The Museum of Liverpool recently hosted an exhibition called ‘Double Fantasy’ charting the very public relationship and life of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In this already Beatles-saturated city it was hardly something to salivate over but as my mum was in town we paid a visit.

As a loop of the piano introduction to Imagine boomed out at the entrance to the exhibition, it was clear that we were in familiar heritage territory. Anyone with an interest in popular music/culture already knows the story and iconography of this couple well, as documenting themselves was their stock-in-trade. In fact there is something quite contemporary about the way they documented themselves constantly for the world’s media (these days it would be social media and the Bed-In would be just another selfie fighting for attention). But ultimately there was little to learn from the predictable guitars, clothing and photos on display.

The exiting thing for me was a wall devoted to Yoko’s original typed pages of her book ‘Grapefruit’. In the early 60s, before she met Lennon, Yoko was a prominent figure on New York’s conceptual art scene staging performance pieces and collaborating with other avant-garde luminaries such as musicians Lamonte Young and Terry Riley.

As part of her art practice, Yoko began writing ‘event scores’ which were instructions for performance art pieces, written as witty and playful minimalist poems. Eventually she collected these pieces of writing and published them in 1964 as ‘Grapefruit’, re-releasing the book in 1970 with an introduction by John Lennon.

 

The original typed pages in a line along one wall were a treat to read. Whether or not one would choose to act out any of these pieces, they can be taken as a guide on how to live playfully, with a child-like sense of wonder and individualistic mischief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The influence of her Japanese background is surely key, as the pieces have a mystery and open-ended character that is characteristic of Zen sayings or ‘koans’ that are designed to open the mind.

 

Yoko’s artistic sensibility was hugely influential on John Lennon, seeding an entirely new side to his artistic character. It’s not hard to imagine that he named the Beatles own record label after the apple that she exhibited in the exhibition where they met in 1966.

 

2020 Vision

This will be the year
I say goodbye to fear
I live right now and here
My vision true and clear

I’ll let the drama go
I’ll let the Dharma show
Me how to let things flow
And see my garden grow

This will be the season
Things happen for a reason
Where conscious self-respect
Sets up cause and effect

This will be the week
I let my own heart speak
I’ll function at my peak
I am the one I seek

This will be the day
I mean each word I say
From morning until night
I’ll walk the path of light

This will be the hour
I open as a flower
I grow into my power
Accepting sweet and sour

This will be the minute
I honour what is in it
The beauty without limit
The stillness that’s infinite

This will be the time
New openings align
Coincidences rhyme
And we are in our prime

The world is your invention
So set a new intention
And relish each decision
With 2020 vision

 

Tom George 2019

I have been checking out a lot of REM videos on youtube lately. A comment posted on one clip said that they were one of the most compassionate bands of their era, or any. This is a perceptive comment, a rarely appreciated quality and the secret of REM’s magic.

In his songs and his image, Michael Stipe consistently shows self-compassion; his lyrics suggest self-examination and the working out of a process, sometimes his performance moves look like a kind of dance therapy. As he makes space for his own individuality, he makes space for yours too, gives anyone a right to be just how they are, and in that moment, be less alone. Everybody hurts, everybody cries.

At their height of their success, Stipe was virtually alone as an American star in his rejection of macho cliches. Surrounded by the likes of Guns’n’Roses and Public Enemy etc, his presentation of a delicate, sexually ambiguous personality was brave.

I watched an interview in which Stipe said that he always tried to write from his subconscious, and that when he does that his lyrics seems to speak to the times, whether the song is political or not. I like the way he uses words as a kind of collage. As with many of my favourite lyricists, I’m not too bothered about what he actually means.

When I see a sensitive man, with a look similar to mine, I feel a kinship, a brotherhood. Stipe’s individuality is expressed musically and physically, although in speech, he doesn’t seem vulnerable at all, but quite matter-of-fact.

REM split up in 2011, a move I regarded as admirable. I mean no disrespect for bands that continue into their 70s, but the basic instincts of rock’n’roll are youthful, immature even (and no less valuable for it); it can’t continue too long and still feel spontaneous. Recently, Stipe was interviewed on BBC2’s Newsnight and said he believed he’d been a good pop star, an ‘ok’ rock star and he still missed being onstage. Feeling the loss and moving on anyway deserves respect.

Here are some REM videos I’ve been enjoying recently for all those reasons.

by Tom George During the last two months the UK has seemed like a different place. With a prolonged heatwave unmatched since the summer of ’76, a feeling of meditteranean langour has settled over the…

Source: Walking on Sunshine – why the heat makes us happy

Here’s a clip of me playing the title track of my latest CD ‘Gravity’. I filmed this at home, might do a series called ‘songs from the sofa’. Btw if you like the song it’s available to buy at http://www.tomgeorge.bandcamp.com

In addition to doing live gigs, I have been playing on the streets of towns and cities for years, and I have had some interesting experiences and opportunities come my way as a result.

Recently I was approached to contribute a track to an album featuring music by some of the world’s finest buskers. The Busking Project is an initiative set up with the aim of giving buskers the chance to sell their original music online in a similar way to how they earn a living on the street.

TBP release one ten-track album a month on their website, featuring music of many styles.  They currently have four albums available, all of which you can freely download once you donate $5 to the project.

How You Contribute and What You Get – The public are invited to donate an amount as little as $1 to the project and 60% of this goes directly to the artists featured on the site; the other 40% going to maintaining the project. This 60% is a vastly better deal for the artists than any conventional record deal, so you can be sure that you are supporting the producers of the music.

For a $1 donation you are kept informed of the progress of the project, $3 gives you access to videos and blogs but it all gets more exiting if  you donate $5, which gives you a downloads of this month’s album ‘Keep Streets Live’ – FEATURING ME!

VISIT https://www.patreon.com/busk to get involved.

If you don’t want to be kept informed about the project, you can simply sign up for one month and download all the albums (for $5, come on!) then delete your subscription.

This seems like a pretty good deal for the artists and you. How’s that possible? There is no record company involved.

But in case you need further convincing to support my involvement in this project, have a listen here to the track I have contributed, ‘Love’s on Fire’:

 

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