Jez's Blog

The Strange Story of How I Found a New Band

A Salute to My Influences

Celebrating Our Differences

Daring to Use the Four-Letter Word

What Is The Real Olympian Spirit?

Watching The Olympics Opening Ceremony

How Good Service Turned into a Speed Trip

Blurring the Line Between Fact and Fiction

How Creativity Keeps Moving On

How an Artist in the Kitchen Revealed my Inner 'Foody'

Synchronicity - an Everyday Sort of Magic

Does This Make You Laugh?

The Magic of Storytelling

How Good Design Serves the User

Learning to Love Creative Blocks

Creating The CLUB

How a Kiss Missed Its Target at a Posh Do

How Bob Dylan refused the Box labelled ‘Protest Singer’

The ‘Get Back in Your Box’ Syndrome

What’s all the fuss about?

Reflections on Learning and Teaching

The Third in my Triptych of Entries about Thought

Happily disconnected in Cornwall

The Best Way to Sell is to Do Something Well

Life is Good

Zen & the Art of Birdwatching

How Creativity Keeps Moving On


'It’s Jez from The Jackals blues band; we’re booked to play your pub next month, I’m sorry to let you down but…’ This cancellation is not such a big deal for the venue I’m calling - there are plenty of bands who will be delighted to fill our booking - but for me it represents something quite painful and sad. It marks the end of a dream which started five years ago in my brother’s kitchen; the dream I had nurtured since teenage years to start a band. Today, I found out that the gig which we played last month (our thirty sixth) was the last gig we would ever play.


I write one of these blogs a month; I know when it’s about to happen because the subject presents itself to me and the material starts to form in my head. Sometimes, like today, I think ‘No, I don’t want to write about that!’ but once the idea takes hold then I really have no choice. So, in the spirit of good journalism, where you don’t look away just because the story is painful, this blog is about what happens when a dearly held dream collapses and life takes a different course to the one that you had hoped for. The subject may sound depressing, but stick with me, I hope to prove that it doesn’t have to be so.


I started playing guitar when I was about fifteen, inspired by Wilko Johnson, the guitarist in my favourite band Dr Feelgood. Over the years I travelled my own Musical Journey, which took me through the rich history of the blues with detours into jazz and pop but in the end I knew that primal, powerful blues was what I most enjoyed playing. As my musical ability developed, a nagging feeling grew inside that it was rather sad I was the only person to hear me play. One of the functions of creativity is sharing what you love with others so you can touch and inspire them, just as you have been touched and inspired yourself. Wilko Johnson had certainly done that with me and now I wanted, in my own small way, to pass it on. This is how five years ago, with my brother Graham (a drummer and fellow lover of Dr Feelgood) I found myself putting an advert in the local paper. We reasoned that there must be other people out there who enjoy the same music and want to play it for the sheer love of it. It turned out that there were and, after a few auditions, our band and my childhood dream came into existence. (You can read the about our auditions, first gig and other highlights from this musical adventure in Jackals Journal).


Now, five years and thirty-six gigs later, that dream is over. During the past couple of weeks, amid recriminations, disagreements and hurt feelings, the life of the band slowly ebbed away. There was a brief period where it seemed like we could at least limp on and play the remaining booked gigs but old resentments rose up and finally put paid to any hope of resuscitation. I don’t want to over-dramatise this; I know it’s only a band but we invest a lot of energy and care into making dreams such as this come true - indeed they would never get off the ground in the first place if we didn’t. Over those five years I have driven thousands of miles to auditions, gigs and countless rehearsals. I have also spent thousands of pounds on equipment and many frustrating hours on the phone calling and calling back venues trying to get gigs. In its short life the band has found and lost three singers, two drummers (one of whom was my brother) and about seven bassists! This is where you might be expecting me to say ‘and I wouldn’t have missed a second of it’ but that would not be strictly true. Driving seventy miles on a Sunday morning to play a gig on the top of a windy car park in Brighton springs to mind. As we unloaded our gear in front of fifteen people sitting round a burger van on plastic chairs, it dawned on us that this biker rally event had reached its natural conclusion about an hour before we had arrived. This was one moment of many that I would have happily missed but though there were disappointments and disagreements along the way I am still glad I followed this experiment to the end. Why? On careful  reflection I came up with this answer:


A band is the meeting of people; out of that meeting music is created which couldn’t be produced by any member on their own. This can of course be an awful racket, but when it works and the bass, drums, guitar and vocals all come together a kind of magic can happen; something is created which is more than the sum of the parts. To play a role in that aural alchemy and share this music, which I respect and love, with an audience is a thrill and a pleasure that I will never forget.


But as the dust settles and I gradually get used to referring to The Jackals in the past rather than the present tense, I have come to the conclusion that there is a wider issue here too. When we embark on dreams and adventures such as these, we don’t know where they are going to lead us nor how they will affect our lives, but we have been drawn to the journey in the first place because there is something in it for us. It feels like it is something we need or have to do. By doing something fully, and following it wherever we are led, we get the most out of it, even if at times we feel like shouting; ’I didn’t sign up for this!’ Lessons are learnt which perhaps could not have been learnt in any other way. But in the end, everything has its time and if you fight that fact - that’s when you start to suffer unnecessarily. Sometimes life is difficult; all you can do is release any feelings resulting from the experience so that you don’t carry any leftover baggage and then let go gracefully.


At the weekend Rikka and I walked in a much-loved nearby wood and we noticed that some of the old trees had been cut down and were lying on the forest floor. A sign hung on a post explained that these trees had been planted sixty years ago for the purpose of timber cultivation; they had been placed close to each other in order to encourage tall growth. Their upper foliage was now stopping light from reaching younger saplings nearer the forest floor and was stifling their growth. These grand old trees had served their time; their timber would be harvested and their absence would make space in the wood for new growth.


Maybe when some time has passed and I’m a little less bruised I’ll place another advert in a local paper and put all that experience to use. For now, here’s to The Jackals - and my next musical adventure, whatever that might be.


February 2012


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