Activism / ConDems / folk / music / my songs / Pubs / songs

March 15: Successful, but my last(?) gig

Tonight’s gig at the Black Swan blues club was a great success for me, and the song
The Banker Is a Wanker
had everyone laughing and smiling.

What no one was realising (apart from Gloria, of course) was that I was working under such difficulties, because of hearing problems, that I am thinking this might well be my last professional gig. Because I just couldn’t hear my guitar, I was so worried all the time that I was singing out of tune.

The roots of my hearing problems are rooted in the time I used to review rock concerts for Melody Maker. Unsurprising, concert promoters weren’t happy giving away free tickets to such as I, so they used to seat me right in front of the speakers, which are the hardest to sell. My ears used to be whistling all the following week, especially if the band (eg The Who) was especially loud.

When I began to experience problems hearing female voices in normal life, I went to London’s Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, just round the corner from where we lived at the time in Bloomsbury to find out what was wrong (“ear wax” was my self-diagnosis). Turned out I was suffering from industrial hearing damage as a result of exposure to rock’n’roll, causing serious problems with upper frequencies.

(Some years earlier, I’d gone tp Norway for a demonstration of high-quality loudspeakers, and when they demonstrated their high quality by outputting higher and higher frequencies, suddenly all I could hear had been silence. It wasn’t until much later that I realised the significance of this.)

My hearing problems were exacerbated in 2002, when an Israeli stun grenade was exploded at my feet during my stay in Nablus (during an action described in my song, Ballad of a Small Victory). As I texted on my journey back to Jerusalem, enroute for home:

“Every step of the way to the Nablus checkpoint rings in my stun-grenaded ears like muted bells, tolling for the stupidity of soldiers & statesmen afflicting us.”

Since then, my hearing has continued to deteriorate. New (free from NHS) digital hearing aids with a special “music” setting have improved matters, somewhat, but it’s a losing battle. I’ve been conscious for a time that when I’m listening to music, there’s a weird phenomenon that makes the solo singer or instrument sound out of tune with the backing. I had the same problem with my own voice last night.

This was not a technical problem with the foldback, though if I’d realised what was happening I could have asked the Black Swan engineer to turn up the guitar (his options were limited by the fact that I prefer not to have DI connection between instrument and PA; I prefer the instrument’s acoustic sound to be miked up.

I’m considering various options. I’ve been looking for a keyboard player for some time, to accompany me on jazz tunes and standards, so I am effectively singing a capella and can ignore the backing. Or I could stop using any kind of accompaniment.

Nothing will ever stop me singing. And I think my songs have something important to say. The success last night of The Banker Is a Wanker proves that.

(BTW, my late friend Davey Graham, once reproved me for using “wanker” as a term of abuse, and regaled me with a long distribe on the virtues of masturbation. I do tend to agree with him.)

The Banker Is a Wanker

English: United Kingdom's Deputy Prime Minster...

English: United Kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minster and Lord President of the Council Nick Clegg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The banker is a wanker, the banker is a wanker,
The banker is a wanker, and Clegg’s a wanker too.

The bankers get big bonuses, the workers get the sack.
The time has come to make a change, the time for fighting back.
The banker is a wanker (etc)

Nobody voted for the cuts, the election was a fraud
So come and join us everyone, come on and get on board.

The banker is a wanker (etc)

Don’t tell to me the Tory tale, that everyone must pay,
The millionaires get richer while they stash their cash away.
The banker is a wanker (etc)

If you’re a Labour councillor, remember Poplar town
“We’re guilty and we’re proud,” they sang and the walls came tumbling down.
The banker is a wanker, the banker is a wanker,

The Con-Dem coalition, they’re all wankers too.


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