It's push and shove And Christmas Eve You stole my heart Now I wear it on my sleeve And I'm standing here Where a boy once stood When he dreamed of worlds That lay beyond the woods... Daniel Boone and Peter Pan Davy Crockett and Spiderman We fought together Blood brothers every one We used to save the world Before each day was done... It's winter now On Nelson Street The shadow men Celebrating my defeat Never been afraid And not about to start So they stole my dreams Don't mean they broke my heart Daniel Boone and Peter Pan Davy Crockett and Spiderman I fought beside them Blood brothers every one We used to save the world Before each day was done... And I'm wishing hard On every star I see That you'll find a place In your heart for me... It's Silent Night And final drinks I'm too far gone To hear what anybody thinks Now I'm walking home Can someone tell me Where that is? Somewhere someone wakes To a Christmas kiss Daniel Boone and Peter Pan Davy Crockett and Spider Man I fought beside them And with Zorro I would run We used to save the world Before each day was done... Before each day was done... It's done... Cc) Frank Howson 1998
I don’t usually remember my dreams, well the in-your-sleep dreams I mean. Maybe three in my life. But the other night I was awakened in the middle of one and it’s a little bizarre to say the least.
Anyway, in this particular dream I am arrested for killing Ayn Rand. Still with me? Not sure if I actually did it or not but as we know newspapers are only interested in the charges and not so much in the final judgement, so, pretty soon I am in big hot water. Boiling in fact. And as if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough they are throwing the book at me. Perhaps The Fountainhead, I was too busy ducking to check. I then remember going through a very lengthy trial that was straight out of Kafka. I have to say things weren’t going well for me as the cavalcade of witnesses were called. Drunks, the heavily medicated self-published, real estate agents, Mormons, one armed guitarists, fortune tellers, gypsies, tramps and thieves.
My court appointed lawyer was an elderly Chinese gentleman who appeared to be about 500 years old and dribbled from the mouth when he got excited. Still, he had his wits about him and had he been able to speak or understand English he may have been quite effective. His cross-examination of the witnesses had to be seen to be believed. If the Judge had’ve been awake at the time I’m sure he’d have called a halt to the circus. He did wake a few minutes before the end of proceedings and grumpily pronounced Hemingway to be “…a cunt!” I wasn’t quite sure how this applied to me or my case but was too intimidated to enquire. My Chinese representative seemed to take it in his stride and smiled in a knowing way. Perhaps this was a good sign? Taking the positive angle I smiled at the Judge who smiled back at me. He then announced in a disappointed tone that the jury weren’t very well hung and adjourned the case until they could be re-cast. On that note everyone went home to be greeted by their loved ones and a hot meal, followed by re-runs of classic football matches, while I was beaten to a pulp in my holding cell which the guards took literally and, having no TV set to watch football, they attempted to kick a goal with my head. In all objectivity some of them did show promise as league players. I did at one point attempt to convey the news that the football they were using had a migraine but this was met with increased hostility and I was accused of using too many big words.
Hence another three quarters were played. This time I kept quiet and assumed my role. Finally I threw my voice and did a very convincing imitation of the final siren which they bought, hugged each other, shook hands, copped a feel of each other’s bums, and left the field complaining about the lack of good umpiring decisions these days. I couldn’t, in spite of my intense pain, help thinking what great sportsmen they were. Dreadful human beings – but great sportsmen. This was the last thought that stampeded through my mind before I lost consciousness.
I was shaken back into this world bright and early the next morning, in dream time, in order to return to court. I told the guard, who smelled of cheap bourbon and herbal cigarettes, that I had to postpone my court appearance before our esteemed Judge as I was fairly convinced I was in the initial stages of a brain hemorrhage, but this was met with “well who gives a fuck you dumb fucker fucking your way through life and fucking every fucking thing up for every other fucking dumb fuck!”
I took that as a “no”.
I found that if I tilted my head till it was resting sideways on one shoulder it relieved some of the pain. So, that’s how I appeared back in court. Looking like an amateur theatre version of Quasimodo. I’d fretted needlessly over my appearance as the Judge looked past me and mistook a nun in the next row to be me, stating that he was going to take into account that I was a lady of the cloth and not to worry.
My lawyer, the very learned Mr. Dim Sim, gave his final impassioned summation, in Cantonese, to a silent ovation from nonplussed creatures inhabiting human-like bodies. The Judge finally broke the stunned silence by burping and muttered, “Better out than in” and the really hung jury and those in attendance took this to be the final judgement and a deafening uproar broke out in the courtroom, along with several fistfights, a rape, a child birth, and a scattering of small time thefts.
As everyone had lost interest in me, and noticing the open door, I slowly made my way best as I could, considering my head was still laying sideways on my left shoulder, through the crowd of rioters and those with an axe to grind. Soon enough I found the sunshine and a busy city street awaiting me.
Within seconds I was lost in the crowd. Well, as lost as I could be given my new appearance.
I bear no grudge against anyone who mistreated me, but if Ayn Rand was still alive, I’d kill her.
(c) Frank Howson 2017.
I saw a crazy man in the heart of the city cursing the people he passed, cursing the buildings, cursing someone long gone, cursing God for this Purgatory.
People reacted in different ways. Some froze and willed themselves to be invisible, some scurried away in the opposite direction, some watched in that detached zombie way people stand transfixed at car crash sites, fascinated by the sight of real disaster and yet non-reacting as though watching a movie play out.
So what does it take to make someone just crack one day? One huge life tragedy too much, or a series of small ones too close together that defy our idea of logic and fairness? Perhaps if we raise our voices above the rumbling wearing down drone sound of the busy city traffic, God will hear us?
Why does our Maker withdraw his grace and allow us to free fall through darkness and scorn so far from home? Or are we meant to always be alone in search of ourselves in others, a perilous journey not for the fainthearted. Or the dreamers.
Maybe the crazy man in the street had been chosen to heed his inner calling to join the wild throng and it is therefore in the madness that lies the ultimate truth?
Was Don Quixote mad because he chose to see the world as it should be? Or were the people who gathered to ridicule and laugh at his expense the mad ones?
John Lennon, during his time, was called mad by many, especially the press and the conservative establishment. But his brutal death at the hands of, ironically, a mad man has now elevated him to the status of martyr and messiah. Today, his human flaws have been sanitised to fit what is acceptable in the gospel of his life. The nobody mad man who shot him for a shot at immortality got a life sentence, while the famous mad man got death. And then in death, rose again.
When you look closely at it, most of our true heroes in history were called mad during their lifetimes because they attempted to do something different. To shine a light into the darkness that most of us are afraid to acknowledge. To take us where we would never have dared go if not for them. To make us think and, more importantly, to make us feel. In achieving this, a great many of them paid with their lives so that we may live.
So next time you see a mad man or woman in the street, spare a few seconds to ponder the forces that shaped them. And perhaps in those seconds we may awaken the humanity in ourselves.
(c) Frank Howson 2017
My birth was a bit messy from recollection and ever since I have been flaying around like a man drowning in gasoline. People have come and gone in my life, some leaving an impression, others facial scars, but still, I wouldn’t change it even if I could shoot them.
Life is funny isn’t it?
Sometimes you win and sometimes the cards are stacked against you. Still, it keeps us occupied doesn’t it? I mean, otherwise we may turn into animals and attack each other thinking there was no purpose to it all. But the good news is, there is. I can say this with all certainty now as only a few weeks ago I was stirring my pot of porridge when I saw God’s face on the surface. He said unto me, “Listen, go forth and tell all the fucking morons that I have spent a fortune on this human experiment and have nothing to show for it. Other than one lovely Jewish boy and he doesn’t count because he is related on his mother’s side. All I ask is that you scumbags make a little effort and be nice to each other. It’s not brain surgery y’know? Oh, and your porridge is ready.”
I have since taken to the streets spreading the good news that God is alive and still loves us. And that we need to be kind to each other. In return I have been beaten, spat upon, cursed, betrayed by friends, had my sex tapes made public by Billy Bush, been blacklisted by Hollywood, been lectured by Robert DeNiro on morality, and treated by the media worse than Donald Trump. It could’ve been less kind, though. I could’ve been treated like Joan of Arc and roasted like a chicken as a public entertainment. Thank God I wasn’t a woman.
These days I keep to myself and have stopped eating porridge lest I get any more messages from you know who. I mean, I myself, even, don’t know why God chose me to be the bearer of his good news although he does have a history of choosing flawed messengers. Life is complicated enough without all that.
Father, forgive us we know not what we do.
(c) Frank Howson 2017
Imagine, if you will, eternity in darkness, 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, hopefully, 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, Hs 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.
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 below in the wastelands, “Look, I gave you music, Broadway musicals 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 God in a very bad mood who, like all youth, is angry, impatient, revengeful, and quick to judge. By the New Testament, with the help of some therapy and much soul searching, we have an older, more understanding God who’s able to look past our ignorant day-to-day mistakes and embrace the bigger picture. He sent His son to herald this new age and inform us of the “good news” but unfortunately there were those amongst us who weren’t ready for the outrageous and angst-making 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, destructive actions. The miracle of unconditional love.
In contrast, Jesus 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 had 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 send us to school to learn a few things to prepare us for our final home. 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 the I know 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. And welcomed home.”
Jesus, on the other hand, although a lovely soul, may take some time to warm to you.
(c) 2015 Frank Howson
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
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