20th March 2019
What makes a good song? I’d say its about the time of day, the melody, lyrics, voice, arrangements and some warm, lo-fi production. Mostly though it’s the time of day, as the rest of it you’ll find deployed amongst the music that you already deem decent enough to bother with. And I’ll be honest, in terms of actually understanding music, past having some moves on the egg shakers I’m less than familiar with any instrument.
I have moved a lot of instruments around though, from my days working the concert hall. Good days. I once ran a spanking new Steinway over a live extension cable during performance time; hat’s off to those piano makers, once you get the vast weight of a grand piano moving, those tiny wheels work like greased lightning.
I got locked on the stage one night too. Having performed a faultless stage move, I was locked on the stage by a workmate. He laughed at me being stuck in there with eight hundred and more punters through his monitor. To be fair to the context of the situation, he did that because earlier in the day, about lunchtime, he’d discovered that I’d electric taped up his rucksack which contained his lunch, and thrown it into row H of the raised seating.
I’d only done this because of something which he had done prior, which had upset me. I cannot remember what this was. A shame because whatever it was, it was worth a full roll of tape. I mummified that bag, then when he couldn’t find the rucksack he asked me about it and I put my hands on my temples and muttered something about row H with my eyes closed, like I was trying really hard for him.
So I know surprisingly little about instruments considering how many of them I have been familiar with. A tip; never walk fast with a music stand when it has live, loose sheets of music upon its rest. You have to perform a half walk and get comfortable with it, lest you fall to the ire of the paying public. Once you’re out of that situation you can go back to watching the audience back stage on cameras and hoping that the encore is going to be singular. You know how when you are at a concert and you elevate with appreciation for an encore? Backstage things are different at that moment. Everyone is ready, they just don’t know when the order is going to be given to move. But move we would, just as soon as we’d finished smoking our rollies out the back.
It would be tough trying to get to sleep after being around a full concert of sound all afternoon and night, so me and a friend used to go for a sprot to chill out. Sprotting is the act of driving about back lanes in no direction while I smoked and he drank some bitter. One night while sprotting I pulled into a field car park only to be joined soon after by another vehicle whose occupants started making zoo noises and then drove off after a few minutes.
I don’t go sprotting these days, especially past midnight around the swine fields of Suffolk.
On a not entirely unrelated back lane, I hit a badger late at night recently in an apparently accidental attempt to revive the Old Testament tradition of sacrifice. It wasn’t lambing season so the situation did what it could and the badger presented itself in sudden lumbering glory. The rest is all that a high riding estate chassis can testify too. Like a whole machining process between a set of axles. Dreadful.
That’s no way to end a blog, even though you gotta end somewhere. In a bid to do this properly I’m going to cut and paste some of The Brine in Me, from a chapter called Foundations. I’m going to change that.
“Almost a year into the new decade and I was pretty much in over my head. That’s what Kenneth, a boat-builder from the local sailing club, told me. I’d somehow managed to inveigle a meeting with him at his yard and had asked the wiry craftsman if I could employ his services for a few days to help build the wooden structure of my plans. Not that I’d really drawn any plans.
Kenneth didn’t seem sure. ‘I don’t like to take money from a cripple, Derek, if you understand what I’m getting at?’
I knew what he was getting at. His yard, though not really Trappist or hermetic in nature, was nonetheless deeply learned. I’d seen three or four other men about the place, all of them doing heavy work with quiet and absolute precision. Half of the tools they used I didn’t even know by name, let alone application. It hadn’t put me off my idea, though.
‘Have you got some plans with you?’ he asked with a gesture saying now would be the time to show them. I had a sketch I’d drawn on a torn piece of porridge box but thought best to leave that behind and just be honest with him.
‘I don’t have plans, Kenneth. I do have it in my head.’
There was an exhalation from him then. I could sense that he was shuffling about and getting ready to ask me to leave. I went for something else instead, throwing out every positive exaggeration that I could manage in the time he might have had the patience for.
‘I’m good, thrown in at the deep end, Ken. The inner workings will all make sense to me once I see the structure in place around them. Give me a few days of your time, all paid, and I’ll be able to see how the rest goes along the way. Or else tell me where another boat-builder lives that might help.’
He looked at me patiently, wondering if I had anything else left to say. When I didn’t, he asked me how much money I could spare for his services. I told him, and he quickly impressed upon me that I could not afford to buy his attention for more than probably ten hours. I knew from personal experience that ten hours could get a lot done, but his tone seemed grave. I asked again if there were any other builders he could recommend. Not for the sort of money that I was offering, apparently – not for anyone decent, at any rate.
Then the line of questioning became more difficult. He asked me why my interest was in building a boat from concrete.”
The first angel blew his trumpet…
JW Bowe xx
If you enjoyed this blog, and you’re impatient for something else to read, feel free to bunch up close to a free sample chapter from JW Bowe’s debut novel, The Meifod Claw, which is available now at Amazon, iTunes and on various other international eReaders.
You can also double up your sampling by following this link to the forthcoming fictional autobiography of The Meifod Claw’s wheelchair-in-chief, Derek Gainsborough. His life and apologies will be released this year under the sail of The Brine in Me.
JW Bowe can also be unearthed on YouTube and in various other ways through the Serious Biscuits homepage. Scroll down for further links, action and disclaimers.
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