Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ego Governor
Back in the mid 70's I was playing music, full-time in a rock ‘n’ roll band (...these are some of my fondest memories, not to mention some of the best lifelong friendships made!).

I recall one particular evening while performing in a hotel cabaret. The place was pretty dead except for the bartender & staff and a couple of well dressed & attractive women at a table near the front of the stage. Typically, the guys in the band were often more interested in impressing the “pretty girls” rather than focusing on a good performance. I was as guilty of this as much as anyone else.

One of the cover songs we were performing that night started off with the keyboard player banging away on a cowbell, while I played a “catchy guitar intro”(just as it was on the original version of the song, “Good Time Sally” by Rare Earth). It was one of those songs sure to get everyone off their chairs and up and dancing. It’s just not that easy to do when there are only two people in the audience!

So my buddy...equipped with his cowbell decided to put on a show for these ladies. While keeping a loud & steady beat with the cowbell he started doing this “unique & unusual” dance. It almost resembled something I’ve seen by dancers from Canada’s east coast (“step dancing” I believe it’s called). Now you have to remember.....back in the 70's, there were some pretty extreme & wild styles of dress. In this case it was platform shoes with 4" heels and pants with very “wide cuffs”.

I guess we were all thinking that buddy was definitely going to beat us to the punch at impressing the ladies, but somehow...as he was doing this fast paced “pseudo-maritime dance”, he managed to get one of his platform heels caught in his pant cuff. The leg that was supposed to go "up in the air and back"...stayed put, and buddy came tumbling down pretty hard and VERY loud. (It was one of those portable stages they have in hotels made of plywood and covered with carpeting. Functional, but not designed to be very sound-proof!)

The bass player and I were doing everything in our power to keep a straight face...and continue playing at the right tempo, but we both lost it and soon I was doubled over, roaring with laughter while still playing my guitar part. I think humans can all agree on this. Probably the hardest part of falling down is getting back up! So “red-faced buddy" managed to free his heel from his cuff, stood up, went up to the microphone and yelled, “I DID THAT ON PURPOSE!”...(Yeah, right!!).

So that’s how I came up with the term “ego governor”. It’s like a universal setting that is built into some folks. You know, (or maybe you don’t know?) you’re walking along in your best duds on a “good hair day” thinking to yourself.....“I-AM-LOOKING-PRETTY GOOD!”. You glance sideways to catch a glimpse of yourself in the store window and BANG....you walk into a street sign or a parking meter. EGO GOVERNOR!!

Yes,...my own ego governor has kicked-in, a good many times. After awhile you learn how to laugh at yourself! (In fact I’m laughing right now while typing this and thinking of some of my stellar moments!) Ego governors are a good thing.They keep us honest, and as the saying goes... “The truth shall set you free!” Hallelujah!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I had the privilege of performing in Grande Prairie, Alberta on March 18, 2011 at an event called, "Breakfast With The Boys". The event was hosted by the City of Grande Prairie and it's objective was to encourage men to speak out against family violence and abuse in the community.

Pictured here with me (at left) is Dr. Michael Kaufman. Michael was the keynote speaker at this breakfast and he is the co-founder of the "White Ribbon Campaign", an organization that works on a global scale and is the largest formally established effort in the world, of men working to end violence against women.

I performed two songs at the event from my "Serpent on the Grass" CD. One of the songs, "Like a Chain" is a song I wrote about domestic violence. It is available for listening at my website www.jeffmccannmusic.com (or by clicking on the link at the right). I also performed another original composition called "Prayer of a Warrior", a song about overcoming hardship and adversity.

The song "Like a Chain" was probably the most difficult song I have ever written. My wife and I had lost an acquaintance, whose life ended tragically in an abusive relationship. Her name was Rose and I wanted so badly to write a song about this tragedy...this injustice. I wanted to bring attention to the "cowardly act of violence" her partner had committed.

Statistics show that men who commit acts of violence against their wives, common-law partners or girlfriends are more likely to resort to using firearms. So it was, in the murder/suicide that claimed the life of Rose.

How do you write a song about this while respecting the surviving family's right to privacy? To accomplish this required much thought. It was well over a year before I could even imagine where to begin. Ironically....on Valentine's day 2002, there was an unlikely event which paved the way for this song.

As I recall, I had been recording music in my studio and I had made plans for the evening to take my wife to dinner. I made a reservation at our favourite restaurant and purchased a single rose. (I would have loved to have been able to purchase a bouquet of roses...but alas, as a struggling songwriter, the rose, a box of chocolates and dinner at a restaurant would pretty much "deplete" my financial resources!)

I spent about an hour cleaning the kitchen and then, put the rose in a vase and placed it on the kitchen counter so that when my wife came home from work around 4:30, it would serve as a "testament" of my love for her. The rose looked spectacular on the counter as the sun streamed in through the window. The colour & beauty of the rose was highlighted by the sun...it was the perfect ambience! I stood admiring this scene for a moment and then returned to my studio to continue my work.

About 10 minutes before my wife's arrival, I went back to the kitchen for another glimpse of the "picture perfect" setting I had created....and there to my shock & dismay, was the rose "drooped over" with many of it's petals laying on the counter. I was devasted!

How could I have been such an idiot? Placing the rose in direct sunlight on the counter must have been like scorching it in the oven! I panicked, trying to do whatever I could to restore it to it's pristine state, but at that point nothing would help. I had to resort to finding a "chopstick" and using it to support the rose with twist ties in an effort to keep it in an upright position....a moment later my wife walked in through the door.

Although the rose was only half of what it looked like when I first put it there, when I explained to my wife what had happened...she just laughed and thanked me for my effort. The day was not a total loss. We celebrated our Valentine's day supper and aside from the rose not surviving another day, there were no other "setbacks".

As I reflected on the events of that day, I recalled my disappointment in finding the withered & dehydrated rose. There was a certain sadness about seeing it drooped over...with so many of it's "fallen" petals on the counter. That image was a powerful one! Somehow, it almost seemed like a metaphor for the sorrow we felt for the loss of our friend Rose.

The next morning after practising tai chi, I was laying on the couch thinking of my "botched attempt" of demonstrating my affection for my wife...when it struck me! I knew how to begin the process of writing the song. I would build upon the metaphor of the previous day's Valentine rose. My first verse was simply a re-call of the events of the day and once I started the song, I knew that eventually the rest of the lyrics would fall into place....

Like a Chain

I bought my precious love a rose...but I left it in the sun.

I turned my back for just a moment, then I saw what I had done

For in the heat the rose had perished...all the petals lay around.

Like a cold December morning, autumn leaves still scattered on the ground.

This precious flower gone forever...(do you see how love has changed?)

And though the sun will rise tomorrow...the day will never be the same

Now the house sits cold and barren...all the love slipped through the door

And with it went the promise..."To have, to hold, to cherish evermore."

Round, round, round in a circle

Round, round, round like a chain

Round, round, round in a circle...

A ring that's been tarnished and broken

Can't change what's already done

But take just "one step" from the circle...and it changes for everyone!