As I’ve said before, I am not much of a musician. I’m resigned to the fact that, at my age and with arthritic hands, I will not get better – but I am still ambitious, within my limitations. I try my best.
When One for the Wall re-formed, eight years ago, the idea was just to play again and have fun doing it, then see if we wanted to take things further. Gradually, it became a more serious undertaking. We recorded some of the old songs from the late 70s and early 80s. We travelled up to Northumberland to stay with our drummer Paul, and spent two days at Blast Studios. We rehearsed properly, and managed to get seven tracks down, with some overdubs, and were fairly pleased with the results. But then we realised we could manage without a sound engineer and expensive recording time. We could learn the necessary skills ourselves – enough to do a decent job anyway.
After trying a few places in Oxfordshire and London we settled on Glasshouse Studios in Cumnor, and made it our base for the few weekends when the four of us could get together. We acquired a new drummer, Chris. Covid lockdown came along, but we became quite adept at home recording, emailing our individual efforts to Andrew to mix together. We built a website, and bought yet more gear.
Most importantly, we remained friends
Finally, we produced a CD (very retro) more or less by ourselves. The finished package looked professional in every respect. Most of the 11 songs on it were new ones, but Bern had yet more up his sleeve (pun intended).
More trips to Cumnor, and more home recording. Despite the return of Covid, summer holidays and parental crises (I’ve said a lot about that), a second CD has appeared. As so often, once you have a template, the second production is much easier. Scent of the Moon is probably better than The Lover’s Song. Another 11 of Bern’s own songs but rather than a compilation, it feels more coherent. You can make a case for it being concept album, at a bit of a stretch. This time we were able to launch it properly with a live performance.
A pub gig, yes; but this was a proper event rather than a come-as-you-are open mic evening.
Where more appropriate than The Half Moon, in Herne Hill, London SE24? It also happens to be my local. Two half-hour sessions, featuring 15 songs, and I wish we could have fitted in more.
The sheer joy of performing in front of an enthusiastic audience (of friends)! It is amazing to think this is the biggest gig we’ve played for nearly 40 years. And yet, despite my limitations, music means a great deal to me.
But better late than never, and I say that at the age of 67
To take on something like this is a huge amount of work, more than most people realise. Obviously you need the skills and a repertoire, then you have to rehearse to a reasonable standard. You have to find a suitable venue and, in this case, arrange the catering. You have to draw an audience. And, not least, you have to get the musicians and all their equipment, some of which is heavy and bulky, to the venue in time to install it and do a sound check. You may have merchandise to sell. And you need to make time to greet people you know.
After playing, you have to de-rig and transport all the gear back to somewhere secure. Then, with luck, you will get some supper and be in bed by 1am. Of the four of us performing on Monday, one lives in Oxford and another in Exeter! They would not get home until the following day. It all adds up to quite a commitment.
So why bother? It is a question I’ve never been able to answer to the satisfaction of my parents. Yes, they are in their 90s, so they find everything exhausting. Dad (96) predictably asked if I would make any money out of it. The answer is – obviously – no. We’d have to sell 100 CDs to pay for the venue and the petrol. For some reason the question makes me angry. Perhaps frustrated is a better word.
It is not about money
As ever, it is easier to do nothing. I have been known to watch the TV or read the papers, of course. As I get older, and especially now that I am retired, I can see myself getting lazier and lazier. It is vital to continue to be active and creative while you can be. I’ve seen what happens to people in their 90s. And, as the Scots (or is it the Irish?) say, You’re a long time dead.
In other news, the Truss government is in full swing, insulting and making enemies of almost everybody. In comparison, even Johnson’s regime seemed caring and professional. I would say something about them and their policies, but at the moment I’m too angry to put it in writing!