By Hans Ebert
I was speaking to my ex wife last week- yes, it seems a contradiction in terms- about life and how I have outgrown Hong Kong, the people and the kinda stunted lifestyle now led compared to the Wolf Of Wall Street days when living at 1616, four numbers that stood for anything goes and where everything did. Did we care? We were letting the good times rock and roll and doing cartwheels across the floor.
Today, well today, there’s so much out there one needs a filter to remove the crud and clutter. If not, it’s back to taking in strays. Those days are gone forever. So is taking in every event as a predictable show of support when you know what’s going through your head: What am I doing here? Why is what’s going on more Spinal Tap than Spinal Tap, but without the self deprecating sense of humour.
The ex wife is the only woman I can really talk to openly. The days of me keeping secrets from her is what ended our marriage so, looking at things positively, I am able to share things far easier with her than when stumbling up those 12 steps, looking for my higher power, but, as usual, seldom getting very far.
If not Hong Kong, where would I go, she asked. Probably Sri Lanka, or maybe Singapore, I said, and which I doubt she bought as there was a pronounced hesitation in my answer. What the hell would I do in either place? Learn to live with and accept even more mediocrity? Stare at the beach and mingle with the fishermen in Galle. Start my own cult and have Lithuanian beauties climb trees and crack me some coconuts?
As for Hong Kong, hmmmm. It’s run its course as a full time gig and I refuse to go into free fall because of being around those tuning in on a different channel.
That night, I asked a few friends around. A former girl friend- different to a girlfriend- was in Hong Kong and wanted to cook dinner and meet up with that old gang of mine, some of whom she knew from the time way back when we tried to ignite some fire before realising there was only smoke and two people coming out of the dark of some very destructive relationships where the light at the end of the tunnel was actually an oncoming train.
After dinner and exchanging some pleasantries over a few glasses of wine, guitars were brought out as we tried to create something approaching a jam session. But, as the song says, the pieces didn’t fit. My Hong Kong friends were in lockdown Reminiscent mode whereas my friend from overseas- the UK to be exact- and I wanted to get past the past.
She was always a very good musician, but now, having taken up the looper and able to make her blues harp sing, she was in a different league to those days when we would frequent a certain karaoke lounge in Lan Kwai Fong and sit in with the resident band and sing covers of Eagles and Elton John hits.
She’d changed, I had changed, but circumstances were stopping bringing about real change. She was talking about Youngr and Tash Sultana and other new musicians and my local friends were talking about Don Felder and Clapton. It wasn’t so much a generation gap, but a failure to communicate through music.
The music of Eric Clapton, especially, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin etc is what started the ball rolling for many of us, but, at least to me, theirs is iconic music that should not be touched and cheapened by becoming weak kneed dreckola and bad copycat karaoke. But that’s wishful thinking.
Not all audiences are that discerning when it comes to music. They have a buffet mentality and as long as there’s some seafood that’s not even fresh, it’s fine. It’s acceptable to them as most haven’t grown up or around music and so they listen to every tedious solo and clap like trained seals.
Like no one except Lennon should sing “Imagine” no one except the Eagles should copycat their way through “Hotel California” no matter how well they might be able to play the guitar solos. What’s the fucking point? It’s cheese. But if making a living for some and this is as good as it gets and it pays the rent, that’s life. It’s just not for me. Never has been.
After an hour, one just knows if, musically, there’s anything going on when jamming.This night, there was nothing going on except for uncomfortable politeness.
I thought about what I had spoken to my ex wife about- how I had outgrown Hong Kong- and what brought about a greater sense of clarity was the realisation that without creative company travelling on your wavelength, there’s nothing going on. There’s a void. It’s like knowing the love is gone but still trying to hold on to what’s not there.
After saying Goodnight to our friends, I showed her mine and she showed me hers- our new songs. I’m hardly a great guitarist, but she knew that I know my way around writing a song- the importance of the story, the chords, the rhymes and rhythms dancing in my head and those two particular chords that can lead to a hundred different songs.
She took the bare bones to what I was trying to say and turned them around into nothing I could have imagined. It was give and take and enjoying building something unique- not “like” this or that, but music without labels or boundaries. It might not have been Talking Heads, the Beatles or even N.E.R.D, but the pieces fit for us. It was real, because instead of looking for beats and sounds and creating some unoriginal flambé, she was actually playing guitar- a real instrument- and not taking shortcuts. It wasn’t more Spinal Tap.
With the basic melody down, we decided to listen to the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Carole King, James Taylor, Clapton, who’s aged so well singing standards and going back to appreciate Fleetwood Mac in all their incarnations.
The Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks period was our favourite as here were two musicians who had once been together and who’ll probably be in love despite being with others writing about their relationship.
As Billy Joel sang, there’s nothing like Honesty. And I really doubt that social media is keeping music and musicians new to the game honest. Where it’s going wrong is the time spent on what could be called “fake fame”- a couple of likes and comments by those who really don’t matter and views, and with either not much thought put into crafting songs, or, the inability to do this well and which could end up being lost amongst the clutter.
That’s when we had a Eureka moment in this day and age of Spotify playlists. Sharing this right now would be bad timing. But having the right person or people with whom one can connect to keep creating can make wherever one lives bearable.
It’s when knowing one is settling for second best, but still going there and getting lost amongst the clutter of those who have not travelled nor experienced both sides now is when resignation takes over and Spinal Tap comes into being.
#SpinalTap #LanKwaiFong #EricClapton #Hendrix #LedZeppelin #EltonJohn #CaroleKing #JamesTaylor