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Peter Gabriel
I’ve loved him since about 1975.
My love for others has waxed and waned, but Peter has stayed.
As a teenager in the seventies I seemed to move without a hiccup from Bowie to Genesis and Pink Floyd to punk and to dancing frenetically to ska and began the eighties with John Martyn, Ry Cooder, and Joan Armatrading, and all the while Peter Gabriel could do no wrong. I saw him play at the NEC in Birmingham in the early eighties and it stands still as one of the best gigs ever. EVER…
In recent years, I have eschewed the really big gigs… They are enormously expensive, and can be a real let-down.
So it was with more than a little trepidation that I booked tickets to see him again, same place, thirty years on. I worried that I would be disappointed. How could I have doubted him?
The gig was tonight. Just got home and I am completely wired. God knows what time I’ll get to sleep. I make no excuses for my language… He was fucking amazing.

The thing that makes him different from the rest, even now, is the totality of the performance. It is art, theatre, dance, music…. It is deceptively simple, pure, complex when it needs to be. Everything is considered, nothing is spare or unnecessary. It is intelligent, of the highest quality in every respect. You get the impression he might be quite difficult to work with, but you would do it anyway…. Know what I mean? Because he is brilliant. A genius.

I’m not going to describe the whole gig, because I do have enough insight to realise that would be boring for anyone who isn’t as obsessed with the man as I am. But I will give an example of what I mean by the whole-ness of the performance: Lighting…. Is always an essential ingredient of the arena show… Making it the spectacle it needs to be. This show started (on time) with an acoustic set, the house lights still up, with a couple of songs he introduced as works in progress. (He’s that sure of his audience). For the second set, the house lights went down and the stage lights hit, monochrome. Experimental, collages of sound and music and the lights danced, not just the lights, but the rigs too. Levered and pulleyed on rails, each operated by two people, who were part of the dance… The light, the mobile gantry things( I can’t think of the right word.) the rails… They swooped and danced around the stage, an integral part of everything that went on. For a couple of songs, they were the show.
For the third section, and only then we had coloured lights, but only one colour at a time to start with. For Mercy Street Gabriel lay on the stage, over concentric circles, danced lying down while screens showed us the view from above… The lights danced above him, oppressed him… threatened him… Everything was just perfect… The atmosphere intimate, electric, emotional… What was on the screens not always just an enlargement of the on-stage action but film and animation that added to the whole thing….added to the narratives…

I found this on youtube… 

Most of the songs he played were old ones. We knew them all, but the things that now might make the original recording seem dated had been stripped back. There was a freshness, an edge to these songs. They are bloody good songs. He has an astonishing voice. It gets me in weird places… The pit of my stomach, the back of my neck, my thighs clench, a catch in my throat. Sledgehammer made me laugh and cheer, Mercy Street made me cry, Milgrams 37 (We Do What We’re Told) made me shiver… Menacing…
I bloody love menacing!

 

I am drawn to musicians that are artists, that show consideration, that are willing to blow the formulas out of the water and take risks for the sake of creativity. I love music that feels as if everything in it has a role to play. I love a live performance that just clicks. It doesn’t matter if the audience is three people or thirty thousand. Tonight showed that intimacy can be achieved… But you have to be bloody good!


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I’ve been having a bit of a rant (I know! SO unlike me!)

And my friend Nicki, mentioned in a previous post said I should blog it. I am no fool. I know she said this just to shut me up and get me off her back.

 

We were talking about me doing life drawing. I do life drawing every week, there are a few on my web page, and I’ve sold a few over the years. But for every decent one, there are probably a few hundred really crappy ones. You cannot let this stop you doing it, because stopping just makes it worse. How can you do something good if you never pick up a pencil and risk doing something rubbish? So I plod on, and I don’t know that I’m getting any better at it, but I’m not getting any worse, and occasionally I look at a drawing and say “Bloody hell! where did that one come from?”

 

BUT… what Nicki and I were talking about was writers’ or artists’ block. I said I didn’t think it existed. Because you just have to DO SOMETHING… write…. draw…. sing…. whatever… IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE GOOD! (I think what I actually said was “get over yourself, get up off your fat arse and do something!) Judgement of quality is a completely different process, and you cannot judge the quality of something that does not exist!

 

Every pencil line/note/photograph/word/brush stroke/pile of litter has potential.

 

I have in the past got really irritated with students who moan they can’t draw. I usually ask them how often they draw, and without fail they say either “never”, or “not very often”, or “only when you tell me to”. Now…. I can’t play the violin. But I never moan about not being able to play the violin, because I have never tried. (I’m not saying that all artists should draw, it’s not all about that…. drawing isn’t necessary, and is a different discipline, but that is perhaps a different rant)

You have to actually do something. I cannot help a student who produces nothing. I can help a student who says they are having difficulty thinking about something, and brings me a pile of newspaper cuttings, photos, colour palettes, a list of odd words, a recording of strangers talking at the bus stop…even the contents of their pockets. We have something to talk about.

(I’ve come back in to edit this…well expressed thoughts are products… I don’t need a thing on a table, but something has to start us off)

 

I think my own art school training has much to do with this. We had a crit every week, and we were expected to show a week’s worth of something… anything.

 

When you get used to this process, you lose a certain amount of embarrassment and inhibition. I have dived into the songwriting circle, with a great deal of trepidation about my shortcomings as a non-musician and so on… there’s a huge list of stuff I can’t do and don’t know. But life is short, too short to spend it quivering on the edge.

 

So… writers block only exists in your head… making judgement on something that doesn’t exist is a waste of time!

Artists’ block – nonsense! If I do a pile of 300 crappy drawings, I’m still an artist, and occasionally, when I pick one out of the pile that’s REALLY good, and someone buys it… it’s all worthwhile.

And if I’m stitching, and have no clue where I’m going, I keep going anyway, the actual process of making helps the thinking.

 

If you can’t think of what to write or make, write or make something that isn’t of your own creation… sing someone else’s song, draw the cheese grater, knit a tea-cosy to someone else’s pattern. I can pretty much guarantee that your eyes, ears, hands will take over and you will find yourself inventing the harmony, adjusting the pattern, or giving the grater a different handle, and drawing the cheese that’s in your head.

 

All you need is a starting point.

Rant over.

(Perhaps I should say, all I need is a starting point. I am willing to be argued with here. Far be it from me to judge…..)

 


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It’s one of those days that just doesn’t get light.

I imagine these only happen where we are in the middle of the Black Country, I know it’s not true, but it fits with the tale. We are in the middle of this island, as far from the sea as we can be, and at this time of year, as far it seems, from the light as we can be too.

I am cold.

And instead of doing some sort of activity that will get me moving and warm me up, I too become an island. My outlying regions see the light, but most of me doesn’t as I hunch over first my sewing, now my computer, and later my sewing again.The centre of my being is a shape filled with concentration, like that focus of light in the history paintings that says “Look at this bit, this is where it’s all going on!”

I feel grimly romantic. My needle threaded with sparkly lengths stabbing the old derelict underwear in my hands. There is the darkness of this once-black garment, oddly, the fact that it is no longer black, makes it seem darker. And here I am, forlornly cheering it up with twinkle. Optimistic, but resigned to the truth. It’s knackered and no amount of sparkle will make it otherwise. It is clinging on… or rather… she is clinging on…

I’m clinging on too… I’ve had a new haircut, and bits of it have been dyed purple. Or Aubergine, I was told. Aubergine seems overly cheery, fancy, putting on airs and graces it hasn’t got. But it’s too late, even if I call it purple, it still smacks of middle aged woman clinging on.

 


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I don’t often go to work these days. By go to work, I mean arrive at a certain place by a certain time and stay as long as someone else expects me to. This doesn’t mean I’m not happy to do it. Indeed the work I’m turning out for today is part of the “get a cheap studio” deal. So I am absolutely happy to do it. But the day has a different feel about it. First off -I set the alarm. I hate being late. I am the person that will sit reading in the car park for an hour rather than be late. So alarm is set, I have an early night but spend the whole night waking every couple of hours thinking “the alarm will go off in a minute”. My sleep pattern is so much better since I stopped having to set an alarm most days. I also set out the clothes I am going to wear in the morning before I go to bed. This is ridiculous as I’m not exactly an elegant woman, I am a jeans and jumper and converse or boots sort of woman. Nor do I possess a lot of clothes, there aren’t that many decisions to make, especially when you take into account my colour coordinated laundry programme. All the red and purple stuff is waiting to be washed, so that’s not on the list of possibles. But even so, I’m not a “morning person” so indecision overwhelms me and the choice between green or navy t shirt under blue or slightly darker blue jumper becomes impossible. So, clothes laid out, alarm set, I can go to sleep. Ish. I could mention here that at the moment we have a small mouse problem in the loft above the bedroom. Thankfully all my fabric stash is in well sealed plastic boxes. But my husband’s 40 year collection of Walsall Football Club programmes is perilously exposed to nocturnal nibblings. We have set traps and poison but the little bastard still eludes us. We are contemplating a shot gun, from the bed, at regular intervals. It is only the prospect of the aforementioned fabric stash crashing down on our heads that stops us.

So this morning, here I am sat, an hour before I need to go, dressed in the pre-arranged clothes, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, make-up on. I feel bleary, not at all alert.

 

Contrast this to my usual pattern: I go to bed when I’m tired which is generally between 12:30 and 2 am. I love that quiet time (when all I can hear is the sodding mouse). I sleep now, about 6 or 7 hours. When I had the proper job it was rare I got more than 3 or 4. I sometimes get up straight away or sometimes I read in bed for a while. I get up when I feel like it, and eat my crumpets while I read emails and check out Facebook etc. I drink a bit of tea, and generally finish the mug! By this time I do feel alert and ideas for the day have started to push through the fog. Then I will gather my things together and go to the studio for a few hours and work and play to my own direction, coming home when my brain has stopped.

Through these relatively recent habit developments I believe I have rendered myself totally unemployable.

And this makes me completely content.

And this makes me completely broke.


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