Wednesday, 25 November 2009

"Just because you are indespensible......."

I am not sure this necessarily has anything to do with the music industry, but I suspect that it has. They also say that getting some of your annoyances out into paper can be quite cathartic.

I have often heard the phrase “Good guys come last”, which normally goes hand in hand with “Nice guys like you make great second husbands.

If you will forgive my Anglo Saxon reference Eddie Izzard did a complete skit on this theory based on his time at school. The nice guys that would hold a door open for a girl would generally receive nothing, not even a smile or a nod of appreciation. However; if they were a bit of a “Bastard……..shagging a plenty”.

I am beginning to think that this could be right. Not the last bit I hasten to add, happily married for 26 years, but the former. Mind you the amount of women I have heard commenting that their husband was “A bit of a lad when I met him, but that was what attracted me to him”, but then complaining bitterly that he remained “A bit of a lad”. You can generally here me grinding my teeth and muttering comments like “bed”, and “lying in it”.

As I work for the British National Health Service I have to suffer the indignity of appraisals. This normally results in a person sitting in a room with their line manager being told that they have either done, or not done a good job during the previous 12 months.

This was the case for me just a few weeks ago.

I received a right royal slap on the back and was informed that I had done a damn fine job and that the service could not function as efficiently without me. Not only that I was popular with my colleagues, service users and other professional alike.

Well done Loader, ego suitably stroked.

However, then came the rub. I am grade wise the bottom of the pile. Many of my clinician colleagues earn considerably more than I do. And many of the more, shall we say, aggressive ones, have recently been re-graded and are earning nearly four times what I am.

I was in an appraisal and so I thought it would be a good time to broker the subject and suggest that if I am doing such a sterling piece of work for the sake of child mental health, that it may be a good time for my boss to fight my cause and ensure that my paupers bowl be just a little fuller at the end of the month.

Now I have faced rejection before in many guises, but none were quite so direct and to the point “You won’t get any more money here, you’ll have to go and work somewhere else if you want that”.

Suddenly the words of my dear friend and comrade in arms Bassbin came flooding back.

“Just because you are indispensable does not mean that you are important”

Now does this relate to the life of the Rock God? I believe at times it does.

My band The Mudheads have a reputation as being “A nice bunch of guys” and for that I am grateful and just a little proud. We also have a reputation that if you are in shtuck or you are fighting for a good cause The Mudheads are the ones to go to.

We find ourselves constantly being asked to perform at benefit gigs or help out in different situations, and we are generally happy and honoured to do so.

However, I have begun to notice that the amount of benefit gigs we have been asked to ‘help out at’ has grown, whilst the number of really healthy ‘paying gigs’ is beginning to decrease.

I have also noticed that some of our colleagues in the industry, who perhaps would fit Eddie Izzards description of being a “bit of a Bastard”, are raking in the paid work.

Perhaps it is time to be a little less accommodating and a little more demanding.

However; I am what I am, and I will not change. Although, I am just hoping that when I stand before my maker he doesn’t announce “Sorry Paul, I don’t have that big a budget for heaven and the charismatic church** will give me hell if I don’t let all of them in so I am going to have to let you go, you don’t mind do you?”

** substitute what ever denomination of religion you like in there, being a nice guy I wouldn’t want to offend anybody

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Rock God ego can cause him to stumble

On those rare occasions when you have a night off a favourite thing to do is kick back, break open a bottle of wine and to watch a film on DVD. Now living in a house that is now weighted in favour of the women in my life (wife and daughter), this usually involves a lengthy debate around what everybody wants to watch.

In this particular instance the film of agreed choice was Tom Cruise’s 'Top Gun'. Eye candy for the ladies and testosterone fuelled jet aircraft for me.

Now I am one of those saddos that enjoy watching the DVD extras once everybody has slopped off to bed. In the Top Gun extras there was an interview with Terri Nunn the lead singer of Berlin who sang the Oscar winning theme, 'Take my breath away' for the film.

Terri Nunn talked about her shame of succumbing to her 23 year old ego when she turned down the opportunity to perform the song at the Oscars as they would not let them play the WHOLE song,
She talked about regretting it ever since, especially in light of her mother’s bitter disappointment that her daughter was not part of such a spectacular event.

This resonated with me as I can remember back into my youth doing something equally as arrogant and stupid.

I was 19 years old and playing in Amaziah. We were a professional band and were hoping to be part of the New Wave of British heavy metal.

We had been invited to perform at the 1980 Greenbelt Christian music and arts festival in Bedford. The festival was at the height of its powers then in that it attracted some 25,000 people from all walks of life and at this point in time this was place to play.

This was the year that bands like U2 had ripped up the main stage and the world’s music media turned its hungry eye towards it.

However, as I said, young, arrogant and stupid.

We were offered the ‘big top’.

We hit the roof. I mean, we were well on our way to being superstars, how dare they offer us a boy scout tent in a back field somewhere. We were indignant; it was the main stage or nothing.

However, as I said, this was the year of bands like U2, there simply was no room for a bunch of relatively unknown upstarts.

Our manager was sent to instruct them unceremoniously that they could bog right off.
However, as with all such tales of arrogance and stupidity there was a sting in the tail.

The ‘scout tent’ in fact was massive. It was capable of hosting many thousands of people and unbeknown to us we had been booked to perform as the headline on the Saturday night. We would have been the festivals main alternative attraction of the night.

We were featured as the centre page spread in the weekend’s program (it’s the only time I’ve been a centre fold I can tell you).

The band that took our place at the very last minute (yup, we pulled out at the 11th hour such was our ego busting arrogance) got a record deal out of the occasion and they informed us with glee that the lively appreciative audience has been standing room only and had been queuing outside the tent. They had all come to see us.

I think I can only leave the final word on the subject to the Western world’s foremost philosopher, Homer Simpson


Monday, 9 November 2009

Dreams can come true

On a recent visit to Lundinium with Bassbin to visit our old and dear friend Quicksketch I had my backside soundly roasted by the pair of them for the lack of blog entries.

I naturally protested my innocence and claimed that it had been merely but few weeks. On closer inspection it was determined that it had been in fact two months come Wednesday. Suitably chastised I sought to make my excuses.

I have mentioned before that I am getting very much in the groove and that each gig is getting, perhaps dare I say it, mundane. I have been feeling that there hasn’t been a whole lot that would be worthy of interest on this particular column.

Then Quicksketch wisely pointed out that the very fact that I have got to a point in my musical journey that is mundane is worthy of celebration, and he should know.

You see, both and Bassbin were there at the very beginning.

We were all about fourteen years old and dreamt of performing in front of an audience, any audience. We would practice till our ears burnt and our fingers dropped off in Quicksketch’s mother’s front room. Her sofa doubling up as a drum kit and what we lacked in talent and ability (which was vast) we made up for in enthusiasm and pure and simple day dreaming.

Three of four years later Bassbin and I would trawl the city of Bristol on our motorbikes seeking out live music that acted as a sound track and inspiration for our lives.

We would sit back and let the music wash over us dreaming that one day…that would be us up on that stage.

It has been a long old journey and that is indeed now us, well me anyway. Bassbin retains his passion for live music but freely admits that his priorities have changed. Although, one day when I have time and I can get into the editing facilities in the school where I work, there is video footage of both the boy and I playing on a large festival stage somewhere on the south coast. It would make a worthy edition to Youtube.

However, Quicksketch’s sage words echoed in my ears as I rocked my socks off in a tiny Bristol pub with my old friend Matt yesterday as part of an acoustic afternoon.

Yes the venue was tiny. No, money did not chance hands and we weren’t likely to sign THAT record deal shortly following this particular gig. And yet, 30 odd years ago I used to dream of gigs like this. I would lie in bed at night and rehearse the entire set in my head, and long for the days when it might, and I mean MIGHT come true.

And there I was doing it.

It was a new and refreshing appreciation and I worked up a sweat.

All I can say to Quicksketch and Bassbin, thanks guys for a HUGE dollop of inspiration and I promise I will be more consistent in my contributions from now on.