Out of all the serious-ish recording of music I have done, there remains only one CD, a psychedelic little concept album of songs, in which I play guitar mostly. I wrote all the songs, that is generally my lot in my unsuccessful musical life – I write the songs and play a bit of guitar. I never got the hang of bass, was never interested in drums, and a classically trained pianist, I never ever sound cool on keyboards, I am too fettered, not free, I can’t play the piano without sheet music, I can’t create on keyboards – I was knocked into shape at too young an age.
I came at learning how to play the guitar from a totally different point of reference. I learnt by ear, I learnt chords, and little tricks, and how to feel my way around a song. I learnt by playing along with music I loved. I was not exact, it was an art not a math exercise, and so I began to be able to write music I enjoyed. If you asked me to write it out on staves, I would have no idea. I never get the chance to sit down at a piano, and haven’t for decades – you cant haul a piano down the road with you, which was precisely why I picked up the guitar – it is portable.
My bandmates had a home recording set up – this was a while ago, so no computerized recording programs, just a Tascam 16 track, a compressor, and various other bit of kit I had no idea what they did, but dutifully sat there with the monitor headphones on making alien noises to overdub on a track, while everyone else disappeared off into the kitchen to giggle and smoke weed. It was perhaps the most fun I have ever had in my life. Silly, high, drunken fun. Inbetween working on tracks, I would grab the telecaster and pretend I was PJ Harvey, bouncing up and down and singing songs about bad boys and dresses. Eventually the evening would wear on and I would fall off my chair in a stoned haze. It was bliss. I felt free.
There is nothing like the buzz of recording music with people you like, listening to mixes, adjusting levels, overdubbing guitar. The finished product was never going to see the light of day – as with all good fun bands it broke apart in a wave of booze and fractured relationships. I still have the disc. I never listen to it, it is too sad to listen to a younger, happier, brighter me.
Writing is my new record making, sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes not, sometimes looking back and wiping it clean, sometimes losing everything you just did in an ill-advised press of the button. There is something satisfying in making your mark, and committing it to eternity, to sit there next to all the other marks made by people in the book of life, as they too strive to record something that is real and meaningful, that is good and bright; that is fun and entertaining, that someone else might dig and say “Yes, that is exactly how I feel!” or else “no that is not it at all.” That reaction, that confirmation we exist by virtue of others reaction to our marks on life, is either the most soul-affirming, or else shattering humbling experience we can chase.
I have been enjoying reading the marks others are making on life, the food blogs and the lifestyle blogs, the music blogs and the politicos, and having my own reactions to the things you write.
Here’s to making marks on life!