I am Driver 67 and I am a one hit wonder.
There, I’ve said it. After 35 years of frustration and embarrassment, my friend John Williams told me last year: get over it; embrace it; use it.
So I started to plan this blog where, each week, I will put up a song and tell you the story behind it.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, BBC4 started replaying the old Top Of The Pops I had appeared on. Suddenly the pressure was on to get the blog out there. I was trending on Twitter, according to the BBC.
So here it is. The Driver 67 Blog.
Some of the songs will be old; most you will never have heard. One a month will be new. Most will be my own, but occasionally I will talk about songs by people I know, or have worked with.
I’m kicking off with a new one, just so you know I’m still capable. Plus, if I’m going to blog about writing and recording songs, I thought I should start with a song that was pretty easy to write. That way it’s easy for me to explain the process.
Also, I imagine that most of the people reading this will be of a certain age and will relate to the lyrics, which is another good reason for kicking off with this particular song. (If you’re not ‘of a certain age’, welcome. I’m flattered!).
Mind you, ‘lyrics’ is pushing the definition a bit. What happened is this. I started to make a list of things that had happened in my lifetime, starting with childhood and working through to the present day. The headline to this blog is something my youngest daughter Lily said when she was about six. I was driving on a motorway and trying to explain there had been no motorways when I was her age, and that I remembered the first car in our street. And that’s when she asked the immortal question: “Daddy, was your childhood in black and white?”
Well, no it wasn’t, obviously. But where I grew up, in Wolverhampton, there were still – in the early 50s – streets lit by gas. One friend even claimed to remember the ‘knocker-upper’, the man whose job it was to extinguish the gas lights as dawn broke and tap on the windows of those whose shift was about to start.
The milk and bread were delivered by horse and cart. (Milk and bread were not the only commodities the horse carried with him. The gardeners in the street, my Uncle Jack among them, would be out in the street, early mornings, waiting with bucket and shovel: if the horse crapped outside your house, that was your manure for the week).
Of course, because of the war, there were no bananas, and television was a totally unknown entity to us. No-one we knew had one. I think I was nine before I even saw a tv, let alone watched it.
So my list started like this:
- – Gaslights
- – Horse and cart
- – No bananas
- – No TV
We were Irish. We were working class. Is the Pope a Catholic? Church was demanded. On Monday mornings, the nuns who taught us would ask each class, “Who didn’t go to Church yesterday?” There was no point lying. Lying about going to Church was a mortal sin. You’d rather suffer the cruelty of the nuns than imagine the Big Black Mark on your Immortal Soul which such a lie would surely cause.
So the list continued:
- – Church on Sunday
- – Nuns on Monday
I looked back on those days, and then looked at the world we live in now – computers, iPads, exploring Mars, instant communication, instant gratification – and I couldn’t help but ask the question:
How did we get from there to here in 60 years?
And, Bingo! There’s the song.
By the way, in case anything I say should sound like a complaint, let me say I LOVE the progress we’ve made in my lifetime. Of course I could moan that no-one’s going to pay me for writing this blog; and that I’m putting music out there for people to listen to for free.
Well, that’s my problem. I still haven’t worked out how to make this free-for-all pay for my life.
But just look at what I’m doing. I’m publishing my thoughts to the entire world. How many will read them is down to me and how clever I can be using Twitter, Facebook, Google etc.
And I’m putting music out there that I’ve recorded, on my own, in a room, in my house. How cool is that? No studios to pay for; no engineer getting in my way; no musicians to pay for; all the time in the world to make my mistakes and no-one else around to make me feel embarrassed by my inadequacy.
So this first song, This Is A Life, is a celebration not a plea for commiseration.
It takes us from gaslit streets to global communication, and simply asks: How did we get from there to here in 60 years?
It also has a couple of significant nods, mostly to Arcade Fire, whose almost retro approach to production and arrangement gave me the confidence to record this song exactly as I wanted to. I imagine seeing AF live today is like seeing Springsteen in the 70s.
Also, Paul McCartney has a song – That Was Me – which is really worth a listen.
And finally, a nod to my friend John Howard, who has shown that it’s possible to write about being older without being maudlin. More of that in a later blog.