I was watching a film tonight about ethics which posed an interesting question. It went something like this. You are walking past a pond, and in the middle is a small child, stranded, with the child’s parents nowhere to be found. You look down at your shoes and realise you are wearing your new Gucci shoes and have no time to take them off before the child falls deeper into the pond and below the surface. Setting aside the self-indulgent psychopath, most people in this predicament would not think twice about launching themselves into the pond to save the child and ruin their £1000 Gucci shoes.
Yet, if the same person witnessed the same child in hunger or poverty, would they be prepared to contribute £1000 to a charity seeking to tackle said hunger and poverty – would they? A question that opens up the hollow vanity of consumerism.
As we age, face the harsh realities of life, lose loved ones, and perhaps start to contemplate our own mortality, we have choices. We can succumb to the darkness of reactionary impulses, which have built up over the years or not.
I leave an evening with John Lydon early with mixed feelings and knowing we have parted ways. Seeking to unpick Lydon today is not a joyful experience. He has long stopped being the once charismatic leader of two charismatic bands that helped shape my personal musical journey.
Lydon’s abandonment of his class politics, which I know winds a few people up, has little importance to me. However, through his physical gesturing, his mocking of Diane Abbot, the U.K. first black female MP, says far more about his current state of thinking than any words leaving his mouth. It’s mocking straight out of the Trump playbook. It’s not funny and simply gives the impression (rightfully or wrongly) of spitefulness. I do feel a sense of unease.
Lydon’s attempts at personality assassinations are predictable, often crude and dull. Refections of his time with the Pistols are old news, regurgitated stories many would have heard countless times before. His contempt for fellow Pistol’s, especially drummer Paul Cook, are delivered like an unconvincing victim who has woken to the news that nobody really cares 40 years later.
Repeating the word cunt. I genuinely believe Lydon is the last person in the room to understand it’s all wearing thin, but he keeps repeating it, time and time again. It’s silly, tedious even. Recollections of butter adverts he made over a decade ago are told as if recent glories.
By far, the best parts of the evening are when he reflects on those he holds close. His parents, brothers and wife Nora. There is a sense of genuine reflection and encouragement for those dealing with loss or faced with the prospect of losing a loved one through the horrors of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Reflections of growing up in working-class neighbourhoods ring hollow now. There is little conviction behind the words. Just an analogue image of dusty memories, fading and recast into the light through a chipped lens of fake nostalgia and patriotism.
Lydon will always have his core fanbase. Tonight it’s an overwhelmingly white, 50+-year-old, male audience. Nothing wrong with this, of course, though one can hardly ignore the reality, like a ripple in a pond, it’s a case of ever-decreasing circles.
In truth, I’m bored; he starts to end the night by instigating an Abba singalong in memory to Sid Vicious. I’m out of here. The pantomime is over.
Stood, looking half bewildered to the world surrounding his existence, a Pep Guardiola lookalike. Slightly dishevelled, thinner. His nervous twitch holds a thousand transactions with the bottle. Pep anxiously riffles through the loose change in his palm. People flow past him, and like me, are ignorant of his true story. He looks broken.
I order tea. It is quickly dispensed into its disposal cardboard cup, the tea bag hoovers on the surface, “Say when”, the guy says as he pours the milk. “When,” I reply. He lifts his head. We capture one another’s eyes for a millisecond, and a distant sigh reverberates in our collective subconscious.
Stepping from the trailer and gripping the paper cup at its brim, I befriend an aluminium framed seat and its identical table where I place my tea and mobile phone.
25-years since I landed in Bristol. This is the place I have frequented, on and off, over those years. A tea/coffee trailer, adjacent to the Watershed, which also serves a delicious banana and chocolate crepe if you find yourself in the vicinity,
As then, and as now, it’s the perfect place to people watch. We mortals tend not to look up anymore, fixated by our devices. Connected to distance and not our immediate surroundings.
Groups of schoolchildren jostle, call each other names beyond my recognition and brag about things schoolchildren brag about. It’s all posturing, but there is the quiet one struggling to fit in and harvest a sense of belonging. An awkward shyness and sense of inadequacies. Seagulls hanker and cry for crumbs, and a wasp threatens occasionally. A guy in a leather motorcycle jacket on the next table sits back and stretches his legs out. Drawing deeply into his lungs, the cigarette smoke.
A momentary break in the traffic, pedestrian crossing beeps announce a new flow of passer-by. A young lady, early 20s stops abruptly, combes long hair with fingers. Tilts her head slightly to the left, raises her mobile, sucks in her cheeks like a pouting trout and snaps a selfie and walks on.
The Pep Guardiola lookalike is now loitering close to me, picking up random cigarette butts. A message appears on my iPhone 12, advising me to buy a new iPhone 13. I sip my tea, gaze up at the Weathervane, and before I notice, the Pep Guardiola lookalike has vanished.
This website is simply quite beautiful in curation and content. The largest homemade collection of 8mm celluloid film captures both a time, but also people loving life from the defunct German Democratic Republic. Click on the anti-archive link and just get lost in individual stories. This is the link to the full website
Ideas that lay dormant evaporate into the ether of well-meaning intentions (what-ifs). The constraints of the pandemic lockdown also freed up time and space to revisit and explore my long list of what-ifs. Hidden amongst them was the concept of Irregular Patterns, albeit the idea did not have that name. That came much later. I’ve been fortunate, very fortunate, to enjoy a life that has allowed me to work in the creative areas I love. Music and live performance.
Having experienced first-hand the struggles many of my musician mates were facing even before the onset of pandemic lockdowns, given the ongoing imbalance in revenue share from streaming. Even the more experienced musicians came with stories of being ripped off by various business interests from shifty managers, record companies and the constant ask to perform for nothing. The foundations to one of our greatest exports to the world, music, are increasingly threadbare, wallowing in exploitation.
A chance discussion with a local musician, Gavin McClafferty, brought the focus, vision and grit needed to move these ideas from concept to delivery. Irregular Patterns was born, not just a record label but a creative hub formed around the artist. In less than one year, we sit on the brink of IP issuing its first release, developing a roster and release schedule for the remainder of the year. The help, input and encouragement, so far, has been humbling, to say the least. Whatever this journey brings, I will be forever grateful.
I’m not going to repeat what you can access and read here. The manifesto for IP is the foundation. Being the change we want to see in the music industry is our essential, faltering first step. The journey has not been easy; in fact, some obstacles have needed to be knocked down. More importantly, it was the leap of faith, risk-taking, and realisation that we are in the happy business after all.