READ THE FULL STORY OF WHAT INSPIRED ’90 DEGREES’ :
On 24th March 2013 I asked my Facebook fans for help!!!
I wanted to challenge myself with a different method of song writing so I decided to reach out to my friends/fans and ask them to be involved in the process. To kick off the conversation I shared a post with an angled photo of my workspace. This resulted in some quite random comments:
1). 90 Degrees as a first angle – Tony
2). Global Warming is it happening FFS – Sam
3). Is that an ovation? – Rab
4). Should I shave before going to work – Gary
5). Play left hand guitar – Marty
6). The Cookie Monster – Gary
7). The Aberfan Disaster – Richard
After taking note of these suggestions, I set about doing a bit of brain-storming to try and establish potential connections. I soon began to delve much deeper as links became more apparent. Clearly other people working off the same template could end up going down a completely different path… But I suppose our individual creative journeys really do shine a light on who we are as people… Sure a psychologist would have a field day!!
Anyway, I’d like to explain the links I made and the resulting theme of the song…
My starting off point was to Google ‘The Aberfan Disaster’. Apparently Richard had been reading about a Welsh colliery disaster which happened back in 1966. The community were living beside, and working in, an active coal mine. Over time the waste product had been piled up into a huge slag heap which over-shadowed the village. Adding to the precarious nature of this mountain was the fact that it was sitting on top of a natural spring. One morning the inevitable happened and it collapsed. The sludge cascaded down the valley burying several houses and the local school killing 116 children and 28 adults. My research around that event led me to a youtube video of a song called ‘Palaces of Gold’ by Leon Rosselson which was partly inspired by that event. Listen to ‘Palaces of Gold’ here:
It’s a brilliantly written protest song. The gist being that if the people in positions of power (politicians, business owners, aristocracy) were forced to live and work in the same conditions they imposed on others by their ‘capitalist’ pursuit of profit… then they would quickly do something about it and as Leon suggests:
Buttons would be pressed
Rules would be broken
Strings would be pulled
Magic words spoken
In other words there would be massive systemic changes. I couldn’t have put it any better so I asked Leon if he would give me permission to integrate his lyrics into my song & he said YES – Thank-you Leon!!! Please do check out more of his music and activism here: www.leonrosselson.co.uk)
There are so many similar disasters happening around our world today… with people ‘employed’ in conditions of slavery, ‘unfit’ factories collapsing on workers, and natural disasters caused by the exploitation of resources including fossil fuels and minerals. My song now had a powerful theme so I continued with my research and looked for more links between the suggestions of my fans. In my other life, (I’ve worked for many years as an ‘adventure tour guide’) I had just returned home from 4 days of Mountain Skills training in the South West of Ireland. Map reading and navigation of our globe was still very much in the forefront of my mind so immediately, Tony’s suggestion of ‘90 Degrees’ made me think of the latitudinal co-ordinates of the polar regions. This tied in well with Sam’s comment of ‘Global warming – is it ever going to happen FFS’ and it made me think specifically about the search for oil in the Arctic. Satellite imaging and scientific measurements / modelling show us the increase in CO2 levels and how the ice caps are melting at an alarming rate causing all sorts of environmental problems. Wildlife is losing its natural habitat, sea levels are rising, coastal and island communities are being flooded or lost altogether, weather systems are becoming more extreme… However, not everybody considers these things to be ‘bad’. As the ice melts new shipping channels are opening up, fishing catchment areas are expanding and of course new opportunities for extracting fossil fuels are emerging. Canada, USA, Greenland, Russia, Denmark, and Norway (among other nations) are fighting over who owns each part of the seabed and the subsequent drilling rights. Oil companies are rubbing their hands together in anticipation. The quicker the ice melts the more profit they can make… to hell with the polar bears… to hell with the risks of an oil spill… and to hell with the rising seas! The reality is, that if the current trend continues, we will soon be ‘Sailing through 90 Degrees’ and ‘Lord Franklin (who’s British Arctic Expedition of 1845 got stuck in the ice and was lost as they tried to navigate The Northwest Passage) will finally get his relief’. Interestingly enough in September 2014, just over a year after I wrote ’90 DEGREES’, the Canadian government reported that their search team had indeed found the HMS EREBUS.
Moving on with my Facebook suggestions I considered Gary’s question ‘Will I shave before going to work?’ and his later comment of ‘the cookie monster’ – (I think maybe he was trying to throw me a bit of a curve ball here!). But I was not to be deterred and continued my research. As it turns out, the US Budget Director Richard G Darman wrote an introduction to President Bush’s budget (1991) entitled ‘The Green Eyeshades and the Cookie Monster’ wherein he described ‘The Cookie Monster’ as representing the ‘Quintessential Consumer’. This fits my theme perfectly as over consumption is driving our environmental crisis… Richard explained his analogy further:
‘The Cookie Monster… has a few bad habits… He cannot resist gobbling up anything and everything that might be consumed…and he cannot quite control the way he spews forth crumbs. He is the quintessential consumer. Yet clearly, he means no harm’.
Gary was also wondering if he should ‘shave before going to work’? An example of the day to day concerns we all have (whether it be shaving or other tasks)… Mr Grey however represents the dire politician, the bland capitalist banker or the lead character in an infamous book which personifies and sexualises the role-play we see within Capitalism. It describes a world where the submissive population is controlled through bondage and the manipulative marketing/media strategies of a dominant Neoliberal Economic system and its agents. Where politicians and entrepreneurs exploit basic human desires and we are fooled into demanding more, more, more. Although I have to admit I haven’t actually read the ’50 shades’ book so maybe I’m overestimating it slightly??!
Ha, anyway, the song is coming together bit by bit… but I still need some lyrical inspiration… Cue a timely and emotive speech by Irish President Michael D Higgins as Ireland took on the Presidency of the EU in 2013. President Higgins is a poet and a wonderful orator. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and the Anthem of Europe (Beethoven’s Ode to Joy), he explained how EU policies have ‘reduced citizens to the status of mere consumers; pawns in a speculative chessboard of fiscal moves’. (Watch Youtube clip below – Quote from approx. 25.40) He implored that the institutions of the EU should strive to uphold their fundamental founding values of ‘respect for personal dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights’. The theme of the Irish presidency therefore was to reclaim our citizenship. To re-claim our future.
Facebook friend Marty suggested that I ‘play left hand guitar’, which is a very difficult thing for a right handed player to do, but it is possible. So I have likened a determination to change ‘The System’ to teaching the ‘right hand’ to play ‘a left hand tune’.
Finally Rab asked, ‘Is that an ovation?’ The guitar in my Facebook photo is actually my Yamaha electro acoustic. So I wanted to somehow get an Ovation into the story… Well, I suppose when I play the song I am very much hoping that the audience will contribute at the end and give me a round of applause (even a polite one!), but just incase, I decided to borrow my friend’s beautiful Ovation guitar which I used when writing the music for this song. Thank-you Plunkett McCombe!
So, now you know the story, you may want to have another listen to the finished song!
I hope that ’90 Degrees’ will be a meaningful song for those who listen with or without the background story. Thank-you for taking the time to read about and share in my creative journey. Huge thanks to everyone who helped inspire this song, (knowingly or not), and also to the team who came together to help record it and get it ready for release. We headed into the studio for a day near the end of 2013 and with Bill Shanley ‘steadfast’ at the helm we got our tracks down. By early 2014 I had a mixed & mastered single ready for release. However, life took a turn and the release was postponed until 2015.
’90 Degrees’ has now been re-released as part of my retrospective digital album ‘Sunsets’ available from various on-line platforms.
And if you want to read the full lyrics click this button: