The songwriter has nothing to complain about
04/24/2023- We've got it good, genuine fakes, love hurts.
Sometimes before, and always after, a show, my upper back spasms hard enough to force me to stop doing whatever it is I’m doing. It can take a few minutes of stretching to release the muscles. If this happens during a show, I just have to play through it.
My grandfather Saul would have laughed. A stiff muscle, aching back, sore shoulders, those are the things of life, not tragedy.
Leaving your home, as he did as a teenager, death a possibility at every turn, traveling across an ocean, living where you don’t speak the language, catastrophe and poverty, even death, at every turn, that’s something to think about.
During my travels I’ve seen quite a few wheelchair users using US airlines. It’s not a pretty sight. If you think waiting to get off of a crowded plane while the people in front of you can’t behave like reasonable adults is bad, imagine sitting still the entire time the plane deplanes, helpless to really move until the understaffed airline personnel can get to you.
That really sucks.
Perspective is humbling. I worry about getting my guitar on the plane, about my newly minted anxiety that makes traveling a lot harder. About how my hearing aids, absolute miracles, aren’t perfect and sometimes I am very uncomfortable in crowds.
Who am I kidding?
Every time I step up a curb, walk up stairs, shop, go to the movies, just amble around a new city, and every other basic act that people like me, with full mobility take for granted, I forget how damn fortunate I am.
I’m linking you to a Guardian article that you should read immediately.
You can come back here, but you’ll be a smarter, better human for reading what Sophie Morgan has to say about her life with a disability.
My hearing disability can be frustrating enough.
But I’m the grand lotto winner compared to Sophie.
And she makes my general attitude look pretty lousy.
Think about your life.
You will thank me.
Driving Forwards by Sophie Morgan
I played a show in Sint-Truiden, Belgium last night that had been rescheduled twice due to Pandemic cancellations. It was in a small club, filled to the rafters (it was Euro cool, so no rafters, but you get my point), and was setting up for my second set after a very well received first set, when the club owner came up on stage to do a second set intro, which is highly unusual.
He addressed the crowd and said, “I knew this guy was good but I didn’t know I was giving you Springsteen!!”
Ego check here. Read on or you may suspect me of saying something other than what I am actually saying.
It was a huge compliment.
I was a little taken aback.
If my crush is reading this, she is already shaking her head. I know she’s thinking, “this idiot isn’t going to just ACCEPT a compliment.”
My friend Rich is likely doing exactly the same thing. I expect an email from him expressing his sad amusement at all of this!
There are Springsteen albums I love.
A few of his early albums, Darkness and Born to Run, plus a bootleg live album I scored in Boston, shook me up in my late teens and early 20’s.
He was the other guy, Dylan being the first for me, who seemed unbound by American song lyrical tradition.
And I played Tunnel of Love, maybe his most underrated album, until the cassette was so worn that the tape played half a key lower.
When Bruce was on, nobody was better.
This may not be a popular opinion, but I think Springsteen was the main man for intellectuals who loved the romantic sweep of his songs and longed for the kind of yearning that was expressed in his earlier records. He made them feel a little dangerous and they could imagine themselves as working class poets, tethered to responsibility without much possibility, frustrated, yet always honorable and genuine. Everybody working spends days wishing they were doing something else. White collar guys feel it too.
The working guys, lunch bucket guys, worshipped at the altar of Bob Seger.
Seger made Friday nights a little better, Monday mornings a little less awful.
You did your job, maybe had a few thoughts about what you dreamed about, and then turned the music on in your car and got on with the weekend.
I unabashedly love what Bob Seger did. And it may be overplayed, and an unfortunate part of pick-up truck marketing, but I doubt you’ll find a better song about lost youth than “Like a Rock.”
I couldn’t be more different than Springsteen or Seger.
I have always been a working man. With a few years cut out for folk “stardom.”
Bruce has always been a rock star.
Seger was also always a rock star.
Springsteen admits that he never lived the stories he wrote about (with a few exceptions), and I love him for saying that.
I haven’t lived every story I tell, either.
We are both fakes and completely genuine.
Any good songwriter writes a combination of truth and myth.
This idea that a writer can only write about EXACTLY who they are and what they’ve done personally is complete bullshit.
Springsteen’s songs about lost youth are extraordinarily in tune with the feelings of being young and watching your life start spooling out in a very different way than you had hoped it would.
I haven’t done every job I mention in my songs, but I’ve gone to work at 4:30 in the morning with a cracked ankle to unload two trucks filled with bags of sand weighing 80 pounds each. I needed the paycheck.
I worked 60+ hour weeks when I was finally in an office job that paid our lives forward.
I know how to work and if you work, I might know a little bit about you. Enough to show your life as the beautiful combination of love, effort, conflict, triumph and disappointment that is most working lives.
I know what it means to love your family so much that you don’t think any words can come close to expressing that love.
And I know that a family is always a little complicated. I can write about that, too.
I’m not everything I sing about, but I’m honest that I’m a little bit of a fake.
My only real goal as a songwriter is to let people know that they have been heard and seen.
The money and the fame, that’s for the rock stars.
But to paraphrase a line from the movie Almost Famous, “a little money would be nice, too.”
“Love Hurts” is Still one of my favorite over-the-top 70’s radio rock hits by Nazareth.
It sounded best played really loudly on a car’s cassette system. Even the tape warble made it cooler.
Playing music hurts.
My wrist was questionable before the tour started. Sometimes my fingers lock up when I’m playing particularly hard. But it’s manageable, and this picture comes from the 7th show of the tour. That was a good sign.
Sometimes when I’m playing and the wrist gets particularly painful I think of Patrick Swayze as the head bouncer “Dalton” in the movie Road House and I think to myself “pain don’t hurt.”
That’s just ridiculous enough to distract me.
There’s a little truth to that oversimplification.
If I learned anything from meditation it’s how to move the things in my head around to places that are farther from the center. I can do that with pain while performing.
Sometimes, the obstacle is harder to move around.
I cut my ring finger on my fretting hand, in my case, my left hand, while cooking, right before the tour.
The cut is in a place where it can be avoided most of the time. But if I hit the area by accident, an electrical current goes through my hand. It’s healing, but it’s still there.
I need a sponsorship deal with second skin.
“Pain don’t hurt” doesn’t work quite as well when you forget and don’t see it coming.
I just have to hope my “electrical current in my hand” face looks a lot like the face I make while soloing.
And I know these are small pains. These aren’t the pains of 25 years in a metal stamping plant, 30 years on people’s roofs, making beds in hotels to pay the bills, building rock walls, hanging sheet rock, landscaping, and a thousand other jobs people do for the people they love.
Part of my work now is saying to myself “pain don’t hurt.”
It’s the least I can do for the people whose lives I borrow.
And that’s not really much for a working man to do, even when he is pretending to be a rock star.
The lucky man says thank you.
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