Sunday, March 1, 2015

And In The End, The Love You Take Is Equal To The Love You Make.

I've been listening to The Beatles a lot recently.

Anyone who knows me well may not think this is particularly surprising. I collect Beatles music, books, newspaper cuttings. I've read hundreds of books on them (yes, hundreds) and I'm even acknowledged in one for my comments and critiquing. But for the past few years I've listened to them in much the same way a casual fan would listen to their albums.

I used to listen more like a scholar, (OK, some would say obsessive freak), comparing this mix with that mix, this take with that take, even this pressing with that pressing. I'd listen to hours and hours of Get Back rehearsals, listen to them as they created and constructed their songs. As they chatted about the weather, the news, even what's for lunch. I loved nothing more than finding a fragment of conversation or (oh my goodness) a song I'd never heard before. But with the advent of the internet, I think it all became too easily available and I no longer had to hunt for things. Perhaps too I had access to too much and I became blase about what there was.

But a break is as good as a holiday, they say, and I'm back into it, deep into 1969 rehearsals and listening to perhaps the greatest band the world will ever know as they implode and self destruct.

It makes me sad.

I watched the rooftop session last night. The last live performance they ever gave. It was a cold January morning and they shuffled up onto the roof of the Apple building to run through some songs. And for a few precious moments, you can see them happy, lost in the songs, actually enjoying making music together. Which is unbelievable considering the misery the rest of those three weeks were for them.

And then with a couple of police officers telling them to pull the plug, the dream was over.

None of them could be bothered even touching those rehearsal tapes. They were given to Phil Spector who cobbled the Let It Be album together. Sure, they went back into the studio six months later and recorded Abbey Road, a swansong, but it was never going to be the same again.

Yoko wasn't at fault for the breakup. She was a symptom. As was Linda, Ringo's film-making and George's exploration of all things Indian and spiritual.

If only. If only John and Paul had agreed to sit down and work things out. If only the others had been keen to continue. If only The Beatles were still The Beatles.

Watching them on the rooftop, grinning, flubbing lines, living in the moment is exciting. But it's also sad.

Only a few months after Woodstock, the sixties were over, The Beatles on the rooftop and The Rolling Stones at Altamont had killed the dream.

Write. Read. Make art. Create music. Live the dream. Don't regret. The time is now.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Openings And Scraps.

The weekend was hot. 36c both days. Fortunately for me I was down the coast with my wife.

The foreshore was lovely. Crowded later, but we went out before it got too warm while there weren't too many people on the sands. The weekend was brilliant. I drank cold beer, ate prawn pasta, nachos, read a lot and generally just relaxed. Then to finish it all off, breakfast this morning was amazing.

So I was playing some music as we drove down there. My wife made some comments about the song, and bam - I wrote the opening to a story in my head.

An idea is not a story. Nor is an opening. And I had nothing more.  But I started playing with what I'd written, wrote a few more lines before I needed to know where I was going next. I opened a few files, a few unfinished scraps I'd written in the past, things I thought I might use one day, or simple writing exercises I'd done for fun. One of these leaped out at me, and as soon as I collided it with my new opening, I knew they would work together.

Within the hour I had the entire story outlined and started writing it.

I have 2,000 words of this beast done. I have a good feeling about it. I'm excited by it.

A productive weekend, a relaxing weekend. I like those.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bleah And Bleah.

More rejections this week, which was disappointing but not devastating. I don't actually worry about them so much anymore, although I obviously prefer sales. I had hoped these pieces would sell to these particular markets. But they didn't, yet I know they will sell because I know they're good stories.

I already have five stories slated for release this year, but I want more. I guess that makes me a writer.

I didn't have the best week. A couple of stupid comments from people who should know better, as well as a few situations that frustrated me. And then those rejections.

Sigh.

I'm hoping this coming week will be vastly improved. And if the events of last week is the worst than can happen to me, then I am indeed privileged.

Oh, and editors? Buy my stories. You know you want to.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Five Already.

I've been back at work for the past week, and the start of the school year can be tough. Lots of meetings, lots of planning, lots of everything.  Which means it has been a little harder than normal to ensure I get my writing done.

I'm still there, though. Still writing everyday. Not as many words as I would like, but some. And that's good.

A few rejections this month too. Not enough to make me give up writing, but disappointing all the same. Especially when I was close on a couple of them. close enough to receive personal rejections which indicated how close I was. Two of those were pro-level markets, and I feel I'm close to a breakthrough there. One of them is a market I've tried a few times. I'm starting to suspect my writing style is simply not a fit for them, and I may not bother subbing there again.

I have a couple of markets like that. A couple where I suspect I'm either not a fit, or I think I've been rejected for other reasons. And that's fine. Editors can choose and buy whatever they like. But I have no plans to waste my time writing stories specifically for them when I feel they aren't going to be bought. I'll write the stories I like, and if they happen to align with those markets I may consider subbing.

On the other hand I've had another sale. This now means I've had three for this year. Unfortunately I'm unable to give further details on any of them. Add these to the two stories I sold at the end of last year and I already have five stories slated for publication this year.

Cool, huh?

I will, of course, share more information when I'm permitted to do so. In the meantime, those rejections are being sent out again. And the whole waiting game starts over.

Why ever would you want to be a writer?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Black Album.

There's a scene in Richard Linklater's film, Boyhood, where the character played by Ethan Hawke presents his son with a compilation CD he created. This disc, The Black Album by The Beatles, is his attempt at combining tracks by the post-breakup John, Paul, George and Ringo. (Nevermind that there is already a Black Album by the Beatles, a well known and common bootleg from the Get Back sessions) It appears as though art imitates life, as Hawke created this album in real life and presented it to his daughter.

In the film, Hawke suggests that Beatles solo albums don't succeed as too much Paul is too sweet, too much John has too much self-involvement, too much George is too much spirituality, and too much Ringo is...  well, too much Ringo.

He's right.

The Beatles were greater than the sum of their parts, and the balance of the four individuals had to be just so. The creation of an imagined 70s Beatles album is not an easy task. It's something I've tried many times and I've never felt I managed to do successfully. The balance was always wrong, the tracks didn't flow, the music and themes were too disparate.

I had few rules. The songs all had to come from a similar period of time (no mixing Imagine with Coming Up). Any song that was about the break-up wouldn't be allowed, (Let Me Roll It / How Do You Sleep?) as they would never have been written had they continued. The contribution balance had to be similar to a real Beatles album. For example, only one song by Ringo.

I was eager to check out Ethan Hawke's Black Album as the tracklisting is readily available online. So how does it stand up?

First listen, and I'm pleased by how well it works. A lot of thought has gone into this, into the track selections and ordering. A few more listens, mostly while driving, and the problems become evident. It's not much later and the discs have been relegated to the bottom of the glove compartment.

Firstly, it's sprawling and unwieldy. Three CDs, which translates to approximately five records. Not even the Beatles would have attempted that. Far too long and almost unmanageable.

Secondly, the tracks cover far too many years. Here Today would never have been recorded and released alongside If Not For You.

Thirdly, there are some tracks there that would never have been recorded by The Beatles. I've heard arguments that Lennon would never have supported the recording of something like Silly Love Songs. Possibly, but I suspect they'd have happened. History shows he didn't prevent either Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da or Maxwell's Silver Hammer from making their way onto vinyl and he hated both of those with a passion. No, I'm talking about inane novelty songs, like Helen Wheels or the No No Song.

OK, taste comes into it. But even so, how can you include a trite cover like the No No Song but ignore I'm The Greatest?

Also there are a number of songs that don't belong for other reasons. Hawke included God and Mother from Plastic Ono Band. This album was basically John undergoing therapy, and are far too personal and bitter for inclusion amongst the others.

The biggest problem is outside Hawke's control. That balance he spoke of, the need to find harmony between the four Beatles extends far deeper than simply balancing their songs. The Beatles worked best when they played off each other within the tracks.

Having said that, the tracks do flow well. Band on the Run opens, leading into My Sweet Lord, then Jealous Guy and Photograph.  A formidable selection that works well. Ethan Hawke has done a fine job in creating the Black Album, but I'd like to see a collection where the tracks are selected from a more limited time period selected and an album of only 45 minutes or so.

Are you up for that challenge Ethan? I'll even give you a hand.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tokyo To Toronto.

I've just returned from visiting my friend Alan in Toronto. We were pretty close in Tokyo, and always stayed in touch, but we haven't actually seen each other since 1996.

It was great, and we very quickly fell back into the easy relaxed friendship we had in those days. Our interests and tastes are still very similar so we discussed a lot of film, music and literature. There are not many people who I can sit and discuss The Beatles with, and even fewer who are familiar with the differences between various takes of their songs.

But I'm back now, and almost ready to return to work this week.

It's going to be interesting, returning to my old school. A place I feel so familiar and yet have not been part of for almost a year.

But 2015 is the year of changes for me. In many ways. And, I hope, most of those changes will be for the better.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sigh.

Dear Steve's story,

Thanks for coming along to the party. It was great having you here.

You're a lot of fun. You were well written and action packed and we loved everything you said, but ultimately you just don't fit in with the rest of the guests. I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to leave now.

Don't take this the wrong way. You're a good story, and we hope you can find another party where you will fit in. We'd certainly be delighted should one of your friends join us at our next party.

With love,

The other stories who were accepted.