Now that the very worst of last year has been dealt with, its time to sum up the end of 2016 and look forward into 2017 and beyond.
Despite all my best intentions to really hit the fitness regime, from September to October I was wracked with respiratory and back problems – two chest infections and an ear infection to start with (and a nasty post-antibiotic side effect of itching from head to foot), followed by injuring my lower back, followed by injuring my neck so that I couldn’t turn my head. This has meant that the gym membership was pretty much a non-starter.
Then came the death of my Grandpa. I live such a busy life that I still haven’t had time to grieve for him properly. I find myself thinking of him at the most random of times and I start to choke up, but more often than not the situation requires me to keep po-faced. After that, my Great Aunt died. And then Greg killed himself. Then came the one year anniversary of Scott Weiland’s death – nothing compared with the personal losses suffered, but a sombre, reflective time for me nonetheless.
One year gone.
All these myriad challenges and losses combined to create a lethal cocktail that killed off the last of the will I had to do anything creative in 2016. As so many other people have no doubt felt, last year for me was a complete fucking write-off. Some hotels leave out a 13th floor – as far as I’m concerned, in the story of my life 2015 gave way to 2017. To top things off in relation to this project; Lauren informed me that her schedule as an MD had become super busy and she could no longer commit to my band. I’m going to miss playing with her; the couple of practices we had contained a lot of potential.
Next came what is, for most covers bands, the biggest gig of every year – New Year’s Eve. 2016 would see us play at the Salthouse in Clevedon – my favourite pub, and the scene of an insane NYE gig for us three years earlier. I was really excited for NYE 2016 – the year had been so terrible I felt its end was something to really celebrate. The more cynical among us may mock the silliness of an arbitary man-made date being a reason to think your life might change for the better; but I thrive on clear goals and deadlines, so I was itching to get going with 2017. The Salthouse always does a fancy dress theme for NYE, and this year was pop icons. Thinking it would be a good laugh; I decided to go in drag as a chubby, bearded Amy Winehouse.
My enthusiasm for the gig soon faded. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know I have alluded to a couple of people from Clevedon who have gone on to find fame and success in music. And that I often find myself feeling down and full of regret that I never managed to achieve the same. Well, as luck would have it they both turned up to the NYE party…
I’ve never mentioned them by name here but now is the time. The first is George Shelley – the lad who found fame as part of X Factor boyband Union J. I think he spent most of the night listening to the DJ who was playing outside, but he was there.
The second was Luke Spiller, of incredible successful rising stars The Struts. He has played in front of 80,000 people supporting the Rolling Stones. He is soon to support Guns N Roses when they make their long awaited return in London. He’s made a music video with one of my favourite directors Jonas Akerlund. He’s duetted with Steven Tyler, Mike Oldfield and The Killers. This guy is a bona fide rock star, currently recording The Struts’ second album in LA.
The moment I saw Luke walk in my heart sank. Here was the symbol of everything that a musician from Clevedon could rise to, in the same room as me – a symbol of what happens when an ambitious musician from Clevedon makes all the wrong choices and ends up going nowhere. For Christ’s sake he even has a song called ‘Could Have Been Me’ that’s basically about my life! Including the lyric ‘Wrapped in your regret, what a waste of blood and sweat’. How apt. What had started out as a night full of excitement and the anticipation of a brilliant party had turned into a ritual humiliation that couldn’t be over quick enough as far as I was concerned.
We played our first set to an emptier room than the last NYE gig we had done there. Luke and his friends were among the crowd though – of course, they had to come and dance and sing right at the front. Afterwards during our break, I was returning from the toilet when Luke collared me. ‘Love your voice man, how you hit those high notes is amazing’. You know that cliched dream that people supposedly have about standing in front of a room full of people with no clothes on? Yeah, this was definitely my version of that – standing in front of this successful rock star, while I’m dressed in a skirt and tights, beer belly hanging over the top, and a ridiculous beehive wig. Surreal is not the word! I said thanks and returned the compliment, asked him if he’d had a nice Christmas and some other drunken small talk bullshit then returned to the stage.
To be fair to him he could have been anywhere else that night, but he remained singing along, dancing and having a good time to my band, and the gig was pretty good in the end. Still, as one final, irony-laden middle finger to me from a dying 2016 it was hard to beat.
One last thing before we move on – fuck you, 2016.
We’re now two weeks into 2017 and finally (I say cautiously) things seem to be on the up. I’m a fortnight into a strict calorie controlled diet and am back at the gym three times a week. I can already see a difference in my waist line and I’m sleeping better. I’m recording some more vocals with Laurence Howell at the end of the month. I have some practice time with Tom Rutland next week so we can nail down the electric guitar parts for my songs. I got to see the Bowie musical Lazarus in London. And I’m looking for a new job.
I’m hoping against hope that this will be A Good Year.