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.