A friend and I have been swapping lists just lately of our favourite pieces of classical music. For our own education and maybe even a blog post on here sometime. The doing of these somehow made me think of ‘Wichita Lineman’. Not because it’s classical music, of course, though maybe it is now?
I’ve been listening to this glorious song since it first emerged from my Binatone transistor radio fifty years ago. I’ll almost certainly have heard it on the new BBC Radio One that had just been invented then to replace my preferred Radio Caroline pirate station. And once I’d heard it the song not only stuck with me, it stuck in me.
The loneliness, the yearning, the situation, the working man out there on his own, the SOS in the strings and every single time these last fifty years when he sings:
‘And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time’
If these were the only three sunny days we get they were great weren’t they? So I thought I’d write them down so I can remember them, later on. When the weather goes back to seeming like it’s colder than it used to be and it rains most days.
As Record Store Day 2018 approaches this weekend, an appreciation.
I’m keen on high streets, as you may have noticed, reasoning they’re not only essential for the well-being of our neighbourhoods but also in defining who we are and where we’re from. As in:
‘I’m Ronnie Hughes, I live just off Smithdown Road in Liverpool, and these days its such a great high street it’s even got a record shop’.
It’s called Defend Vinyl and I featured it on here eighteen months ago, not long after it opened.
Well here it is again, not only going stronger than ever but also about to host Record Store Day this coming Saturday, April 21st.
Record Store Day, in case you’ve never heard of it, is about encouraging people to visit their local record shops. Simple as that. After a precipitous drop in numbers record shops are returning to our high streets for the simple reason that enough of us want them to. So Record Store Day is a day to celebrate record shops everywhere by visiting one.
After I wrote about my friend the artist Emma Rushton’s house a couple of weeks ago, some other friends suggested I might like to do a series where I look around some other people’s houses. They thought this could be an interesting development from other writings and work I’ve done on, oh, the meaning of life and home as a human right. They also thought it would be a good nose.
Thanks ‘some other friends!’
So to try out the idea, and because it’s only fair, I’ve decided to follow up the post on Emma’s house with one about where I live. And since I’m writing this and it’s what I do a lot of, here’s ‘The Writer’s House’.
Sarah has gone away, sea kayaking this time, and I’m alone again. Not lonely though. I find I rarely get lonely. Which is just as well as I find myself alone a lot.
Usually I’m alone here in this peaceful house. This house where I’ve lived for twenty six years, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. A typical Liverpool three bedroomed terraced house that I’m appreciating so much while there’s only me here to keep it company. Bay windows top and bottom at the front, no carpets, sparsely furnished, gently coloured and a small yard at the back leading on to the entry, alleygated in recent years.
Sarah moved into the house a couple of years after me, so I never think of it as mine and have few memories left now of the brief time I lived here on my own. Though I do have the feeling that I was lonely here then but for the twice weekly stays of my young daughter Clare. Memories when Clare wasn’t here of cold evenings, with nothing much to do when my dishes were washed up after tea.
Long ago, it seems now, I was entranced by a Paul Simon song called ‘Proof.’ It’s 1990 and I listen to his ‘Rhythm of the Saints’ album over and over again on my brand new first CD player, particularly to hear this song about ageing:
“It’s true, the tools of love wear down
A mind wanders
It seems mindless, but it does
Sometimes I see your face
As if through reading glasses
And your smile, it seems softer than it was”
I’m in the middle of being thirty something at the time so this song, curiously beguiling as it is, feels like a message from a distant country which I can’t yet imagine visiting.
Nowadays I see everything I read and write through reading glasses.My previous blog post on here was a reflection on living as if I have a year left to go. Hoping I have many more but, at 63, knowing it would be a misguided conceit to carry on calling myself middle aged. In that post I wrote that all posts from now on would have to pass the test of ‘Would I bother writing this if I thought I had year to live?’ Since then I’ve wondered ‘Well what exactly am I going to write about?’
I know there’s going to be a lot more Liverpool than there’s been on here lately. Not because it’s necessarily any more special than where you live but because it’s my home, where I’ve chosen to live the whole of my life. There’ll also be more about people I know or meet who are doing good things that I want more people to know about, because I like helping out people I judge to be making their corner of the world into a kinder place.
Almost four years ago I began writing a sequence of blog posts on here about living as if I only had a year to go. My thinking being that one day this day will certainly arrive for all of us, but we’ll rarely know it when that day comes. So I decided to live for a year as if it were my last and write about how I felt as the year happened.
It was a reasonably popular series of posts, even gathering up its own podcast along the way. Then at the end of the year, so three years ago, I summed up what I’d found in a succinct top ten thoughts:
You truly never know the day
You know that stuff about the ‘Present moment?’ It’s all true.
There has been a definite and seemingly permanent slowing down of the rage to succeed.
I don’t have the time to ‘fix things’ – I would rather be happy than right.
I am glad to be older.
I am happy where I am.
My camera and my writing give me great joy.
Most stuff is useless or worse.
Music matters deeply to me still. But not all music.
All you need is love, really.
So there, and most of them I’d still pretty much agree with. Don’t worry though, it’s not my intention here to go tediously through that list, as if there’s something definitive about it, and review how it all feels now. Continue reading “A year to live: Slow reflections”
I don’t write as much about music on this blog as I’d thought I would when I started it nearly five years ago. But I want to write briefly about it today because lately I’ve been thinking about Bill Withers and listening to a lot of his music.
Let’s go back to the last time in my life I remember buying a single. It’s 1972 sometime when I go into Beaver Radio on Whitechapel and buy this gorgeous song I’ve been listening out for on the radio. This is ‘Lean on me’ by Bill Withers and one of the best songwriters I will ever hear has entered my life. Around the same time Michael Jackson puts out ‘Ain’t no sunshine’ also by Bill Withers as one of his own early solo singles, and I’m sure something special is happening.
These are not like songs by anybody else, anybody else at all. They are only like songs by Bill Withers. Songs of friendship, wisdom and experience. Strongly expressed and quietly said. Back there in 1972 I’m not surprised when I find that this Bill is 31, so he’s lived a bit, and has written these songs while working on the production line in a factory.
“When I was making them up I’d sing them to myself over and over on the line there until they were memorable enough not to forget. Because I had no way of recording them out there on the factory floor.”
Over the next decade or so I’m always interested to hear new Bill Withers songs – Use Me, Hello like before, Grandma’s hands, Lovely day, Soul shadows, so many more.
Defend vinyl? Of course I do. Since I returned to buying LPs several years ago many of my happiest hours have been spent in record shops and charity shops doing the ‘flicking through LPs’ thing I’d thought I’d left long behind me.
But until recently there hadn’t been a proper record shop I could go to anywhere near where I live. Then around a month ago Defend opens here on Smithdown Road and becomes an immediate and regular part of my Saturday morning walks around the neighbourhood.