Do talk to Strangers

19 May

There are many clichés and pieces of home spun advice out there in the world.  Some have a basis in logic, others have a historical footprint or derivation. The final variety just get your goat for their mind-numbing level of triteness.

                “A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet”

                “Life is Stranger than fiction”

                “Don’t talk to strangers”

I will let you decide which of the three expressions above corresponds to which of the three archetypes I defined previously.   I have focused all of them on “the stranger” as this is a concept in our modern society which is dripping with meaning and often interlaced with negative connotations.  There is a very real danger that in a post Brexit Britain, this fear of strangers could play into the hands of Xenophobes and racists.  Although nothing has actually happened since June 23rd, as Janice Turner (@VictoriaPeckham) puts it, “We have already suffered a Brexit of the mind”; half of the country is acting as if we had already left.  Well I stand here today to call for the case of talking to strangers with reference to a recent event I took part in.

                Three years ago, my Ex-MBA tutor PeterCook (@AcademyofRock) and I worked together on a little project called Fiscal Cliff; a hard rock song for hard times.  It involved going into a recording studio and making a single and video in one day.  On the day in question we worked with mostly people Peter already knew and all of us met once previously to try and work out the track.   The end product was a success but very clearly a one off; or so we thought. 

The original work was engineered in the studio of Gillan guitarist and Rock God Bernie Torme (@Bernie_Torme) who is by birth an Irishman, but has lived and worked in the UK for many years proudly supporting the British Exchequer.   On June 24th, a conversation began of Facebook, initially tongue in cheek, but with a more serious slant for many European nationals living in the UK; would Bernie and in fact many others, have to go “Home”.   What had happened on the night of June 23rd was that the country had become divided and those divisions have surfaced and are already starting to become engrained as one side spits vitriol at the other.  Within a couple of days’ anti-immigrant violence was being widely reported in the media.  That old spectre of Schrodinger’s immigrant came back into view.  This is the bad person who is simultaneously stealing your jobs while also sponging off benefits (I hope you agree that this is mutually exclusive just like the two states of the famous cat in a box).  Something needed to be done, but what.

Peter and I concluded what was needed was a new single; rather like Marley’s Redemption song, we needed to make some music as a call to arms for healing and reconciliation.  A calming Night Nurse that would take the patient by the hand, take its temperature, apply a cold compress and convince it that everything would be better soon.   Our problem was this, we no longer had a band.  The drummer was now in love; the bass player had joined the army.  What we need, was the help of strangers. Peter reached out through some of the music social networks and got some replies, most of which were useful, (I am not saying all strangers are good and like all good HR situations, selection is an initial challenge).   We all agreed to meet in Bernie’s studio on the last Saturday of July.  Although there was some initial use of Facebook messenger, by the time we were due to meet, we had nothing more than a guitar track (Peter) and a fairly flexible set of lyrics (myself).  What would happen on the day was still in the lap of the Gods.

In good Tuckman and Jensen style, Pete arranged breakfast at nine for some FORMING, but not all of the band could attend due to the distances travelled.  However, guitar, vocals and keyboard sat in a café in Teynham (over a good old fashioned full English) and tried to figure out what we knew, how it would work and maybe what the goals were for the day.  Here is the kicker, the keyboard player Paul Crick (@PaulCrick) had many things in common with us; not so much a stranger, as a musician we had not yet met. 

 Once Drums and backing vocals Rhiannon Daniel and bass, her husband Aldo, turned up the band was complete.  STORMING was a very mild affair as we tried to get the vocal melody line right while Bernie got the studio sorted.  Was it because we were so similar, or was it because we are all older.  With myself at fifty, I was either the youngest or second youngest in the room (Sorry Paul, I never asked, but you looked younger), which lead to a dramatic lack of ego on display.  Everyone was happy to get on and work towards the project. 

By four thirty in the afternoon, the basics of the track were down and we all started to depart.  There was no wild rock and roll drinking session or requirement to put a TV in the pool (the studio is a fabulous oust house in the middle of the Kentish countryside).  But what we had managed to do was get from strangers to a coordinated operational unit in one day. 

“Strangers are team members you haven’t met yet”. 

The experience for me was once again a humorous, artistic and most importantly, deeply satisfying one. The single is on ITunes and other sources  Although “Better Together” by the Brexit Blues Band is still very much a tongue in cheek exercise I would like to think there are a number of messages within both it and the project that are worth remembering.  I personally can’t wait for the next time I am “Forced” to work with strangers.

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