I suppose it kind of ties in with the whole ‘Joys of Mediocrity’ subject thread that those who succeed tend to be single-minded, ruthless and altogether unpleasant. This is a sweeping statement that will garner a huge wave of protest and the production of a series of exceptions that go an awfully long way to disprove the rule. But…
I watched the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll movie a year or so ago (and terrifically good it was, too). In it Andy Serkis’ portrayal of the late, great Ian Dury showed a man so determined to succeed, and so convinced of his deserving success that anyone or anything that stood in his way was treated with such an utter disregard as could easily be interpreted as contempt.
Pop and rock music is littered with such people. David Bowie, Eric Clapton – in fact all three members of Cream – John Lennon, Eminem, Victoria Beckham even… And not just music, of course. A brief look at the life of Charles Dickens will produce a very similar picture. Brian Clough, anybody? Alex Fergusen? Robert Oppenheimer?
Single-minded people tend to work hard and push through obstacles and barriers. The hard work brings them up against more barriers than the lackadaisical, and the stubbornness keeps them battering at them until they give way.
I’m sure to their kith and kin, these people are as lovely as any other person on earth – certainly once they have achieved the important goals they seek – but to the rest of us… Well, we are just potential barriers or obstacles.
I kind of wish I had known this 40 years ago. If someone had had the foresight to instill this into me as an 11-year-old, I’m almost certain I would be far closer to achieving the things I want to achieve by now. I am sure that I would ‘be there’.
Instead, I am still trying to convince myself that it is worth being a little more unpleasant if it means getting what I want. Dammit all, I’m not exactly Mr Popular as it is – why the hell should I worry about what people I don’t really know think?
But I do.
Those of you following the news on the Mechkov website will be well aware that I have been gigging recently with a new band – a covers band playing the music of Cream and Hendrix and the like. This band began rehearsals in February with a mind to start gigging in March.
The guitarists, Nigel and George, were the protagonists in getting this band together and they called upon the skills of me for bass and vocals and Neil for drums.
Problem was, Neil was awful. Bad timing, bad rhythm and just all-round not very good at playing the drums. I kept schtum, thinking two things: first, he could improve if he takes it seriously and rehearses properly. Second, he has been brought here by the guys putting the band together.
Three weeks and lots of rehearsing later, we recorded the band in my little studio. It all sounded ok for the time we allowed ourselves… Except Neil. A friend of mine later said that his drumming sounded like someone falling down stairs… yes it did.
I finally told Nige and George that I couldn’t play with this guy.
“Oh, thank God for that!” they said. “We were just saying to each other that we couldn’t gig with him!”
“So why didn’t you say anything?” I asked.
“We didn’t want to upset you!”
Dear, oh dear! You see? Had I (or any of us) been a little more single-minded, a little more determined to get what we wanted and not let anything stand in our way, we would have ousted the dodgy drummer after rehearsal number one. Instead, we plodded on, wincing and grimacing, hoping that something would change or that someone else would do something to make a difference.
As Britons of a certain age, we are brought up that minding your Ps and Qs is an essential virtue. That might well be so, but no empires were ever built worrying about other people’s feelings. Sometimes you just have to say: “Please, stop. Please, go away! Please! Thank you!"