Summer Soundtrack

In a world where identity is constantly under question, bent by questions around gender and labels, transformed by changes in acceptable norms, is there a place anymore for individuality?

Everyone has the right to be different, has the right to be exactly who they see themselves as. It is no easy feat, being the the person you want to be, the person you are and perhaps it is that bit harder again, to be the person you wish others to see you as. Everyone forms impressions and makes judgments. Doing so gets harder, the more boundaries are shifted, but people will do it anyway.

We are conditioned by the culture we are raised in, the house we are bought up in, the education we receive, the books we read, the movies we watch and the music we listen to.
We want to fit in, want to branch out, find a new path. We want to recapture a feeling, a vibe, we want to be challenged, feel something original.
At least, that is how it always is for me and music.

I was always happy to let anything into my ears my ears didn’t object to. Pop, classical, reggae, electronica in all it’s forms, jazz and blues and soul and R&B and rock’n’roll, you name it.
I had my preferences of course, still do but I made a point of always allowing myself to be influenced by friends and family, by the radio, the television, open to advances from whatever culture or media I had access to.
As a young g fella, growing up in the South of New Zealand, Dunedin to be exact, my location as a youth was both a blessing and a hurdle.
Quite apart from being raised prior to the digital era, there was often a sense, certainly when I was young, that the ‘on-trend’ stuff was late to get to NZ, let alone find its way south. Maybe this was a perception thing but there was no doubting there was another hindrance to fully developing your own ear.
The Dunedin ‘sound’.

I was a small part of it. That sound. After the hey-day, but I made my contribution to the noise pumping out of various old pubs dotted around the ‘scene’
That recognised sound, the style and energy emanating from Dunedin, was distinctive and more than a little commercially successful. Although recognised as a ‘sound’ it was an era in New Zealand music and musicianship where there really was something new and innovative.
Even then, everything was a little bit the same, people seeking to fit the sound and scene. Seeking to find their place meant there was the chance for a bit of individuality to be expressed and there were pockets of it, heads popping up above the pulpit, doing things the same way everyone else was but doing it their way. The same, a bit like The Jam were doing in the England in the late seventies and early eighties, but different in a way Chris Knox was always going to be.

The point is, there was a clear pathway in Dunedin at the time for a musician, for a band. As a drummer, I didn’t set about re-inventing the wheel, I just went along for the ride with some like-minded guys and enjoyed every moment of it. Essentially, I hung out in rooms full of musicians and hit things.
We got to be heard by the right people, got to play in the right venues and did our thing, just like every body else. I had the feel, at times, if you didn’t adhere to that scene, be a part of the ‘sound’ in one way or another, then you were a little on the outer. Frowned upon if you were not listening to the right thing, shunned if you were too interested in anything popular or mainstream. Perhaps you weren’t quite ‘coo;’ enough. Maybe your were yet to prove yourself.

And then Nirvana.
A shift. A change. A thing all shiny and new.
I was drunk and stoned, laying in someone else’s waterbed in the wee small hours of the morning, when i first heard Nervermind.
Grunge was not new to me. I was already a fan of Pearl Jam, had heard Soundgarden and Mudhoney, was mad for Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains. Grunge existed before Nirvana and Nevermind and I knew it.
Dunedin didn’t and it was no wonder. Indulging in my tastes meant boot legged recordings, often of poor quality, meaning it was difficult to let my influences feed through to others and no one got that I wanted to drum like it was Flea making up the other part of a dream rhythm section, a whole new direction it seemed I was destined to do solo if Dunedin was where I was doing it. The Chilly who? The Peppers what?

Dunedin and her sound was individual, peculiar to the region. Time and place. Seattle was the same. All sorts of other sounds and styles were developing or changing or warping, as all kinds of other peoples did their thing. Distinctive and new or the same but different.
It filtered to you, wherever you might be, or those sounds never made their respective way through the airwaves, the radios waves or via MTV, into your ears and your consciousness.
Then boom, the digital era. The internet. Music was everywhere, from everyone and there was no excuse not to miss a thing. Or to miss out anymore on the things you had already missed out on. Confused?
In fact, thanks to modern technology and how it has changed the way we communicate, the way we educate and ‘publish’ it becomes impossible to be ignorant of new sounds and new takes on old ones.
At the end of your fingers, anyone you want to hear, doing anything audible. And yet, there is a lumping, a grouping, of artists and their efforts, which inhibits individuality, identity, the same way it did in Dunedin, but different.

Spotify. Soundcloud. Before that, think I-Tunes. A new way our music was and is presented to us. For a nominal dollar figure, you can be listening to what you like, on what you like, when you like.
And the advent of the of the ‘playlist’ means the artist becomes anonymous.

I am a bit of a nerd  or geek or whatever. I hear a song I like, on an advert, the radio, a movie soundtrack or played by someone else and if it rings my bells, I check it out. But, I don’t stop there.
What album did that song come from? When was it released? Is it recent, or something from their back-catalogue? Most importantly, what do they sound like live?
That, to my ear at least, is the true test of any bands real ability and thanks to YouTube and the likes, it isn’t hard to find out. No need to fly to exotic locations, shelling out hundreds of dollars in the process.
That is me though. Not many are like me. Bothering to troll through Wikipedia and Spotify and Google and YouTube and Facebook and whatever, just because I liked that one song you did that one time.

Sometimes I just click play. If I am feeling really adventurous, I even click shuffle.
Spotify knows what I like. Algorithms or whatever. Based on what I have already clicked, it puts together a bunch of this and that’s which takes away the necessity for me to even go to that much effort. Searching. Clicking. Listening.
The latter part I still very much do and me being me, I will stop what I am doing and look deeper, further, if my ears have been tweaked.
But, like everyone else, beer in hand, good company to left and right, that playlist becomes little more than background. Daily Mix, or whatever.

And there it is. A band, an act, and artist, become a ‘sound’. Identity stripped from them, starved of individuality.
So do the artists a favour and yourselves while you are at it. Make your own playlist.
Right here is where I was tempted to post my taste in tunes, but I think that is your job.

Mixed tape anyone?

 

 

Party Like It’s 1999

No, wait…Prince is dead. 

So many have passed and gone over the last couple of years, the icons and cultural leaders and luminaries of a generation. Such is the way with the passing of time and all that. It isn’t for me to wax lyrical about the influence many of these people exuded and how I, for one, feel their presence isn’t being adequately replaced.

Who is next, as the mouth pieces of a generation? Donald Trump has taken the spot left by Barrack Obama, a man who was an excellent orator but maybe missed the opportunity to really say something. And who are the pop-culture icons making the differences to the way we laugh and sing and play?
Where is Madonna and Michael Jackson? Where is Prince and Deborah Harry and Elvis Presley, where are the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie and Ghandi and Che Guavara, people that did it differently, did it, whatever it might have been, their way because they felt it was something which had to be done.

Right or wrong, there were iconic people doing and saying iconic things. JFK, Phil Spector, The Beatles, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hunter.S.Thompson …you could compile a never ending list.
Banksie? No doubting the creative genius, but an influencer? Al Gore? Yesterday’s news? Zuckerberg? Jobs? Gates? Tim Berners-Lee?

No doubting the impact such people have had, over generations of us now. I only question the type and scope some of this power, particularly of reach, has. To mind, the best thing, is to bring the major influences over future generations, closer to home. Back home.
Let Mum and Dad be the people who guide and train and teach.
Let Matua and Whaea and Mr and Ms, mold and shape in the classroom.
Let little Jimmy and Sally develop social norms and strictures in the playground and the park.

We, as a people, as a society, are changing and developing at a pace I struggle to comprehend. The technological revolution has been with us for a while now and it is a wonder if we were really ready for it. The way people interact, particularly the way they communicate, has changed and continues to do so. The world is suddenly a smaller place and terrifyingly, has become a whole lot bigger.
A good thing?
Certainly a new thing and tomorrow, new again. No good shunning it, no good turning your back on it. Change happens, whether you are a part of it, a builder of it, or a blocker.

Apologies. I am rambling. What has all the above got to do with partying?
Nothing really, but you can bet, as 2018 rolls to a close I will be sitting back on the deck, watching the last day of the year fade away, I’ll have a silent lament for those who have gone.
The next beer might lead to a red wine, which make take me to a scotch, which will take me to bed maybe long before midnight, such is the party life of a father of four young-uns. No matter what Prince tells us about end of era parties.
One place that beer will take me, is to thoughts of the coming year and the years beyond. When you have a brood of kiddies it is hard not to think of where they will be and just as importantly, how they will get there.
Their mother and I can only take them so far. Eventually, we are not the infuencers anymore. Nor are their teachers or junior sports coaches and tutors.

Muddy Waters, The Clash, the idealistic ramblings of Fidel Castro, influences over me as a younger man. Frankie Boyle makes me think and laugh these days while the biggest impact on how I live and think and act comes from my wife and children. Just the way it should be. A positive set of attitudes and personalities.

All I can hope is my wife and I are getting it right. Our influence so far, as the year closes, seems to have gotten things pretty spot-on. It pays not to question too heavily if what you do, say, think and act out is a good or a bad thing.
Most likely, like it or not, it is a combination of the two. There is no such thing as perfection and there is no way every little thing I do is of value or has any particular use.
As our kids grow, learning to think for themselves, they will employ a filtering system, finding the gems among all the dross. With a little more hope involved, ideally there will be less and less dross.

Go ahead and make your resolutions. Make 2019 the year you achieve all the things you want to, need to, feel you have to. Make it the year you actually do, instead of say.
I will resolve to keep doing, more or less, what I have been.
I want to be fitter, stronger, smarter.
I want to learn and grow and develop, the same things I want from and for my kids.
I want to be healthy and happy and I want to not be left wanting.

For me, for my family, 2019 is a time of change and a time for hard work.
New pathways and opportunities. Horizons. All of that and we are going to have to identify what we want, then set about achieving it. As individuals, as a team, supporting each other and backing each other up.
Living in the now but eyeing up the future.

Have a good party, even if it is just a party for one. Make it fun, special.
Invite Prince, he can be the DJ and we can all party like it is 1999.
Or whatever year your mind wanders too.
Get sunburned. Go swimming, drag sand onto the carpet when you get home.
Knock back a cold one. Or two, whatever is your tipple. Crank the BBQ, get together with loved ones and mates, tell some tales and yarns and lies and do it all with a smile.

End the year with a laugh.
Start the the new year the same way.

 

 

 

Dish Drying Dreams

Soapy detergent suds and a setting sun, to the backing track of the Smashing Pumpkins. 

I hope everyone has a dishwasher.
Here, at my place, unless I can convince the girls it is their turn, then I am it. The Dishwasher. Not Harvey Keitel The Cleaner. Nothing as cool as that for me.

So I have to improvise. Tonight, the motivation I sought to stick my hands into the soapy sud kingdom of the kitchen sink, came courtesy of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Tonight Tonight was the tune as it happens, courtesy of Spotify and a wifi speaker. Thanks too, to a glass or two extra of cheap red.

Years ago, as a teen, I developed one cheesy crush after another. All teens do it I guess and for me, there was a theme. Early on there was Deborah Harry. Quite apart from Blondie banging out disco infused New York punk with a French Canadian twist which thoroughly raptured me, (aficionados will know what I did there) Deborah Harry was a gorgeous, explosive blonde. Fiery and devastating, without quite being bombshell, which would have most likely not done it for me.
There was a dirty mystique to Deborah Harry of the late seventies and early eighties that as a young fella, I could not quite define and still can’t to this day. And, it didn’t stop there. Terri Nunn fronting Berlin, a dalliance with a young Madonna, never going to last, before a flirtation outside the norm with Belinda Carlisle and then Wendy James. Oh yes, Wendy James.
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Of  all of them, only Blondie really captured me and stayed with me. But, there had to be something, just a little thing, that meant more to me than just how this bevy of young songstresses looked.
Madonna had that thing, we all know it. Slutty I think it is called. For a young man, well not yet a man, from the southern most reaches of the world, there was no denying her impact. Sadly, for Madonna, her music didn’t do it for me and no matter how well presented the image, it wasn’t enough.
The same could be said for the Belinda Carlisle’s of this world. A husky sensuousness to her voice sure, an underplayed sexuality which went largely over my head.

Deborah Harry stayed there, the bench mark, seeing off flirtations with crops of newcomers, as an eighties pop explosion did detrimental harm to the world, damage we are still yet to recover from. But Debbie Gibson and Bananarama were never going to cut it for me. Babes to be sure, but where was the edge? Where was the challenge? Where was the musical integrity?
And then there was Wendy James. Maybe not the best vocalist. Maybe not the best songwriter or contributor of lyrics. Maybe she didn’t give the best interviews, maybe she didn’t have the greatest impression on me as a person, an individual, but the woman sure as hell made an impact on me. From my Dunedin-esque teenage perspective, here came a woman who was raw, true and honest and compelling and vital and real and so god damned sexy. Transvision Vamp were no Blondie, but bugger if they didn’t try hard to be, in their own way. I loved them for it.

Later, for a whole bunch of different, more mature, angsty reasons, was D’arcy Wretsky.
Siamese Dream was a piece of music, of art, which captured me.
I wasn’t alone. A seminal album, which managed to more than ‘say’ what a generation was feeling at a certain age, like Kurt Cobain did with Nirvana or the Smiths had done before them. Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan and co, made me feel.
I was a rugby playing, beach going lad. I was one of the boys, even if the guys and gals I hung with weren’t strictly the cool crowd. In reality, we were all cool, because we had each other and that was exactly the thing which made us cool. There was shared moments in time we were all experiencing, in our own ways, even while we were all doing it together.

At the time, early nineties, I was making a serious attempt to not take things seriously. In a way, I hope I still manage something close to that. I mean, I still rock. I let myself go, to the tunes that always did it for me, all the while seeking out the tracks which will do it all over again. My tastes have changed, my motivation has changed, my desires and wants and needs, everything is different yet somewhere and somehow, not a single thing is different.
My kids like ‘old man’ music. Every pop wonder hit they know is tempered by a Free Bird. Every cheesy one hit wonder of the day is countered by Rick Astley. Okay, maybe I am getting carried away. Did I mention the cheap red? Let’s try Heroes by Bowie instead

All that really matters, is while I have my hands softening under the effects of scented detergents, I am rocking out. I am in love with a bass player. I am in love with a grove, with a ‘feel’.
I am incredibly pleased to say I have not lost it. The ability to let go, knowing that no matter how ridiculous I look, how stupid and out of tune I sound, no matter the admonitions of my children, I can still rock like I just do not give a fuck.

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D’arcy Wretsky arguably made a mess of her live, thanks to the wonders of opiates. I can’t say I am where I ever thought I would be, a big part of this being because I never really gave it, life, a great deal of thought. Thing is though, for a time, as fleeting as it may have seemed, D’arcy was my dream girl and she lived my dream. One of them anyway.
She had that moment, her fifteen minutes. Or maybe, a little slice of forever. I prefer to see it that way.
The joy is, I can still live those moments. Recapture those dreams, lost or not, with her. I can do it while I wash dishes, while I vacuum or hang out washing or sit here at a keyboard and make out like I have something worthy to offer. D’arcy offered and we accepted and she drove a wedge into me, placing her right next to Deborah Harry and Wendy James and just because I twirled a drumstick or two years ago, I feel I have been a little, tiny, insignificant part of it and damned if I am not going to rock the fuck out every now and then, just because I still can and still do.

Can you?

Do you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody Needs Somebody to Love

‘It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses’

There is nothing more for me to do. My work here is done.

Early this afternoon I sat down with me crew and flicked through Netflix in search of the impossible. In the midst of all the dross, all the unknowns and all the stuff one or the other, or all of us, had seen before, there it was. Like a magpie attracted to something bright, shiny and new, a deep green oasis in a tawny desert, the title stood out like a beacon, luring me in. Surprisingly, there was little objection and before you knew it, we were watching the best movie ever made.

I am sure the title will elude many people, as there is no way of ever agreeing on what is the greatest movie ever. Steve McQueen and co in the Great Escape, De Niro in Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or any other of the many brilliant movies he was a part of. Apocalypse Now, Stand By Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Deliverance, Basketball Dairies, The Breakfast Club, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (by far the best of them), Bad Lieutenant, E.T, Cool Hand Luke…Just a few of the titles which have grabbed me over the years.

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We could all compile a list of the movies which have moved us, shocked us, informed us or simply entertained us. The real hardship is knowing when to eliminate a film here and there. But, what makes me laugh, cry, sing out or along, think, consider or contemplate, are not the same things which will float your boat. Okay, so we can all agree liking or loving a movie is a very subjective thing. There is no accounting for taste.

For me, there is one movie which ticks all the boxes. Well okay, many of them and even if it doesn’t manage that, I find it pure fun to watch. Over the last few years Wifey and I have tried to introduce our kids to the movies which struck the right chord with us in our younger years. We were motivated by a desire to find films that were just that, not animated, where real people were acting and were therefore more relatable, where story-lines were based around the actions and reactions of people, where the scenery could be your back yard or just down the road.

They didn’t particularly take to E.T but loved The Goonies. Star Wars was lapped up, as was Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The Gremlins were a hit, Honey I Shrunk the Kids too, went down well. The Never Ending Story or the Labyrinth, not so much. So there is the subjectivity, there is no pleasing everybody and kids as an audience are possibly the most discerning, hard to please mob you are ever going to encounter in front of a screen. Their displeasure is immediately obvious and they will switch off almost instantly if a movie fails to grab them, not all that long after the opening credits have rolled.

The greatest movie ever made, in my most humble of opinions, is not something my wife has much appreciation for. I can understand why, not everything is for everyone, as we have established. The thing is, you only have to run through a few of the names in the cast and surely you are sold. Carrie Fisher, John Candy, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklyn.

Ok, from that line up you can assume it is a musical number and, more or less, it is. Let me assure you though, the movie is so much more. For a start it contains scenes which even to this day stand as the second highest amount of cars written off in the making of the one movie. Yes, a musical with car chases. Not just smoking tyres and screaming sirens. Oh no, so much more.

Think cheesy one liners to explosions and gun fights and characters such as jilted lovers and Nazis and nuns and tales of excess and ex-cons. People lie and cheat and scheme and rob and con and that is just the two main characters, so deftly played by a sadly gone to soon John Belushi and an in his prime Dan Akroyd.

Guessed it yet? Yes, that’s right. The Blues Brothers.

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Apart from the lineup of outstanding musicians, people like Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn and Steve Cropper and all the rest, the guest appearances from the legendary likes of John Lee Hooker and James Brown, providing class and divine intervention, there are smatterings of brilliance all through the movie. A movie that can make you laugh and make you boogie, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It will not move you, except for maybe out of your seat for a twist or a Watusi. Over the top silliness, Tom Foolery, Joliet Jake E. Blues and Elwood J Blues and the adventurous they are a part of whilst conducting their ‘mission from God’ is simply entertainment at it’s best and a movie which hasn’t yet, and may never, shown any signs of aging.

Yes, there is an expletive uttered here and there. Yes, there is the occasion reference to themes, perhaps more so in my younger days, youths might not as yet have been exposed to. Generally though, the Blues Brothers is a good, fun watch, packed full of lighthearted goodness. At the same time the movie delivers a killer soundtrack, perhaps the driving point behind the cult status it is revered in and all the while does not get bogged down in heavy moralistic tellings or swampy deep and meaningfuls. Accidentally a masterpiece of modern culture.

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Ward off the winter chill with a good watch. That is all. No pressure for kids to learn, to develop or to grow mentally or intellectual. Just throw a bit of culture their way and kids will do all of that on their own.

Helps if they can stamp their foot, click their fingers, sing along and have a laugh.

Don’t you think?

 

 

You’re Just the Roadie

For me, a song should be heard on the album first. That way, you hear it played exactly the way it was intended to be heard.

You get the mix, the fullness, of all the combined visions and imaginings from producers, the artist themselves and those playing alongside. It is a sum of all the collaborations and shared experiences and abilities. A bit like parenting.

You will often here a musician describing an album they have created or are in the process of creating, as their ‘baby’. They are referring to the all consuming, passionate, dedicated love for what they are doing. How creating that baby takes up all their time, dominates all their thoughts, beginning to grow and evolve under their guidance.

Track by track the album grows, song by song developing into the image the artist is trying to create. There will be singles, moments of standout perfection when everything coalesced into a pure moment of understanding. There will be misses, stuff in moments of reflection, the artist wishes had never made it onto the album, that no number of retakes and cuts or polishing in the sound booth is ever going to make right.

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Once the artist has given birth to the process of creating an album, a set of songs that will undoubtedly and hopefully take on their own persona and personality, it will become a being in and of it’s own right. What started out as snatched moments with a guitar and a note pad, time behind a keyboard with an old school eight-track, grows and blossoms and begins a life all it’s own. Once that album has been completed, when all the finishing touches and nuances have been laced together, then the artist has to ask, can this all be recaptured live, on the stage, in front of an audience.

Perhaps, by then, the album has decided it needs a horn section to flesh out their sound. Perhaps the album turns to cellos and violins to add authenticity or a certain feel. Maybe the album will add some electronica, to develop and grow. At times the album will rock and it will roll, then sink into soulful melancholy. There will be blues and then a show of jazz hands and there will be epic numbers stretching forever, reaching and yearning and striving. At times the album may be stripped back, raw and emotive, a return to that guitar and notebook, a solo voice, free of band and back-up singers.

Despite how well you think you know your kids, how well you think you might know anyone, people are always going to surprise you. Children more than most. You can never be too sure what direction they are going to take, just like a live, rambling, epic version of your favourite track, that cherished album. Because once your children, your album, is free of the studio, you can no longer peg it, no longer put it neatly into a box and seal it with a label.

Every time you see that album it will be bursting free, growing  new tendrils, a new root. A new note. Today is the first time you have seen it, heard it yet it is the same song you started humming some time ago. Different, fresher, grown and growing. Another song for the album. Another verse, bridge and chorus.

Sometimes the kids are like London Calling, the scratchy old (not Hipster) vinyl; played to death, as a soundtrack to my life. Angry yet comprehending, understanding yet questioning.  Between the four of them they become the Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice, a compilation but a stand alone work of art in it’s own right. A family of music. I know the verses, the rhythm, the beat and the choruses, yet there are layers and always a little something new, something previously undiscovered.

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So many nuances, so many new and updated versions of the same song. Melded by the influences surrounding the artist at the time. A new artist now, creating their own songs as they compile their very own album. All you can hope for is that somewhere, tucked away on a B-side, maybe never to be released, is an homage to you.

Perhaps, for your budding artist, the world will be their stage. Massed hordes of adoring, screaming fans, hanging off every chord, every riff. Larger than life, popular, influential, admired and set to be heard for years to come.

Perhaps your artist is content to stamp their foot on the battered deck of a flatdeck truck, parked up somewhere in the middle of a sunny domain. Families on blankets are munching trailer food and sipping craft beer as their kids, future artists themselves, are bopping along. Maybe no one is paying any attention and the album is banged out regardless, raw and true and happy and back to work on Monday.

Perhaps that album never leaves the notebook, never comes out from behind the guitar or keyboard. It has been played all the same, heard all the same.

However that album seeks to manifest itself it is important to nurture it, let it grow and develop and find it’s own way to the stage of its choice.

The key is to play, hear and listen to the album your kids are creating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foos and Weez

I am going to file a compensation claim against the Foo Fighters and Weezer.

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Dad band! Who the fuck came up with that one?
Who cares. This Dad might be passed it, but proved at the weekend he can rock with the best of them. Mt Smart Stadium put a whole lot of people together and got them wet. Soaking bloody wet. And it couldn’t have been better.

I donned a bin liner, topped it off with a poncho and with boots on, was relatively sorted. Ages since I had attended a major stadium event that didn’t involve a rugby ball and I was prepared, in the way only an aging rock dad could be.

A few drinks in me, but not pissed. I had no intention of hearing the gig from the sweetly scented confines of a port-a-loo. Stoned, but not smashed. Lightly toasted. Light on the food, as I knew I was gonna be jumping and lurching and stumbling and all the rest. I was keyed up, before I turned the ones in the ignition and started the four hour drive the morning of the concert.

Eyes wide open, handy when you are driving in the pouring rain, I headed south on the morning of February the 3rd, not entirely sure what to expect. I knew who the Foo Fighters were and are, of course. Not many my generation wouldn’t. Positive I would get a polished and professional performance, loud and full on, it was Weezer I was off to see.

Long time favourites, life had never thrown me the opportunity to see them in action. Seriously good musicians, who at one time or another, gotten it so right on their instruments, the lyrical content, the delivery, the production, the whole kit and caboodle, they were able to grab at an impressionable young man. Some of my ‘life moments’ have Weezer as the soundtrack and I felt the need to give Rivers Cuomo and his crew the chance to give me another of those moments. They didn’t disappoint and I knew they wouldn’t. Weezer fuckin’ rocked!

All the hits, from the Blue Album, Pinkerton, including El Scorchio…’our song’. As damn good as I knew they could be and the only problem I had was, as the warm up act, their set wasn’t long enough. Weezer rocked solidly for just over an hour and a half, in jackets and gumboots and sombreros, displaying their musicianship, their own brand of cool, their showmanship and put a smile on my dial.

Weezer got me up and moving instantly. I didn’t stop. Not for the next nearly five hours. So I am going to bring civil action against Weezer and the Foo Fighters.

Foo Fighters can compensate me for my sore and bruised feet, my big toe, already completely bereft of cartilage, which has ached non-stop since. Foo Fighters can cover the expense of whoever it is going to take to get the pain out of my spine; the stiffness and the shooting, agonising, torturous stabs of evil, beginning in the small of back, radiating across and away, down and finally up, all the way to my neck, where movement is restricted and headaches begin. Someone needs to get the muscles in my thighs working properly again, there needs to be more action taken to resurrect my core, terrifying me every time I sneeze or cough.

I could hardly walk, as the last squeal of distorted feedback faded from the amplifiers. Kicking mounds of empty plastic cups aside, rain still beating down. I could have kept on rocking though, kept on singing and screaming, voice hoarse, kept on throwing myself in the air, dropping on the beat.

The Foo Fighters were not and are still not, my band. I went for Weezer and I got what I wanted. But I did get so much more than I expected. I saw a bunch of guys who know their instruments, know their audience, know their passions and know each other inside out. So they should, after a stellar twenty-two year career. I saw, sure as hell heard, a band having fun. They loved what they were doing and that is infectious. I was infected.

But ‘Dad Band’? Plahease. In fact, that shit doesn’t deserve capitals. dad band.

If that is what a band full of dads sounds like, appeasing a crowd full of dads, if that is how a bunch of Fathers do it, rocking audiences so much the earth shakes, the rains stop, rainbows sweep the skies, then bring it on!! Bring it on all day everyday and all fucking night long too. Because that was one of the best fucking, rocking, awesome, smashed it nights I have ever fucking had and I don’t even like the Foo Fighters.

I fucking love the Foo Fighters.

This sad old rocker had his tired old mind blown. Rivers Cuomo can just not be that cool and try and make out he isn’t. Fuck right off. Rock God.

Fuck the Foo Fighters. You owe me. You stole a piece of me on the 3rd of February, in Auckland. You drained me physically and emotionally. Two and a half hours of pure rock. I mean these guys have topped the charts, repeatedly, have won awards and accolades and whatever. Who gives a fuck? I don’t. The first time in ages I have wanted, desperately, to pick up the sticks and play again. Feel the lights, hear the crowd, the fold back amp, loose myself.

Weezer rocked. Weezer rock. They covered the Pixies for fuck sake and did it more than justice…they fucking smashed it!!

Foo Fighters rocked. Foo Fighters rock. Sky Is a Neighborhood, Run…wow!! Everlong, Hero, all the classics from their back catalogue. Best of You…holy fucking wow!!

This Dad rocked with the Foo Fighters and Weezer.

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God damn those half Japanese girls.

There goes my hero.

 

 

 

 

 

THE WORLD IS A STAGE

The Killers, out of Las Vegas, have proven it best

Their particular brand of music, is not remotely. Not even close to their own brand. They are doing ‘Brand’ their own way. Good to hear, good to the ear. A good pop song is, and always will be , a good pop song. The Killers are the Cars. The Cure. Blondie and Talking Heads. They are a little bit of Bryan Adams, a touch of U2, and a big dollop of Duran Duran. There is Brian Eno and Lou Reed and Elvis Costello and there is, of course Bowie.

The Killers create a good pop song or two. Something that makes you bop along. I know it sounds cheesy, and when I do, have a wee bogey, a little bop, it looks as cheesy as hell too. I dance like a white guy, slipping a little on wet lino, trying desperately to keep up with a beat his knee can’t match and a rhythm his heart hasn’t been capable of for years.

Thing is, The Killers haven’t done a thing different than so many before them, many of whom did it as well, if not better. There is a cross over, like everything, like everybody. A gathering of influences, that convalesces in each of us. We are all, after all, a product of our influences. Her Indoors and my good self, have influenced four little people. Her and I are responsible for their individual crossovers.

For a while I played in a band. I was drummer, the bloke who sits in a room full of musicians and hits things. I came into a sound they were already producing. I changed it. Not intentionally, it is merely something that was, unavoidably, going to happen.

I was all Brit Pop. I was Supergrass and Oasis and Blur and I was Stones Roses and Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays. I was also a fair bit Blue Album from Weezer, I was a little bit Pearl Jam and I was a cliched Kieth Moon, without the talent. Think Jane’s Addiction meets The Jam, having a jam with Smashing Pumpkins, covering the Pixies, listening to Prince, slaves to the late 60’s and 70’s.

The guys I was playing with, the guys who allowed me to play with them, were Dinosaur Junior, there was Leonard Cohen and Nick Cage and there was stuff I had never heard of and there was stuff I have never heard. There is grunge and there is punk and there is rock and there is blues an there is three dudes with instruments and one with a voice and there we are, on a stage, reflecting everything we brought there with us.

There was pop. And so much more substantial than pop. Each one of the young men on that stage, under low slung lights in the back of a public bar somewhere in the south of Dunedin CBD, came with energy and lust and rage and fear and anger and fright and belly’s full of it all.

We came from warm homes. We came from loving environments. There were faults, in those environments. They too, were reflected on  smokey, damp, cloistered Dunedin nights, tucked away in the confines of musty old brick. Not the place for Young MC or Ice Cube or Beastie Boys. Yet somehow, they were all welcome too.

I was eighteen. Maybe nineteen. Truth is, I don’t really remember it at all well. Drank way too much. Smoked all sorts. Swallowed this, snorted that. Mixed and matched. Not as bad as some, as many, but I went pop.

Angst. The latter part of my teens. For boys, it’s always latter. Except where it matters perhaps, but let’s leave that thought for another day. For girls, I am seeing it form a fraction earlier. No, a whole lot earlier. What seems worse, seems terrifying, more frightening than a Rick Astley/Taylor Swift duet, is that the angst ridden hormonal thrust that is the teenage years, seems to come in a feisty feminine rush.

A good mate has a teenager. A girl. Two years senior to my Number One. Two short, apparently action packed, years. Seeing her grow, develop, is following Robbie Williams, writing the album, maybe on the last tour, the gist of it anyway. Now he has left the studio, polished and buffed and tired and frazzled and worn out and drained and exuberant, pumped, lusting the coming days, weeks and months and missing home and yearning for the road. Conflicted. Confused. Full of creativity and energetic self discovery. Full of doubt and anguish.

There is a shit ton of stuff going on. While some forty something guy sees in the new year lying on the couch on his own, in the dark, room not even spinning, because he hasn’t had enough of any substance to set it so, upstairs in the bedroom of his first born, it never ends. Her head is spinning for sure, trying to work through all the influences, internal and external.

God, how I hope it ends. Of course, I know it does. I can see where it begins, I have seen it over and over now. It is there, all that angst and fear and confidence and uncertainty and anger and push and trepidation and quickness and second guessing, all right there in the face of the E-Bomb.

The testing grounds, the three-nager. Just a phase. A very important one, it seems. Take all she learns, all she gleans from the responses she gets to her stubbornness, her quick witted, cheekiness, her blatant rejection of you, her overbearing love. It is all filed, all stored. All the smiles and the growling and the snapping and the scooped up cuddles. Somewhere between the ages of twelve and thirteen, she will access those files.

She has formulated her approach. Her multifaceted brain has been coding the program to be delivered when the time arises. Every riff, every bridge and melody, all there to be played to you. Back at you. Because, you put most of it there, as Mum and Dad. A teenager is no more than the sum of the influences we have given her and the ones she has found and taken on board on her own. Only difference is, that teenager hasn’t quite figured how to process it all. Some time in the studio and it comes together. The live concert can be a mess.

When it is your Three-nager, the E-Bomb being the perfect example, the response to the heavy metal melt down is easier. There is a whole combination of things from banishment, to a stern, in your face telling off, to withdrawal of privileges. The list goes on.

Sure, it doesn’t mean your three-nager is going to be open, receptive and content with your response, but you are in control. You have the final say, even if it is a physical last resort. Picking up your child and removing it from the scene, is always an option.

The E-Bomb is going to go off. Her triggers are there for all to see. Compared with a teen, I feel the buttons used to get her going are easier to identify. Not necessarily any easier to avoid, but at least you know when it is happening.

And I let it happen. Sometimes, I just start push play as soon as the E-Bomb shows signs she is about to do a Roger Daltry and lose the plot in a hotel room, go all System of a Down on it. You see, I have a day to get on with, we all do. I could wait, try and settle and appease. The result will be delayed, but it will be the same. Eventually, the E-Bomb, BYOB, will go off.

So push the buttons. Blow her up. Twenty minutes of carnage will ensue. Five to ten more minutes of sobs and gathering herself back together and bingo, half an hour later, on with the day.

Try too hard to placate, to appease and ease and generally be all sweetness and light, be the passive, kind and caring, understanding one, and the E-Bomb goes pop anyway. An hour later. There is still half an hour to work through before the day is back on track.

So I switch the E-Bomb from pop to rock, to heavy metal and watch her explode. It all comes pouring out, in a concussive rush, a cathartic moment for everyone in the vicinity. Like that stroppy teenager, she goes through angst, grunge, expressing dissatisfaction at her scene. Katy Perry or the Black Eyed Peas won’t appease her anymore, no longer satisfies. She gets a bit U2 Sunday Bloody Sunday, goes a touch The Clash before they discovered Caribbean islands, reaches for AC/DC, finds Metallica and then boom, System of a Down all over again.

If I ever go off like that, and it is rare as I am too old to expend that sort of energy unnecessarily, I need to wind it back down gradually. Cycle down through Black Sabbath, find a little Foo Fighters, a touch of 80’s fluff, say Poison because every rose really does have its thorn. Radiohead might give me Elvis Costello who will hand me someone like Nathaniel Rateliffe and I am happy again.

Not the E-Bomb, not my little teenager in waiting. She will go from thrash/death metal to a sleepy Sunday jazz mix just like that.

I envy that. The no holds barred approach to expression. The unadulterated passion. The openness and the honesty of it. It is like a medley, an old school mixed tape. Tape, people, refers to cassette, a form of media to record…oh never mind.

One day, instead of pushing her buttons, instead of pushing play, maybe I should push record. There is a number one hit there, a chart topper. Somewhere inside everyone, no matter the age or stage.

You just have to listen.

 

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Runnin’ Down A Dream

When those that made you are dead and gone.

Sound off the names: Leonard Cohen, Glenn Fry, Prince, Lou Reed, David Bowie…David Bowie for goodness sake!..and now Tom Petty.

There are other names I have missed and I have touched on this subject before. It is just, with the passing of Tom Petty of  Heartbreakers fame, I am once again struck by a few things. The fallibility of your idols, the way I am clearly getting old, how people can have such an effect on you without you necessarily being aware of it and how powerful that effect could and can be.

For me, it is musicians in particular. A song, a tune, a melody, even a lyric, can transport you back to a time and place, just like that. The work of a musician can reach you, touch you, get inside you and take a hold. When that happens you are marked. That musician, that artist, has left his or her imprint. And you aren’t even aware it has happened.

Think about it. What song was on when you had your first kiss? The proper one, not the peck you got playing catch and kiss in the playground.

When you were handed the keys to the car, for your first solo drive, what tape did you slide in, to blast out, speakers up and windows down? High School dances and that first big hall party or the bonfire, what tinny sound system or thumping P.A channeled the tunes of that day? Beat boxes on the shoulder to that first MTV music video, the first vinyl 45, EP to LP to CD.

The tracks that get you hopping and bopping and jumping and throwing your hands in the air and waving lighters (sorry, cell phones) and the songs that you scream for if you are lucky enough to see that artist perform them live.

The songs that bring a tear to your eye, or an outright sob. I mean, who hasn’t thought of the track that will lead your coffin out of the service? (Simply Red’s If You Don’t Know Me By Now for me thanks).

Of course it isn’t about music for everyone. Maybe it is something political, a world leader, who inspired/inspires you. A JFK or a Che Guevara or Martin Luther King. Think of all the philosophers who have blessed us with their thoughts, the great thinkers of our time and times gone. The poets and the painters and the sculptors and the writers. Perhaps it is nature which inspires; a landscape, the eruption of a volcano, a glance to the stars and planets and galaxies above. Maybe your cultural heritage and history, maybe crafts, or architecture or something botanical.

Many get hooked on sporting idols. I won’t get into the debate around if a man or woman can kick, pass and catch makes them a  role model or otherwise, because either way, kids inspire to be like them. David Beckham, Mohamed Ali, Jonah Lomu, Jesse Owens, the Williams sisters, Lydia Ko. You could do worse than pinning some hopes and dreams on emulating a crew like that.

When these idols and legends pass, the rock stars and the superstars and the greats and the awe inspiring, don’t despair. Reflect, cry, bemoan the unfairness of the world it you have to, but be comforted in the knowledge the works of these idols, the people who inspired you, lives on as long as you allow it to.

The potential to inspire is endless and it is personal. I guess the point is to be inspired. Find those around you doing it, whatever it is, their way. Then find your way to do it a bit like them, if that is what works for you.

And while your at it, crank out the tunes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling Stone

Am I too old to rock? If Jagger and co still do it, surely I can too?

In February I am off to the Foo Fighters.

They aren’t actually my thing but check out their new album, Concrete and Gold. Bloody magic.

Backing up Dave, of former Nirvana fame, and his pals, is Weezer and they well and truly are my thing. The Blue Album is one of the defining pieces of music in my life and a big influence on my tastes, what I am prepared to put into my ears.

Weezer aren’t challenging, not like Muse or Radiohead or the other great guitar rock bands that came smashing out of the U. K in the 90’s. They are more Oasis, without the bullshit and a whole lot of talent. Those boys just plain rock and I don’t think there is any more you can ask for. As for the headline act, I am not familiar enough with the Foo Fighters repertoire to know if they are going to spark some sort of musical awakening, or just let me hurt my neck, banging my head back and forth like I have the muscles to back that up. Like a much younger man would.

I am just thinking that neck of mine is not going to hold up to a mosh pit. No way in hell. At 43, I don’t belong there anyway and now I am thinking, what sort of demographic shows up to gigs by iconic rock bands of past eras?

I am going to go out on a limb and say predominantly male. Which is good. Theoretically I will only look foolish in front of my own gender. Looking like a dick in front of the opposite sex is far worse.

So if i am roughly the age of your average Foo Fighter fan, your Weezer aficionado, then I am guessing I will be surrounded by hundreds, thousands, of out of breath, balding, sweaty, can’t dance, carrying a bit too much around the middle, wannabe old boy rockers. Cool, I should fit right in.

Hopefully that is the case. It might mean I won’t get grumpy at all the mind dulled screen bandits who will watch the whole show through their fucking phones. Drop that I-whatever any where near the aforementioned mosh pit and I am stomping all over it.

Where was I?

When is too old to rock? There is no way I can afford a Rolling Stones concert and my guess there is not much chance there will ever be another tour. McCartney is here soon, but he sold out a long time ago and I don’t mean the tickets and Roger Walters is touring these shores too. At least he has had the sense to go all acoustic and folky. About all a fan should expect from a 70 year old man. Bowie is dead, along with so many other great acts recently.

So what does that leave? Me and a couple of old timer mates, making out like when can still let it all go, cut foot loose and do it without looking ridiculous. I don’t give a rodents rectum how I look and I am damn sure no one will be looking anyway. If my picks on the demographic are any indication, that is a good thing too. But looking foolish and feeling it are two separate things. Sure, the former can and often will, correlate to the other, but I am more concerned that it just won’t feel right.

What if the lads and I are surrounded by the young and the carefree? What if everyone around me, shaking their long, luxuriant hair, which didn’t happen over night but did happen, turns out to have wallets and purses stuffed with disposable income? What if they are full of the chemicals which enhance their good times, stuff that I can’t spell, pronounce or indeed have ever heard of.

I don’t want to be left out of the action, but I am not even sure I can afford an Auckland beer, let alone chemical enhancement. Not that I can even handle a night on the piss like I used to. Certainly not the first old guy to claim that though and in reality, no bad thing.

The other side of the scenario, opposed to hanging with a bunch of the young and beautiful, could well be far worse though. What if the entire stadium is full of sad, aging, semi-decrepit rockers like me? What if all the dancing is a stilted, don’t stretch the hamstrings, head nod. A sea of waving bald spots, swaying back and forth in a middle aged rendition of mosh pit malaise.

Worse still, what if all the lovely ladies hoppin and a-boppin are wearing sensible knickers and over the shoulder boulder holders, underneath dresses the fabric of which is stained an off white shade of baby blurk. That is, of course, we assume these delightful rock goddesses haven’t already left their baby manufacturing days behind them.

What really troubles me is not the ringing in the ears I hope to have because I got too close, for too long, to the P.A. It isn’t that my back and neck might hurt from standing and jumping and thrashing my head around like a rabid teenager and it isn’t concern over a lack of lusty babes for me to ogle in the sad, slightly desperate way only men of my age really can…you know, caught between the forlorn hope you might still have ‘it, and the sad realisation you probably never really did.

No, I am troubled by the thought of all the mundane and all the tiresome things that the young and carefree don’t bother wasting valuable thought energy on…traffic, parking, accommodation and the biggy, expense.

So maybe no Hot Tub Time Machine recapturing of misspent youth. Maybe no winding back the hands on the clock and the years with them. But I will let go, I will jump and thrash and dance (sort of) and sing and yell and bang my head and party to excess and it will be the stuff of legend.

See you there.

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Sacrifice

How much have you given? Given up, given away?

Now before we start, maybe I should state the above is not at all how I see things.

Everyone makes sacrifices for what it is they want to achieve and gain from whatever path they are on in life. Parenting is no different.

But to say you gave up, gave in, gave away…?

That sort of language is perhaps too strong and is, in my exceedingly humble opinion, way off the mark. Like the glass and the argument over its capacity, I like to think more along the lines of what have I gained.

Now, having said that, embarking on creating a big brood of little ‘uns does mean there are limits placed on just where you might have pictured your future self, twenty or so years ago. I never thought I would be washing so many dishes, doing so many loads of laundry. But then, I also never figured I would have rekindled the joy of Lego blocks or re-found the fun of cartoons.

Ok, so I don’t have a 4WD ute (pick-up for the Americans among you). Not even a double cab one. I don’t have a boat. Stretching to a couple of Kayaks was a financial milestone.

We don’t dine out, we don’t even add a lot of spice.  We don’t go to the movies we want to go to, we don’t go on a lot of holidays, we don’t do a lot of things that those without kids do.

We do get spontaneous, gorgeous smiles. Just because we open the hands from our faces and say boo, we get chirpy giggles. We do get ‘I love you guys’, unbidden, from a snuggly 3-year-old. Ever see a child open a present? Well there you go.

I was lucky that I made the call to get some travel in earlier in my life. I got to see and do some wonderful, life affirming things. For I start, I went all the way to London to meet a girl from Whangarei. I married her, but not before checking into places like South America and Southern Africa.

Do I wish I was still travelling? Hell yes. And we still will. It will be different though, a new challenge and maybe we will be able to see things a little fresher, from a less jaded point of view; through the eyes of our children.

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Perhaps we won’t pitch a tent on the banks of the Okavango River, in between grazing Hippos, watching the sun set over war torn Angola. We’ll book a room somewhere instead.

Maybe we will book a bus ticket or six rather than huddle together on the roof of rickety stock truck, weaving its way through the misty slopes of the lower Andes.

Of course, if we didn’t have kids, we could probably afford to fly. But where is the fun in that?

A good mate once said to me that kids ruin your life. He was, is, so wrong.

Life changes, of that there is no doubt. You, as people, are forced to change and adapt when you become parents. To an extent, having children changes a little of the very essence of who you are. Certainly, who you perceive yourself to be.

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Yes, the likelihood of me running off to the pub on a regular basis to drink excessively and watch sport has vastly diminished. Even while, with four kids in the house, the temptation to drink to excess has risen dramatically. The chances of my wife getting to share the bed with just her husband increases with every passing day, but the outlook for sleep-ins is grim.

Sometimes, all we want to do is throw a little extra chili into the mix, but we have four other mouths to feed that are relying on us doing just that.

Our lives as parents are not ruined. Just different, a life enhanced.

I gave up a motorbike so we could have a second family car. I gave up a drum-kit so we had room for an extra bed. I gave up hitting the tops for a family tent and a camping ground.

I saw the wonder on a child’s face, my child, when I let go of the seat and they rode a bike for the first time on their own. I see the furrowed brow of concentration and the untapped joy of discovered talent as a child bangs away on a keyboard, or plucks away at a guitar.

My kids love camping. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, doing anything else.