A Novel Idea
In my final year of college I also started writing lyrics and other random stuff in a bit of a creative outpouring, due perhaps to the fact that I’d kept my creativity bottled up for so long (or drowned it in a sea of booze might be more accurate) and increasing desperation about what was going to happen when the student safety net was pulled away from beneath my feet. I also made some attempt to record some music to go along with these lyrics, though without any of the skill required for such an enterprise. Also my personal life was in a complete and utter mess at the time due to my own stupidity, but that’s another story.
After full-time education ended, unemployment was inevitable. I had the same attitude as Morrissey towards work “I was looking for a job then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now..” However I suddenly found myself in a serious relationship so had a reason to make a bit of an effort.
In the meantime I decided it would be a good time to write a novel. I spent my days wandering round second-hand bookshops and going to the library, and fixated on Hunter S Thompson. I would see his partner in crime Ralph Steadman’s illustrations everywhere I went – perhaps taunting me about my own childlike drawing skills, though I took it as encouragement to continue on my quest to be a writer.
The novel was to be called the Three Drink Rule, about a borderline alcoholic ex-student who is talked into making a pledge to never have more than three alcoholic drinks – but when he inevitably gives in to temptation, bizarre things happen.. it never quite materialised, though I was to revisit it from time to time, and still think about trying to rewrite it now and again.
STRUGGLING TO PAY THE BILLS AND STAY CREATIVE
After about three months on the breadline I applied for a couple of retail jobs – one in a health food store and one in HMV’s “flagship” music store on Princes St, which had been closed for refurbishment. I got turned down for the health food job and ended up wowing the manager of HMV with my enthusiasm for the Oasis album Definitely Maybe (yeah, I know.. I was young and naïve) though the way he ignored me once i was in the job suggested he later regretted the decision.
After I’d accepted the HMV job, the health food store manager came back and said the job was mine after all, if I wanted it – it was too late though. I wonder how different my life would have turned out if I’d been given that job first, given the people who I met at HMV were to lead to me joining my first band and continuing my heavy drinking habits..
* Note: For more info on this and the various soul-sucking jobs that followed, my recording of the song Columbo & Coffee and my adventures as part of an unpopular comedy band, you’ll have to read my in-depth tale about it called ‘I Was a Swivel Chair’ which I’ll be republishing on this blog soon.
During the Edinburgh Festival that year I managed to get some ‘work’ writing for the Evening News. I covered a variety of comedy, theatre and music but I was also working full-time.
Just to give you an idea how old I am, this was in the days before everyone had a laptop and email and free broadband in cafes etc so I had to run up to the fringe office on the Royal Mile on my lunch to arrange tickets for the events, and then after the event I had to go home, write the review and then call it in so that it could be published the next day.
My friend Dougie’s mum was one of the people at the Evening News who took these phone calls and transcribed the copy – I was quite embarrassed when I had to read her my review of ‘Sexual Perversity in Chicago..’
This ridiculous ritual soon led to burn-out, and worse, I wasn’t getting paid for the pleasure, mainly due to my own deeply embedded reluctance to ask for money. Then I saw an opportunity to take part in a music video course with Roman “don’t mention my dad” Coppola as part of the International Film Festival, and applied.
Coppola was a really nice and surprisingly humble bloke and had made quite a few music vids including helping Spike Jonze out on Fatboy Slim’s Praise You and Mansun’s Tax Loss video (see his Reel). He guided us through the process of making a music promo from idea to final product.
We had to pitch an idea to someone at Skint Records – he didn’t think much of mine, and we ended up going with another guy on the course’s idea which was to have a guy in a pink panther suit walk backwards around Edinburgh. After it was filmed we reversed and sped up the footage so it looked like everyone else was going backwards and the panther was strolling about leisurely. It turned out not bad and was apparently shown on MTV and BBC2 – but I couldn’t find it on the web when I looked.
So it was a great course, but had meant I gave up prematurely on being a full-time professional arts journalist. I did go back and write for the Evening News again a year later, and managed to get paid, but that fizzled out as I spent more and more time doing Swivel Chair stuff – including a string of “groundbreaking” music videos…
I don’t think I realised what an opportunity I had at the time to get paid writing work, something which on the whole still eludes me now. Clearly there are limiting beliefs at work in this old gaseous brain of mine…
Next: The Final Part. Probably.