I like music, honest. At the moment, as I write this, I’m listening to the Stones, ‘Paint it Black.’ But I like it in its place, in my ears, not in my head.
This morning I was walking along lane when a cyclist came the other way. I heard him before I saw him because I could hear the music from his earphones.
When he got up to me he stopped, took the earphones out of his ears (without switching the music off) and asked for directions. I explained where he was and the route he had to follow to get to where he wanted to be. He thanked me; put the earphones back into his ears and pedalled off, trailing music behind him.
Funny old world isn’t it. One fine day last year I got the train round to Silecroft and walked up Black Combe. It was a really pleasant morning, the bird song was amazing, and I could stop and see the buzzards spiralling below me.
And at the same time, hammering down the path toward me would come the runners, all with their earphones in, music turned up, oblivious to it all. I mean, why leave the gym?
For some people, music seems to be like soma. They take it and the world disappears and they no longer have to think.
For others, the need to be ‘connected’, to be wired in and constantly in touch almost seems like some sad foreshadowing of netrunner.
Look, just turn off, tune out and jack out. Try the real world for a while. If you’ve got to the stage where you can no longer face the echoing emptiness between your ears, then I’ve got a solution. Read something and let that fill it.
Now there’s nothing wrong with music. I’ve got Sinéad O’Connor singing ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ at the moment. But for me music is more often the white noise I play to ensure that I’m not interrupted when I’m writing. On the other hand music can inspire. I found a video of ‘Paint it Black’ on you tube. The music is backing for a compilation of clips from Vietnam War news footage. As I watched it I was taken back to the days when I used to cycle home from school to watch the retaking of Hue and the crossing of the Perfumed River. As Noel Coward said, ‘Strange how potent cheap music is’.
But as I watched ideas started fermenting. There are stories I can tell, characters I can explore, and this offers a new canvas. So War 2.2 was born.
It’s not Vietnam; it’s Science Fiction and a world and time a long way from here, but the lads lying in the mud hearing the mortars fall probably wouldn’t care. Read it looking for ‘Nam and you’ll be disappointed. Read it looking for the lad with the tired and grimy face half hidden under the helmet then you’ll meet him.
And if you’re the right age, and have the right memories, try and listen to Steve Earle – ‘Johnny Come Lately’ without feeling shivers down your spine.