A second chance?

And the plot gathers pace. And as the pace gathers, so the complications begin. Making a list of people I’d like to have been able to duet with/battle with/trade solos with/thunder along to my tracks with is relatively easy, as, it appears, is persuading them to say yes. Persuasion is the wrong word, perhaps. I ask, they say yes, I’d love to. There’s already a roster of great players, known and unknown, who want to play with Pete1995. And that’s the wierd thing. They’ll be playing with the me of 23 years ago, but being ‘produced’ by the me of now. This is quite odd.
I spent half an hour on the phone with one of these players, Martin Goulding – a fine fine guitarist who was under my tutelage back in the early 90s – and we discussed which tune he would be best suited to playing on, and how we might go about re-arranging it so that we can fit him in. We unanimously plumped for I, Sybarite, and then we came across a slight hitch. For those of you who don’t know me, I was a forthright teacher. I told it as I saw it and my ex-students tend to be the same. Martin points out that the first iteration of the tune’s theme is not absolutely lazer-precise. Martin suggests that we might easily ‘fix’ this, or perhaps re-record parts of the section. The thing about modern hard disc recording set-ups is that they are like word-processors – you can cut and paste, rinse and repeat with absolute precision. This facility means that absolute accuracy is expected of recordings. Sybarite may be an absolute bitch to play, but it turns out I was a little sloppy when I recorded it. The question is, do I fix it? We had a short and very respectful blazing row on the issue. Martin’s point was that it didn’t quite pass muster against modern neo-classical recordings, even though, and I kinda quote, ‘if I were asked to do what you did, and just bang, lay the track down, I’d run away screaming.’
So, the makings of an amusing little dilemma. One part of me says the tune is the king, and it deserves to be presented in the most perfect form possible. The other part of me says this isn’t so much about the tunes as about me. That makes it sound as if this is a vanity project (which, of course, in many ways it is), but the past here informs the present, and must be included as close to how it was as anything else seems disingenuous. So my original parts will remain, as with Cromwell, warts and all.
The second question, of course, is how to re-arrange the tune (and yes, I am aware that this is cheating, but it is justified, I believe, in this instance) to best suit a guest player? That is a complex issue because, of course, the tunes as they stand have an internal logic. We’ll leave that one for another day.
And to end this progress report, I merely note that as Jamie Hunt and I went through the tracks yesterday, we found some other random tunes, including a version of Pinkerton Saves the Day, a piece I originally wrote and recorded in a budweiser-fuelled weekend sat in an airing-cupboard ‘studio’ in Nottingham.
It turns out that when you dig up your past, you are liable to find things you didn’t expect. Memory is unreliable, as we rewrite it every time we recall it. Music is the same in many ways, as we re-contextualise with every listen. When you are confronted by the cold light of individual guitar tracks you can’t remember, context falls by the wayside. But understanding sometimes increases to take its place.
I know I was already beginning to suffer from the performance anxiety that led me to putting down the guitar in 2000, and I know that an unwritten motivation behind the original recording was that I had some sort of record of my playing, such as it was. I was close to quitting then, but was saved by Guitar and Bass magazine, and started writing a monthly column for them. But it appears that some of the problems I was struggling with at the time were in fact early symptoms of Parkinson’s. Symptoms that took another ten years to surface, and thirteen to be recognised.
Parkinson’s is a disease that’s in it for the long haul. You can’t stop it, you can’t out-run it. You don’t get on top of Parkinson’s, it gets on top of you. But when it comes to imagination, to resourcefulness, to downright cheek, there we win hands down. There are many ways to skin a metaphorical cat. And if Parky won’t let me play like I used to play, then I’ll just go back to source, resurrect myself and play with the friends and colleagues I respect and admire. Because that way, I can.

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