I want you to consider a question for a moment.
"If what gives you passion and creates fire and desire within your soul was gone tomorrow, what would be your next step ? where would you go ? what would success be defined as from that point forward ?"
What if what you could not control the departure of that skill or passion from your daily regime ? How does that then change your course of actions moving forward and where does this inevitably leave you ?
For many, this isn't a question that would ever be entertained. We are far too comfortable living in a society that "provides" and where we need not hunt for our next meal. I recently had a conversation with a good friend and this is the dilemma facing them.
As a friend, where does this leave me ? The only successful answer to this question is as a "helping hand" to my friend. While travelling home from Nashville, as I fly back to Calgary I considered the questions above and many more. I reflected on what I have and what I have worked for and realized along my path to what I consider success - I have not once given any thought to these questions; let alone my response and course of actions.
We are not geared this way to consider anything in this regard, we are hardwired with an interior mechanism to move forward until we encounter and impassable junction in our journey. I guess when I think of my photography in comparison, what if I "physically was unable" to hold the camera in my hands. What if years of age took it's toll in the way of painful arthritis ?
I've never once considered this - as sobering a reality as it is. I can't imagine how I would feel.
The art is what makes the difference for me and for my friends. The photos, the paintings, the music and composition of all these elements. When a situation presents itself that creates a blockage in our creative process we must rise above it and grow beyond it in adaptation and ability. The obstruction is simply a "challenge" to create and grow beyond the comfort of today and embrace the uncomfortable feelings of growth and development. This is where the art is - it must be mined and extracted to be appreciated.
Each time we create we are reborn and realize the limitless boundaries of artistic expression. We must celebrate this and push ourselves off the safety of the ledge and expand our wings and lean into the descent to the earth. Only in a terrifying descent from such a ledge can we appreciate the metaphoric view and pleasure of the forthcoming flight of success.
When I considered the above questions I remember two individuals performing at Muddy Roots Music Festival who were nearing the end of their earthly lives. When I witnessed Dr. Ralph Stanley & Little Jimmy Dickens play I saw "tired, worn and aged men of a defining musical era". I remember seeing both of them so frail that a stiff evening breeze could create a challenging adversary. Toward the end of each setlist I saw both men stand firm and take charge and "deliver the goods". I remember seeing the passion in their eyes as they unleashed their senior fury on the crowds witnessing history in the making.
But, they had their time for many years - consider if as an artist or perhaps a fan of music; that was unceremoniously cut short.
As a guitar player you could no longer play, or as a drummer you were unable to keep your stamina, perhaps as a singer your memory failed you.
We don't consider this but it happens. For no good reason it happens. It sounds cliche but when one door closes another does open. Remember that music is simply a thought without a composer, it takes true talent to compose music and produce the same. It was told to me years ago that when someone prays for success; they are not given "success" but rather the opportunity to be successful. Similarly, with praying for "adaptation" we are not granted a wish of adaptation but rather the opportunity to adapt and overcome the insurmountable obstacles in our path.
Beyond the ability to play I would ask you to consider this article, I want you to consider those around you as we grow old. There will come a day when the guitar must be returned to the case. When the banjo strings will break for the "last time" and when it's time to sit back and let your light dim on performing and shine on the technical composition.
Accept the privilege to compose and write, you've earned it. . .you are valuable and loved. Some of the most magnificent composers throughout history were less concerned with being the "performer" and more specifically concerned with the performance itself.
The greatest performance has not been written yet and is within you as a composer and this is the catalyst to bring it forward. Step to the ledge. Look up where you want to go - not down! Step forward confidently and feel yourself overcome with the "fall". Lean into it!
Open your wings - compose and succeed.
Never look back. . .
With this year marking the tenth anniversary of the Muddy Roots Music Festival, I shall begin with do short segments on each band playing this year. This festival is built in kind and akin to a living organism with a vast network of roots and interconnected souls - among them the common thread of music and lifestyle. This year we welcome veteran Oi! originators and pioneers COCK SPARRER to the fold. With open arms and hearts, and ready to push the limits. . . I give you COCK SPARRER.
COCK SPARRER are widely considered to be one of the most influential Street Punk bands in history.
2017 saw them celebrate their 45th Anniversary.
The thing about Sparrer is that they're not just a band. They are childhood friends and have been making a noise since they got together way back in 1972. They were playing, drinking, going to football and generally making a nuisance of themselves when the late 1970s punk scene started in London. Finally it seemed that there were hundreds of likeminded people with the same attitude.
However, the boys were from the wrong side of town and didn’t quite fit in with the ‘art school’ scene - they were more at home on the terraces wearing jeans and Dr Martens boots than being fashion victims in bondage trousers. They’ve always done things the way they wanted to. As Punk ended up with its own set of rules they were always on the outside as they just didn’t buy into it.
Despite being courted by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren (who they turned away for not buying a round of drinks), early tours with the Small Faces, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Slade amongst others and a record deal with Decca, the ‘music industry’ just wasn’t ready for Cock Sparrer.
British music paper SOUNDS sums it up perfectly in a live review from April 1978:
“Musically and visually, the Cock Sparrer crew are just about as motley and uncouth as its possible for a band to project. Imagine five collectively imageless Cockneys with hair length varying from skinhead to Woody Roller, wearing clothes that looked they pool from the jumble sales, and singing about how East End life is tough but fun…(they)…create a good time sound that occasionally approximates to the original spirit of Slade.”
When the Oi! Scene started in 1980 the band found themselves on a number of compilation albums and a new breed of fans discovered them. This was Punk from the streets and Sparrer and their fans just seemed to fit in. 1983 saw the release of the bands first official album, the seminal SHOCK TROOPS which today is a certified classic and regularly features in the ‘most influential punk album ever’ polls.
Never having got (or needed) the critical acclaim they deserved from the music press the band went largely unnoticed by the masses. However, this brought them cult status amongst those that mattered; the real punk fans and the band have kept that spirit alive for the past 45 years.
1992 saw the resurgence of the band to a level that they never expected. Many new bands had come along and all cited Cock Sparrer as an influence or “the Godfathers of Street Punk”. What followed was the ability to go anywhere in the world, any night of the week and play to packed venues all singing their hearts out.
Rarely do a band get the reaction that these guys do. A Cock Sparrer show is an event. It’s like cup final day. A family singalong. Theirs is a career in reverse, they’re bigger now than they ever were. Regularly headlining all the major punk festivals in Europe and occasionally hitting the US to headline events such as Punk Rock Bowling and Riot Fest.
2017 see’s the band release “FOREVER”, their first album since 2007s Lars Frederiksen (Rancid) produced album HERE WE STAND.
Cock Sparrer – 45 years on, still five blokes in a pub, five mates having a laugh, more than just a band.
I won't ever pretend to know what it means to "feel" the emptiness of suicidal thought and deed. I have felt depression and the accompanying unknowing pain of lost direction and purpose in my life. I have spent the past few days contemplating what drives someone to the edge and then over it.
Suicide and the decision to commit is an all too common exit for several people who have I believe painted themselves into a corner and are tired of waiting for the metaphorical "paint to dry". With the recent passing of people like Robin Williams and most recently Chris Cornell of Soundgarden we have to ask ourselves - "what pushes someone so apparently happy and content to such an absolute abyss as this?"
Suicide as I've witnessed first hand is not an effort in seeking permission or acknowledgement of others - in many ways it is in some ways a human being's way of taking back what little control they may still have albeit small; of a life or lifestyle that has overcome them.
I'm sure Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Scott Weiland and Andrew Wood and most recently Chris Cornell never wished to be so mainstream that their flannel and combat boots, cargo shorts and long scraggly hair would be auctioned to the highest bidder and lost within our mass manicured suburbia. I think what has driven these men to hit the "stop" button was a spiraling journey into "mainstream" culture that moved vehemently against their ethics and code. No white picket fence. No trophy wife. No designer clothing and sunglasses. No mansion in Beverly Hills.
If you look at all these individuals collectively, there is a common thread of consumerism and a similar opposition to it. If you look at Cornell, the hanging precluded by anti - anxiety medication; taking too many Ativan. What symptoms are well addressing here ? the anxiety; and why ? The anxiety I believe is built upon going against your moral compass in exchange for the monetary pleasantries of stardom. What is the true price of stardom ? Being hobbled in a new town each night; living out of a hotel away from your family ? plying your trade to new audiences each night like a never ending carousel cabaret act. I'm sorry to say folks, if you think this isn't an accurate portrayal ? You may be sadly mistaken.
In the truest form of the "grunge" scene to not contribute to the ills of society the men listed above though try as they might not to feed the beast and open the box of Pandora - inevitably did and they too fell victim. Suicide is depression related - because it is someone losing control over what is most meaningful to them; but never lose sight - it is them in once last attempt to say and acknowledge this is my destiny and I oppose it - in some cases there is an apology and in others not.
As we've heard too many times before. I'd rather burn out - than fade away. There is much truth in this and sometimes more than we will ever know.