My 1st Musical Loss…Bolan Boogie Music

MarcBolan

On September 16th, 1977 I was 11-years-old. Exactly one month before, a huge musical icon passed away. He was all over the news. Anybody alive on the planet at the time can probably still remember where they were, and what they were doing, the day Elvis died. The world hadn’t been rocked so heavily since the day Kennedy died.

I think it’s safe to say the world lost some of its innocence the day Elvis left it. Not that it was an extremely innocent place at the time. There was a revolution happening, after all–the dawning of a new epoch. But the world was rocked by the tawdry way in which Elvis died. Celebrity shit was hitting the fan. The lifestyle was not looking so glamorous. Not quite 10 years after the summer of love, 1977 was a hotpot of events. SO much happened that year; the commodore computer, the space shuttle program, Roots, the rings of Uranus, Toronto Blue Jays, Star Wars, the New York City Blackout, Son of Sam, Atari, Food Stamps, Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS and the Sex Pistols, Saturday Night Fever, and a ridiculous amount of plane crashes. Despite all of this, Elvis Presley’s death was probably the biggest news in the media.

Elvis was okay. The dude was pwning the charts…and rocking the movie box office. He was legendary. I will give credit where credit is due. He was among the daddies of rock ‘n’ roll, after all.

But one month to the day after Elvis passed, the granddaddy of punk was in a tragic car accident. THAT‘s the death that reeled my life at the time. I was a fanatical fan…and I knew we were in for decades of pure unadulterated awesomeness from this iconic monster of glam rock.

My favourite album at the time of Marc Bolan’s death was UNICORN.

unicornThat album is one of the biggest of my childhood. Marc Bolan kind of took your hand and said, “Uh uh…music doesn’t have to be conventional. You don’t have to do what everybody else is doing.” He was the best unconventionalist of his time. The man was a living miracle of sound. There wasn’t a T-Rex song I didn’t immediately love. Dude had more game than the industry he reigned over. Well, in my humble opinion anyway. The only guy who came close to him was Bowie. Bolan was Sky Church Music and anybody who wanted a pass could get in for free.

Today is kind of a T-Rex kind of day. I’m working on a novel that takes place in the early 80s. For me, that was a major punk rock stage in my life. But I was also extremely busy attempting to convert my fellow punks to the Church of Bolan at the time. I’ve been listening to Bolan a lot lately. His music really gets my creative juices flowing. T-Rex have been the soundtrack to more than a few of my writing sessions.

I place the odd musical homage into my novels. Music is such an important part of my life. I love to share my fav bands with my readers, when I can. Though this novel is not yet published (obviously, since I’m working on it), I hope it eventually takes that journey. (-: Here’s an excerpt from the novel in question, CHASING EMPTY. The excerpt is my homage to Marc Bolan…purely fictional, but typical of that period in my life. (-; The link will take you to a previous post on this blog…

CHASING EMPTY EXCERPT

Elvis may have died in ’77…but Marc Bolan definitely pwned the summer of ’77. His light went out way too early. I never stop wondering where he might have gone, had that car not hit that tree.

CELEBRATE SUMMER was one of Marc’s last nods. One of the lines in the song is, “Summer is Heaven in ’77“. Little did he know.

I’ll leave you with T-Rex‘s CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION…because that’s what we were:

Music is a World Within Itself…

Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands

So sayeth the Wonder. Stevie, that is.

I first learned the song SIR DUKE in Grade 7. I’ll never forget my class’s tragic yet enthusiastic version of this song. Wow! We were really something. Voices and triangles and wooden blocks and recorders and tambourines. It was a melting pot of unmusicality!

But it was also beautiful.

I had already been deeply into music for several years. I had the good fortune of living beside a record store a few years earlier. And my older brother and I not only visited that store often, but we actually worked there. And being just out of diapers at the time, we were paid in vinyl. We were far too young to appear on any payroll list.

Stevie Wonder’s song spoke of the universal truth of the importance of music for me. I had always known that music was just as important as books. My entire life I wanted to surround myself with both. I wanted to use words and listen to music. By Grade 7 I had already discovered–with a deep sadness one could not even measure–that I had zero musical talent. I spent several years learning guitar at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. But all those lessons would soon be wiped from my memory. Whenever I opened my mouth to sing, I would have several invites to close it.

Music knows it is and always will
Be one of the things that life just won’t quit

Wonder wrapped my feelings for music up in this beautiful love letter to the pioneers who inspired him, like; Basie, Miller, Sachimo
And the king of all Sir Duke. 

Now, decades after that nasty little Grade 7 rendition of a beautiful song that somehow opened my heart to the truth of the marriage between writing and music, I find myself a writer. An author, no less. And I still surround my writing time with the one thing I love maybe even slightly more than words. Music. If you’re a human being alive today, you have a favourite song, a favourite psalm, hymn, chorus…something. Like breath, I intake sound. And, wonder of wonders, I am fortunate enough to have found my bliss…I exhale words!

The question asked by Stevie Wonder in this classic song that, once heard, will never be forgotten? Can’t you feel it all over? The answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is YES!

Enjoy SIR DUKE now:

If you want to follow a great blog that combines the loves of music and writing, look no more…go to ALL THE WRITE NOTES and dig in! Stay tuned. I will be posting my interview with Canada’s Bif Naked on ATWN this coming Monday, July 29th!

Crash and Burn – Not Feeling Very Writer-y

Sometimes I masquerade as a writer. The costume is cheap…jeans and a t-shirt. Rips optional.

Other times, I almost feel like a writer.

And then there are the times like today. I know I have written. But what does it all mean? If you write every day, are you a writer? And surely you’re an author if you have books published, no?

I’ve been reading over my words and wondering what it is I’m doing. I think it’s time to attempt an outline again. I feel like I have run out of things to write about. I struggled a bit at the Muskoka Novel Marathon a couple of weeks back. I went from speed writing early on to trying to dig up stuff to write about. I ended up writing AND THEN THIS HAPPENED AND THEN THIS HAPPENED AND THEN THIS HAPPENED. It no longer felt smooth. The flow got cut off somewhere during the weekend. I don’t like struggling with words and ideas. It’s not something I usually do. I am going to attempt to outline a novel. I have failed miserably at this in the past. I eventually said that it wasn’t for me…but now I’m pretty sure it just wasn’t for me then. Let the experiment begin!

In the meantime, I’m kind of feeling more like a grandfather than a writer. So…here’s a picture of my grandson, Edward. I took it while we were at the park yesterday.

edward

All the Write Notes – A blog for Writers, Readers & Music Lovers!

I recently took on a spot on a group blog project called ALL THE WRITE NOTES. For my first few posts, I’m going to be sharing the link here at my personal blog. Really, you should follow ALL THE WRITE NOTES! It’s getting a lot of buzz and it’s an entertaining read for lovers of the arts. My favourite thing about it is the marriage between writing and music.

Today, I interviewed Lian Lunson for All the Write Notes ’10 Questions With…’ feature. Lian is the creator of my favourite musical documentary, LEONARD COHEN: I’M YOUR MAN. She recently released a very special documentary on the late Kate McGarrigle. Find out what she has to say about it…

 

2006 Sundance Film Festival - "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man" Portraits
Lian Lunson

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO VISIT THE INTERVIEW:

tag22

Happy Birthday, Madiba!

Nelson-Mandela

As a child, when I learned about a man being kept in prison in South Africa for doing the right thing, I was perplexed. I suppose it sometimes takes to child to see an easy solution. When I was a bit older, the whole thing kind of blew up in South Africa. It was the artists who told the world…who sang to the world in hopes somebody would eventually come to their senses. So…it was then that I realized CHILDREN & ARTISTS. These are the people who should inherit the world.

Today is that man’s birthday. The man who languished in jail for 27 years would eventually become president of the country in which he was jailed…and father/brother/husband/friend/uncle to the world. His legacy is perhaps the most profound legacy of any human in history. He has given humanity a desire for betterment. He gave birth to a flower that has become a wellspring of hope.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on this day in 1918. Today, he is 95. Happy happy birthday!

Stop what you’re doing at some time today. Consider the injustices still being carried out in the world today–In third-world nations and in your own backyard. It is when we say NOTHING that we allow these injustices to remain. Do something. One person can make all the difference in the world (and to the world). Nelson Mandela has proven that. Go forth…and be good! And do good…

Even Writers Take a Holiday – No They Don’t!

I’ll be a farmer, or a pickler of pickles, or a toastmaster, or a bicyclist, or a telephone operator, or a lighthouse keeper, or a brakeman for the train company, or a watcher, or a maniacal laugh-track laugher, or a cowboy, or a grocery cart getter, or a lumberjack, or a ventriloquist, or a floor polisher, or a wax-on-wax-offer, or a door-to-door magazine seller, or a cellar dweller. Just don’t make me be a writer right now! Ack!

Ever get those days? You would do anything but the thing you have to (want to) do? I even considered macramé plant holder maker today. What’s a word? They look so weird to the eye today. And I have to put them one after the other together in a row until they make some form of discernible sense? What now!? Say it isn’t so!

These are the days…

Today, I shall sail a ship to a far-off port where there are no pens, no paper, no computers, no notebooks, no words, no letters, no readers, no books. I’m allowed you know. Yes I am. Don’t look at me like that. Writers can forswear writing if they want to. Yes we can! (I may appear to be arguing with you, the reader, but trust me…it is ME that I argue with). What is it about writers that makes them think they are not allowed to take a break, step back from words for a day? It is okay to do so.

If you’ve had enough of words for now, grab a stinking paintbrush. Paint the world with brushstrokes, not with letters forming words forming sentences forming stories. Give yourself a break. It’s the best way to re-energize yourself!

It’s a SNOW DAY! Have fun! Enjoy your day off, SLACKER!

37149_438296247020_6043346_nREMEMBER THIS: Writers NEVER take a holiday. Even when we’re not writing, we’re thinking about what we’re going to be writing. SO…if the words aren’t coming, give yourself a day off. Enjoy something else. The writing can wait. It will percolate in the background while you’re playing hooky!

Ideas As Opiates – Trusting the Muse

Sometimes it’s not a lack of ideas that cause anxiety in the writer, but rather an influx of ideas. When I’m sitting quietly contemplating the upcoming Muskoka Novel Marathon, it’s crazy how many thoughts swoop in and fly by. I get to the point of panic as I graze each one, taste it on my tongue and wiggle it around trying it on for size. There will come a point in the next week or so when the panic will put me in a choke-hold. I will swear by all the gods in all the universes that I will not be able to focus on one idea long enough to sustain me through an entire novel during my weekend writing marathon.

At that point–just before I give up and throw in the towel–it will be time for the marathon to begin. When I take my seat and await the opening bell that rings throughout the marathon venue to signal the beginning of the writing journey…I will drop my head in my hands and release a tumultuous sigh. DEFEATED!

And then my hands will touch the keyboard in front of me and they will begin to move. And that is the point where the idea that festered the loudest and the longest will will itself out of my brain and down through my arms and into my fingers and onto the keys and onto the screen in front of my defeated eyes. That’s when I will know I have once again defeated the monster.

It’s the same every year. The fear and worry leading up to the event. The surety that I will fail. The hellish fear that for the 72 hours of the writing marathon I will look at a blank screen that just keeps getting blanker and blanker. Or is that more and more blank? It’s that fear that drives me…that forces ALL THOSE IDEAS to strain themselves down through the tunnel between brain and screen…to vie for that spot as MAIN IDEA. There is a war going on at the moment. A huge internal conflict that I am hardly aware of…but, oh, it IS there. The hounds of hell in the form of a thousand and a hundred thousand of ideas fighting at the starting gate. I can hear their howls, taste the blood as they spit and grind their sharp incisors…feel their feet scraping the rough and frozen tundra of my mind.

I don’t know what I will write. I don’t know any of it. But I know there is something churning in me, waiting to takeover. When that opening bell sounds, I’ll be there. And I’ll be praying to the freaks and the fools. Sometime between the first ring and the last I will will myself to surrender. The bell’s echo will slow to a hum…and I’ll be gone…

I will allow the ideas in my mind to become my opiates…and I will vanish in the crescendo…

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