6o years ago today, November 2nd, 1949, in a long forgotten hospital somewhere in Kuala Lumpur I arrived wriggling and giggling into this wonderful, mysterious and increasingly unfathomable world. There will be no popping of champagne corks to mark the occasion since I’m not a party kind of guy, but I am indulging in a series of lunches and dinners with treasured friends on both sides of the Tasman.
As well, as a gift to myself, I took myself off to Tonga with a some close friends to fulfill my lifelong dream to swim with whales. Humpbacks. A mother and calf, who accepted our intrusion into their domain with gracious benevolence. Nothing I can say will do justice to the way it felt to swim alongside these gentle giants. While I’m sure our being the ocean with them in this way is bound to upset some people, we kept our distance, letting the whales come to us if they so desired, (which the calf did often), and I assure you our cetacean cousins were in no way traumatised or upset by our presence. They seemed as happy to have us with them as we were to be there. A scenario that was undoubtedly due to the experience, sensibility and sensitivity of our whale watching guides. If you have any desire to swim with whales before the activity is forbidden completely by the international fun police, visit: http://www.mounuisland.com/
However, while I’m not celebrating my 60th birthday with any great ceremony, given the significance of the age it does seem appropriate to contemplate where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done and what I aim to do in the future.
My brother recently observed that I’ve had four completely different lives and am about to embark on my fifth phase. Looking back I have to agree with him. It’s true I am on the cusp of my fifth chapter. What that will be I’m not sure, but the prospect excites me and I guess that’s a good way to be at any stage of your life.
Lately people have been at pains to assure me that 60 is the new 40, but the number and variety of pills I now take daily and the grandchildren I have bring a sobering note of reality to bear to that delusion. None of us is 60 in the same way our parents were, but 60 years of age is 60 years gone nonetheless. This means there is less road before me than there is behind me and while the journey ahead will undoubtedly be at a more sedate pace I intend to make it as full and fulfilling as possible.
The recent sad demise of my beloved mother, Daisy Cheng Neo Hanlon, from a condition I have inherited makes the need to live the rest of my life to the fullest all the more important. I don’t mean to cast a morbid note on my musings in saying this, we all die of something someday, but it’s as well to be aware of the need to make the most of every day. Even if making the most of some days means doing nothing but lying by the ocean with a good book.
For me making the most of what lies ahead in terms of creative output will involve varying proportions of music, writing and painting. Leisure-wise it will mean more golf, fishing and travel and less food. (I’m too corpulent for my own good at at present).
This may come as surprise to you but I’ve come to accept that dedicating myself to music will be hardest in so far as it will require a great deal of time and effort for little financial reward. I say this because since having chosen to step back into the world of music last year, I’ve found it’s vastly different from the world I walked away from in the 70s.
Over and above the inevitable fact that I am viewed as old news and even a little passé in some circles in NZ where I’m trying to re-ignite a musical career, the larger problem is that the entire model for making, promoting, distributing and selling music has changed and it would be very easy for my songwriting and recording to become nothing more than an expensive hobby.
I have no intention of turning this blog into a diatribe on the future of recorded music, not least because I have many questions and no answers. As well, every man and his dog has written on the subject, often with dramatically differing viewpoints and I’m sure you have your own opinions.
My own view is that no matter how you justify it, theft is theft and any free download of intellectual property is theft. Unless, of course, the owner of that intellectual property offers the free download, which is what I will continue to do from time to time.
However, there is a strong school of thought that holds there is no such thing as intellectual property and once anything is converted to a digital format it should be free. The fact that this view is promoted by bombastic, self-serving people who have never produced anything original in their lives, (least of all an original thought), notwithstanding.
Incredibly, these people seem to believe that while it’s fair to pay a lawyer, builder, accountant, doctor, plumber, electrician, chef and so on for their work, singers and songwriters should do what they do for free. I can put no other interpretation on this.
Ah well, that’s the way it is and I guess it will remain so until someone a lot smarter than me works it out. One day people may come to realise that in trying to bring the major record labels to heel and make music more affordable for all, (and I agree that had to happen), they have thrown the proverbial baby out with bath water.
Those who insist that artists will have to work live to make a living and that’s the way it should be, have no idea of the real world, the costs of touring etc. Some solo acts may squeak by with touring but most bands will sustain only so long as their ambition and ego drives them; in the end the harsh realities of having to provide for families and suchlike will see them forced to take ‘real’ jobs. Because, it seems, society has decided being a recording artist/singer/songwriter/musician isn’t a real job, at least not one anyone is prepared to pay for.
That said,I will do some concerts in 2010 to see if I can stimulate CD sales. Not least because I have two more albums ready to go. But if this doesn’t prove to be worthwhile financially I’ll be content to retire to a more serene and private existence, since performing just for the sake of performing holds no great attraction for me. I’ll leave that indulgence for those who are desperate for 15 minutes of fame at any cost.
As news of these upcoming concerts develops I’ll post details on this site.
That pretty much sums up what I have planned for life after 6o. And as my birthday present to you I will post a new short story and another free download on this site before the end of this week.