Sunday, April 04, 2010

Stan Rogers, The Beatles and Me

Once upon a time this was a blog about my life in music. These days, not so much. Funny how having a child and owning a business takes up all the time I have. Funny too how such a tiny little person takes up so much of my thoughts. I'm not complaining mind you, for the most part life's pretty good.

The thing I haven't confessed to anyone is that I haven't even been listening to much music for the last couple of years, let alone making it. I don't like having music on in the background, I've never really understood the point of that. Either the music is interesting and deserves my attention or it isn't so why have it on at all? Em and I have impromptu dance parties once in a while but that's a different thing.

Another problem is I like to listen on headphones. Unfortunately I'm not kidding about tinnitus and I'm afraid that headphones make it worse, even when the volume's low.

At work I mostly listen to podcasts. The nice thing about them is that if I have to pause it because someone's come into the shop it doesn't really matter. Unlike music, non-poetic spoken word pieces don't suffer much when repeatedly interrupted.

All of this has resulted in a long hiatus that I've recently broken. Broken to good effect I must say. My ipod hasn't been updated since I left Canada. The songs on it are all old favorites worn thin my repeated plays. This hiatus has refreshed them to a remarkable degree. The song at the end of this post has always been one that really kicked me in my soft, squishy emotions. I listened to it today for the first time in what must be two years. I'm not ashamed to say that I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I'm not presenting it here because I feel anyone else will have the same reaction, but it's a damned fine song with a damned fine sentiment regardless.

As to making music, I've finally set up my digital recorder. In a fit of inspiration I wrote and recorded a couple of things. At first it was just a verse structure, pretty simple and straightforward with just bass and guitar. Claire said it sounded like the most optimistic thing I've ever written. There's no lyrics yet but I have an idea of what I want to say and what Claire heard in the music was spot on. But then I thought it needed some kind of slower intro/bridge bit. I took the elements of the riff and played around with it till I got something I liked. Only to find that the intro has become something that can, and probably should, stand on its own.

This happens to me every time I try and write a complete piece. I can write one thing that I really like but when I try and write something contrasting to go with it that bit ends up being something else that no longer fits. Then I end up where I am now, feeling just too tired to try and think up yet another part that'll probably end up not working either. Ah well, at least it's a start.

The other thing I've been thinking about is writing more about music. My latest idea is to go through the Beatles discography from the beginning. You see, I've never really listened to them. Sure I've heard the songs, it's almost impossible to grow up in urban North America without hearing them. But I've never listened to them in detail, nor have I read much about them. Just the occasional short article where the author asserts that they had some profound effect on youth/music/culture etc. Assertions that never seem to have any backing other than that author's opinion.

The Beatles are perfect for such a project. They have a limited output, only 12 or 13 albums depending on how you count Magical Mystery Tour. They're 1/2 dead and never reformed in any way. I won't have to deal with issues like deciding whether The Who minus Keith Moon was actually The Who or did Entwhistle's death mark their final demise. And they have that huge mythology surrounding them.

I wonder if they hold up as anything other than nostalgia. I wonder if they'll speak to someone like me, an adult who grew up in another era on an odd combination of punk and classical. I wonder if their music is still relevant in the 21st century, divorced from cultural movement that is was so much a part of. Ha, I think I might just have talked myself into this. We'll see.

In the meantime please enjoy Stan Rogers' "The Mary Ellen Carter" It's too bad the video has credits running over it. I preferred this one because the only other I could find didn't have footage of Stan singing.