Blasts from the Past

The Tramp Wayfarer Song Lyric Image

One of the joys of having a number of decades behind you, is each carries a plethora of memories and experiences. One might argue there is something wrong with a psychology if one tends only to remember great experiences in amazing detail, good experiences fairly and, bad? Well, for me the ‘bad’ seem to vaguely linger as lessons to remain appreciated as a learning tool.

There seems nothing in my past that I might have preferred to forget, that tends to float in and out like a nightmarish Groundhog Day. However:

The more I dwell the more I realise there may have been a couple of retained cringeworthy experiences, so I’d best stop it right there or make a liar out of myself …

Stop it, I said …

But really, I loved school with all its highs and lows (I can’t recall the lows but they must have been there), I loved college (ditto), I loved my early years of work; the terrifying first couple of days in a real design studio discovering what I had learned in college was largely ‘not for the real world’ has morphed to a memory of an exhilarating, hit-the-ground-running experience.

Even being retrenched from my first two jobs have been recalled without angst; an appreciation to my then-bosses for opening another door of opportunity – even if that meant the dole for two months.

As memories go mine’s not too bad, apart from short-term which has always proved a bit dodgy – unless it’s business. In that realm I don’t have to write notes to keep track of myriad projects happening concurrently with different briefs, expected outcomes and deadlines while keeping an eye on the washing and bringing it in before the deepening clouds open, and then putting it all back out when the sun returns and straight back to that job with the four o’clock deadline (you got it, I work from a home studio).

Remember to pick up that milk on the way home, though? Fickle, to say the least. I usually remember when I’ve pulled into the garage.

Where was I? That’s right, memories. I had a ‘friend request’ from someone on Facebook a couple of days ago; a classmate from my school days in Tunbridge Wells, England. Several message two-fros brought back names and scenarios that had been blanketed by the dust of time (ooooh, how poetic), brought about by this reacquaintance with … I won’t mention her real name in case she’d prefer I didn’t but for the sake of discretion let’s call her Zuri, because I’ve never met anyone called Zuri and I can’t, surely, put anyone’s nose out of joint by doing so.

Zuri is still in contact with many friends we shared, mostly school experiences, during those younger years, and it was a joy to simply hear the names and put a twelve year old face to them. Teachers too; some were wonderful, character-shaping people whose mentorship will never be forgotten, while others were old-school, cane-weilding diablos – still remembered with appreciation — and the occasional facial tic.

Thank you, Zuri!

My reconnection with Zuri has inspired me to speak about another blast-from-the-past. So, for the sake of this story, let’s call him Nelson.

I don’t quite remember where we met. Perhaps it was year two at Elizabeth Art College? Perhaps through a friend — I can’t recall. What I remember of Nelson was his philosophy on life, the universe and everything; spoken in that mild, refined, Scots accent, his laugh and the fact he thought I was a good muso. Truth was, the seventeen year old Nelson was a great musician, understood the dark arts (could read and write music), and I always considered him a far better player than me.

Nelson and I caught up regularly around that time of our late teens, always with his Hofner Beatle-bass resting on the back seat of his car, just in case the opportunity arose for a jam. I seem to recall it was a Beatle bass and hope my memory serves correctly. If not, then let it be (let it be, let it be). Nelson had a wonderful turn of phrase, and I always found his lyric-writing enigmatically inspiring, considering in my younger years every attempt at writing words would end up ‘nothing but net’.*

*As in basketball: aka binned.

Nelson would often come to my band’s gigs; not my band if you know what I mean, and offer inspiration from behind the amps while checking out the female followers of the bigger bands we supported in nineteen-seventies South Australia (I could mention them here, but that would be name-dropping). Nelson and I had worked on a couple of songs that never came to fruition because, sadly, we lost touch when I left the band, moved away, got another job that I wasn’t retrenched from and, Nelson? He evidently did the same.

Nelson's Column

Snippets of one of those songs has remained with me for forty years. I occasionally thought of that bass line and my guitar overtone and wondered about my old friend. Just a few months ago I revisited what I recalled and considered writing a song around the memory-hook. I sketched out some lyrics and thought of naming the song ‘Nelson’s Column’ (from the London Landmark, in case anyone wonders) in honour of my friend from yesteryear, but shelved it because of doubts I would do it justice.

You probably have worked out his real name was Nelson, which is a fantastic name and I admit to have been slightly envious as a teenager. Anyway, as he’s not, to my understanding, on social media … no harm done in saying that … right?

But then: Only days after I decided to leave well-enough alone, the phone sounded and I answered:

‘Mick, it’s Nelson.’

And so, forty years later we may just collaborate and get that damn song finished, but I’ll need to change the lyrics or better, handball them to him.