My musical journey was slightly different form my traditional learning through school and University. As you know I haven’t always written songs. And it took quite a few years to get to the point in time where I made a decision to write songs and perform them on stage. You see, I grew up in a very non-musical, non arty family. But from my mid-teens I was attracted to the guitar.
My first guitar didn’t actually have any strings. I’d drawn the “strings” on my wooden ruler and practiced changing the position of my fingers to fit the chord shapes. I got really good at playing D,C and G on the ruler. I could do it in class when I was bored, quite often really. The benefit was that no one could hear the sounds. Not even me, which I believed to be only a small problem at the time. Man, could I shred on that ruler! I do admit I was pretty happy though when I bought my first guitar. A second-hand “Aria”. Now, I can see the guitar enthusiasts searching the archives for Aria guitars. I can assure you that it wasn’t a prominent or expensive guitar. The peel-off brand sticker was testament to that. Within a short time the neck had bent because of the steel strings that had been put on it. Even so, D,C and G sounded way better on a bent neck guitar than on a wooden ruler any old day of the week.
Rule No.12: A crap guitar is always better than a wooden ruler.
Fast forward 2 years.
“Alias…alias anything you please….alias” said the actor on the screen and the entire theatre rose for a standing ovation. I was somewhat confused. This wasn’t some classic line like “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” by Marlon Brando in The Godfather or Clint Eastwood’s “Make my day” in Dirty Harry. Not that standing ovations happened for those lines anyway. No. This was a showing by the Uni Film Society of the re-make of Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid. Bob Dylan wrote the musical score including the classic song Knocking On Heaven’s Door. It still remains one of my favourite songs. Maybe because it is mostly D, C and G and brings back fond memories of my wooden ruler. I can see the scene where Rita Coolidge stands over a dying Billy The Kid (Kris Kristofferson) as the sun sets and Knocking On Heaven’s Door begins to play. Perhaps its the music that stops the scene from becoming way over the top too cliché and in need of a Quentin Tarantino blast. Dylan made cameo appearances. It was like the entire audience had come to the film just to see Bob and hear him say his few lines. I wondered what was going on because I’d never really heard of Dylan until that evening. And it still astounds me to this day the effect that this guy has had on so many people’s lives, including mine. And on my new flat-mate at that time, a guy called Kevin.
You see Kevin was the person who dragged me along to go see Pat Garret and Billy The Kid. He had older brothers who’d grown up in the sixties and they’d passed their love of Bob’s music onto him. He played a stack of Bob’s songs, had all the sheet music for a few of his classic albums, the recordings to go with them and a really cool sounding expensive guitar without a bent neck. He played guitar well, sang, and like Bob, even had a neck holder for his harmonica. Kevin taught me how to play all those early Dylan songs. He even got me singing. My out of tune vocals harmonised really well with his out of tune vocals. Kevin passed his love of Bob’s music onto me.
Rule No.13: Pass on the love.
I even went and bought a harmonica and a neck holder. I used to drive through the traffic with my harmonica around my neck listening and attempting to play along with the harmonica breaks in Bob Dylan songs. Sometimes I hit the note. Yeah! I was never quite sure why people who parked next to me at the traffic lights would give me a wry smile and strangely look away. Didn’t everyone play harmonica as they drove? Perhaps it was the look of the really old surfboard on the roof racks of the really old Mini. Maybe it was because of the regular back-firing of the car. I tried to time the back-fires with the percussion in the music. Now that was cool – when it worked! I also couldn’t understand why many of my friends would sequentially move towards catching the bus rather get a ride with me. Except for Kevin of course.
A few years later I went to a Dylan concert in Hobart. It was the first time I’d seen Dylan live. From memory the sound in the venue was terrible along with the seats we’d been sold. During the concert I managed to saunter my way nearer to the stage. When it was time for the encore I yelled out for “All Along The Watchtower”. Yet another 3 chord favourite of mine. That ruler had taught me some great songs. And then Bob looked straight into my eyes and for just those four or five seconds I literally felt I’d been touched by a god. I too could now proudly say, ” Yep, Bob Dylan and me, great mates”.
Rule No.14: Always make eye contact.
I lingered after most people had left. The roadies were cleaning up the stage and I noticed a guitar pick on the stage floor. I knew it was one of Bob’s because I’d seen him drop it. I politely asked if I could have it and so one of the roadies threw me the pick. My encore song request and that guitar pick made up, over and over again, for the crap sound and the shit seats. A few weeks after the concert I’d heard Kevin had been going through some rough times so I called around to see him. I gave him the pick. You should have seen his face light up….
Rule of No.15: Its the little things that count.
At this stage in my life I didn’t know that I too was a songwriter nor that I was even heading in that direction. I had no idea whatsoever, that was the pathway my Higher Self was directing me along. In fact I didn’t even know about my Higher Self. Back then it was also impossible for me to have known that these seemingly small but powerful events were part of my journey as a poet and songwriter. Me, for goodness sake, a songwriter! And more to the point, that someone, you, might even become slightly interested in listening to my songs and the amazing story of what was to follow.
I hope you stick around to hear it and become a part of that journey.
If you like the tracks I sent you might also consider checking out Just A Moment’s Sanity. It’s my latest album and full of songs that I think “my mate Bob” might enjoy.