When I was a boy I listened to commercial (AM) radio; at the time that meant you could hear anything from Petula Clark and Tiny Tim to Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper on the same station. You could also hear J.J. Cale, Tony Joe White, The Mamas and the Papas, The Kinks, Elvis, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jim Stafford and many many more artists with wildly varying styles, all without touching the dial. I feel blessed to have heard so many different and great artists, even ones I didn’t like all that much, at such a young age.
The one time I did touch the dial was at lunchtime on Saturdays, just in time to hear The Goon Show on the ABC.
So many memories; the sound of Melanie Safka singing Those Were the Days from a mud-spattered radio, and mixed with the sounds and smells of the dairy; Cat Stevens singing Moonshadow as I sat in my room wondering at the sense of stillness and alone-ness that has been with me, or followed a few steps behind me my whole life; Van Morrison singing Caravan from under my pillow as I lay in the early hours of the morning, in the deep silence of my grandmother’s house.
Then later, my older brother introducing me to Machine Head, Hot Rats and Diamond Dogs (via the sounds emanating from behind his closed bedroom door).
I can hear and see the days of Dark Side of the Moon blasting out across a river valley baked to a rich golden hue by the summer sun; Tapestry on the floor of somebody’s room; Nina Simone’s sublime I Loves You Porgy laying side-by-side below deck on a boat owned by a woman who I never kissed.
John Coltrane, Dirty Three, Ravi Shankar, Neil Young, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Miles Davis, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Grant Lee-Phillips, Keith Jarratt, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Ry Cooder, Mink DeVille, Dusty Springfield and Sandy Denny bring us to the place where we’ve just scratched the surface of how I got here.
A quick search through my music collection has shown me that I have still omitted innumerable pivotal musical moments from my life (Tim Buckley, Muddy Waters, Lou Reed and more, many more).
A single song can mean as much as an entire career’s worth of work, yet neither are diminished by the greatness of the other. It’s not relative. It can’t be.
I write songs, I play guitars and sing the words in a way that seems right at the time. Sometimes I try to do or be something other than myself – it usually doesn’t work, and I realise (again) that I have what I’m meant to work with already.
I made a recording a few years ago. People I have a great deal of love and respect for put a lot of work into it, so it was with some regret that I removed it from sale, but I believe it was the right thing to do.
I’m working on another one. Sometimes I think I should do more, but I’m already quite busy with one thing and another and I play for myself quite often, so I get to hear me… which is at least half the object of the exercise.