Collect moments, not things
I am just about 3/4s through “Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink” – just shy of 700 pages dedicated to the life of Elvis Costello. I’ve been reading it since Christmas, slowly, along with 7 other books.
Exceptionally versatile as a musician and prolific and gifted as a songwriter, Costello has only occasionally caught my attention musically but his autobiography is excellent.
It’s a real musical education and much more.
In the early chapters somewhere, I learned that his grandfather was from Tyrone, just outside Coalisland and a page or two later he managed to somehow shoe-horn both Joe Strummer and Philomena Begley into the one sentence.
That takes talent.
He writes candidly about his life, his relationship with his parents and his collaborations with many great musical legends.
It’s an impressive list including amongst others, Chet Baker, Paul McCartney and more latterly, Allen Toussaint.
A son of New Orleans, Toussaint was a gifted (hardworking) pianist who made a name for himself form the 60s onwards, collaborating with numerous artists from across the musical spectrum – John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Willy DeVille, Sandy Denny, Robert Palmer amongst others.
His compositions have been covered by the likes of Glen Campbell, (Southern Nights) and Labelle (Lady Marmalade) and many others.
He spent most of his life in New Orleans and in music, creating his own music studio Sea-Saint at his home.
I know how proud I can be about my music collection – vinyl, CD, MPs, books, pictures, 2 guitars and I am only saying this relative to someone like Toussaint and indeed Costello who speaks of having white label copies of some early Beatles 45s.
Music for me is a hobby, nothing more.
For a musician it’s their life and you can only but imagine the recordings, instruments, equipment, memorabilia, score sheets and unfinished music housed in that studio and in his home.
At the end of 2005, New Orleans was battered by Hurricane Katrina and subsequently abused by the US Federal Government.
The category 5 hurricane left over 1,800 dead and for a short time it was thought that Toussaint was one of them.
Unable to communicate with anyone, Toussaint eventually bussed his way to shelter in Birmingham, Alabama and then on to friends in New York.
Everything left behind was lost to the rising tides of the Mississippi.
When the two men next met up, Costello talks about the difficulty in bringing up the Katrina experience knowing how deeply affected all New Orleanians were by the disaster.
He found himself asking Toussaint about his home and the beloved studio to which the musician replied:
“Well, the things that I had then, they served me well.”
What a sentiment – how I wish to be able to one day, say the same thing.