Before our special 50th event on Mon 20th October here’s our final guest blog from My Mate George, who talks about his influences and what 1964 means to him.
My Mate George writes very English, lyrical acoustic-style songs.
Simple, silly, sometimes sweet, and certainly for singing-along to. Since his first appearance at our Billy Bragg night he has performed many times at UTI and has gone on to host and curate it twice. His St George’s Day song ‘My Mate George’ is available on iTunes and Amazon.
Music from the 60s (and further back) has a very special place in my heart. For one thing, I’m singing it every day for a living. After playing rhythm guitar in a local pub band for a few years, I decided about 5 years ago that I wanted to write and sing my own songs. Like many English people I find it a bit embarrassing to come across as too earnest, including when I’m singing, so most of my own material is light-hearted, lyric-focused and often designed for singing along to. So in the last few years I’ve done a few different open-mic type events around North London, but I’ve found UTI to be the most welcoming, friendly, varied and happy of them all. Which is why I keep coming back.
About three years ago I started doing music sessions for people with dementia, having for some years done a regular group for people with learning difficulties. The dementia groups have really taken off, and much of my newer self-penned material has been written with those groups in mind.
More importantly, though, the group members have taught me hundreds of songs I never knew before, or only half-knew. It’s only now I’m beginning to appreciate just how huge the archive of popular music is – the mountain of older material out there waiting to be discovered. It seems many of us nowadays are looking for something new, but how much of what’s gone before have we actually dug out and appreciated?
1964 was, of course, a hugely exciting time for music – The Beatles and Stones were taking things in new directions, and countless new artists and fans were going along with them. When I play stuff from this era in my groups people really do come alive, and are up dancing almost as soon as they recognise the opening riffs. Many people still think that music for older people is about songs from the war or from the music halls, but of course, things have moved on. If you were twenty when The Beatles began, you’ll be in your seventies now. For many people in my groups, the early 1960s was their coming-of-age era, and the memories and joy that the music stirs in them is such a privilege to witness, and to help provide.
I have a particularly vivid memory of one of my group members, Len, in his 60s, breathless after several songs rock ‘n’ rolling and twisting with his wife, grabbing me by the hands and with a beaming smile on his face telling me “I feel like I’m right back in the dance halls!”
So at Monday’s UTI I’m going to do some upbeat, call-and-response singalong numbers – the kind of songs that get my groups up on their feet and take them to another place. The kind of thing the 60s did so well.
My Mate George (Oct 2014)