Finding 9 New Year's Resolutions in Bacon's Archives

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Steve Winwood was 20 when he sang that line at a Traffic session in 1968, and perhaps later that year he made some new year's resolutions. "I will form a band with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker" may have been among them. But what about yours?

It's that time of year when we begin to wonder what tomorrow may bring. To get started on the road to a glorious 2019, I'm going to make a few suggestions here that might just help, mostly drawn from my interviews archive. And if you feel like telling us your own new year's resolutions, the comments bit at the end awaits your pithy declarations of future ambition.

Welcome Bargains as Gifts From the Gods

Phil Manzanera

When Phil Manzanera first joined Roxy Music, he had a 335. This was the cause of much jollity among his fellow Roxy Musicians, who told him with some certainty that this guitar did not fit the band's image and that he ought to get a Strat.

Fortunately, Eno's milkman came to the rescue. "His milkman had sold him a Strat for £30," Phil told me. "On the back it said 'JH Experience.' Eno sold it to me for £70, showing what a great businessman he was and, even to this day, still is."

Phil continued to use the 335 for feedback and some studio work, but the white Strat became his main studio guitar until he happened on a red Firebird VII for £160. Two bargains; happy band; image intact. You could do a lot worse in 2019.

Don't Try to Label What You Do

The classical guitarist Julian Bream told me that, in fact, he is a "so-called classical guitarist." Why so-called, Julian? Because, he explained, the oldest style of guitar playing, the style that he plays, usually has the word "classical" attached. "The fact that I play 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th century music, early music, classical music, romantic music, Spanish nationalist music, contemporary music—well, somehow if you take in that whole gamut, it's not just 'classical' guitar," he said, and then added: "Course, nobody knows where they are these days unless there's a label on it." Next year, you will be busy creating, so let others do the labeling.

Julian Bream and Yussef Allie play Django Reinhardt's "Nuages"

Expect the Unexpected on Stage

KK Downing was on stage at an early Judas Priest gig in northern England when a chance incident nearly ended his performance. "I used to get the longest guitar lead I could for my Strat, and I'd throw it up in the air and catch it. One night at Sheffield City Hall, I caught that guitar just about by the headstock—and the body wanged round and hit me straight in the balls. And it really did hurt bad! Right in the nuts! It was not good."

Remember next year to keep an eye open and also to look on the bright side, even in the midst of intense pain. I mean, it could have been KK's other guitar of choice, a vicious-looking Flying V.

Paint Some Amazing Sound Pictures

When Roger Mayer met Jimi Hendrix in 1967, he had a day job working for the Royal Naval Scientific Service. That kept Roger busy with acoustical tests on boats, torpedoes, and other aquatic weaponry, but he'd already found time to build some early fuzz boxes for Jimmy Page. Then he showed Jimi his latest sound-bender, the Octavia. Jimi always wanted to know about the sounds Roger had up his sleeve that were ready for tomorrow.

"He tried never to use the same sound twice, because there was no reason to," Roger said. "Jimi would say something like: I want a guitar that comes screaming out of the sky, and it's got to make the people wince like they've been burnt. Oh, um, right—let's see what we can do. And that was the idea, to paint sound pictures all the time." In 2019, then, make a point of always having your sonic paintbrushes to hand.

Roger Mayer with the Jimi Hendrix Experience

Choose a Good Name for Your Band

Ian Anderson was chatting about this and that. So, Ian, what d'you like least about being in Jethro Tull? He paused to think. "The name. I really wish we weren't called Jethro Tull, because it's somebody else's name." You'll know that the band is named after a Berkshire lad who came up with agricultural knick-knacks in the 18th century.

"I would rather we had a group name and it wasn't a sort of historical thing," Ian clarified. But wasn't Candy Coloured Rain one of the potential names at the start? He laughed at the memory. "Well, yes—so it could have been worse." Choose carefully in the coming months.

Exploit Your Cycles of Creativity

Natalie Merchant told me she identified her cycles of creativity through the physiological changes that coincided with them. "Most women who are artists will tell you it's tied in to the menstrual cycle," she said. "I'm extremely creative in the days before I begin to bleed. Before, it's just chaos. During, it's pain and nausea. And then afterwards, I'm extremely able to cope with order and filing. I like to file away things and order things, to take care of all kinds of business."

That's not the only time she's capable of creativity, Natalie explained, but she knows it's the most intense. "I've often wondered if male artists have a similar type of cycle. Even though they don't bleed, they might have some other cycle, but they aren't as aware because the changes aren't as drastic." Cheaper than a self-awareness course: get a 2019 diary and track those cycles.

Natalie Merchant- "Life Is Sweet"

Believe That It Can Only Get Better

What's the worst gig you played this year? OK, OK, we may not have time for all of them. In the meantime, have a listen to Frank Zappa, who would probably have shrugged at your slight inconvenience. Much of his song "Road Ladies" is concerned with sexually-inflicted ailments, but there's a verse to keep in mind the first time you find things going awry on stage in 2019.

Frank wonders if a musician might ever get lonesome out there on the road and if the whole experience might make you yearn for home. He notes the piles of laundry by the hotel door before moving on to the dismal gig itself. "When the PA system eats it," he sings, "and the band plays some of the most terriblest shit you've ever known." It was a one-off, right?

Give Yourself Time to Step Away

Tina Weymouth

You know that feeling when it all gets too much? It takes a brave soul to say stop. But sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed. Tina Weymouth told me once about Talking Heads and a particular version of the post-tour blues. “Every time we finished a tour there was a feeling of Oh my god! We’ve just been living and breathing inside of each other for this amount of time, and we have to get back to ourselves. There was always a feeling of It’s finished now—that’s it, see you around.”

It pays to take a deep breath, to step away, and to go do something else for a while. And then—guess what? “You do find that there’s great pleasure in getting back together after a good breathing space,” Tina explained. “Doing various things is very rejuvenating and nourishing for us. Because then we all get excited all over again about what it was that made us want to get into music in the first place.”

Nurture and Cherish Originality

We all want to be original. Around the time U2 began recording the classic Joshua Tree album, I had a pleasant yack with Edge about his guitar playing. At one point, I tried to get him to show me how to play a U2 song of his choice. He wouldn't, because he reckoned his treatments and echoes and the rest were sometimes more important than his chord progressions.

"What I hope people pick up from U2 is that individuality is the crux of what rock 'n' roll is about," Edge said. "Every single person who picks up a guitar has the potential to do something unique, and they thwart their potential by trying to sound like other people." So, don't be a copycat in 2019. And most of all, don't believe Edge's bandmate, Bono, when he sings: "Nothing changes on New Year's Day."



About the Author: Tony Bacon writes about musical instruments, musicians, and music. He is a co-founder of Backbeat UK and Jawbone Press. His books include Million Dollar Les Paul, London Live, and Electric Guitars: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tony lives in Bristol, England. More info at tonybacon.co.uk.

Interviews from Bacon's Archive: Ian Anderson 1991; Julian Bream 1989; KK Downing 2010; Edge 1986; Phil Manzanera 2010; Roger Mayer 2003; Natalie Merchant 1992; Tina Weymouth 1988.


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