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Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight ?

May 4, 2007
{ more to come tomorrow … part two gets interesting… live performance… song-writing and collaboration.. the music business…. }
After lunch we had a session about the music business and in particular how to get radio play. I didn’t realise how straightforward it was – you need that release date, you need to send the CD to the right stations, you need to give the right information with the CD. Oh. And you need a little bit of luck.  Tom played a random selection of CDs from the hundreds stacked at his desk in 6Music. We saw and experienced for ourselves how the first 30 seconds will determine whether you get a look in at the playlist meeting. Lesson learned and one I took to the songwriting session on Sunday.
On Saturday afternoon the ‘performance masterclass’
Now. When I signed up for this ‘Stand & Deliver’ weekend I was mostly interested in the songwriting piece. For so long I’ve been frustrated at my lack of output and the crappy stuff I was coming up with. Wandering aimlessly around 12 notes with words that said nothing to me about my life.
In advance of the weekend we were told to learn the first minute of a song we liked. Talk about Desert Island Discs ! How on earth could I pick just ONE song ? I almost plumped for a predictable Beatles cover but decided against it. I’m glad I did. I chose a song that brought me back to my childhood. Jimmy Webb wrote “Wichita Lineman” and Glen Campbell had a hit with the song in 1969. Growing up in 70s Dublin my father had a few Glen Campbell albums (along with John I’m not getting in that airplane Denver and others like Charlie Rich and so on). I have memories of my mum putting on the Glen Campbell album with this song.  I only have to listen to the strings and the whine at the start of the song to be transported back to the mid-70s.
I watched each person in the group get up one-by-one and perform. Tom gave some great feedback and tips to everyone. We are our own network, our own support group. The atmosphere was supportive and I was looking forward to standing up and trying to deliver. Most of the group were ok with ‘going first and getting it over with’ but I wasn’t too sure. There were less than 24 people in the room and it’s true you know – it’s harder to sing in front of a small group of people. Most singers played guitar but some of us sang acapella. I didn’t bother going upstairs to get my own guitar because I didn’t want to miss any of the performances.
Eventually I put my hand up and volunteered to go next. I asked Rapunzel if I could borrow her guitar (and as it happens I didn’t pack a strap for mine).
I took a couple of breaths and stood up. Nervous as fuck.
I explained why I chose the song…. I asked the audience to imagine they were in a living room in Dublin in the 70s. My mum is taking a shiny vinyl disc from a paper sleeve. She puts it on the record player.
I started to play the introduction Fmaj7 Gm7
You can hear the crackle of the vinyl and the needle. The song starts and you’re transported thousands of miles away.
I lost myself in the song.
“I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main roads. Searching in the sun for another overload”
I am back in 169 Castle Park.
“I hear your singing in the wires. I can hear you through the whine and the Wichita Lineman is still on the line”
The strap on the guitar came off ! Oh dear. I. Kept. Going. Let’s face it what else is there to do ? Stop ? Not likely ! I’m enjoying this too much. I eased the guitar down and held it by my side. I continued acapella.
“I know I need a small vacation but it don’t look like rain. And if it snows that stretch down south won’t ever take the strain”
I’m thinking about mum now and for a bar or two I think I might lose it.
“And I need you more than want you. And I want you for all time.”
Fucking hell I’m enjoying this.
The song ended much too soon. Hey I’m having fun up here ! I’m in touch with what I’m singing. There’s a story here to be told and I’m telling it. The audience is listening. Some of them are smiling. Danny is egging me on. Nobody is hating it. If anyone thinks I’m making a tit of myself they’re saying nothing !
Tom says something along the lines of ‘I have nothing to add to that’. Bloody hell ! They liked it.
Walking. On. Air.
Turns out I was the last of the group to perform.
Dinner beckoned and it was delicious. A few glasses of wine and some great conversation. Q (hiya Q) was to my left. Tom and Nick were to my right. Gordon was opposite me. I think Dave was at the other end of the table and the rest is a blur. Great company. Like minds.
After dinner we wrapped up and each of us said a little about our experience today. I could only say that I found something I thought I had lost. It was true. Back in 1983 I spent the summer busking around the streets of Dublin. I just did it and wasn’t bothered by it. Somewhere along the way I lost the confidence and the ‘fuck you’ attitude. Or was I simply naive at the time ?
Flushed with our collective performance success we retired to the main room and the mass guitar orchestra joined in with a session of songs and general decimation of the back catalogue of Davies, Lennon, McCartney and other classics of the 20th century. Beatle songs always seem to work. If in doubt…. “… well she was just 17 and you know what I mean… the way she looked was waaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond compare…”
Ok. That’s it for now. There’s still Sunday to go and I’m going to write that tomorrow.  Hint: I co-wrote a couple of songs.

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