Me and the music and the writing, we are linked, we are circular. Each feeds into the other. My mind is always full of both. I often feel that music should be constantly with me, and when I was a kid, I tried to make this so. Music in my bedroom, music in the kitchen where I used to sit next to the radio to write my stories, and music in my head. I still recall the agony of dying batteries in a Walkman. My favourite song whining slowly to a halt. Rummaging through the junk drawer in the hope that the loose batteries rolling around at the bottom would fit, and have enough juice left to keep the songs going.
When I look back at my writing, music has always been there too. Often without me knowing, it has shaped and influenced my writing, as well as who I am. When I was fourteen I wrote a book about a boy living in 1960’s America, during the Vietnam War. There is no doubt in my mind that my love of sixties music influenced me to write this particular story, and the songs and bands I had fallen in love with, are dotted throughout the manuscript. In my head, the book was in fact a movie, with an awesome soundtrack. Songs like All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane and Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones all had their place. I had songs for fight scenes. I had songs for when the gang were running from the cops. I had druggy songs, and hippy songs, and I had Thank You For The Days by The Kinks, In My Life by The Beatles, and Catch The Wind by Donavan. In my head I could see it all and hear it all and it was perfect.
When I look back, I see everything in terms of what music was there for me. I remember buying a Bob Dylan cassette from HMV when I was about twelve. I used to write the lyrics inside my diaries and my school books. I even used to scrawl lyrics that meant something to me onto the surface of my desk at school with a compass. I remember a friend I was slightly in awe of playing me Guns ‘N’ Roses, and watching the videos for Welcome To The Jungle and You Could Be Mine on MTV at her house. I felt like an outsider peering in. It was something; but it wasn’t mine.
When I first saw the video to Smells Like Teen Spirit I thought Kurt Cobain was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. It was something I did not really understand. I bought the single on 7 inch vinyl from my local supermarket and played it as loud as I dared in my room. When I was sixteen Britpop exploded and I found something all mine. When I rewrote The Boy With The Thorn In His Side twenty years after it was first penned, I went back and made Danny’s journey through music my own. From Guns ‘N’ Roses to Nirvana, from the sixties to the nineties, with The Smiths and The Clash in between. It was my soundtrack and I am still adding to it.
Whatever music I am into most at the time, seems to seep into my writing. I had written a significant first draft of This Is Nowhere whilst listening to a lot of Neil Young vinyl. It suddenly seemed to make perfect sense that Jake’s mysterious mother Kate would have loved his music too. At the moment I am listening to a lot of Frank Turner. I have not made my latest protagonist Elliot Pie, a mad music fan, but I am curious to know how this phase will influence his character and the book.
The music has always been with me. I can’t go long without it. I can’t bear the silence or the hollowness that sometimes creeps in. A tight stomach is alleviated by jangling guitars. A worried mind unburdened by pounding drums, building up and up and up and up. The right chords, the right words, the right order, tingling down my spine, making me smile even when I really don’t want to. Music makes you move, it makes you remember how to breathe. It lifts your mood, sets you free, makes you remember you are alive and that great and beautiful things can happen.
When I was a kid I used to lie on my bedroom floor with the speakers on either side of my head. I was trying to locate every part of the song. I was trying to take it apart, understand every piece of it. I was trying to distinguish which instruments came in where, and I could never really understand it, and I still can’t, but I am still listening.
I still insist on loud music in the car. I search the CD collection before I leave the house, seeking out whatever my mood demands. The radio is on all day. Old music brings back a thousand memories. New music opens up possibilities. Makes me feel jealous of the young. If I am down sometimes I want to wallow in it, I want Creep and Fake Plastic Trees and Motorcycle Emptiness, and if I am angry I might want to stay angry, I might want Postively 4th Street or Karma Police or anything by The Smiths. If I want to be lifted up, if I want to feel instantly positive, I turn to The Stone Roses and Oasis. She Bangs The Drums and I can’t stop smiling and drumming. I Am The Resurrection as loud as can be with no interruptions, otherwise I have to go back to the start and try it again. It can’t be messed up. Gotta hear it all. Live Forever is my favourite song in the world, quite possibly. It’s simple and it’s basic but it’s got everything I need. It gets me right there. It says it all. I just wanna’ fly…
Nearly all of my writing has music in it somewhere. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side is a dark and hard hitting story, but is lifted up by Danny’s love for music. He gets to do what I have always wanted; work in a record shop. In The Mess Of Me Joe runs drugs for his brothers in order to save up for a drum kit. In the sequel he will have formed his band and be trying to get noticed.
Music helps me write. It gets the juices flowing. Lyrics inspire stories and invoke characters inside my head. I imagine that all my characters have a soundtrack; music that defines their life and their story. Songs that are all theirs. Songs they sung when they were sad and lost, songs that gave them hope and guts when they needed it most, songs they fell in love to, songs they had their first kiss to…
Me and the music, tapping away. I remember when I was nineteen, and I hadn’t gone to University like I’d planned, and I had a shit job cleaning offices, and my mother had this terrible man living with her, and all my friends had left and gone to Uni, and everything was over, everything was standing still. I remember drinking every night, alone in my room, just me and the music and my trusty old word processor. All I needed was a constant supply of CD’s and paper. I wrote non-stop, all through the night. I wrote whatever came into my head, streams of consciousness and near unconsciousness. I felt like if the music ever stopped then I would die. The music kept the words coming, one after the other, rushing out of me, releasing me from anger and disgust and fear of the future and the whole world. I could make sense of it; or at least keep the worst fear at bay, if I just kept writing, just kept listening to guitars and drums and lyrics.
Now I walk around and I don’t often like the sound of the world. I want to tape a soundtrack over it all. Life is much cooler if you are constantly singing along. If there are constantly words inside your head.
Sometimes I get a nervous feeling in my stomach and for a moment or two, I don’t know why. I can’t work it out. There is nothing to be nervous about. I am not about to do anything scary or important. But the feeling is there nonetheless. It’s like a breath I cannot take. Like the next move has been prevented and I’m stuck. It’s not horrible, or terrible, but it is strange and comes at any time, following me about my life, sudden tightness, sudden urge to take a deep long breath and try again.The other day I finally worked out what it is. It’s my stomach nose-diving, lurching, crunching up small, and its because its wondering what song comes next. What part of life is about to unfold.
Songs are stories. Songs are full of people. Songs are full of love, and fear, and regret and confusion and pure, relentless joy. My writing needs them all. The desperate ones, the depressing ones, the uplifting ones, the soul destroying ones, the ones that shine… They all help me write.
“I’d hear a song, and it would cause this utterly jolting and physical reaction inside of me. It would take me over and it would take me somewhere else. Set all kinds of things off inside of me. Some songs, they drag you down with them, they take your hand very gently and ease you out of the sunshine. They want you to feel their pain, and they want the shivers to run through you as all your hairs stand on end.And then there are the songs that set your hair on fire, and I mean, they fill you up with indescribably joyous energy, the kind that makes you believe you will live forever. Primal Scream’s Movin’ On Up was one of those for me during that time. When I heard that, or sung along to that at Chaos, my heart was exploding with hope, let me tell you, my body felt like it had wings, my soul knew that nothing bad could ever happen to any of us, ever again. Music can do that you know.” – Danny, “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Boy-Thorn-His-Side-ebook/dp/B00W8DLGKA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1431972783&sr=1-1&keywords=the+boy+with+the+thorn+in+his+side