Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 70: I’ve been thinking.....

In an idle moment with, apparently, nothing better to do with my time, I wondered who might be the most significant bands or groups (popular music) of the last fifty years? I don’t know what prompted me to ask this question of myself, but once the seed was sown, it was only a matter of seconds before I had a botannical garden of rapacious thought going on in my head.

Whilst popular music has always been (dare I say it) “popular”, it’s really since about 1960 and a few years before, that commercialisation, financial imperatives, technological advances in broadcasting and recorded music production have made it such a huge part of modern-day culture.

And what do I mean by “significant”? For me it’s a combination of impact on the world of popular music, critical acclaim and reverberations through the world in general; if a band/group is hitting two out of three of those criteria, if not all three, then that made them a candidate for my list.

Who's on my list? In no particular order:

The Rolling Stones
The Beatles
The Beach Boys
The Doors
Led Zeppelin
The Bee Gees
The Sex Pistols

Now, I must stress that my list has already been the subject of contention and fierce debate in my circle of friends and accquaintances. Let me add that these are not my “favourite” bands, nor are they necessarily the “best” bands or the most “seminal” of artists, they are just those that I think (following my aforementioned criteria) have been the most significant. If it were down to my taste, I’d have The Clash over The Sex Pistols any day of the week. I’m also of a half-generation that kind of missed the Nirvana thing and my iPod is certainly not chockablock with tracks by Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frida (although I do confess to having downloaded SOS and The Winner Takes It All [the worst lyrics in the world]). As an aside, do you know that the word “Abba” is a New Testament term for “God the father”?

Yes, you’ll be thinking of others for inclusion - Bob Marley & The Wailers I categorise as ‘single artist’ as I do Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - but whilst you’re mulling over your own selection and considering their worthiness, think on this: who would you remove from my list to make way for your inclusion?

Don’t even think about offering up Dire Straits, Queen or The Police. Yes, I accept that the “electronic” movement is under-represented, but again, who are you getting rid of to make way for....well, who? So many bands are credentialed up to the hilt to be worthy of inclusion - New Order, Cream, Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, The Jacksons/Jackson Five, Talking Heads - but again, who would be jettisoned to make way?

I’ve been sitting on this list for a few months now, as I have the single artist’s Top 10 and the more I think about the list, the more I think about my choices, the more I that I agree with myself!

Day #70 Tip: Time to think
Anthony Johsen (AJ) is a drumming friend of mine who has had a number of incarnations in many bands, including being a founder member of the successful two-piece outfit The Mess Hall. AJ is also a member of the sacred fraternity of screenwriters and, amongst other things, once said something about writing, and thinking, that has stuck with me.

What he said was this or something like this: “what writers need more than anything, our most precious asset or commodity, is time to think.” AJ may well correct me on exactly what he said or may not recall that he said it, but I’m crediting him because it rang loud and clear when he said it to me.

He’s right. When I’m chasing, hunting, tracking down funds to develop my next screenplay, what I’m really buying is not hours at the keyboard of this computer, but the commodity of time and space to let thought and ideas percolate. My best writing is not done when I sit staring at the screen until my eyes bleed, often my most imaginative work is done when I’m walking from my apartment to the city, swimming laps in the pool or some other activity is, as often as not, physical and repetitious. Action frees my mind to do what it can do best...roam, explore, imagine, come up with “what-if’s”.

It’s essential that I carry something to write on and something to write with. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve been walking and a cracker of an idea pops into my head, which I think I’ll jot down when I get home or get to where I’m going. Do you think that I can even remember that I had a thought, let alone recall what it was, when I get to my destination? I might have a prayer of a chance if there’s only one thought, but give me two or more and I might just as well raise the white flag the moment the thought comes to me. If I am dumb enough to not heed my own advice, I’ve always got my phone so I can send a text to me or voice-record a message.

As the three-month mark approaches, I’m dragging things back to the Index Cards that I’ve been working on for the last 70 days (just over twenty more to go), they being the ideal writing medium to facilitate the thinking process that I’ve mentioned here. No longhand, long-winded explanations required, just a nifty idea for a moment in my screenplay.

The list of bands, however, is jotted down in the back of my trusty Moleskin. To finish, let me invoke super-Swedes from their album Souper Trouper and some of their written-word eloquency “I’ve played all my cards and that’s what you’ve done too, nothing more to say, no more ace to play.” Do you now see why they’re in my Top 10?!

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