THE WARM DARK TUNNEL

Freddie Hudson was cursed with a great memory. He could remember everything that ever happened to him. Every slight, every cruel comment disguised as humour, every kiss that led to heartache, every promise not kept, every humiliation, every betrayal by a friend, every stumble and fall in a life lived in search of meaning.

There were also bad memories too.

He remembered coming out of that warm dark tunnel of darkness and gazing up at the doctor painfully dragging him into a cold and clinical world. He had tried with all his might to scramble back but it was no use as the uncaring determined doctor gripped his little head harder and forced him into a place he wasn’t sure about. He always thought perhaps that was why he had a long neck. Some told him, much later, that it was the sign of good breeding but it never convinced him enough to give up his own theory.

On first viewing his parents seemed nice so Freddie decided to hang about and a short time later found himself cradled in his mother’s arms, his grinning dad beside them, in the backseat of a taxi on its way to what would become his boyhood home.

Once settled in his cozy compact blue room he began thinking about the meaning of it all and what all this fuss would eventually come to. He felt awkward imposing on this obviously struggling couple and guilty for the pain he had already caused his mother. This fear of imposing on people would remain with him all his life.

His dad like to drink stout and this miracle brew seemed put the old boy in high spirits – although it clearly had the opposite effect on mum.

“Stout is good for me!” his dad would utter with all the urgency of a serial killer pleading Not Guilty.

“Not when you’ve had ten bottles it isn’t!” Mum would counter in her best Perry Mason voice.

Observing all this sitting on his dad’s lap, Freddie was beginning to suspect he may be a genius. Well, at least in this household. After all, surely the solution to all this was simple. If only mum could just down a few pints herself she could join father and son in singing sea shanties that made absolutely no sense to anyone. And see the fun in it?

She didn’t. And so most nights his parents played another game where they would both reenacted the Battle of the Somme. Freddie very much appreciated the obvious effort they both put into this but it invariably left all three dissipated and feeling defeated.

It wasn’t long before Freddie was up and about and dispatched to school, an institution he loathed with every cell in his body. He thought it truly fraudulent that the teachers spoke gibberish and got paid for it. Yet part of him marvelled at their trickery and on several occasions offered to take over the class with his own form of gibberish which, instead of being rewarded for, got him beaten by the said teachers until he could hardly walk home. Upon completing that long painful journey he’d be greeted at the door by his smiling mum and the words, “How was school today, son?” On one such occasion Freddie found it difficult to speak so his mum cut in with her motivational skills, “Don’t worry, your dad and I were idiots at school too!” Freddie was tempted to ask if he could crawl back into her warm dark tunnel and shimmy up far enough to fall through some trap door and back to whence he came before he was so rudely awakened to this mad place. But refrained in the spirit of good taste and reverence.

Having survived school, Freddie realised he was old enough to be married so he did. He found a girl who seemed to honestly love him so he figured she was a good candidate to try and recreate the joyful association his parents had endured.  And so they took that huge journey down the aisle and thereafter were happy and life was simple and good for a time. Until it wasn’t.

Oneday she said something to him that he couldn’t forget. Or forgive.  So he went on alone trying to forget her and failing.

But as things developed, there was much to do, and shopping lists of things to clutter a life in order to distract a mind that never slept. Freddie’s religion was to stay busy. In a way he thought this would ward off death. For although this life had holes in it, it was all he knew.

He liked to hang out with his friend Jimmy Helle who’d never uttered anything that wasn’t a lie but his choice of words was compelling. Together they whiled away the days, one telling tall tales and the other pretending to buy them for the sake of a friendship. It was a fine relationship because they needed nothing from each other, other than the shared knowledge that they were witnesses to the futility of the passing parade.

Another pal was Alby who had more moves than a snake and was just as quick to disappear when a bar bill was presented. Alby was so dumb he joined ISIS thinking he was working for the CIA.

Around this time, Freddie had the sobering realisation that he had $32.56 to his name so he wrote a bunch of film scripts and hit the jackpot. Suddenly he found that he was irresistible to many women and it wasn’t long before he chose one of them to accompany him down the aisle. Again.

Things went swimmingly for a number of years and he found himself to be on everyone’s lips, especially actresses in need of a job. Or therapy.

Money rolled in but Freddie was too   busy to enjoy himself. Luckily he had a wife who wasn’t so busy so every day she very kindly thought up ways to spend his new found fortune. She was genius when it came to spending money and Freddie thought himself blessed to have her.

Freddie was also surrounded by a team of men who were good with numbers, which was a great relief to him as he’d found math to be as ridiculous as geomatry at school. He was told by these numbers men to just keep on doing what he was doing, whatever that was, and they’d handle the rest.

After Freddie had exhausted himself making 193 films in two years, the numbers men seemed disappointed that the workload hadn’t killed him. So crestfallen were they that they all took holidays at the same time and never returned. Freddie thought it was a little strange that he hadn’t received a postcard or any information on where all his money could be located. This was a major inconvenience as he’d been planning to take his wife (if he could get her out of the shops) and young son on a little holiday of their own.

The kindly men who were good with numbers finally popped up again years later and made a splash in the irrigation business before finally discovering their niche grading horse semen.

Soon Freddie’s name was mud everywhere, including his own home, and it wasn’t long before the Tax Department thought it might be opportune to lend a boot to the situation by charging Freddie with fraud. It wasn’t long before he found himself facing Judge Kafka in the Farce of the Century. Unfortunately Freddie didn’t have Paul Hogan’s millions, or even his own, to make the Laxative Department look like fools, so he had to rely on plain old common sense. Representing himself, Freddie stood and asked the Judge if the definition of fraud was “to financially benefit yourself through deception?” Judge Kafka smiled and affirmed that that was indeed the case. Freddie then stated, “Well I don’t have any money. So I guess I have disadvantaged no one through the deception of myself that the numbers men would take care of business whilst I was making 193 films. No further questions, you Dingbat” and sat.

This sent the court into an uproar. It had been a long while since common sense had been heard in public and the judge toyed with the idea of having him charged with contempt of court. The Lax Department then dropped the charge altogether and wanted to have Freddie retried on the grounds that they couldn’t understand the plot to one of his movies. Freddie stood  and asked them if they were able to follow The Lady From Shanghai to which they replied, “Not on your Nellie, no way” and asked the Judge to have Orson Welles joined in the proceedings. That’s when pandemonium broke out in the courtroom and Freddie was convicted for a parking offence, paid the appropriate fine and walked free. Then caught a tram home.

Urged by his wife (it was a public holiday and the shops were closed) to go to Hollywood and make another fortune for his family, Freddie accepted the challenge. Unfortunately, once he was away his wife, trying her own hand at fiction, told his impressionable son that Daddy had deserted them, leaving them penniless, except for a mansion and everything in it.

Whilst pounding the pavements in Hollywood, Freddie’s wife scored another bargain and moved one of her co-workers into the master bedroom to cope with those long, lonely nights and had Freddie served with divorce papers.

Pretty soon Freddie was seen drinking in bars that even Charles Bukowski would’ve turned his nose up at. He started on white wine and soon hit the harder stuff. One night he had a terrible nightmare and glimpsed hell in all its ugliness and debauchary surrounded by lost souls all screaming for mercy.  But taking a second look he realised he was actually standing on the corners of Hollywood Boulevard and Western at 3am waiting for the lights to change.

Work started to come Freddie’s way and soon he was being invited to all the right parties. Demi Moore wanted him to write a screenplay and Sharon Stone wanted him to take a shower with her.

Every day without fail Freddie sent home, well what was once his home,  gifts, cards, drawings, letters and, when he had it, money,  to his son. But strangely the money never seemed to reach his son and somehow ended up in the bank account of a doctor who shot Botox into women’s faces.

Freddie thought it was about time he wised up, so he married a bipolar movie star in Miami. They returned to L.A and settled in a rented home in Sherman Oaks and there was peace in the Valley. For a time. Some nights her mood swings suited the music and somehow together they stumbled through it. Two against the world. At times Freddie didn’t know if he was coming or going but after four years he found himself between leaving and gone. One particularly hard night, Freddie walked into the darkness and laid down in the road waiting for a bus to run over him.  Unfortunately for him there was a bus strike that night and misfortune followed misfortune until the marriage ended.

Somehow he came to be running a restaurant and proved to be so popular with patrons he was voted the unofficial Mayor of Santa Monica. He made some great pals amongst those he worked with like Ben, Gordon, Cathy, Pat, David, Neth and many drinks were consumed after closing time amidst shared laughter and stories. For a time it felt like he was part of a family again.

On the other hand, the two owners he worked for, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, were insane. Dum had the personality of white wallpaper and was the only wealthy Jewish doctor in L.A who couldn’t get laid. If he sat beside an attractive woman at the bar of his own restaurant and struck up a conversation with her, she’d be gone within 10 minutes. Sometimes less. Freddie named the empty bar stool next to Dum as the Seat of Death. His partner, Dee, always had a smile on his face even when you told him your mother had just died. He also spoke at a thousand miles an hour like a man who’d found the secret recipe of how to make speed.

Doctor Dum would sit on his regular bar stool every night after boring off every attractive woman in Hollywood and snarl at how popular Freddy was with people. It wasn’t long before Freddie was given his marching orders and on his way again, into the night with a thousand eyes and no particular place to go.

On one such night he gave all of his remaining possessions away and made his bed on the beach thinking, like the Indians do, that it was a perfect night to die. No sadness. No self-pity. In fact he welcomed the chance to now depart this strange world, leaving it like he came into it, with nothing. He closed his eyes and drifted off expecting to enter that warm dark tunnel again that would hopefully lead to a light. Or something.

But instead, he awakened to a new dawn and the disappointing realisation that a homeless person hadn’t killed him during his sleep. Then he looked around and witnessed a dawn of breathless beauty, and finally heard the voice of God as it said unto him, “Leave your cross here and find the music again.”

Freddie misinterpreted this message to mean go forth and populate so he found a jumpin’ little joint on Pico and exchanged numbers with lots of Black girls, until finally he got the right translation that it was all about the music being played at this club by a band of all stars led by Wadstar and Turk.

One night the doorman Basil Wrathbone sussed that Freddie had nowhere to go so he invited him back to his pad to share another 437 beers until they collapsed on the carpet and awoke a week later.

Sometimes between late at night and early in the morning, the bewitching hours, Freddie would see his new best friend appear giving a perfect impression of Creeping Jesus as he quietly inched in the darkness towards the Venetian blinds and nervously peeked out, whispering “The C.I.A are looking for us!” To which Freddie would reply from his living room sofa bed, “Why?” This question would rattle Basil and he’d give a knowing smile and creep back to his room. Sometimes they’d get so paranoid from this nightly activity that they’d watch endless repeats of Sherlock Holmes on TV in the hope that something, anything, would be resolved.

One day Freddie’s cousin thought he may be useful to him so he paid for his airfare to get him back to his suspicious homeland, Australia, the land of second chances and forked tongues.

Freddie returned and everyone patted him on the back.  Yes, everyone seemed pleased to see him except his old editor, the famous drunk about town Peter McBland who was genius at cutting the plot out of every film he edited.

Freddie was excited to see his son again but found that the young man’s heart and head had been poisoned by a woman who resented that her only achievement had been hitching herself to Freddie’s wagon. One night he invited his son to dinner and excitedly prepared a roast with all the trimmings and waited. And waited. Sometime after midnight Freddie turned the oven off. And something deep inside him too. Possibly the hope that the truth would win out and a happy ending might prevail. But life clearly wasn’t a movie.

An old friend Richard Masters, whom Freddie had once given a big break to, remembered enough to repay the favour. Richard was now running a very successful underground film festival aptly named P.U.S.S.Y and honoured Freddie by presenting a retrospective of 8 of his old movies. It was a roaring success and audiences cried in all the wrong places and the films were now deemed to be classics.

Freddie was hailed as a legend and people thrust awards at him in the hope that they’d weigh him down and he’d become stagnant like good old safe legends are supposed to behave. But it didn’t work and the bastard continued to live and produce new works.

In fact he lived to be 100 and received a telegram from the Queen  which read, “You’re a fucking miracle, Brad.” The fact that the silly old bitch had gotten his name wrong after too many G&Ts didn’t dilute Freddie’s delight in receiving this thoughtful correspondence and so he went on about his life, making mistakes, taking people at their word, searching for meaning in everything, and just being human.

His final words were reported to be, “Awwwfuckyasall!” Or something to that effect as he passed from this earthly world back into that warm dark tunnel of mystery, taking his place in our cherished and grossly rewritten history.

Text (c) Frank Howson 2017

Painting (c) Frank Howson 2017

ALL I KNOW IS THIS.

All I know is this. Politicians, mostly, stand for one thing, and one thing only – being elected.  Those who genuinely dare to make a difference and can’t be bought – are in danger of their lives. And will either be killed by a bullet or a smear campaign.

 

All I know is this. Jesus, whether he was the Messiah, the Son of God, a gifted rabbi, or just another madman in the wilderness, preached a message of love and forgiveness – regardless of the translations, the interpretations or the Chinese whispers – his message, and the price he paid for it, are worthy of my respect, and love.

 

All I know is this. Shakespeare has the perfect quote to describe any condition of human nature. So does Bob Dylan.

 

All I know is this. They no longer make films for mature audiences.

 

All I know is this. It is alright to love something – but you are damned if you love that thing too much.

 

All I know is this. Today we have at our fingertips on the internet more easily accessed information than any previous generation that inhabited this planet. And yet the ignorance level has never been higher.  Who the hell is Paul McCartney?  Go fuck yourself.

 

All I know is this. Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t shoot J.F.K and the men who did got away with it.

 

All I know is this. None of us have any real idea what’s happening in the world at the moment. We have been purposely misinformed for many years now because the only way to keep the public in line is to have them in a constant state of confusion and chaos. Oh, and hopefully, on drugs.

 

All I know is this. The War on Terrorism is as calculatingly and cynically futile and convenient as the War on Drugs.

 

All I know is this. Two of Hollywood’s greatest geniuses, or genii, Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles, were both run out of town. Does that tell you something?

 

All I know is this. Children’s theatre and pantomimes were the first introduction of many kids like me to the magical world of theatre. And once hooked on it we continued to go back in search of other magical nights. It built a whole future audience for stage shows. Sadly, what we knew as children’s theatre is now as dead as the Wicked Witch. Ding dong.

 

All I know is this. We owe more than we know to The Beatles. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

All I know is this. The more you see of Life, the less you think you know.

 

All I know is this. Humility is the open road to God.

 

All I know is this. More lives had been lost or damaged through manmade religions than all the wars since the beginning of time. God is great. But his organized fan clubs are run by the ignorant and the flawed.

 

All I know is this. You can’t judge somebody by the colour of their skin, their gender, the size of their wallet, or their religion.  We can only truly be judged on the fabric of our spirit.

 

All I know is this. You can’t make somebody love you.

 

All I know is this. Success comes to those who persist. If you lean against a closed door long enough eventually it flies open.

 

All I know is this.  Some of the old clichés have become clichés because they hold the truth. Everything in moderation. If you eat, drink, do, or take too much of anything it will harm you.

 

All I know is this. Anthony Newley was a genius that the world has largely forgotten now.

 

All I know is this. Everything you learn you learn in the first five years of your life. Then it may take a lifetime to overcome that.

 

All I know is this. Any battle is hard won.

 

All I know is this. Much more is achieved by a smile than a threat.

 

All I know is this. Every mistake we make is an opportunity to learn something. Those of us who don’t learn are destined to repeat it over and over again. Some, sadly, are stuck in Groundhog Day all their lives.

 

All I know is this. You never lose a friend. They live on in your heart forever.

 

All I know is this. We’re not here for long, so be kind to each other.

 

 

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAPOLEON IN DEFEAT

I don’t know where I’m going

But I’m starting here

I dueled with my demons

And conquered my fear

I’d reached a place

Where I was at peace with myself

And the joy that that brought

Meant more to me than wealth

To sit in the garden

and feel the sun on my face

Was to reach an unknown destination

And yet to know this place

But you crashed through my door

With your bag of moods

And a bottle of water

That you’d stolen from Lourdes

Escaping from a man

That’d unfriended you

And his songs of misery

That’d all come true

I don’t know where I’m going

But I’m starting here

All the things that I treasured

You smashed them, my dear

 

 

(c) 2015 Frank Howson

 

 

 

 

 

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

© 2015 Frank Howson246507_10151059675291277_271152711_n

IN DEFENCE OF GOD

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

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

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