NO MORE VALENTINES

389289_382657621756211_1022672344_nOh what a life we had when we thought nothing of it. It was fun and sunny and we always got by. There was food to buy and things to do and by dinner time all that mattered was the scent of something delicious cooking. We watched movies and looked for the relevance in our lives. Some made us laugh, others made us cry. Sometimes we didn’t know why. Perhaps they were premonitions of things to come known only by our hearts.

It felt like home to me and I hadn’t had a home in such a long time. I was proud of our quaint apartment and comforted by the books and music that glued our lives together. Now all gone.

I worked hard to get money to keep the wheels moving but in the end you resented that I did. So everything stopped. Including me. Our small world became overcast with your moods and I couldn’t breathe without some light.

You complained that my friends didn’t speak to you enough, so I had to lose them. You couldn’t get any work so you resented mine. Every act of kindness I offered you was rejected because in your words you didn’t wish to feel beholden to me. Then you complained that I hadn’t offered. Please forgive me my confusion as to what to do in such a circumstance.

I had been at peace before you decided to crash into my life, appearing at my door every night around dinner time, with your troubled tales of how a troubadour had treated you badly – had not encouraged you – had not listened to you – had not supported you – had not helped you. I listened every night for hours and melted and let you into my heart.

But as time went by you contradicted your stories about the selfish troubadour and elevated him to a mythical status above me. But where was he when you were hungry? Where was he when you were cold? Where was he when you needed laughter? Where was he when you were offered kindness?

Now it seems, in your mind, I have become the troubled troubadour of bygone days.

You forced me out into the night by your verbal cruelty and ruined my Christmas.

I have wandered since, here and there, thinking too deep and caring too much, in an effort to harden my heart for self-preservation.

Please send no more Valentines my way, dear Lord, I have paid too many times and my heart is too weary to try again.

(C) Frank Howson 2017

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GOODBYE BLACK, HELLO BLUE

The street beneath my feet
Has never let me down
Unlike the people
Who think they own this town
I tried my luck
But the cards were cut
When I complained
I was told to shut up

Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens next depends on you
I miss the world I thought I knew
Goodbye black, hello blue

I gave myself to you
But then you lost your nerve
I was your army
Always ready to serve
You cut me off
And you burned my flag
I surrender
In peace I pack my bag

Goodbye black, hello blue
I'll spend my life forgetting you
I'll miss the dreams that won't come true
Goodbye black, hello blue

So I'll be off
Until who knows when
I'll see you in the stars
Until the broken heal again

Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens now we can't undo
I'll miss the love I never knew
Goodbye black, hello blue

(c) Frank Howson 2017

Title suggested by Chris Thomas.


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IN BLOOD AND TEARS

There's nothing more I need in a woman's eyes
It's a lonely, hollow, comforting feeling
Finally knowing that
I am empowered and can no longer be conned
With the promise of something wonderful 
That will ultimately be paid for
In blood and tears
I now appreciate all people without any agenda
Other than to laugh and share some joy while we are still here
And at the heart of it that's all that matters
We hide behind so many veils in our youth
Playing roles that can't be sustained
Even the greatest actors can only summon up King Lear
Once a night
Free at last
I thought
God almighty free at last
All I wanted was peace
And some joy
And someone to share the good times with
But each candidate brought their carriage of problems
Their hurt caused by another
Their suspicions caused by another
Their jealousy caused by another
With no one to take it out on but me
So what should've been joyous times were ruined
Laughter replaced by tears
Kindness viewed with cynicism
Until it was turned into something nasty
That could only be understood by them
And this was called a relationship
Others would deem it a prison
Some, hell
It reduced life to a death
And made fools of those who had craved it
I still believe in some things
But less by the day
I wonder how much of us must whither
Before we pass away?
I am not a killer
And yet the faces of several people who have used me
Flash through my mind every day
I am considered a kind man
By some, a strong man
And yet I could kill a handful of people without a thought
Maybe most of us could
With a clear conscience
As we would write it off
As a public service
Our act would save other good souls
From being exploited and then
Thrown away to be useless
Having given them mansions
So that we could settle down on someone else's couch
While they rewrote history to alienate the ones you loved 
The most
Yet they weren't charged with your murder?
But perhaps justice is yet to be served
And if we took it upon ourselves to render it
Would the government not erect statues to us?
They would've in bygone days
Some people don't deserve to be called human
They don't act it, they don't think it, they don't care
They love to destroy other people's lives and values and then 
leave others to deal with the mess
They are spiritual vampires
Why should they be allowed to get away scott free
Sipping their white wine
Repeating other people's opinions
Only to laugh
And destroy another day
Another life?
I missed my calling
I should've been Wyatt Earp
or Bat Masterson
Riding the range
With the power to take or give life
Where and how I saw it
But instead of a badge and a revolver
I was given a suit and a tie
And an expectation of what I had to achieve
In a gentleman's world
I failed
Because of those I let into my life
with their promises of "This will be fun" and 
"I will always love you" and 
"Thank you so much for your kindness, it won't be forgotten"
But it was by the next day
Which brings me back to the gun
And why I am lost
Between the cracks of right and wrong
Watch your step
Night is falling
I'm considering becoming Jewish
Just so I'll know where my home is



(c) Frank Howson 2017


photograph by Vanessa Allan.

 

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IN DEFENCE OF GOD

Imagine, if you will, eternity in darkness and with darkness all there is in front of you. That was God’s lot in life. Those of you who’ve experienced short periods of meditation may be able to grasp just how chilled and cool God is. Sometimes His mind can wander for centuries. He apologises profusely for any inconvenience this caused during the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades.

Anyway, at some point during an eternity of darkness and nothingness, God got really bored. Really bored. So bored He created stars. Diamond pinholes in eternal night. Some of them he gave names to like DeVinci, Beethoven, Lincoln, Chaplin, Welles, Tesla, Bell, Hawking, Turan, Picasso, Einstein, Elvis, Beatles, Dylan – oh, and Kanye West.

When interviewed by Neale Donald Walsch, God stated that His “…greatest creation was free will.” He gave it to us as His gift to make our own way through the darkness as best we could and to experience, in a smaller way, the joy He experienced in creating something from scratch. Trouble is, He said, “…although I’ve given you complete freedom to make your own decisions, as soon as something goes wrong, you blame me!” God is now in therapy thanks to us. And, like a poor person, His only option for therapy is to talk to Himself. Sometimes in that magic hour, in the silence just before dawn, if you listen closely you may hear Him.

In the story of Cain and Abel the story symbolizes what would happen if God favoured one child over another. The result of this was the creation of envy. And from that, murder. Human kind took to the latter like a duck to water and even governments adopted it on a large scale as the final solution to any threatening problem.

There are many ways to murder someone. You can either take their life in the Biblical sense or there’s the more modern subtle way of assassinating someone by lies and innuendo which has been favoured by the print press. And bitter editors.

When asked why He invented suffering, He replied, “It is necessary to pass through hell before you can fully appreciate heaven.”

During that same interview He, a little impatiently, addressed the concern regarding apathy and boredom for those of us who toil in the wastelands, “Look, I gave you music, Hollywood movies and Bob Dylan didn’t I? You think you’re bored, try living alone in total darkness for eternity!”

Yes, He has lost his patience with us on many occasions. Read the Old Testament and you will find a God who, like all youth, is angry, impatient, revengeful, and quick to judge. By the New Testament we have an older, more understanding God who’s able to look past our ignorant mistakes and see the bigger picture. He sent His son to herald this new age and inform us of the change but unfortunately there were those amongst us who weren’t ready for the outrageous and highly controversial concept that “we should all love each other and try to get along for the betterment of all,” and they killed him. God has sent us many other messengers in the years since who’ve attempted to give us the same message, ie., Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, etc., but, unfortunately, we killed them too. It seems if you preach hate you’re as safe as milk and will die in your bed of old age. But have the audacity to peddle love and understanding and your days are numbered.

This loss of his own son caused God to withdraw from the world and to distance Himself from us. It is indeed a revealing fact that any ensuing visions to bring us messages from the other world have been in the form of Mary. Not Jesus. And, just like a woman, she still attempts to see the best in us and loves us despite our flaws and hurtful actions. The miracle of unconditional love. Jesus, on the other hand, thinks we’re a bunch of idiots with a thirst for blood who haven’t learnt a thing from the past 2000 years, or his death. Word has it he has given up on us and spends most of his time gardening.

For those amongst us who hate God because they didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas, spare a thought for His suffering. He has been alone for eternity, living in darkness with no one to love. Knowing full well what it was like to feel like an orphan, God gave birth to a huge family and tried to make a home for us. He now knows the pain of having had that family, in main, disown, slander, and hate their father for being the cause of their existence.

Perhaps that is why God created a miracle called forgiveness. He lives in the hope that we will all find it. As He has.

When asked if He ever worried about our future, He replied, “No. Not at all. I worry about your present but never the future for I know the outcome and what, ultimately, awaits you. You see, at the end of your journey all roads lead to me. And, like any parent that loves their child, regardless of what you’ve done, you are greeted with forgiveness and abundant, unconditional love, understanding, and welcomed home.”

Jesus, on the other hand, may take some time to warm to you.

© 2015 Frank Howson

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MY FAVOURITE BOOKS LIST

A friend asked me to pick my 10 fave books of all time. The 10 best of anyting is a hard ask but here’s goes. I have chosen those 50 books that moved me the most and had the biggest influence.

1) THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

2) GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens.

3) THE DISENCHANTED by Budd Schulberg.

4) THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde.

5) NODDY IN TOYLAND by Enid Blyton

6) A LIFE by Elia Kazan.

7) CRAZY SUNDAYS – F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN HOLLYWOOD by Aaron Latham

8) CHRONICLES by Bob Dylan.

9) THIS IS ORSON WELLES by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich.

10) A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway.

11) THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

12) IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote

13) A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens

14) HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain

15) WHAT’S EXACTLY THE MATTER WITH ME by P.F. Sloan

16) DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller

17) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

18) TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald

19) POWER WITHOUT GLORY by Frank Hardy

20) PETER PAN by James M. Barrie

21) DIARY OF AN UNKNOWN by Jean Cocteau

22) ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE by William Goldman

23) THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD by Ron Hansen

24) SCOTT & ERNEST by Matthew Bruccoli

25) THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers.

26) ERROL FLYNN – A MEMOIR by Earl Conrad

27) ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE by Alan Jay Lerner

28) DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD by Eric Burdon with J. Marshall Craig

29) OLIVIER ON ACTING by Laurence Olivier

30) THE MUSIC GOES ROUND MY HEAD by David Johnston

31) FREE ASSOCIATION by Steven Berkoff

32) THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE by Robert Evans

33) MARILYN by Norman Mailer

34) HITCHCOCK BY TRUFFAUT

35) A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway

36) JOURNAL OF A NOVEL by John Steinbeck

37) PICTURE by Lillian Ross

38) HOME BEFORE DARK by Ruth Park

39) TINSEL by William Goldman

40) PORTRAITS by Helmut Newton

41) THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT by Quentin Crisp

42) THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell

43) TEN GREAT PLAYS by William Shakespeare

44) FINISHING THE HAT by Stephen Sondheim

45) W. C. FIELDS – HIS FOLLIES AND FORTUNES by Robert L. Taylor

48) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN Volume 1 by Mark Twain

49) IN HIS OWN WRITE by John Lennon

50) THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne

Music-music

THE POWER OF MUSIC

I never took no for an answer.

Why? Beats me. Maybe my tough upbringing. Maybe it was ignorance. Sometimes if you don’t know what the risks are it makes you incredibly brave. Orson Welles was once asked how, at the age of 25, he could direct his first movie “Citizen Kane” and it go down in history as the greatest film ever made. His answer was, “I was ignorant. I didn’t know what the rules were so I broke them all. In fact, I was using John Ford’s cameraman, the great Gregg Toland, and one day the legendary old master film director himself John Ford came to the set and asked Gregg how I was doing. Greg replied, “Jack, the kid knows nothing about making a film. He’s doing everything wrong and breaking all the rules. And if you tell him what the rules are, I’ll kill ya, because he is doing some of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen.”

That’s my theory about the Beatles too. They didn’t know what the rules were, so they broke them. And music, and the world, would never be the same.

Well, maybe my breaking of the rules wasn’t anywhere near the level of the masters I have just mentioned, but the result was the same. Most times when people told me I was mad and that there was no way I’d achieve what I wanted – that’s when I had my biggest successes.

Let’s face it, if we all followed the formula, then every outcome would be the same. Predictable, safe, boring.

I knew from an early age that I wasn’t going to university. So my only other chance in life, it seemed to me, was to think outside the box. Go for the big gamble. Bite the bullet. Roll the dice.

I would be lying if I said every time I followed that advice I won. No sir. Many times I failed and failed magnificently. Losing my money, home and family in some cases. But what is a life if it isn’t to be lived? You certainly can’t win if you don’t place the bet, take the risk.

Like a lot of kids who weren’t great at school I sought refuge in music. At a young age I saw the Beatles on TV and it changed my life forever. They exuded such joy it was contagious. They seemed to be having such fun that you desperately wanted to be in that band with them. I know I did. So I picked up a cheap guitar and started practicing in my room. I dreamed of fame, girls, money and, most of all, experiencing the joy that I saw on the faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo when they played together.

Music and theatre would earn me a living in Australia and take me around the world. But as the great Stevie Wright once sang, “…It’s a hard road” but for those who go the distance it will bring you a joy that can’t be experienced in any other profession. The joy of reaching an audience, touching their spirit and knowing that you’ve shared a magic moment that may not come again. As I’ve said, my life has been one of ups and downs but I would not change it for a minute. Even the most despairing periods have taught me valuable life lessons.

Do we choose music or does it choose us? I believe in destiny and a calling. And I think we know, deep down inside, what we’ve been made for. Sometimes we lose our way. Sometimes the noise of other well meaning people’s advice drowns out our own instincts. Sometimes we get scared of taking the leap of faith. But I firmly believe if you were born for it, you will know. And if you know, trust your heart. Your head is full of worries and numbers and doubts. I believe it is through your instinct that the universe, or God, or whatever you want to call it, talks to you. “Be brave and mighty forces will join you”.

Life is a long time to live with regret. I may’ve made mistakes in my life but I have few regrets. Looking back now from the vantage point of maturity I realise that everything that happened to me, both good and bad, happened for a specific reason. A lesson. If you get knocked to the canvas, instead of wasting years whining about it, stop and think about why it happened – and what it has taught you. Once you’ve learnt the lesson, there will be no need to repeat it.

I remember watching, along with the rest of the world, the great Muhammad Ali make his comeback for the World Heavyweight Championship against Joe Frazier. Ali had been stripped of his championship title by the U.S government because he’d refused to be drafted and go to Vietnam. After sitting out of the ring for several years, years in which he would’ve been in his prime, the case finally went to court and was dismissed. The judge lifted the ban and Ali was allowed to fight again. Unfortunately they couldn’t give him back his championship title because Joe Frazier now retained it. So, the Fight of the Century was announced and the world waited to see the outcome.

During the fight, Ali, for the first time in his career in the U.S was knocked to the canvas and the whole world gasped. But what moved me, was not that he’d been knocked down, but how quickly he got up. It showed the pride of the man. The great dignity. The courage. The heart.

It is called the music business for a good reason. Music Business. One word does not outweigh the other. Both are equally as important. It’s strange the memories that stick with you of your youth. I’ve always remembered being a young music crazed kid and standing in the middle of the large and impressive Sutton’s Music store in the heart of Melbourne city looking around in awe at all the beautiful music instruments proudly displayed. Then gazing at the massive catalogue of sheet music of the latest Top 40 hits of the time. It was one of those defining moments in one’s life. I was completely lost in my thoughts imagining how wonderful it would be to work in the music industry. I was suddenly jolted back from my daydream when a salesman asked me if he could help me choose the best musical instrument for me. Sadly, I told him I was just looking, he smiled and told me to let him know if I needed any advice, and then walked away leaving me with my dreams.

I thought how blessed he must feel to work in such a great store, to hear music all day, and to play a part in helping people choose the right guitar or keyboard or trumpet or whatever to set them on their path.

These salesmen become like Gods to me and I hung on every word of advice they gave. Perhaps it was the power of attraction that I set in place that day with these constant dreams. Who knows? All I knew was I wanted to be a part of the music biz and perform and write songs that maybe other people would record.

There is a quote I once read that I love. It’s rumoured to have been written by the great Robert Louis Stevenson (author of “Treasure Island”, “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” etc.). The passage reads “….Down through the ages I have walked with men, yet none have ever fathomed me, with the prince and the beggar I roam the earth and all men love me, for I am the spirit of the very best that is in them, and they praise and strive for the best that is within me. I am the soul of the arts. I am music.”

I firmly believe that music, as Mr. Stevenson so eloquently wrote about, is indeed magical and that it lives within our heart and soul, and is indeed the very best of us.

It has been researched in recent years by psychologists that music plays a huge part in influencing our mood. They have sometimes instructed their depressed patients to compile a collection of the happiest songs they can find and to play it while they work out or go for a long walk and report back after a week as to its effect. The majority of people confirmed that their depression was eased and replaced by a much more positive and optimistic outlook. It’s ironic that when we go through a relationship break-up we tend to gravitate to listening to songs by Leonard Cohen or other experts in grief and despair and what happens? We get more and more depressed.

Many people listen to various classical music pieces for relaxation and meditation, and swear by its beneficial effects to calm their inner stress. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for factories and business offices to have upbeat background music or “muzak” played to increase productivity.
I don’t think it’s by chance that for many hundreds of years, just before battle, generals have had soul stirring music played to their soldiers, either on bagpipes, violin, trumpet or drums depending on the culture.

Many people have unfairly blamed Wagner, Hitler’s favourite composer, for contributing to the Second World War. Of course that’s a laughable exaggeration but it does highlight the potential power of music and how it can be contrived and manipulated for a required effect on the psyche of man.

President Roosevelt personally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to George M. Cohan for the positive impact his songs had on the morale of U.S. soldiers and citizens alike during wartime. Also, take into account the joyful sounds of the Beatles’ early hits. There’s an old Indian wisdom that states, “The smile you send out returns to you.”

The Fab Four sent a huge one out into the world and the outpouring of love and joy that came back at them was a staggering phenomenon we may not witness again. It is fitting that the last line of the last song of the last recorded Beatles album is, “…And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

This leads me to believe that the Beatles were smart enough to be well aware of what they were doing. Just as the Rolling Stones’ savvy manager Andrew Loog Oldham, realising it was useless for his band to attempt to compete with the Beatles, deliberately went for the opposing market. He contrived his band to be the antithesis of everything the Beatles represented. The Stones purposely dressed to look unkempt and dirty. No Carnaby Street or Saville Row tailored suits for them. They also grew their uncombed hair longer and looked surly in publicity photographs. This proved to be a stroke of genius and they claimed the counter culture. The rebel kids who couldn’t identify with the joyfulness of the Beatles music or their lovable image. Of course as time went on and the Vietnam War escalated my idol, Mr. Lennon, steered his boys into more rebellious and revolutionary waters. The icing on the cake was a modern minstrel that called himself Bob Dylan who, as Don McLean described him in his symbol-laden smash hit “American Pie,” Dylan dressed in “…a coat he borrowed from James Dean and a voice that came from me and you.” There is no doubt that Dylan sang and played the battle call for a generation of young kids who rejected the authority of their war-mongering leaders and prophetically warned them that the times were indeed a-changing and that they’d “…better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.”

It is well documented that the protest movement undertaken by teenagers in the late 60s was the cause of President Nixon’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam. In a war that the U.S still can’t believe they didn’t win, ironically, they hadn’t been beaten by the Viet Cong but by their own children who had shown the world that they had a voice and it wouldn’t be silenced again. Again, just another example of the power of music.

How many people have fallen in love while certain romantic songs have played and these remain “their” song forevermore? If there is a God perhaps it makes perfect sense that He or She invented music and through it is how He/She speaks to our heart.

I can certainly attest to the power of music to change lives. It changed mine. The famous Joseph Campbell who studied the mythologies of all known cultures since the beginning of time and wrote the brilliant book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” stated, in one of his last TV interviews, that when he was a young man he felt his life was in turmoil and everything that happened to him made no sense. But, looking back at his life from the vantage point of being an old man, he wondered “Who conceived this brilliant scenario?” because it all made perfect sense – “This led to that which led to this” and so on.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

JPY

SHE MADE A FOOL OUT OF YOU

You’re used to ridin’ high
Walkin’ ’round with your head in the sky
Now you think it’s time to die
I know you do
You’re used to winnin’ games
Takin’ love without exchangin’ names
But you’ve been shot down in flames
It’s sad but true

She made a fool out of you
She made a fool out of you
Too bad you dropped your guard
This time she really got you hard
She made a fool out of you…

You’re on a one way street
Gettin’ fat on the taste of defeat
Only she can take this heat
Away from you
Bad luck streak love affair
Tellin’ yourself that you just don’t care
Goin’ home and she’s not there
Looks like it’s true

She made a fool out of you
She made a fool out of you
Too bad you dropped your guard
This time she really got you hard
She made a fool out of you
She made a fool out of you
She made a fool out of you…

Recorded by John Paul Young on the album “One Foot In Front.”

(c) Frank Howson 1984