A Review Of Heading North

The musician and writer Laura Bruno Lilly recently posted a great, incisive review of my poetry collection on her blog, in which she quotes some of the included poems.

It’s always good to be mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles!

My thanks to her for her ‘shoutout’ post.

Here is the link:

http://laurabrunolilly.com/poetry-shoutout-heading-north-by-andrew-james-murray/

 

2015: The Things That Got The Jackdaw Flying

I am a guy who regularly concedes that he can become a little obsessive about his interests and pursuits. I have tried to reign things in a little, and be a bit more discerning about the things that excited me during 2015. There has been a lot, but here are some of my eclectic highs:

Books

Go Set A Watchman.

Yes, I was aware that it was not a bonafide sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. And neither did I think it was a ‘new’ novel, either. But this did nothing to temper my excitement about the publication of this book. For big fans of TKAM like myself, it was, at long last, something else to read by Harper Lee. Come on!  Treat it as a stand alone novel and leave Atticus up there on his pedestal.

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The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion For Vampire Lovers

Like Watchman, this was not a new book. But nor was it published in 2015, either. A definite highlight of the year was the unexpected discovery that I made, in a second hand book store, of a signed copy of this book. How thrilling to get my hands on a book signed by the Hammer Queen herself, offering ‘lots of fun & millions of fierce little bites-always !!’ Though I may have to change my name to Charlie.

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The Northlore Series Volume One:Folklore. 

Okay, I know I’m not exactly non-partisan about the following two books, but how could a banner year for me not be a highlight? In addition to a poem of mine being included in this anthology, called Mara, My Love, my first published fiction featured in the form of a short story, entitled And The Snow Came Down. Volume Two is to follow.

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Heading North. 

The next stage in my publishing journey was my very own poetry collection, published in December by Nordland Publishing. I was, and am, very proud to be featured as one of the Songs Of The North poets. After getting my hands on my very first solo collection, my appetite has been whetted!

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Travel

In September I fulfilled a long held ambition to visit Sweden, spending four great nights in the capital, Stockholm. Next in my sights is Malmö, including a journey over the Öresund Bridge to Denmark to meet up with an old school friend. I may have to wait until 2017, though. Christmas cleared me out.

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Small Screen

The Bridge. 

Speaking of the Öresund Bridge, I was much excited by the return to our screens of the joint Swedish-Danish crime series, Broen. I love this programme, one of the best things I have seen on television for a long time, and had been counting down the days until Season Three debuted in the UK. In the plethora of crime dramas that seem to dominate our television sets at the moment, I don’t think there is any character more  interesting and intriguing than that of Swedish police officer Saga Norén, played by Sofia Helin. This season lived up to the standards set by the previous two, and for the first time we saw a vulnerability in Saga. In no time at all I found myself drawn in again, both fearful and rooting for Saga. Now in my greed I want a Season Four!

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Doctor Who. 

As an unashamed Whovian, I have been a little disappointed with some of the writing for Capaldi’s Doctor, (even though I do like his portrayal of the Time Lord), but the 2015 Christmas special was a highlight. Whereas some episodes have been too convoluted in a seeming attempt to be ‘clever’, this was a straight, enjoyably old fashioned adventure romp. River Song is a delight, and that moment (pictured) when she recognises the Doctor (who she had only known during Matt Smith’s tenure) for who he really was, was profoundly moving. But then I’m just a sentimental softie at heart.

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Big Screen

Star Wars The Force Awakens. 

The nerd in me was counting down, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t. The moment when Han Solo and Chewbacca unexpectedly emerged onto the screen again for the first time, well, yes, the sentimental softie escaped again. I loved the film, but something occurred in it that I am biting my tongue not to say. Somehow I have managed to avoid venting my spleen as I’m mindful of spoilers for those who have not caught the film yet. BUT IT RUINED MY WHOLE DAMN CHRISTMAS! My wife, who hasn’t seen the film and cares not a jot about spoilers, told me several times to get over it as it was ruining her Christmas too. You will have to see it to discover what upset me so, or call back to Jackdaw in a month or so. There has been a great disturbance in the force.

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Music

The Beatles. 

Many times over the last eighteen months or so (since I first started using it) I have complained about my favourite group of all time not being available on Spotify. I discovered some great new groups on there, but I was unable to fall back on my default musical love. Then suddenly Beatles fans everywhere were granted an extra Christmas present by the news that the Fab Four were now available for streaming. Oh how I have already plagued my poor, beleaguered wife and children! Doing the pots, doing anything-every single Beatles album was accessible. And now I’m thinking of playlists 🙂 Here’s to 2016. You’ve got a lot to live up to.

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For John, From Paul, George And Ringo

I was a John Lennon fan before I knew who John Lennon was.

My earliest recollection of him was unfortunately of the ‘what was you doing when you heard?’ variety.  I was opening my presents on the morning of the 9th of December, which just so happened to be my ninth birthday. I remember seeing a newspaper lying around nearby, headlines screaming of his murder that had taken place the night before. I had no idea who he was, I just had a vague notion that he used to be in a musical group called The Beatles, and seemed pretty well known.

That was about it.

As time went on, and I gradually became familiar with the group whose music seemed to be omnipresent, I just thought of them as a collective, rather than four individuals. I didn’t know who wrote and sang what. But then, in my early teens, as my interest and love of their music deepened, I found that the majority of my favourite Beatles songs were John’s. And of the songs that were bonafide collaborations between John and Paul, my preference was for his parts, for example on We Can Work It Out, and A Day In The Life. Not exclusively, but generally.

From my younger days, every time the festive season transformed the usual fayre of the radio stations, my favourite Christmas song was always Happy Xmas (War Is Over), many years before I discovered that this was in fact a Lennon song.

I was a John Lennon fan, but wasn’t aware of it yet.

But now I am not as ignorant. I  am a fully-fledged Fab Four nerd, and could bore you rigid with tons of throwaway trivia. Relax-I won’t.

On this, the thirty-fifth anniversary of John Lennon’s death, I will leave it to his friends to make the tribute, as they sought healing through creativity in the aftermath of that December night.

The first video, a montage of photographs, is of the moving song Here Today, released by Paul McCartney on his album Ram, less than two years after the killing of his former songwriting buddy. ‘And if I said I really knew you well what would your answer be?’ ‘Knowing you, you’d probably laugh and say that we were worlds apart.’

The second video, containing photographs and film footage, is of the song All Those Years Ago, by George Harrison. It was released just five months after Lennon’s death, and, with Ringo Starr on drums and Paul McCartney on backing vocals, it was the first time that all three had appeared on the same recording since The Beatles. ‘Living with good and bad, I always looked up to you.’

R.I.P John, from Paul, George and Ringo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entrances And Exits/Morrison And Lennon

The 8th of December is a date that links together my two favourite musical artists, two artists that I have been listening to for what seems most of my life.

On the 8th of December, 1943, James Douglas Morrison, son of a Navy Officer, was born. He would go on to become the focal point and frontman of The Doors, known by such self-given and tongue in cheek epithets such as the Lizard King, Shaman, and Erotic Politician.

He is one of the few rock or pop stars whose poetry is read seriously, as poetry. As a poet he tends to polarise opinion, but I like his writing, and his song lyrics helped to set the group apart from the usual music crowd. In the days when The Mama’s And The Papa’s were dreaming of California and over the pond The Beatles were telling the world that all you need is love, Morrison was channeling Oedipus, saying he wanted to kill his father and fuck his mother. They were a darker group, harder to pigeonhole, with elements of rock, jazz, blues, and yes, poetry.

Morrison’s was an intellect and creativity that was drowned in excess, a pursuit of a muse that would not be tempered or compromised. The recording life of The Doors, when Morrison was with them, lasted for just four, short, years. But what an outpouring it was.

image Also on the 8th of December, in 1980, John Lennon was shot dead in New York. I was a Lennon fan before I even knew who Lennon was. As a kid, almost all of my favourite Beatles songs were his. On his true collaborations with McCartney, for example We Can Work It Out, I always preferred the parts that he sang, the parts that he wrote, without at the time being able to discern who did what.

My favourite Christmas song, right from my childhood, and still, is Happy Xmas (War Is Over), but it was a few years before I discovered that the song was by Lennon. I was a fan of the music before I knew whose music it was.

Today Lennon is regarded almost as a saint, but the truth seems to be that he could be a real shit to the people who were closest to him. He would sing about peace and love yet at times be unable to demonstrate such sentiments. The figure of Lennon is a conundrum. He appeared to be a man of contradictions, which I think has its roots in his troubled childhood. His anger drove him and so made him a Beatle. Always transparent, the lyrics

I heard something ’bout my Ma and my Pa /They didn’t want me so they made me a star 

stand out.

Tomorrow, the 9th of December, is my birthday. I can remember opening my birthday presents on my ninth birthday, back in 1980, and the news was all over the television and the newspapers. All that I was aware of at the time, in my young ignorance, was that some guy who was in a group called The Beatles had died.

Little would I know that, for years, for decades later, I would always be struck by a terrible sense of waste when reflecting on his untimely, senseless death.

Fans are selfish. We barely see beyond our own wants and fixations.

There is a woman who lost a husband, and two boys who lost a father, yet all I think of is the music that we could have had, the wit that the world has lost, and the extra pages that could have been in the biography.

And that’s got to be wrong. image

Two men, linked by one date, whose words and music provided a soundtrack to my life. R.I.P Mr Mojo Risin’ and Dr Winston O’ Boogie. Thanks for the inspiration.