Archive for October, 2009

There Was A Time.

“There was a time said the traveller as he looked back,

looked back from whence he came.

There was a time said the traveller as he set out.

Set forward once again.

But in the distance came a whisper,

A voice that thrilled his soul.

“Don’t you look back you weary traveller,

for tomorrow, tomorrow, you will be whole”.

Rose coloured past why do you bait me?

Beckoning, calling my name, oh, still small voice of calm”.

From “There Was A Time” by Eden Burning.

Sometimes someone comes into our lives who will forever change things.  Someone we will always think of fondly and with gladness of heart.

In April 1992 we met a band called Eden Burning at Spring Harvest.  We developed friendships and after getting a chance to do the support slot at one of their gigs in Aberdeen, the band I was playing in – Missing Jane – were invited as support band on about half of their “Vinegar & Brown Paper” tour later that year. 

I have such great memories of those days and nights.  Living the life we loved and dreamed of.  Losing ourselves in music and trying to connect with the audience with lyrics which spoke of the worldview and ideas that Eden Burning and Missing Jane traded and shared.

14 years since we saw any of Eden Burning, it was a joy to spend an hour or two with Paul Northup and his family a couple of weekends ago.  Our clans filled his home and we shared tales of what the intervening years had brought into our respective lives and reminisced of days gone by.

I was strangely warmed to observe how life has panned out – to internalise with thankfulness that we have all grown into people I think the younger versions of ourselves would have taken pleasure in.  A quick glance of the bookshelves and art work coupled with discussions of faith, creativity, social justice and Howies clothing told its own tale. 

Those were moments of grace, just to sip mugs of tea and watch the kids playing together.  Oh for many more days and hours like those…

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Barriers.

“So let me tell the truth
And let me come alive.
Let me build bridges
Into your life.
I’m sick of being born again and again
I don’t need conditions to let you in”.

From “Barriers” by Aereogramme.

I’m lucky enough to generally love my job.  I also love the ride there and back most days.  This videoclip of a TV advert currently showing in Scotland makes me smile hugely for the imagery and the fact that the song is by another friend of mine, Craig B.

This Is The Sea

“These things you keep
You’d better throw them away.
You wanna turn your back
On your soulless days.
Once you were tethered
And now you are free.
Once you were tethered.
Well, now you are free.
That was the river.
This is the sea!”

From “This Is The Sea” by The Waterboys.

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I’ve written about the concept of “missional expressions” on my blog before. 

It is the direction our church community is moving in.  Groups of folks clustered around a post-code, people group or shared interest and trying  naturally to be distinct – to bring flavour, to preserve that which is good, to shine a little light in the darkness.  To be outward looking rather than insular.

The leadership asked us to float ideas and the first eleven or so are about to be rolled out and tested between now and February.  So here’s what I’m looking at being a catalyst for:

Soul Surfers –  An opportunity for Christians who surf (or who would like to learn how to) to arrange to do so together.  We will look outwards, intentionally building natural friendships in the surf community and inviting non-Christian friends to join us. We will encourage and support each other, “doing life together”.  We’ll spend time getting to know each other, including our non-churched friends, to live our lives as open books and to build familiarity with those we come in contact with”.

Want to join me in sussing out if there is any mileage in this? 

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Gotta Serve Somebody

“You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride.
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side.
You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair.
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”.

From “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan.

My bro’, Keith, used this video clip recently.  It’s old-skool, but it’s so true.

I Came To Believe.

“And I came to believe in a power much higher than I.
I came to believe that I needed help to get by.
In childlike faith I gave in and gave Him a try.
And I came to believe in a power much higher than I”.

From “I Came To Believe” by Johnny Cash.

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I’ve been musing upon why I find it hard to share my faith.  What is my story when I distill it down beyond places and people and specific periods of time?

I think it actually involves realising that just like most people I wanted to believe that my life counted.  I wanted to harness my potential.  I wanted to believe that I could change things and make a difference.  I wanted to believe that there was more to life than getting a decent job, a nice car, a house in the right postcode and 2.4 children.  I wanted to believe that I didn’t have to conform to some conveyor belt mentality or appearance.  I wanted to think for myself.

That said, life seemed really big.  I was daunted by it.  I was fearful of the consequences of my decisions and the ramifications they might have on how life unfolded.  I lacked confidence and I worried about these things.

I met Christians who seemed to have something in their lives that I didn’t.  It was authentic and attractive.  It permeated every part of their everyday lives.  It was something I wanted more of in my own life.  As I watched and observed them, I found myself spending more time with them and reading the Bible and trying to grapple with what I believed it really had to say.  I committed myself to Christ and His teachings.

It’s not that life is always easy now or that I always make the right decisions, but I do feel anchored.  I have deep peace amidst the storms of life and all of the constant juggling.  I find a purpose in the big and small things of everyday life.  I have a sense of guidance and direction.  I see a bigger picture than just my immediate circumstances.  I feel enormously thankful for the way many of the big questions I had in terms of life decisions have panned out.  I have security and hope.  I have a real sense of not being alone.  I feel that I am growing into the person I was always meant to be.

I’m still learning, still questioning, still wrestling, but I think that’s what keeps faith alive.  I’m trying to see how to apply it and I am aware of my own short-comings.  It’s not been a bunch of rules or traditions that have hindered or shackled me, but something that has freed me.  Sure, I have plenty of off days, but I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything in the world.

Monkey Gone To Heaven

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There are few bands who totally change the way you will forever hear music.  Bands that are literally ground-breaking for a generation. 

Whilst I know that is true for me, I’ve never really thought about it for previous generations and, yet, I guess people feel that about Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Who or Black Sabbath – a belief that music had never sounded like that before.

My defining moment was in a friend’s garage in the late ’80’s.  The door was open as the rain fell outside and we dismantled skateboards replacing bearings amidst the smell of sawdust and WD-40.  The sound belting from the, sticker covered, Ghetto Blaster was “Surfer Rosa” by Pixies.  The way that album opens was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  The drums of “Bone Machine” sounded just like a real drum kit, like the sort of kit I might get to bash on – not the clinical production of some huge studio.  The guitars and vocals and shrieks were absurd and invigorating. 

Who WAS this?  WHAT was it?  Who would manage to persuade a record company to RELEASE something like THIS?  Wow! – this had gotten my attention like nothing in AGES.

So began my adoration of Pixies.  Their career ended in acrimonious circumstances in 1993.  Even in 1996 I clearly recall simply wishing there was a new Pixies album or gig to look forward to and a realisation that that was never likely to happen.  So, I tried to see Frank Black play live and was always disappointed – apart from at The Liquid Room in 2001 when, after an awesome support slot from Aereogramme, Frank Black and The Catholics pulled out a great show which sent shivers down my spine when they even included a few Pixies tracks – something unbeknown prior to 2001.  People dreamed and rumours started about what it would look like if Pixies were to reform?…Kim deal squarely crushed any such notions…

In 2002, one of Kim’s other bands, The Breeders, seemed to come out of hibernation (or re-hab) and released the lo-fi album “Title TK”.  They toured the record in early summer 2002 and I saw them play a blinding show at Glasgow’s QMU.  Plenty of great tracks from the “Last Splash” album were played and I thought it’d be the closest I’d ever get to seeing Pixies live.

The indie music loving world went bananas in 2004 when the unthinkable was announced – Pixies were reforming for some live dates (and a shed load of money – hence the “Pixies Sell Out” tour title).  I spent hours in vain trying to get tickets in ebay for their London shows.  They then announced an appearance at T in The Park that summer.  I saw grown men nervously pacing all day long and practically worshipping as this genre-defining band blasted through what seemed like hundreds of short tracks like a firing squad.  It was one of those gigs where you sing every word and can’t believe you’re getting the chance to experience something so awesome…

Then in 2005 they returned to Edinburgh for the T at the Fringe gig at Meadowbank with support from My Latest Novel, the wonderful Teenage Fanclub and Idlewild.  Another brilliant show with my lasting memory being the “oooo -oooo”s of “Where Is My Mind?” echoing from the crowd around the stadium and floating above the stage lights into the warm darkening summer sky…

So here we are in 2009.  Pixies return AGAIN –  this time to celebrate 20 years since the release of “Doolittle”.  After a warm up from homegrown talent in the form of Sons and Daughters and a noisy DJ set whilst the roadies set up the stage, the house lights faded and we watched extracts from “Un chien andalou” (“An Andalusian Dog”), a film Salvador Dalí and prolific filmmaker Luis Buñuel collaborated on in 1929.  The band stood silhouetted on stage watching it for at least 5 minutes before actually breaking into song. 

I think we all expected “Debaser” as the opening track and were caught off guard with “Dancing The Mantra Ray”, followed by another 3 B-sides: “Bailey’s Walk”, “Weird At My School”; and “Mantra Ray” before they actually then dissected “Doolittle” itself. 

It felt like they were teasing with us.  There was a time when the prospect of even seeing Pixies play a bunch of B-sides seemed unfathomable.  But, now, with a series of re-union gigs behind them, I set aside my purist tendencies – I wanted the songs I really loved…

Boy, can Pixies play live.  Whilst the set seemed to have awkward gaps between songs as the video-backdrop seemed to cue up, the songs still stand the test of time and the band nailed each one perfectly.  The biblical violence of the lyrics, Black Francis’ screams and yelps and Kim Deals sugary soft vocals…

Once “Doolittle” was played in it’s entirety the band left the stage.  They returned for an encore of two more B-sides; “Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf) and “Into The White” before decanting again.  It was great and, yet, I was desperate to hear more from the other albums and, particularly, “Surfer Rosa”.  Sonic Youth had delighted us with a long set of songs arching their back catalogue after dispensing with the jewel of playing “Daydream Nation” in its entirety on it’s 20th anniversary tour a few years back.  Would Pixies offer us the same delicacy?

The band came back onstage again, the house lights went up and Kim referred to the infamous gig that occurred the last time Pixies played Glasgow’s SECC in 1991 when they had to abandon matters three songs into a set as the stage began to buckle from the frenzy of the crowd.  Here we were – the people who had grown up forever changed by the music they blessed us with back then.  It’s a long time since I’ve seen torrents of crowd surfers, let alone, fully grown 40 something year-olds reliving their youth.  But that is exactly what happened.  The band blasted into an other bunch of songs all from “Surfer Rosa”.  With the video backdrop ditched and the house lights up, there was hardly time to draw breath as they lept from one wall of noise into another.  It was only when they seemed free of the shackles of adhering to an album in it’s entirety that their true genius as a live act was fiercely released upon us.  I’m not sure when my hearing will recover. 

What a great band…Thanks for getting the ticket sis’.

Will there ever be a bridge as great as:

“If man is five, if man is five, if man is five,

Then the devil is six, then the devil is six, then the devil is six, the devil is six…

And if the devil is six, then GOD is seven,

Then GOD is seven,

Then GOD is seven.

This monkey’s gone to heaven”.

From “Monkey Gone To Heaven” by Pixies. 


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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