Top of the Pops

We have an app that lets us stream BBC television live as it is being broadcast in the UK. This makes it offset from our local time by six hours. That means that, for instance, when we watch at 9:00PM here, it is3:00AM in Great Britain. It is surprising that we can almost always find things that we want to watch quicker there than we can in all the channels on the local cable pretty much any time, day or night.

I may have also mentioned that early on Saturday morning, BBC Four plays old Top of the Pops episodes from a long time ago. Tonight they were playing an episode from 1977. I was living in Germany at the time but I was totally unaware of Top of the Pops at that time. I was, however, aware of many of the artists that they featured.

As I watched such bands as Bob Marley and the Wailers, Thin Lizzy, and Queen to name just a few, perform their current hit songs I was impressed by how rigidly produced many of the acts were. Their dancing was choreographed. Rod Stewart was even using an acoustic guitar as a prop, he obviously wasn’t playing it.

In this post Milli Vanilli age modern audiences take a dim view of lip syncing but in 1977 it was required by most television producers. One can understand their nervousness about things going wrong on a nationwide feed but after all, that is what these artists do, night after night on tour. It is going to take more than the novelty of a television studio to throw them.

I had my run as a professional musician. It was exhilarating. By the end of the three year run I was as good a rhythm guitar player as most of the ones that I saw on tv tonight. And the more you play, the better you get.

But I was saved from that probable catastrophe by circumstances. The nail in the coffin of my musical career was when my wife got pregnant with our first daughter. We had to change the plan then. We couldn’t live on a shoe string and hand outs from our parents any more. I had to get a real job.

And as fate would have it, that job was as a missile computer repairman for the Army. It brought me to Huntsville and taught me the trade that would end up carrying me through a successful career as a programmer.

Being a professional musician takes a lot out of you. If you are successful you are never at home. You have to learn to make home where ever you are. And you have to resist the temptation of drugs and alcohol and promiscuous sex. In spite of the early termination of my musical career I struggled with those issues in my twenties. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been if I had had the kind of access to those vices that a musical career at that time would have given me.

On the other hand, if you are a less successful musician, you are never home. You couldn’t afford a home anyway. You are constantly looking for a gig to put food on the table and get you to the next gig. I won’t say things have been easy for me but they’ve been a lot easier than they would have been as a professional musician.

I miss the audiences though. It’s not a matter of ego though. There is a magical exchange of energy between musicians and an audience that digs the music they are playing. Both the crowd and the performers feed off of that energy and, paradoxically, the more they do, the more the energy is amplified.

I still play music. Not as much as I’d like. But I keep in practice. I keep my eyes open for a small group of musicians with similar musical tastes and abilities. The nonverbal communications between musicians is another thrill that I miss. If you play music and want to get together sometime, let me know.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.