Things have not been good.
I’ll go into depth about the recent struggles I’ve had with moving the project forward in my next post, but right now its January 2017 and we have things to talk about.
When I was going through my teenage years in Clevedon, there was a local punk band called Mr. Zippy. They would regularly play in the town, and even held concerts in the school we all went to. They were older than my friends and I, and every time they played it would be an exciting event. I’m not going to sugar coat this post in light of what I’m about to discuss; I can’t stand people who embellish the past so I’ll admit that I was never a fan of pop punk and didn’t care for Mr. Zippy’s music. The point is; the music wasn’t the important thing to us. It was the chance to go nuts, to meet up and party, and for those of us who had a burgeoning interest in music it was inspiring stuff. These older guys had a cool band, could play well together and were like local celebrities to us. They eventually got signed to a label and toured Japan. I wanted to do that. They are still together now.
The guitarist was a guy called Greg Pearson. A bundle of energy with an infectious laugh; to me Greg was the face of Zippy and to this day when I hear the band’s name its Greg’s face that comes to my mind, even though he parted ways with them years ago. Now again, I can’t embellish the past and claim I knew Greg incredibly well; I didn’t. But he’s been a person who’s come in and out of my life over the years, and whenever I’ve been around him fun times have ensued. He would sometimes join us in my friend Kenn’s caravan to smoke weed and chat shit. He dated someone on my college course for a few months and we would hang out in Bridgwater where we studied. He worked for a time in our local record shop In A Spin, back when those kind of shops still existed (before the internet destroyed everything). It was like something straight out of High Fidelity. We would talk at length about the latest albums over a coffee. In recent years Greg had moved to Sweden and joined a band there; also roadying for various other bands. I only spoke to him once more after that; when he came back to Clevedon and spent a lot of time with Paul, another friend of mine who he was very close to. They were drinking in our favourite pub the Salthouse, and I briefly said hi as I was with other people.
And then in October 2016 Greg took his own life.
Greg (left) and Paul last year
I can’t say whether or not it came as a surprise to his family and close friends, that isn’t my place and I didn’t know him well enough to comment. But it was a massive shock to me. From the outside, I thought that guy had everything. He was an excellent guitarist, had been in a signed band and played gigs around the world, he’d managed to escape Clevedon and move abroad, he had a huge amount of friends and was the life and soul of the party, and women loved him. I just could not get my head around his final decision. And that is as far as I can comment on his situation. All I can do for the rest of this post is explain how I can relate his death to my own constant struggle with depression and crippling mood swings, and how hard it is to continue functioning normally and productively when your own mind insists on becoming your enemy.
Despite my previously detailed struggles in my early bands; they were some of the best years of my life so far. The sense of camaraderie and purpose I shared with my various bandmates was intoxicating; we had so much passion and hunger for it and everything was exciting. We’d spend hours watching music videos and live concerts; taking in everything and fantasising about taking our place amongst these successful bands. And then, at the age of 24, I met a (unknown to me) very damaged girl and got her pregnant. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do and I was totally unprepared to become a father. It was totally incompatible with what I had planned for my life.
I’m not prepared to go into detail about that time, suffice to say I went through absolute hell for a long while, and unsuccessfully tried to kill myself. Fast forward ten years and I am a married father of two in a stable, loving relationship. I can no longer imagine a life without my children and wife. They are the sole reason I will never, ever try to harm myself again. They don’t know it but they save my life every single day. And yet, the depression is still here. I think the main thing people who don’t suffer from it don’t realize is just how fucking tiring being depressed is. The daily struggle of living and performing even simple tasks is exhausting. This would be an awful burden in the best of situations; but on top of the chemical side of things I am unhappy with the direction my career has taken.
Now don’t get me wrong – I have fought like hell to maintain a career in music alongside being a family man and I’m proud of my accomplishments with both my teaching and my wedding band. I also know how lucky I am not to have to work a 9-5 office job for a living. I really do know this. And yet, its not enough. I find myself constantly drawn to the past and what I could have done creatively if I’d just applied myself more, and not wasted so much time trying to make original music with the wrong people. I hate to admit it but I am jealous of the people I’ve previously mentioned who are now successful original musicians from my hometown. I wanted to travel and tour and make music. I’m 34 now and I am increasingly feeling that I missed the boat. That this is as good as its going to get for me. Most of the time I have an absolute blast singing in my wedding band. Other nights I find myself singing YMCA while doing the actions to a bunch of pissed up wedding guests, and its as if the world goes in slow motion and I think ‘what the fuck am I doing?‘. And it frustrates me as I know that while I’m not the greatest singer or player who ever lived, I do have enough talent to have been a successful original musician.
It makes me so upset and so miserable, and I live in a very ironic position – I can’t fully throw myself into making music with the passion I once did because of my responsibilities, and simultaneously I would never want to live without my beautiful kids and wife, and I get out of bed for them and them alone every day. They are my anchor to this hard, mundane, shitty plane of existence. They keep me safe from myself.
I can only speculate, but I wonder if Greg had managed to find the kind of love I have been blessed with, and had a family of his own, maybe he would still be here. Maybe the life he lived, the life I have so desperately craved for so long, contributed to the inner loneliness that evidently haunted him. Again, maybe not. I can’t say.
What I can say is that, for me, his very real death is also symbolic of the death of my musical past, the death of the Clevedon music scene I grew up in and loved so well. In practice the scene is ostensibly thriving, but there are now so many musicians it has almost become meaningless. When Mr. Zippy were kings of Clevedon, being a musician felt special. Something to aim for. Others were mere civilians, we were musicians. Now everyone can fucking play a few chords.
The death of Greg also means a little part of our own death for those of us who were there at that time. The death of that passion, that dream. It feels like it was all a lie.
Goodbye Greg. I just wish you had known that even acquaintances like me who you probably wouldn’t even remember now were profoundly inspired by you. You were, in your own way, as influential to me as Bowie. I probably wouldn’t even be a musician now if it wasn’t in part for you. I hope you’re at peace, and know that there are many like me who will never forget you.