RIDDING A WOODEN PONY WITH RUBBER SPURS:
Dreamed I was playing a gig with a new band, faces I recognised,
friends I’ve worked with through 2014, all great musicians,
but all in the wrong places, playing each other’s instruments,
weird, but not freaky.
Leo Abraham was there, a great guitarist, incongruously on drums.
He settled behind the kit, pale blond wood shells the colour of
his hair, he looked across & nodded with that gentle reassuring
glint in his eye I’ve come to trust – chrome, no cymbals.
The room was full when we took the stage, the band was large &
buzzing, eager. I plugged in my guitar excited to be playing it
again, I love guitars. I’ve been thinking about Fenders & I knew
this one chimed like a bell. I’ve been watching Lou Reed on
youtube, drawn back to his lyrics & delivery, fascinated by that
stripped down sound, the wiry chime of guitars without pedals.
I looked down at the strings, the audience in quiet anticipation,
then I realised we didn’t have a setlist!
“Let go” – I thought
“Play what you feel – what do I feel?”
I imagined a pulse, striking the bass strings with down strokes
of the plectrum like Chris Stein taught me – the New York way,
in a steady 8’s repeat. I thought ‘Hawkwind’, but that wasn’t it.
I thought ‘Velvet’s’, too obvious.
Started hitting the strings, repeating, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1,
but it kept getting away from me, that feeling – looking for the
perfect 8’s groove, a series of repetitive 1’s on the downstroke
that smelled of new wire, electricity, light machine oil.
I couldn’t find the groove, so l looked across at Leo, a man who
always knows the right glue. I nodded for him to come in,
instinctively knowing this had already gone wrong, I couldn’t get
the opening groove right, so how could adding improved it?
He hit the snare drum, nothing. Devoid of his trademark empathy,
it was derivative, dead, no character, no colour, standard edition,
we were playing cardboard, riding a wooden pony with rubber spurs.
He caught the snare with a second stroke, dull crack, something
dropped off & he stopped, leaned down, started fiddling, run out of
spark. I glared as he looked across with an impostor expression,
EVERYTHING was out of character, falling to pieces, rotten roots,
bad foundations. We should’ve done everyone a favour, packed up,
gone home, give them back their money, but we ploughed on,
making ‘normal’. I kept hitting the strings, ‘hoping’.
The rest of the band were watching, vacant, waiting for the nod.
I couldn’t ‘feel it’, chasing it, scattered in directions & none of
them good. I found finally found ‘something’, switched the guitar to
auto pilot, whipped out a note book & started to sing. Something good
emerged for the first time, the others felt it too, got the message &
began to play – it was a new sound, hallelujah! Five chunks of singing
felt enough. More would be over-egged. We looked one to the other,
grinned & nodded, stopped – heard that familiar incremental applause,
of the respectful, patient kind – the evening teetered on a knife-edge,
the audience watching to see if we’d fall or fly.
During the applause I turned to the tour manager,
“Did you pack my books of lyrics?
I need them to do the rest of the show”
“What?!!!…” he gasped.