Starting in Paul’s Bedroom

In a comment last night, Audrey Silk wrote:

…our whole discussion hinges on what it takes to GAIN a voice, not how far and by what means it can be carried once gained. We’re discussing getting the voice at all. And the use of the internet solely will not do it. Speaking only amongst ourselves will not do it.

How do people gain a voice? I think people gain a voice by talking to each other.

Your Beatles analogy also makes my point. They got things out of their garage to gain recognition. For us to just rely on the internet — hopefully pulling drips and drabs of fellow smokers who somehow find us — is like staying in the garage with our instruments and hoping someone hears the music and comes in. Sure, our friends might help spread the word and get others to join in as well, but how does that make it a force — a voice — to be reckoned with?

Do you think that, when John and Paul and George first met up with their guitars in Paul’s bedroom (they didn’t have garages) in Liverpool, John Lennon said: “How do we get ourselves really, really famous? Like, even more famous than Elvis”?

I bet they had no such thought in their mind. I bet they were just trying to see if they could get Peggy Sue or That’ll Be The Day right this time. They probably just wanted to play guitar and sing like Buddy Holly. Not because Buddy Holly was famous, but because he made music that they really, really liked. And I bet Paul’s mum would regularly come in and tell them to turn it down a bit, because the next door neighbours had been complaining again.

And when they got just about good enough, they’d play as a band at church fêtes or school open days. And when they were slightly better, they got invited to play at the Cavern club. And all the while they were slowly getting better at singing and playing guitar.

And then things really started to happen when they got their music recorded, and distributed on vinyl 45 singles, and lots of people could listen to them all over England.

So I think we have to do what they did. We have to start in Paul’s bedroom, with the neighbours complaining at our awful racket. I think we have to sit down together and smoke and drink and talk. Because that also is a form of music.

And here’s me and Emily drinking and smoking and talking a couple of days ago, in Paul’s bedroom.

And we went one step further and recorded our conversation on the free YouTube label, rather than Parlophone (doesn’t parlophone mean “talk voice” or something?) because we haven’t got a contract with them.

But this isn’t about either Emily or me. This is about making smokers’ voices heard. And I’m a smoker. And so is Emily. And if we are going to get our voices heard, we’re first going to have to talk to each other. Because if we don’t talk to each other, nobody’s ever going to hear us. And if we don’t smoke and drink while we talk to each other, nobody’s ever going to see people smoking and drinking like people normally do. If we don’t sit down in Paul’s bedroom, and try to get Are You Lonesome Tonight right this time, there’s never going to be a Please Please Me or I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Critics will probably pan our conversation as being amateurish. There is also, somewhere in the middle of this recording, a long silence where both of us just sit there saying nothing (18:33 minutes in). How could you let that happen? And they’ll tut-tut about the lighting. And the terrific racket I make trying to stub out a cigarette (can it really take that long? Were you trying to kill it, Frank?) Worst of all is when, after about 2 hours of smoking and drinking and talking, we both go and take a leak. You never see that on the BBC or CNN.

Sure, hardly anybody is going to watch two people just jamming together, conversationally. There are probably millions of better talkers than us. And better smokers and drinkers too.

But with luck, a few people will see us drinking and smoking and talking, and say to themselves: I could do that! And maybe a few expert talkers (the Eric Claptons, so to speak) will start talking to each other, and record themselves as they smoke and drink and talk and laugh. And there’ll be lots and lots of them. Just like the Beatles were accompanied by the Rolling Stones and the Animals and the Kinks.

Maybe there’ll even be a whole army of them. And they’ll overrun the world.

But you have to start in Paul’s bedroom.

About Frank Davis

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30 Responses to Starting in Paul’s Bedroom

  1. *foresees your video going viral under the Antis hash tag: ‘ OLD smoker GROOMS young woman into lifetime’s addiction’ * (pray god Emily is over 19 otherwise it’ll read ‘TEENAGER’!)
    Something must be done about this sort of thing.
    Smelly old smokers can now ACCESS YOUR CHILDREN’S BEDROOMS! Is it 5th hand smoke that can travel along an internet connection?

  2. Torquaymada says:

    My God you can belt out a great analogy!

  3. garyk30 says:

    It is a shame that we did not record any of those ‘smoky-drinkies’ that the 5 of us did on Skype a few years ago.

    • garyk30 says:

      If two people is good, 5 people sitting around and drinking and smoking and having fun would be even better.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I’m going to have another go at trying to edit the conversation you and I recorded together last week. And post that up too, if I can manage it.

      I think two people is just fine at the moment.

      P.S. I’m being much more successful this time.

  4. Vlad says:

    These type of videos should make it easy for the Labour inquiry (oh, the irony) on the demise of UK pubs. Why pay double, triple or whatever for drinks just so one can sit in a place where as a smoker one is unwelcome.

  5. Looks GREAT! Unfortunately my furshlugginer computer’s sound seems to have taken a detour around the back side of the moon so all I’ve been able to do so far is WATCH you two video stars! LOL! ::sigh::

    Talking to each other is indeed an important part of the process Frank, and that’s what you and the other bloggers and Steve ‘n Emily are doing all the time and it makes us stronger. In-person conferencing is even better but unfortunately we don’t have the 500 million dollar “Tobacco Control” annual war chest to pay for all our airfares and hotel rooms. Still, I think our email and blogging networks do a pretty good job for the price, eh?

    The other important part is always reaching out, out to what I usually call the “passers by” or “The Innocents.” People who are neutral or maybe mildly Anti because all they’ve ever heard is the one side of the argument. When they get a chance to actually see, hear, or read OUR side they’re usually pretty surprised by how un-flaky we sound… and how our arguments do so well in attacking the specifics of what the other side says as opposed to just griping about them.

    I think the army is still a bit beyond us, but keeping the core together and building it can mean a lot, and I think that’s what, with the help of folks like you bloggers and with the Bright Stars of Cambridge we’re doing!


  6. nisakiman says:

    I just watched a few minutes of the video, and the first thing that I noticed was that Emily was much louder than you, Frank, which is probably to do with the positioning of the microphones. I don’t know if Emily was using the mike built into her earphones, or the one on the computer, but I’m assuming you were using your computer microphone. Do you have any adjustment on it? The other thing I noticed – and I find this interesting, because it’s counter-intuitive – is that when you both were discussing looking at the screen as opposed to looking at the webcam, when you raised your eyes to the webcam, it looked like you were looking over the image projected on the screen, whereas when you were looking at the screen, it appeared more that you were actually looking at the person you were speaking to. Both of you. Odd, that, because I would have expected it to be the other way round.

    The split screen system works quite well, too. It avoids the cutting from one person to another. And the absence of the formality of a studio made it a much more relaxed and free flowing conversation. It also meant that there were no intrusive humming, whistling and white noise in the background.

    The overall quality was really good, I thought, both video and audio, apart from the disparity in volume between the two of you. And that’s easily fixed, I’d imagine.

  7. Tony says:

    Talking to each other is certainly hugely Important and I think these videos are a great innovation. However with a general election looming I think it is vital that we get the persecution of smokers onto the political agenda and this is the only time when the politicians actually have to listen to us.

  8. Joe L. says:

    Excellent post, Frank, and a brilliant analogy!

    Especially this:

    But with luck, a few people will see us drinking and smoking and talking, and say to themselves: I could do that! And maybe a few expert talkers (the Eric Claptons, so to speak) will start talking to each other, and record themselves as they smoke and drink and talk and laugh. And there’ll be lots and lots of them.

    The Antis’ relentless campaign of threats and lies has taken its toll on the smoking community. I believe it is imperative we do everything in our power to renormalize smoking.

    Just like the Stones or the Animals or the Kinks might not have gotten the inspiration to form bands if not for the Beatles, there are numerous self-loathing, apathetic smokers, many of whom may be inspired to enlist in our army simply by being exposed to our attitudes and examples.

  9. Barry Homan says:

    Global Choke-Out Week. Doesn’t cost a dime.

  10. Barry Homan says:

    Don’t like it? Name a better idea.

    • Joe L. says:

      I think trying to organize a global, weeklong boycott at this point is putting the cart way before the horse. Even trying to organize a local community of smokers to boycott for a week is nearly impossible.

      As with elections, you’d be lucky to get 50% of those who know about it to actually participate. We need to first focus on growing our network, our community, our “army” of motivated, angry smokers to the point that if only 50% participated in the boycott it would be effective and newsworthy.

  11. waltc says:

    And yet: those photos in the (msm) newspapers of the cool kids smoking at the Met, and a series like MadMen likely did more to help us than almost anything I can think of. They have an unbeatable subtext: Sexy. Normal. Fun. Relaxed. And, more recently, Defiant. If you read the Comments on any online msm article on smoking, you find scores of tight-lipped spewings of “kills” “kills innocents” “costs” “stinks” –all the rote junk– and suddenly, next to Jon Hamm exhaling over the rim of a whiskey glass or a supermodel perched on a sink, grinning– it all seems as tight-lipped and tongue-clickingly irrelevant as it actually is. (I once said that photos of the nerdy leading American Aunts–Glantz, Banzaf, Waxman, Kessler–was the best ad we could have.)

    All of which gets us back to Mainstream Media. And the need to stage something that grabs their attention, preferably on a human level, and bypasses dry counter-arguments to this or that Study.

    But in line with the previous discussion here, and tho not to my main point, it’d be great if Stephen and Emily could figure out how to film in a living room where relaxed people are gathered, smoking talking, even laughing. I note his scrim photo of tne Rat Pack. Maybe even some Sinatra playing in the background…

    • Joe L. says:

      I totally agree, Walt. That handful of pictures from the Met bathroom did more to advance our cause than any stunt we could concoct with months of planning.

      No matter how they attempt to spin the situation with tired antismoking captions, those were pictures of well-known people comfortably (i.e., indoors) smoking cigarettes and having a good time, and people can’t help but recognize that fact, whether they like it or not. By simply publishing those photos, the MSM inadvertently created pro-smoking advertisements. By all means, keep ’em coming!

      • nisakiman says:

        Absolutely. Those pictures from the Met were a PR coup for smokers if ever there was one. It said everything that the anti-smokers are busy trying to tell everyone isn’t true.

        The photos shouted the message:

        ‘Smoking is cool.’

        ‘Smoking is fun.’

        ‘Smoking is something that engenders camaraderie.’

        ‘Smoking is what the beautiful and successful people do.’

        ‘Smoking is daringly risqué.’

        And all the mainstream comments on those photographs said:

        “We are miserable, joyless bastards who spend all our time finger-wagging and trying to stop people enjoying themselves”.

    • Emily Wieja says:

      …it’d be great if Stephen and Emily could figure out how to film in a living room where relaxed people are gathered, smoking talking, even laughing.

      I’ve been thinking about that too, it would be great. I’m just stuck at this point how to get a regular film crew/studio set up. We actually did film once at Stephen’s apartment, for a segment in this show, but it was a big production- we had to get a friend to borrow equipment and the setup took a while and then the editing took ages too it seemed:

      • nisakiman says:

        Is it not possible just to buy a webcam with a wide field of vision? And maybe a good microphone? That would be relatively inexpensive and would cut out the need for anyone else to be involved.

        Just thoughts off the top of my head – I’ve no idea about the technicalities of it, or whether it would work.

        • Emily Wieja says:

          Yes, that’s definitely worth a try! It brings me to the other problem, though, which is finding interesting guests here locally. We have trouble getting people to come on the show in person. So I guess the Skype thing is an attempt to combine the smoking at home aspect with a wider field of guests worldwide.

        • Frank Davis says:

          a webcam with a wide field of vision

          Most dashcams have a wide field of vision. My one certainly does. It’s got a (really lousy) microphone built into it as well.

          I used it with a power pack and a tripod to make this video a while back.

          If you could get hold of one with a better microphone, you could maybe do something like set one up in a bar in Patras.

        • Frank Davis says:

          This looks pretty cool.

        • nisakiman says:

          Yes, that does look pretty cool, Frank. And not expensive, either. I wonder how long the battery lasts. I also wonder if it has any lights on the front that illuminate when it’s being used. I also wonder if you can plug it into a mobile to monitor what you’re filming. I’ll have to do a bit of research on that one! At twenty quid, it looks like a lot of bangs for your buck.

        • Joe L. says:

          Regarding cameras with built-in microphones: I don’t even think they should be a consideration. Lapel mics or handheld mics are the way to go. They provide much more presence and clarity than a distant camera-mounted microphone.

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  13. Frank Davis says:

    Steve Pieczenik: No need for White House press conferences

  14. audreysilk says:

    For the record, to be perfectly clear, I don’t mean to imply that these blogs, Stephen and Emily’s interviews, and all manner of “speaking to each other” has no value. They are extremely valuable. I’m only saying that the official “voice” Frank was lamenting he (we) didn’t have in the political ring will take more than that. Right now all these other things are keeping our head above the water but if we had what I’ve been advancing we’d take off swimming — and all these other established endeavors will become part of that propeller. The foundation has been laid and is waiting for the key I’m talking about. You can say no but you have to be honest with yourselves when you consider we’ve been talking among ourselves for about 20 years already.

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