Pop Hymes, drummer extraordinaire, Natchitoches fishing legend and general all-around bon vivant, is fond of telling jokes, particularly ones that focus on musicians in some way. For example:
Three guitarists arrive at a studio to audition for a band. The first one is called, goes into a side room and finds the rest of the auditioning band waiting. He does his thing. When he’s finished, the listening drummer shakes his said and says, “sorry, man, you’ve got too much loft.”The first guitarist is not sure what that means, but understands the rejection. He returns to the waiting room, and signals the second guitarist to go on in. The second guitarist completes his audition, and this time, the bass player grimaces and shakes his head – “sorry, dude, too lofty.” Likewise rejected, the second guitarist confusedly goes back to sit down. The third guitarist finally goes in for his audition. When he’s finished, the lead singer says, “Nope. You’ve got desire, but your performance suffers from loft.”At this point, the third guitarist goes back outside and joins the other two previous guitarists, who are waiting to see if any of them got hired. One says, “I don’t know what these guys want. They said I had too much loft! What the hell is loft?”The other two guitarists describe their experiences too. None of them can figure out what “loft” is. So they decide to find out. They return together to the audition room and say, “what is loft, anyway?”The drummer shakes his head, laughing. “It’s not loft. It’s LOFT. Lack of F***ing Talent.”
This reminds me of things my father used to say:
“You should probably sing tenor. Ten or twelve miles away.”
“Why don’t you take a solo? So low we can’t hear it.”
“You ought to be in Hollywood. The walk would do you good.”
And my favorite …
“You should be on the stage. It leaves in five minutes.”
I don’t begrudge a twelve year old
their wish to idolize
an artist of their own time-frame
with the same likes and sense of space
that come from being twelve a while.
But for adults to seek the same —
to push aside their own age peers,
in some great quest for “the next big,”
neglect those like themselves
who’ve worked for years
to understand and know their craft
and bring to it a wealth of time —
who treasure the precocious youth
that somehow came forth from the womb
with an “old soul” or some like crap,
who’d rather find a young maybe
than risk an older yes,
who stoop to conquer, so to speak,
their greedy eyes upon the prize
of novelty to hawk their wares,
it seems like pedophilia.
03 AUG 2007
Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I sure don’t want to be
one of those two old guys sitting in the balcony:
a grizzled, bitter muppet who makes fun of everything
and never gets up off his ass, and on the stage to sing.
Maybe I’m a geezer, but I’ve got a youthful heart
that’s ready, anytime, to get on stage and do my part;
could be that I’ll look foolish, but I’ve done that bit before:
been some kind of a fool for almost thirty years or more.
‘Cause I can play the guitar and sing circles ’round a song;
the feeling that I get on stage can’t possibly be wrong:
that you can change the world with music, if you only try.
I’ll be an old musician, ’til I die.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I learned back in the day
that every kind of music’s good, in its own unique way;
from Lawrence Welk and Hee-Haw, and the Porter Wagoner show
I figured out there is no song that you can’t make your own.
Maybe it’s kinda crazy, but I wish you’d take a chance
on an old guitar picker who’s too old to learn to dance;
together, we could play some things that are worth listening to,
and change the world, if only for a brief hour or two.
‘Cause I can play the guitar; hell, I’ve played for thirty years;
that should be worth some to you, at the start of your career:
let my voice of experience assist you while you try.
to grow as a musician, ’til you die.
Maybe I’m a dreamer, my whole life spent out of sync;
why ain’t he rich or famous, I can hear some of you think.
You’re right, to some degree, but money ain’t the only thing.
Sometimes, the prize is that you get to sing.
18 JAN 2007
So many inspirations have escaped,
slipped through the cracks,
their golden finish tarnished
when confronted with the facts
Some let their fame get to them,
others watched it slip away,
often so caught up in business
that they never learned to play
Fashion changes oh so quickly,
and the new face on the scene
becomes a phantom overnight,
or yesterday’s has been.
But some remain undaunted,
though their names have left the charts,
and try to carry on the quest
that first inspired their hearts.
His voice still pure and crystal sweet,
the song more poignant now:
for truly, no one is to blame,
despite it all, somehow.
16 JUN 2005
I’ve always been a Howard Jones fan. When he hit the scene in the early 1980’s, I was a young singer, songwriter and multinstrumentalist looking for my own voice, my own way to communicate. In those days, it seemed there were so few pop stars who actually studied music, who went through the discipline to learn an instrument, to let the beauty of their voices, not the genius of production, carry their message. Howard Jones, to me, was worth listening to, if only for those factors; the further point that the songs he wrote and sang were positive messages, that spoke to the inner sadness and beauty of a world I was just coming to know, made him even more important. Just this evening, I saw him perform on the NBC Show “Hit Me Baby One More Time” — and was once again transported, in tears, by the beauty of his voice, by his unassuming presence, by his lyrics. Thank you, Howard Jones. Sorry I lost track of you for all this time.
for T.S. Eliot
When Icarus took flight with home-made wings
he sought to rise above, not divine laws,
but listening to how the eagle sings
attempted to reach past the aeropause
that culture places on its young when born
to limit how far flung their dreams may reach,
and teaches children to avoid its scorn
by tempering their thoughts in civil speech.
Poor Daedelus, tradition’s solid stock,
can only watch in anguish from the bluff
as his bright future plummets to the rocks,
its bindings frayed, momentum not enough.
Against the ceiling set by common whim
there is no soar or dive; just fall, or skim.
03 JUN 2004
How does peer critique really work?
You present something of yours to your peers.
They are inspired by your effort
to try to produce something of similar or better quality
of their own.
How they react to what you’ve done,
as reflected in their own work,
shows you how to improve your product
to better produce the result you wanted,
the impact you thought you’d get,
the influence you figured it’d have.
And visa versa.
Some even get distribution deals.
You want to give me advice on my artform,
please do me the courtesy of having absorbed it.
If it doesn’t make you a better artist
(for whatever reasons)
there’s not much point in such a review.
We’re obviously not peers.
If you were to ask me, say, how to make it in the Music business, what you needed to know and where you needed to be seen, heard or known, I could probably give you a pretty intelligent answer. Likewise, if you needed advice regarding a career in information technology, although my training there is mostly on-the-job and catch-as-catch-can, I have enough of a formal foundation there to be of some use.
But with writing, and Poetry, being completely self-taught as I am, I feel at a great loss. Sure, I deconstructed Poetry in high school (20 years ago now), and could blunder through the basics of theme, presentation, person and character. But I’ve never had the advantage of a complete college education in English, say, or the plus of a BFA or BA that seems to form the underlying knowledge base of a “real” poet. Maybe that’s a misperception on my part. After all, I’ve been writing Poetry for almost 30 years now, 12 of those years pretty immersed in self-study and volume production. So I’ve learned SOME things. But it’s like that last year of a four year degree in any “artistic” field – that’s when you learn how to present yourself, how to organize a collection, how to put together a resume, etc. Up until that point, you’re just working the mechanics of it, learning the language.
So where does one go from here? How do you know when your work is good enough to submit for publication? I mean, there has to be a certain point where you “know”, regardless of whatever feedback you may receive from friends and family, that what you can do is either schlock, average, typical, pretty good, great or genius. Whose opinion do you trust?
Maybe I’m just stuck. I don’t know.