What a Year, 2011.
A bad year for dictators. A good year for music and love. It continues to amaze me (a) how the music we created in the seventies now seems to possess a timeless quality, and (b) second generation kids who have grown up listening to Wishbone Ash with their parents, are coming along to the shows as well.
So, goodbye 2011 - an Arab Spring, Summer riots, autumn austerity and winter currency malady. And Benton of course. Benton!!!
Goodbye Gadhafi, Bin Laden, and Kim Jong-Il. Hell will be a busier place this Christmas.
Dear old Chelski languishing in 4th place as I write. Decried by some as being past their prime, they still bring me and the vast majority of Chelsea fans an intense pleasure and pride.
Thank Goodness we still have music to bring us peace and perspective. Music is a universal constant, the ultimate freedom of choice. In 2011, the 40th anniversary of Pilgrimage, I have been lucky enough to visit new places and meet more and more of you, to whom Wishbone Ash music means so much. After every show I make a point of talking to people who have followed our musical fortunes from the seventies, or in increasing numbers, more recent converts.I have enjoyed meeting old friends this year too. I have particularly enjoyed appearing on the same bill as artists we played alongside in the seventies.
As I say, the ultimate freedom of choice.
When I revisited the stage in 2005, many of you expected that it would be for a short tour, perhaps a couple of festivals. I remember notifying my old mates and colleagues in the industry, early 2005, following my realisation that a reunion of core members was unlikely, that we were forming Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash as a vehicle to revisit and revitalise the soundtrack of my youthful creativity. It is humbling that as we approach our 7th year, and as I approach my mid sixties, the band is in increasing demand, with the biggest UK diary that we have known, tours of Europe in the book, offers from new continents to consider, AND of course the 40th anniversary of Argus to promote. Having learnt over the years to appreciate every day for what it is (as opposed to what it isn’t), I reflect with amazement that I have the same fire in my belly now as I did in the mid sixties (and not just single malt!!!). It is an absolute joy to get into the band’s sprinter van and schlepp up and down the motorways of the UK and Europe. With my band members, Ray, Danny and Dave, plus Mick on knobs and faders, we have a ball from the minute we awake, each day and each gig filled with love, humour and positivity which we also notice reflected in our audiences.
All of this interest in the music I love.
In addition to my other loves - my extended family. I am so lucky to have the strength and support of a huge family - my wonderful wife Susie, six children and nine Grandchildren, all of whom bring miracles to my life on a daily basis. I am so fortunate to be a hands-on husband, parent and grandparent, sharing the emotions and roller coasters, not to say ironing boards of life with those with whom so much love is shared and reciprocated. I make no apology for devoting time to my family that forty years ago may have been spent in a studio.
I am also very fortunate to have a strong support team of friends and old mates in the industry to encourage me. Martin Darvill has been there from the beginning, with the dozen or so in the UK QEDG team plus Ellie and Phil in the USA, Don McKay as agent, plus the guys at the labels, lawyers, designers, merchandisers, numerous promoters who have become personal friends, road teams, my friends Storm and Po at Hipgnosis and the rest of my business contacts who have done so much to enable me to play a few songs to those who have chosen in ever increasing numbers to come and recapture some fond memories.
To those of you who egg me on to record new music and take on more musical challenges, I can only say “yes” it is very close to the top of my list of personal wishes and we took some tentative steps this year, but the band’s live work and the time I devote to my family will always take priority.
I have worked with my long time friend Gary Carter, to write my memoirs, and that has been a cathartic process, recalling the great times we had when we formed Empty Vessels, and then Wishbone Ash, the comic and cosmic moments and the sheer audacity of four young guys sharing determination, loyalty, passion and a winning hand. To Andy, Ted and Steve I once again relay my fond memories, my love and respect. Together with Laurie, we created passion and art, from a blank canvas we created our own musical tapestries and shared these with millions of you. We had enough confidence and resolve to empathise with those of you who reflected our music with your own love and passion for our music. We had our critics and snipers. We still do. But even in the naivety and innocence of our late teens and early twenties, we had learnt the first and major rule in music, which I have always applied to life itself, and that is to harness our strengths and love and not be distracted by those who have little passion in their lives, other than criticising the creative paths of others - those who like to see bad in everything they see, who analyse negatively in depth every word or action. Man, look at the mint not the hole.
More than ever, it is not a good time for petty differences. Live and let live.
Our mantra remains to see love and good in everything we do and we take strength in this regard from our audiences, many of whom regale with joy the impact that Wishbone Ash music has had on their lives – backdrops to the life changing times, comforting during the bad times and inspiring the good times. It is a humbling experience to realise that our songs have been played at weddings, births, funerals, revision for exams, during intensely personal moments of passion, and so often throughout so many lives. People we have inspired without ever meeting. That is truly overwhelming to me.
That is what music is about. A unifier, a source of love and passion, a stimulus, a joy. The creation of something positive from something invisible. As we move forward to another New Year, it is once again with excitement and opportunity.
A Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all of you, especially to the millions of Wishbone Ash fans who have bought the records and have seen the shows since we took those first tentative steps in 1970. We may see life and music from different perspectives but that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us. Let’s try to see the good in all of us. I look forward to seeing you on the road in 2012.