Friday, 21 December 2012
When I was about 14 my Mum & Dad bought an upright piano. Not for me, you understand, but for one of my younger brothers, Phil. His music teacher said he had a real talent and an ear for music. Phil went for proper Grade lessons but hated it. You see, he didn't need the formality of it. He just wanted to play. And, boy, could he play. New Elton John song? Two listens. Nailed. He is just an wonderfully talented musician. Great guitarist, piano player, makes you sick! Anyway, this story isn't about him. By the time I was 16 and doing O Levels, we'd had said piano a couple of years. I got to going home if I didn't have a lesson on the odd afternoon, a two mile walk. One day, I turned into the drive and heard the piano. I remember stopping. Phil is 2 years younger than me, so he was still at school. Martin, 2 years younger still, was also a talented player (became a pro-songwriter) but he was also at school. I let myself into the house, quietly. The door to the room where the piano lived was slightly ajar. I listened as this beautiful piece of music drifted out of the room and filled the house. I knew the piece. Dad had it on an album and played the record frequently. I leaned close to the door and peeked a look. Mum was in a trance, eyed closed, as she delicately played the gorgeous music. She had no sheet music and wasn't even looking at the keys. I stood in the hallway for a minute and then quietly let myself back out of the house. I didn't tell her for 30 years. You see, she'd never let on that she could play. Not once. When Dad died and she moved to a smaller, chocolate-box cottage, she took the piano, "so that the boys can play when they come to visit." It was then, quietly, when we were alone, that I told her. She smiled. "Our secret, eh?" Yesterday, someone I follow on This Is My Jam and Twitter, AndyMack, posted the piece of music that Mum was playing as his Jam for the week. It caught me unawares. Actually, that's not true. It has never failed to catch me unawares, ever since that day. I weep everytime I hear it. Mum died nearly six years ago, but that's not why I weep. The music is beautiful and the fact that she kept her talent from us is so typical of a woman who gave up being a nurse to raise 6 kids and be a mother until her beloved husband died at 55. After that, once we were all grown, she travelled, had her own radio show, went hot air ballooning in Oz, sand belly-boarding and, near the end, took herself off to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley 'to see all the places in The John Wayne films.' So, thanks to Andy, and I'm raising a big fat glass of red to Betty Brannigan, my Mum. The music she was playing? Debussy's Au Clair De La Lune.
Sunday, 9 December 2012
I love great singers. I love singers who have pain and loss and soul in their voice. I have a Famous Five of great, British voices. Paul Rodgers of Free & Bad Company heads the list which is, of course, indisputable. The other 4, in time-honoured no particular order, are Frankie Miller, James Dewar, Jess Roden and Peter Cox. If you don't know them, go look them up. The first four are rooted in the 70's. Peter Cox is from the 80's but is still touring and making new music. I have loved his voice since Go West's 'We Close Our Eyes.' I own everything he has ever done. We go and see Go West at every opportunity. Peter has made a new solo album, Riding The Blinds, via Pledge Music. This where the audience pay for the album to be made by buying various gifts and experiences. I bought 2 VIP passes to the sound check at a gig on the tour. It was last night and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives. He was just the nicest bloke you could want to meet. We got to spend 90 minutes with him and his band. After the gig he signed a copy of the set-list for us. As we were leaving I was gripped by the urge to tell him what he meant to me. So, I told him about The Famous Five. He nodded when I said that Paul Rodgers was number one but said he was amazed to be linked with Jimmy Dewar. We nattered about those early Robin Trower albums and then we left. This morning he tweeted me, thanking me for my comment, for putting him in a list with four of his heroes, and hashtagged the tweak #humbled. As I said, you couldn't wish to meet a nicer bloke.