I left Bristol and headed up to North Wales where most of my family had decamped to whilst I’d been in London and Bristol.
My personal life had gone to hell in a handcart and I needed somewhere to get some sanity back into my life. That wasn’t easy, or quick. In fact it was very difficult and took a lot of time.
One of the few things that kept me sane was playing music. I bought a large Aiwa music system that played CDs and cassette tapes and set about multi-tracking my songs like I’d done in Bristol. There’s an old adage in music that bad times make for the best songs. I can certainly vouch for that. I wrote a lot of songs quickly and consigned them to cassettes, multi-tracking them to make them sound fuller.
As usual I didn’t have any outlet for these songs. I didn’t record them in any professional way and I didn’t perform them to anyone, they were just my little stabs at holding onto my sanity. And for that I will always be eternally grateful to them.
Listening to them now I remember how and why each one came about, what the combination of lyrics and melody meant to me at the time and how, collectively, they became so important in helping to turn my life around. I was to return to this haven nearly thirty years later when I suffered the greatest trauma of my life, but more of that later.
It’s possible that many songwriters use their craft to aid them during difficult times, I certainly know of many who have done so. For example, one album that I return to again and again is Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan. I like a lot of Dylan’s work but I’m far from being an afficionado, but I understand that Blood On The Tracks was his response, or probably release, to the breakup of his marriage. The album is littered with references to the breakup and positive and negative observations as he works through his own trauma.
I had bought the album many years before whilst I was living in London but as I grew both older and went through my own pains it resonated more and more.
For me writing and playing my songs in my new home helped me enormously, it helped me both verbalise what I was going through and to find some kind of outlet to it. I really don’t know what people who don’t play music do in times of personal trouble but I can certainly recommend playing music as a therapy.
Part of that personal therapy was the eventual realisation that some of the songs I was writing, indeed some of the songs I’d written some time before, were actually quite good, even if I do say so myself. I began to realise that whether the rest of the world shared my opinion or not I had confidence and belief in what I was able to create. I began to realise that this really was something I could do reasonably well.
As I began to heal or at least learn to live my situation the confidence in my music grew. I only had access to the same old 12 string with 6 strings guitar I had bought when I was at school. I had no other instruments and no other recording equipment than my twin cassette decks but the songs I had begun to create where generally of a good standard even if I was still far from prolific in the number of songs I wrote.
And then Christine came into my life, where she would be for the next 23 years. One of the first things I gave her was a cassette of about 12 of my songs. She was the first person to hear these particular songs and I couldn’t wait to hear what she thought of them. Or more accurately I was terrified to hear what she thought of them.