in a lifetime of making music. You get used to saying 'See ya!' and then it's a year, five years, ten years. You meet again and everything is the same because you have been bonded by all that I've just written about. It's called 'knowing the score' in slang that everyone uses but because it's music, it really is a score, only not the one on paper with dots and instructions about sound that people generally associate with the word. The score is not something you can teach at any of the University courses I've lectured on over the years. The score is to do with being able to recognise an experience almost before you experience it, to understand not only what your role is, but also what your more-than-a-role will be. To see the gap in a group of people that exactly fits your shape and sound, and to alight there with a feeling of belonging.

At Nick's funeral on Thursday, this is where I realised all this. Some of us have known each other musically since our very early twenties, others later. We had all connected through one musician, and we were knitted together by those experiences so a deluge of memories rained down. A group of us even laughed, when the very loving and solemn formal part of the afternoon was over.

Nick was very brave. At the end of last year he must have been very ill, but he still did the 'voice of Fatberg' and didn't say what was happening to him. He probably never heard the finished track, although I sent it to him. I was sure I'd see him again, just as so many other people at his funeral were. He was a big part of our musical landscape, our musical peoplescape. 

Personally, I've never regretted the diversion into music that punk knocked me into. I looked round at all those characters on Thursday, who were also looking round at each other, and thought just what a turbulent and volatile 'career' you have as a creative person. Money evades you (it always seems to be being counted in the next room, and escapes like a shot as soon as it moves into view); fame lasts as long as a tissue in a washing machine. Your skills vanish unless you constantly refresh and rehearse them. Your playing is replaced by someone more competent on a record. Music industry people tell you to sack your band (has happened twice). People claim credit for your music (has happened countless times). 

But it's a world that I understand, that has given me adventures, that is exciting, that has great and lasting camaraderie, understanding, laughter, and most of all, constant variety and change. The meaning of all this flies beneath so many people's radar, in particular that of powerful people in the music industry for whom the meaning of life is money and cocaine. It flies beneath the radar of the political class, until it's convenient to call it 'the creative industries'. It evades definition and the scales and measures used to quantify and qualify value. 

They just can't put their finger on it all. 

Good, because if they could, they'd squash it.

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