Tag Archives: Howard Monk

The Marathon and me. Bawling, Therapy, Guilt, Bawling

When I was a kid, the only Marathon I was interested in was the chocolate bar now known as Snickers. Having said that, I was a little chubby kid and didn’t like a lot of foods, and peanuts back then were a no go area. I would hate discovering a nut in my chocolate, and couldn’t stand the fact that nanny and grandad only ever had whole nut or fruit and nut…¬† anyway.. I digress before even properly starting…

I did start to run as a kid and remember the first times I went out on a run. I knew I was a little fatty, and I wanted to try and do something about it. (today I measured the distance of the first run I did, it’s just over a mile). I felt very self-conscious. I still do at times when out running now. I kept up running occasionally through college, as a smoker, and in 2006 I used running as a way to give up smoking. I signed up for a marathon, and stopped smoking.

The fact I was doing it for The Alzheimer’s Society was down to my mum having been diagnosed. With Mild Alzheimer’s. That’s how you dealt with it. You say “mild”. Like as if it’s any different than if it was really strong. Or like it was going to just be a little brush with Alzheimer’s and then it’ll go away. Here’s the first instance of the symbolic nature of running. Like you’re running away from something. I think always with running, for me at least, I’ve been running either away from or towards something. Depending on how good I am at applying spin to how I’m feeling at the time it could be to/from a bad marriage, a sick mother, a smaller waistline, health, a new personal best.

This guy’s piece in the Guardian about how he HAS to run marathons is a really good example of how training for a big run can be a decent strategy for good health. It takes a good 4 months, a third of a year, to train properly, so it can be quite habit forming and you’re likely to be still benefiting a good while later.

There’s something most existential about running. Not being able to get your head round something and then going out for a run. The Forrest Gump thing. The doing of an activity for the sake of doing the activity. It helps you to breathe, to concentrate on breathing (much like Yoga). I’ve been able to think about the symbolism of a long run like a marathon. How it’s an achievement in life which might be a suitable enough replacement or substitute for no great achievements in work, love, family etc… How it might be symbolic of an understanding of the longevity of things. “A marathon not a sprint” and all that. It can be very therapeutic.

Recently I joked to a friend that his enthusiasm for running was equal only to the guilt he felt in his personal life. This is classic projection really. My own enthusiasm has diminished the further away from a bad marriage I get, and the closer I move, to a decent set up both at home and at work. I do think the amount of penance in the name of charity x or y does come from a guilt position. It’s a very public display of good-doing.

A friend asked on Facebook last week whether anyone else got all teary when watching the marathon and a few replied yes. I was one of them. Given the stuff I’ve covered above I think it’s hardly surprising. Seeing folks put in so much effort with a picture of “dad” on their backs, or similar is very tear-jerking. For me it’s enough just to see people running.

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Troubled Water: Dementia, unhappy endings – comparing Simon and Garfunkel to ACDC

I can be a terrible music bore. I AM a terrible music bore. I had a lovely moment this very afternoon when two friends came by and said “what’s this?” to my playing Bill Callahan stuff… So I then proceeded to put on a bit too much and then try to talk them through the lovely lyrics in Rococo Zephyr.

I say “talk them through”: all I wanted to point out was how lovely was the line “I used to be sorta blind. Now I can, sorta, see”. Many times I stop and marvel at Bill Callahan lyrics and think the man can do what he wants… Here’s the song for you to listen to.

“I used to be sorta blind. Now I can, sorta, see” allows him to be almost confident about what he’s saying… maintaining a vague insecurity. It feels better than boasting I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT. It’s more modest. There’s still room for error or improvement. But he means it. He can see now, where once he couldn’t. (I think).

Anyhow. I had cause to remember recently, perhaps where I got my music bore qualities from. When I was a little tubby cherub boy my mum had Bridge Over Troubled Water on tape. I would go upstairs and play this over and over on the shoe-box tape player. Celia, and El Condor Pasa were my favourites as a kid. And finding out who Frank Lloyd Wright was later on was cool.

Mum one day talked me through the title track. It was particularly special when Art Garfunkel joined in with his special harmony. She quite specifically wanted me to hear that part. She loved it. I still do. Here’s my music bore bit: It’s like a whole crescendo that song… building right to the end… almost… not quite as marked as Hells Bells, but almost…

So I went to see mum last week and played her the song. A few in fact, from the album. Given I’m a buzzfeed dick, I have seen that video of the nice old American man who is just seemingly actually SWITCHED BACK ON AGAIN from his almost comatose state upon being played his favourite songs from his youth. (it’s here if you haven’t seen it).

me and mum

Me and mum

I can confirm that the reality (for me at least) was not quite so dramatic. Mum DID know what she was hearing and perked up a bit. Hummed/murmured along. Tapped her feet ever so lightly. It was so nice to see. She didn’t miraculously come back to life though. I think that’s what I was sorta hoping for.


Things I am embarrassed about – Number one in a series

“If we’re real music fans, we might even displace a prototype in favor of another based on knowledge that we gain. Take, for example, the song “Twist and Shout.” You might have heard it countless times by live bands in various bars and Holiday Inns, and you might also have heard the recordings by the Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas. One of these latter two versions may even be your prototype for the song. But if I tell you that the Isley Brothers had a hit with the song two years before the Beatles recorded it, you might reorganise your category to accommodate this new information.
Daniel Levitin – This Is Your Brain On Music
Atlantic Books 2008 p159

Having gone on a bit in response to THIS, listing a load of stuff I was not embarrassed about not liking in fact (so fuck you). Like Nirvana (at first), Labradford (who I love), 2001 A Space Odyssey (still yawning)… but those are surely just DEAD OBVIOUS. Sure, there’s a lot of peer pressure when folks who become uber influential mention they’re huge fans of the Houghton Weavers, then everyone’s all over them. So you’ll have these obscure bands being lauded, and mortals like us trying to figure out just what it was that XXXX found in their music.

What’s REALLY embarrassing, for me, given the above paragraph from This is Your Brain on Music, is my knowledge of some of the finest songs, in fact one of my favourites ever, comes from some, well, questionable sources.

I’ll just come out and say it ok. I’ll give you three.

I first heard Motley Crue’s version of Helter Skelter

I first heard Suede’s version of Shipbuilding

And I think it was the GnR version of Knocking on Heaven’s Door that I heard before Old Bob. Ouch.

I actually think I have been more prepared to be uncool in my list. I mean at least Erika was on about some real cool stuff.
I could go on about more embarrassments. Like some baaaad gigs.

But as a friend of mine who shall remain nameless said to me just yesterday: The First Rule of Goth Club – you do not talk about Goth Club.

For the record I still think two of those versions above are alright.

Coming soon… Things I get annoyed about (issue one featuring posh west London bands, and girls (and now BOYS) doing that annoying pixie singing)


I’m a cyclist, a driver and a pedestrian

When I experience, hear about, or witness irresponsible behaviour in a professional context it reminds me of the debates between road users who annoy the hell out of each other all the time.

You get folks saying they’re better drivers ‘cos they’re cyclists and so on.

I hear “all agents are c*@!s”, or “all promoters are slippery”.

I also hear that that which you dislike in others is what you recongnise/dislike in yourself.


Are we so delicate?

Fragile

I’ve had this reputation for a while among certain of my friends for being a straight talker. This is a bit wrong. I am a bit of a show off sure, and will say something to get a laugh, or a rise off someone, but I’m not intentionally mean and it hurts me a lot when folks are intentionally mean to me.

I have recently been reminded of something. A while ago a (well known) journalist told me that not liking or getting The National that much prevented them from writing anything at all about them as they didn’t want to say negative things about a band. The thing that reminded me was another (well known) music industry type not wanting to inform someone that the band they look after isn’t really for them.

Surely there is a way we can tell our truth without worrying about hurting people, and surely in turn there is a way that we can see someone’s truth as not intentionally mean and just move onto the next thing… It’s important to tell the truth no? Without being a dick right?


Good artists to blame for bad ones… there I said it…

you're not going to get heard if you're just sat sitting Under a Rock

Today I have been grumpy with two excellent artists who both got in touch to get shows and yet it was such a trial to actually hear their music. Just send a link to where it can be heard online. Just send a LINK!

So much average stuff is made available instantly and probably gets noticed  because it was so easy for the person to hear it.

I could expand upon this theory and suggest that decent bands/artists are in some way to blame for the actual EXISTENCE of the mediocre ones due to some idiotic Wayne’s World “If we build it, they will come” attitude.

Make it possible for people to hear your music please. (Especially if it’s good)


RIP The Luminaire

I’m in Bristol for this music event which I am privileged to have been asked to speak at. I find these experiences very interesting. Sometimes annoying, sometimes energising. I like to speak, and have become comfortable enough speaking in front of people. I believe I do a pretty good job of it. Many people far more experienced and clever than me are flatly not that good at speaking, or presenting, and I wish they’d do a little more in the presentation of themselves, their important messages getting lost in mumbles and unengaging banter which can lose a crowd. I am looking forward today to listening to a couple of panels about how to get heard, and the digital world. These should prove useful. I hope the people speak clearly and are engaging!

Like many people I got the email last night from The Luminaire informing me of their decision to call it a day. My friend Al English ex of ATP now of Blessing Force first told me about the venue as he’d played there with Youth Movies. so we had Billy Mahonie play there. My first experience therefore was of playing there. It was a busy night and I can remember the fun we had. The smooth running of the operation, the nice staff and so on. So I decided to bring a few of my Local or Knom Music events there and in the subsequent years we brought a good bunch of shows there. Some shows utterly bombed. Some were mad busy. We were always treated completely professionally, and with enthusiasm and kindness by Andy, John, Molly, Frid, Arthur, Matt, regardless of numbers.

I remember the countless times Andy told people to shut up. I loved the fact they wrote it on the walls. I brought one of our Shhh! events there once and it was a (quiet) blast. I have listened with interest at Andy’s rants about inequalities in venues, and I am aware in these austere times, of the shocking losses some places have the wherewithall to make – losses even half of which would buy some new kit or a stage for a new venue. I have enjoyed Andy’s rants about Agents too!

Perhaps all of us are responsible for this.¬† I should have tried harder to put more shows there. Some of those shows we took into bigger venues and performed very poorly we should have rammed the Lumi with. As punters we needed to accept that Kilburn isn’t that far away, and use what is actually a very fine public transport system to get to London’s finest small venue for a great night out more often. We’ll definitely miss this place now it has gone (is going).

I think as fans, and as musicians, we are often the last to take the reality check on what is working and what is not, as we’re the least willing to call it a day “just before the miracle happens”. What Andy and his team have done is incredibly sad but also bold and I can only imagine they’re very relieved just now. I look forward to seeing what their next move is. I bet it’s pretty exciting.