The 109s practice every Monday evening, but I can’t make it tonight as I have knackered my back. ‘Not very rock and roll, is it?’ one of my friends laughed when I told him.
His comment set me thinking.
Back when I was in my 20s, I happily conformed to the Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll myth (although it was mainly Drugs and Rock and Roll in my case) and so did everyone else.
The first time I went to a decent recording studio, I arrived to find the sound engineer cutting himself a 6-inch line of speed on the mixing desk, thereby encouraging the band to dig into their own stash of narcotics.
By the time I came to record my guitar parts 8 hours later, I had reduced myself to a gurning, teeth-grinding mess, and EVERYTHING I played sounded AMAZING. Subsequent listens over the years have revealed my critical faculties – frazzled by cocaine, ecstasy and booze – were way off the mark.
When Keith Richards was once asked which drugs were best for creating music, he smiled, laughed and said, ‘A cup of tea and clear head’. That is very much an ethos I have taken to heart.
When The 109s record, we don’t even take beer along. Why not? Because recording is hard work and requires effort and concentration. Besides all the usual rock guitar techniques, I have also learned and mastered techniques that are so complex – harmony guitar, bottleneck, finger-picking, hybrid finger-picking, lapsteel Dobro, flamenco, alternate guitar tunings – I have to be totally sober in order to employ them properly.
When you listen to a recording by The 109s, you are listening to the very best every musician in the band can do.
All of which has taught me a very important lesson in life: the Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll ethos can go fuck itself.
Because I am a musician.