I don’t know if it’s going to be better than WordPress, but it is a different community and I’m going to give it a try for my autobiography. I wanted somewhere separate where I could write and publish my new book as a serial, where you can listen and read at the same time. It doesn’t have as many features as WordPress, but it has a strong community, so I’m going to give it a go.
It’s called Substack and that’s where you will find In My Life. There is only one chapter up so far, which you can read while listening to some great music from The Beatles and Miranda Lambert. Even a song from me.
So if you like my writing, or my music, come and have a look. Let me know what you think.
Here is a chapter, not yet edited and maybe not yet complete from a boy called Gino (who didn’t know his name was Luigi) around the age of 4. The Chapter is called Please Turn the Record OverI Can’t Sleep. The book is based around 500 songs that influenced my life. If you are interested in checking out what those songs are, you will find them here, on Spotify.
I must have been about 4 years old. I couldn’t go to sleep without music. We were living in Union Street, New Brighton, in Christchurch.
Entertainment came from the radio or the record player back then and there was always music in our home. I remember calling out to my parents to put on another record, or turn it over because I couldn’t go to sleep in silence. This practice, (not calling out to my parents), has continued to this day. I always listen to music or a podcast as part of my routine to close my mind from replaying my day or focusing on what I have to do tomorrow.
One of those records I listened to back then was a Big Bill Broonzy 78.
What is a 78? It’s a thick black record made of brittle shellac that plays at 78 rpm or rotations per minute. The original record players had a big fat needle and records were often scratched as people lifted the needle off the record, or the record player was bumped, forcing the needle to slide over the grooves.
Many years later at my Glen Eden Intermediate school, and other fund-raising galas around the country, people would pay to throw cricket balls at 78 records mounted on pedestals, and win prizes based on the number they smashed. I never liked that. Sometimes, I would rummage through the boxes to see if there was anything I thought should be saved and ask if I could buy it. I rescued a few, most of which sadly got broken over the years, becoming even more brittle over time.
Now they are becoming harder to come by. One that I saved included Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti and the label says ‘featuring an electric guitar’. Another which I saved, but was disgusted by, and wondered how it found its way to New Zealand had a song called “I caught a n**** in the cornfield”, and I felt it should be kept just as an example of the world my blues idols grew up in.
In Episode 36 of the great podcast ‘A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs’ by Andrew Hickey, he tells a great story of how the great Carl Perkins, a close friend of Elvis Presley, who wrote Blue Suede Shoes, cried when he went to a record store to buy a copy of his latest record and the owner of the music store presented him with a record made of vinyl. He wanted a real record. He was eventually pacified when the owner explained that this was the way young people wanted to buy their records. The fact that Hickey’s podcast is based on the concept of 500 songs may have influenced my decision to base this book around the same number.
One of the Big Bill tracks I fell asleep listening to as a young boy was Minding my Own Business. I don’t know when the album was recorded, but he passed away in 1958.
Later I would perform some of his songs in my blues repertoire, such as When I’ve Been Drinking. It’s fascinating that he copyrighted over 300 songs in his career, yet his fame was overshadowed by people like Robert Johnson who only ever recorded 29 songs.
Broonzy left Mississippi to escape racism and his records were in fact sold as ‘race records’ mostly for a black audience. Another song my parents had on 78, that I loved was the story of John Henry, the ‘steel drivin’ man’ who took his hammer to the captain and said he was ‘gwine’.
John Henry was actually a real person who was convicted of theft in 1866, sent to the penitentiary and worked alongside steam-powered drills, building the Lewis Tunnel in Virginia for the C&O Railroad. They were pretty much treated as slave labour, and his rebellion made him a folk hero. His story can be found in this video from the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
Eventually my parents got tired of being disk jockeys for me and bought me a clockwork radio. You had to wind it up to give it the power to play and the power wasn’t enough to drive a speaker, but it came with a couple of earplugs, the father of those we wear today.
Some 50 years later, my daughter Tracy bought me one which she knew I would like because I love technology. But I don’t think I had told her how important my first one was.
The radio sat on the white wooden window sill above my bed. Each night I would wind it up, painstakingly get the fiddly dial to tune onto a station that played music, and I would go to sleep.
As any kid does, I would toss and turn in my sleep, pulling on the cord attached to the radio and wake up when there was no give anymore and the radio would be pulled down to fall on my head. Sometimes the cable would have to be soldered back onto the circuit board.
Have you noticed how you can track your life with music? You hear a song and it takes you right back to a special time in your life?
In my last post, I mentioned that I have decided to write my autobiography. People have said I should because I have so many stories about things I have done, places I have been and life experiences, like in this photo, getting to spend time with Claudette, Robert Johnson’s granddaughter in Crystal Springs, MS. Maybe it’s that time in my life, but I have to tell you, I have a lot of living to do and more experiences to come.
The first question was how to do it. I really want to have a multi-media biography and from the earliest age, I have been about music. So I have decided to make it about the music that is the ever-changing fabric of my life. Hence the name “In My Life”.
Copyright restrictions won’t allow me to do what I wanted to do, which is to have the songs playing while people read the stories that tie in with them. But I will find a way that doesn’t infringe. For starters that will be with a link to Spotify where the songs have been selected to weave the stories about can be found.
It’s called In My Life – Luigi’s Top #500 Songs. I have drafted a few chapters already, but am not quite ready to share. Believe it or not, I’m also struggling with which songs to include in the 500. I need to cull some and add some.
Are there songs that resonate in your life, where they evoke memories for you? My song Another Stretch in Iraq did that for a group of retired marines who served in Desert Storm, when I performed it in Longwood, Fl. They came up to the stage in tears, and I was getting a bit worried that I had offended them. Quite the opposite, they adopted me for the night and said it took them right back to those intense times.
Anyway, watch this space for news on my work in progress. Comments are always welcome.
What an amazing time we live in. How have you been? Are you still there? So much has changed in the last couple of years of COVID lockdowns.
My family has grown as you can see and I have been remote working, which has been a blessing under the circumstances. I have enjoyed being surrounded by my children and grandchildren. On the other side my father passed away in June and I was fortunate that we were able to have people attend the funeral before the latest lockdown, but haven’t been allowed out of Auckland for 4 months since then to see and support my mother who is living alone.
As always I am involved in many things. I am working for a health research company as a field coach, currently supporting around 30 people after having spent around a year with the same company as a contractor doing COVID close contact calls and quickly moving to shift leader and team leader roles. It has been great to be part of a team of people.
I have had to leave most of my writing clients because after working 50 hours a week for a guaranteed income, I also wanted time for my own pursuits. I’ve been writing in LinkedIn, mostly about location-based services, which I used to do in the SoLoMo Consulting blog. SoLoMo isn’t currently trading.
If you are a supporter of The Cancer Diaries, that is still a work in progress. I bought Band in a Box software to help me with backing, whether that ends up being how I do the recording of the EP, or whether it is just the tool I use to shape the songs hasn’t been decided yet.
I have been writing jazz arrangements for guitar and am looking forward to opportunities to gig again, even if just in an open-mic environment. I wrote a new song called Quarantine and have started recording it. I’m still working through the arrangement, and it has the same potential for pub-goers to sing with the hook, just as I used to enjoy when performing songs like You Oughta Run.
So often I get comments like “You have lived such an interesting life, you should write an autobiography”. My life is far from over, but I took that on board and have started writing. More in my next post.
We are in the process of trying to sell our property and moving out west to a lifestyle block. I knew but had forgotten how stressful it is to buy and sell your home. We listed just over three weeks ago and it was passed in at auction 2 days ago as were the other lots. Times are changing and our property is a rare one, but one that needs an extended family or a land banker. The next open home is tomorrow, so today we will be once again making sure it is clean and presentable.
Anyway, I’m back writing here and apologise for the radio silence.