It is told that even as a bairn I rocked back and forth with a violence in a pram, singing to the stars. For as long as I can recall, the gods placed songs in my mouth to sing. I am not a singer. Songs fashion me into a singer of sorts. Though I can’t speak Gaelic, I sing it because I think it. Arias, especially Neapolitans, arise in me like flushings of love. For forty years I’ve sung in rock bands. Alone in the hills I sing. Is that madness or the gift of song?
In Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kurtz reads aloud T.S. Elliot’s The Hollow Men. Everyman Kurtz considers himself a god. He thinks he understands life and death. I wonder did reading poetry drive him mad? or did not reading poetry, until it was too late, bring on his madness? The poems given to me are given aloud to be said aloud. That’s all I can really say about these butterflies of the mind.
noun: a person who engages in controversial debate
Youth culture in the 70s and 80s marked a time of archetypal transformation. The skeletons of thought, locked into the heads of our parents and theirs’ before them, we inherited. But with a delicious mix of music and fashion, protest and politics, our inherited skeletons dissolved and new stalactites of seeing the world dripped into our collective consciousness. We all polemicized in one way or another. Some of us just never gave up. To quote Wordsworth, the child is father of the man.
Unrequited love (what a surprise) was the theme of my first song written when I was 11. Hundreds of songs later, I still can’t fathom how they come into being. Composing The Jellicoe Express is perhaps a good example of how it happens: I am moved to tears by a personal story; I sit at the piano or pick up my guitar; and I play but play nothing.
In this nothingness-play, rhythm emerges and from it comes melody; and upon that very simple melody the words of a poem begin to form like snow building-up on a drystone dyke. Occasionally, all comes together; but only when I remain apart. To quote Kahlil Gibran, when you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music; which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?