The greatest story ever told? I said it so I must mean it. Right?
This is something I have said before. Probably in this very space. It is something I believe. And something I have done.
And it goes a little something like this (hit it!):
The Greatest Story Ever Told is based on a band that did not make it. A Band you never heard of, playing songs you never knew.
But what about the coke fueled parties? The difficult second album? Who slept with whose wife / husband / daughter?
What about the grandiose celebrity failure checklist that passes as music journalism?
You see, bad behavior is not exclusively for the rich and famous. We have all done pretty fucked up things.
So for the Coke Fueled Parties, you get a junkie drummer. And that is no party.
Re: the difficult 2nd album, how about trying to get a gig during a pandemic where everyone who was afraid to go outside at all developed genius marketing? (More eloquently, if you cannot go up the Mountain, watch the weather because there may be a time that the Mountain will come down to you).
The assorted affairs? Yes, you need to be rich to do that. Right? (crickets…)
No…these are trappings of success. Right down to the fact that they are reported and cataloged and presented to a generally uninterested World.
No. What I am talking about is Death or Glory.
Or steady work or Glory.
Playing shows for the bartenders only or Glory.
Packing your shit back in the van during a blizzard where no sane soul would even leave their house … or Glory.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred…’
These are matters of faith. You trust your Muse; you weigh your chances and you make your move. And you seek out folks with a similar vibe, a similar desire who can hopefully play an instrument you cannot. When you bring a group together with a single-minded idea of what they want, amazing things can happen. Usually in line with samples sized bites of true disaster. But that’s show biz.
Bands come from everywhere. They can be your long-time friends, or family. They can be friends of friends that you have hung out with some but don’t know them that well. They can be an anonymous donor of rock that you found on whatever acts as Craigs List this century.
And you get tested. And they get tested right along with you. And how you all deal with these tests…is a test.
I have played with people I have not cared for. I know that people who don’t care for me have lined up behind my songwriting. It’s a Devils Deal…. but that doesn’t mean it cannot be successful. Some bands sound is based on the raw anxiety that each individual member has by having having to spend time with the other members. Fact: these are usually my favorite bands.
‘Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die: Into the valley of Death…’
If you have the drive, you push through and a proper line up gets assembled. Though unless they are friends or family, don’t get used to them. You’re not the only one in town selling this dream.
And songs come together. (Note: this whole magilla is related original bands playing a roughly Westernized Pop style. If you play jazz, I have no idea why you are even reading this).
You write songs with a message, and that message does not need to be deep. It does need to have a hook. Something that resonates either melodically or lyrically.
You bring these songs to the collective and everyone adds to the brew. The song that you wrote alone in your bedroom half drunk becomes a clarion call informing the sound of what you do. It is one of the most pleasing parts of the process having a musician kick up an idea that you would never have even considered and its genius. Something subtle, something wholly revelatory. This errant child of your drunk sadness starts to walk upright. And maybe shimmy a bit.
This is Glory. This is why potential is an absolute addiction. You broke your own heart writing this song with real tears and after it goes through the process, you sing it without a care. Cause everyone has a job to do.
So you build songs together, work up the dynamics, the drama with continuous practice, continuous play. A night or two gets picked and that is Jam Night. You all take to the Lab.
It is a secret thing right up until you start selling it.
‘Storm’d at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred…’
The more time you spend with these people form the bond that is necessary to take on the upcoming disappointments. The first being that the more time you spend with these people, you realize that there is oil in the water and always will be. Everybody has a job to do and your current job is keeping your mouth shut.
And how could disappointments not come? This disparate collection of self-involved souls have created a masterpiece out of the ether. The World will tremble. The bars will overflow with milk AND honey when they behold what we created.
Inside the Jam Room, you forget outside the Jam Room. That you can be good, you can be motivated, you can be willing to lay down your life for that Glory. But you are unlucky. And an unlucky zealot is just a dude with an opinion.
‘While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came thro’ the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell …’
And maybe time has passed you by. Maybe you are not in line with what ‘the kids’ are buying. Maybe your just tired.
Its possible, of course. With each victory thwarted by an uncaring World, the stress shows on all of the faces surrounding you.
You press on. A good review versus a bad gig. A drinking problem versus firing your guitarist. The slowly reclining press of a culture that is ceasing to exist at all.
This won’t stop you. It never does. You have something to say. Maybe in the next band.
‘When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wonder’d. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!’