Archive for June, 2009

Let’s start at the very beginning. . .

Monday, June 8th, 2009

As Julie Andrews sang, a very good place to start.  I was thinking back on the first music I can remember hearing (it’s been some time ago, now!)   It was my father’s.  He was not a professional or a famous musician, but he loved music and he played three instruments: harmonica, accordion, and clarinet (not all at once).

He must’ve picked up accordion being born and growing up in Amsterdam. Accordion was the instrument he was best at, and as a child I didn’t have my head filled with the notion that would later take hold in my generation: use an accordion, go to jail.  And he could really play that thing.   His most mind-blowing piece was (wait for it…) “Bolero.”  Yep, he could play all of “Bolero” on the accordion!  You’d think this would be something of a travesty, but it wasn’t, at all.  He would astound people with that.  Accordions are quite… flexible, you might say.  You can get a huge range of sound from them.   Deep in my heart I have a genuine appreciation of the instrument, not the polka kind of thing, but the fact that real (why, even sexy) music is possible on it.  That’s my Dad, all over.

Being from the World War II generation, he and my mom loved big bands, and my Dad was inspired to take up the clarinet.  He had two of them, a sleek black one and his pride and joy, a solid silver one, now lost in the mists of time (alas).  By the time I came along, years of smoking (and, sorry to say, drinking) had taken their toll, and he would only play clarinet a little, now and then.  What I remember most was the twinkle in his eye when he would take one out of its case and put it together.  He’d smile at me as though we shared a secret and he’d play some Benny Goodman.  Not quite like Benny Goodman, but the love was there, and that’s what mattered.

He never did stop playing harmonica though.  I have no idea how he picked that up, but he’d get the same twinkle in his eye, we’d share the same smile, when he pulled out his most excellent Hohner.  This is where the curious machinations of memory come in; although he played his harp all the time, for the life of me I can’t remember what he played.  Was it swing?  Western? Blues?  I have no idea, and thinking about it, I believe I know part of the reason why.   These are such early memories that I didn’t know the names of music, the different genres.   He was just my Dad blowing his harmonica. They were happy times, before he got sicker and sicker, with depression, alcoholism, and heart disease.   Obviously music got him through the horrors of living in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, though, and how remarkable is that?

He gave me my never-ending love of music, of all kinds.   In the same evening, he would go from playing opera on the stereo to bringing out the Hohner; anything went.  He bought me my first stereo record player and sometimes sat and listened to the Beatles with me (Beatlemania, a topic for another post!)  He had a tiny little smirk on his face (in the end, it’s fairly simple music) but one of my very fondest memories of him is the day he said “I get it! I get why you like this! It’s good.”

Thanks Dad, for giving me that thread of joy that has never left me. (Sorry, though – I know you tried, but I still don’t like opera… )

Jimmy Page plays Fisher-Price Xylophone

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Some fans really make you smile when smiles are in short supply. Starting a new venture like Memories in Music has been difficult, and some days I wonder if I will make it succeed. The reason I wonder is because I had a lot of support for the idea when it was just talk at the beginning, but when the talk turned into reality and the time came for people to contribute and help the idea they thought was so fantastic to work, I mostly heard the chirping of crickets and the sound of tumble weed rolling across the barren landscape. Oh dear…

Then there is the criticism to deal with. I know not everyone will think my idea is smashing, but some criticism is hard to take when it is mean-spirited for no reason. When I got an email simply saying, “You are a whack job and I hope this will never work,” it hurt.  I had to wonder why I am bothering. Ouch.

But then I remember I am doing it because music makes me happy. The people who make the music that gives me so much joy also make me want to spread that joy. If you have read my site, you will know for me the number one person that brings me joy with music is Jimmy Page. I want to influence the world for good like he did. I know my influence won’t be as big as his, but if I can help people in need with the money I raise for charity, and make fans smile to recount their stories of how music influenced them, it will be worth the effort. One thing I have to keep reminding myself over and over again – nothing worthwhile is easy to do, so when it gets rough, I just have to keep going.

So, here I was feeling all down when I read this post on a Zeppelin fan listing. This fan is my kind of guy! He made me smile. This is the type of fan I am hoping will help with the charity fund raising, and will contribute to the company. He reminded me pursuing your dream is worth it because he shares the joy Jimmy gives me, and when you share that joy, you change the world around you for good. This post certainly changed my world for good. Here’s what he said:

If Jimmy Page announced he was coming to my hometown to recite Nursery School rhymes accompanying himself on the Fisher-Price xylophone, I would buy tickets. If he was going to bill himself and three hoboes as Led Zeppelin and charge $40 to hear him read the phone book aloud while they made underarm fart noises, I’d go, AND buy the t-shirt. Essentially, I’d take any opportunity to bask in his presence.

What a fabulous post! What great enthusiasm! Thank you John C. I’d take any opportunity to bask in Jimmy’s presence too, and if the above ever happens, please save a seat for me next to you. I’ll even buy you the t-shirt.


Respect

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I made a decision a long time ago about the musicians I admire. That decision has been challenged a lot over the years, and just again this week, but I have stuck to it. I’m talking about talking about musicians. So many fans are into the ‘anything goes’ type of discussion, where you say anything you like and repeat any story about your heroes you’ve heard or read. Perhaps you’ve even witnessed what you are talking about, or you have had an occasion to be involved on a personal level with a musician. It doesn’t matter to me whichever category you fit of the above, I just won’t be involved in discussions that are too personal or inappropriate about their private lives.

The internet has made it possible for stories to spread at the speed of light, and true or not, hurtful or not, it matters not. Everyone feels they have a right to say whatever they want, and when you object, wow do you get a pasting from some quarters. People cry “whitewash!” and “censorship!” at you, sneer you are old fashioned and out of touch, or my personal favourite, “He/she makes so much money who cares?” Well, I do. And probably the people you are talking about do as well, because last time I checked making money did not erase feelings.

This all started for me because the musician I admire most in the world meant a lot to me from a really young age. He was like a Knight in Shining Armor to me, a hero, and I didn’t want to hear people telling nasties about him. I still don’t. OK, it can be called a silly fan thing, and I know he isn’t perfect, but refusing to participate in gossip and innuendo has a good principle behind it that I try and live by: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. People say all publicity is good publicity, but I disagree. Just for argument’s sake, maybe at the beginning of a career controversy might be good, just might. But by the time 20, 30, 40 years have passed, and still all your talent is forever connected to nonsense that happened a long time ago, it has to be irritating and I bet it hurts too. Would you want me to attach all your achievements to every person who had a relationship with you and tell all in every detail? How about if I find people who make things up and just lie about what happened and I repeat that all over everywhere? Maybe you wouldn’t mind if I found people who hated you and asked them to talk about you, or I tracked down your milkman, postman, employer, doctor, hotel maid, driver, window cleaner, gardener, or anyone who happened to deal with you and questioned them about your every move and their opinion on it? Personally I would be horrified, and I bet a lot of people reading this would be too.

Look, I’m not advocating censorship, just common sense and respect. Musicians didn’t get into the music biz so their private lives could be discussed by all and sundry. The genuine ones just wanted to give people their music. I’m so glad they did because music is one of the things that has held me together over the years. For all they give me, I think they deserve respect when they are being discussed.

At Memories in Music, I am going to do my best to provide an alternative place to the anything goes places. There are plenty of them around, so really I’d be redundant if I was like that. I am going to maintain editorial control and, dare I say it, whitewash. I freely admit it, I want a whitewash and I am proud to say so. For too long it has been all about mud. Even if the musician in question has been mad, bad, and downright scandalous, that has been talked about to death. It creeps into every conversation, every book, every tribute, every website, and I think it cheapens what musicians have given. Tell me the good stuff, the lovely stuff, the happy stuff! That’s what I am looking for. You know the dirt, now let’s move on. And if moving on is not your thing, you’re in luck! As I don’t believe in censorship, I will not be seeking to shut down the voices who want to keep giggling with Beavis and Butthead – go, run, be free! But if you’re a bit tired of that, drop in and see me. My hero?  Yep, his armor is still all shiny and intact.