Plinky.com asked me to describe a recent “Aha!” moment and what sparked it.
Well, I always enjoy listening to Morten Harket sing (such divine cheekbones), so I was surprised when I heard Delays version of ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’…
I’ll let you go googling that if you don’t get the references straight away.
But as for my own Aha moments – which seem to come fast and furious most days – I’ll relate one that pertains to my subconscious.
When I finished writing ‘Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies?’ it contained a scene where the main character, Ray, wrote a note containing the words:
“… She’s the other half of my sky…”
This statement, which had arrived fully formed as I typed it, hit me so hard that I used it in the novel’s dedication to my wife, Jane, who truly is the other half of my sky.
It seemed romantic and full and every other word to describe the love which I feel for my beautiful other half.
Sparrows was published. People enjoyed reading it. I never heard anyone comment on the dedication, or the note that Ray had written in the late stages of the story.
Fast forward, 6 years later and I’m going through my own transformation, realizing among many other things that John Lennon spoke a lot of fundamental truths:
All you need is love, love is all you need
War is over, if you want it
Imagine… well, all of that song
And at some point I downloaded a John Lennon retrospective, greatest hits post-Beatles and then some, and went on something of binge
[which I’m currently doing with Rush – much, much under-rated]
I should perhaps explain, or at least summarise, my relationship with The Beatles. I hit teenage years on the crest of New Wave, riding out of the punk years. My musical world in the early 80s was synth-alternative, alt-rock as well as the new wave acts still riding high. My first purchased single was Ian Dury and The Blockheads ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ alongside ‘Jilted John’ by… well… Jilted John (in the same shopping trip I also bought the Doctor Who theme by, I believe, The TimeLords). Adam and the Ants were a particular fave – borne out recently when I went back to ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ and ‘Prince Charming’
[ridicule is nothing to be scared of]
Yet, even as new romanticism coloured the horizon all shades of purple, green and gold, my teachers were bashing us over the heads with ‘hippy music’ – The Eagles, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and, of course, The Beatles. These hand-me-down musical heroes; my only choice was rebellion
[though I do recall that ‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’ by Pink Floyd struck a chord; as it still does to this day]
and I mentally labelled all that stuff as ‘good music but, like, sooooo yesterday’
[truth be told though, I wasn’t from California, so it didn’t sound like I just wrote it]
In fact, I think that experience led to a lifelong aversion to acts that – to quote Lennon again – were labelled as ‘Bigger than Jesus’. Springsteen, U2, Michael Jackson… I always had an aversion to musicians who were elevated beyond their status as story-tellers in song
[interestingly, I now enjoy Springsteen’s story-telling, U2’s epic emotional grandeur, and Michael Jackson’s uncanny knack for the hook to end all hooks – I still disagree that any of them are infallible]
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy them, it’s just that I didn’t like the narrative that others had placed upon these artists’ shoulders.
And so it was that I had ignored John Lennon. Well, more accurately, I’d enjoyed his music in passing, got the high level messages and all, but hadn’t really listened.
‘Love’ made me cry – and I’ll definitely be adding it to my solo set-list.
‘God’ helped me understand my atheism, and the centre of self.
‘Beautiful Boy’ helped me welcome the depth, and ache, of my love for my kids.
‘Woman is the n***** of the World’… well… it’s just such a clean statement of where most of the world is at
And, of course, ‘Imagine’ stood out there as the clearest expression of connection and love and all the stuff that 24-hour cable news and myopic politicians would have us believe is impossible.
Maybe I just needed to age enough to understand. But I don’t think that’s it. I needed to travel far enough in my own skin to get beyond received wisdom from teachers, elders and supposed betters. Maybe both of those things are the same thing after all.
At some point of that journey though, I caught John’s whisper at the beginning of ‘Woman’, a song focused on his love for Yoko
[so wrongly vilified for the break-up of The Beatles, when all she was doing was mid-wifing the next stage of John’s life]
Whispered quietly under the intro:
“You’re the other half of my sky”
What I had considered my own unique inspiration was there in virtual vinyl for all to hear.
When I was writing ‘Sparrows’, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to recall hearing it before. When I heard it now, I was shocked to find it there. Yet, of course I’d heard it when ‘Woman’ was released, 20 years earlier, in 1980 in the UK. Of course. But I didn’t draw on a conscious memory when I’d been writing ‘Sparrows’, that I can guarantee. Either a) John Lennon’s emotion was buried somewhere in my sub-conscious; or b) I’d reached a maturity in my relationship with Jane to be able to feel similar to what John had felt for Yoko at that moment.
[and, boy-oh-boy, hadn’t I been having the very devil of a year when writing ‘Sparrows’ – http://vincet.net/2010/12/06/memento-2001-my-own-time-and-space-oddity/ – maybe my own equivalent of John’s ‘lost weekend’]
Whichever, I’m happy to stand by my written word and the sentiment expressed. Jane is the other half of my sky, and I’m happy to have found/used words that John Lennon had used to describe his own love.
Still, it was a surprise to find evidence of the subconscious
[upon which all we artists draw]
at work in my own work.
And that, my friends, is just one of my recent ‘Aha!’ moments.
“Yes is the answer” – John Lennon
“For Jane, the other half of my sky” – Vincent Tuckwood