Welcome to a monthly series of exclusive articles by Welsh Valleys Humour author David Jandrell. In it he explores frustrations with modern life, all recounted through his unique humour and Valleys dialiect...
July 2018: Music
I suppose it all started when I was about three – or when I was able to press downwards with enough pressure to depress the ivories on our piano keyboard, I’m not sure which came first. My grandmother was a piano teacher, and we had a piano; I guess it was inevitable.
I got to something like Grade 4 and the age of eleven before I managed to convince my parents that I hated playing the piano more than any of the words in my vocabulary could describe. I didn’t have that many words at the time, I mean, in those days I couldn’t even spell palaeontologist – and now I are one!
My attention had been grabbed by these things called guitars. I guess this would have been circa 1963 when I noticed these come to the front of the stage. Prior to that, I was aware of their existence – you saw them usually in the front row ‘stalls’ of ‘big bands’. They were always the very large cumbersome looking Gretch’s or Gibsons, you know, the ones with the ‘f’ holes in them.
Suddenly, on TV, you began to see three blokes standing there as bold as brass, strumming these things and singing with a drummer behind them. I believe in those days they were known as ‘popular beat combos’ and they were always in black and white.
They sang three minute ‘pop’ songs and I was never really into it much at that time. Whilst I was intrigued by my newly found instrument, I was still influenced by my classical training and my favourites in those days were the heavy Russians: Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Mahler and Bartok – even though Mahler and Bartok were neither Russian nor heavy at that time. They still aren’t.
I never really liked the twee, pointless little ditties they sang. It was always about somebody’s baby had left them and other crises which I couldn’t really care about, no matter how much I tried. I was interested in the music though – they way it way constructed and what each person was doing in order to produce the music.
I found lyrics a barrier to my quest to analyse what was going on and tried frantically to ‘blot’ out the singing in order to listen to the music. My opinion in those days, and these days, is that singing actually ruins a good song.
My parents had a similar problem with lyrics – they hated them as well, but for a different reason. They used to say: “Blinkin’ racket! All that screaming and shouting. That’s not singing! You can’t understand a word they’re singing!”
The thing that confused me about that was the fact that my parents blasted Gregorian chants and opera out of our radiogram during this period of my life – and they couldn’t understand a word of that either!
Anyway, getting back to guitars. I decided I wanted to play a guitar and that was it. My parents told me that I should carry on with the piano because; “If you can play the piano, you can play any instrument.” That is a very popular little saying – I've heard it loads of time. Doesn’t make any sense though. But when your parents tell you things, you believe them don’t you?
I often wondered what would happen if you gave Rick Wakeman a trombone and said: “Go on son, give us a rendition of ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on that!”
So, I carried on with the piano. And then, and I guess I would have been about twelve by this time, I acquired my first guitar. I can’t remember where I got it from, but it was my first, and I loved it more than all the words in my vocabulary, at the time, could describe. My vocabulary was about the same as the last time I mentioned it, and I still couldn’t spell palaeontologist!
Whilst there was a plethora of piano teachers around at that time – teachers of other instruments were scarce – in fact there weren’t any. There was a paper and comb player who did impromptu sessions in Cwmcarn Club on Saturday nights, but these performances were booze related and he didn’t actively ‘teach’ people how to do it.
There was also a spoons player in the vicinity ………….er …………..that was it.
So, I had to teach myself.
I based my ‘learning plan’ on something I’d noticed when playing the piano. If you could find the first note, all you had to do was identify whether the next one was higher – in which case you’d move right on the keyboard, and if the note was lower, you’d go to the left. That was the essence of music for me – I mean if music didn’t do that, music would just be one note.
And this is the way I learned to play the guitar, by listening and moving up or down the fret-board according the individual notes that made up whatever tune I was trying to play.
And now, 53 years on I just seem to know where I have to put my fingers to enable me to produce the things I want to. People have asked me to teach them how to do it, but I can’t – not unless they have 50 years to spare.
So I guess I can play the guitar – to a fashion. The problems start when I start playing with other people. Well, initially things go very well. People say things like;
“That was good Dai, can you play that again?”
That’s my biggest nightmare, because generally I can’t! I can play something similar at a push, but the same? No chance. I’ve left bands because of this.
One band I played with gave me a tape which contained their favourite versions of the songs we did and asked me to learn the guitar solos because they wanted them played like they were on the tape every time we did them. I listened to the tape and we had a conversation. It went like this.
“Have you listened to the tape Dai?”
“What do you reckon?”
“I can’t play that!”
“What do you mean you can’t play that – it’s you playing it!”
“I know that, but I can’t play that note for note as I played it before.”
“But we want you to.”
“Well I’m not going to sit down and work out each solo as I originally played them, I’ll just do them off the cuff as I usually do.”
“But we want them to be them same every time we play.”
“Well if you want that, when we have a gig, why don’t we just send the tape to the venue and we can go to the pictures instead?”
I don’t think that’s what music is all about – what about you?
June 2018: Cold Caller
Phone rings; I pick it up.
“Is that David Jandrell?”
“Ah, hello David. I’m Nigel and I’m phoning from PCS. You used to have cover with us.”
“Can I inform you that conversations are recorded for training purposes? I was wondering if I can tell you about our new offers.”
“It’s just, we have some fantastic new …………..”
“Look, as you said, I ‘used’ to have cover with you. If I wanted to continue I’d still be with you.”
“Well, you may be interested in a new package. Can I have your date of birth?”
“What do you want that for?”
“To confirm that it is you I’m talking to.”
“Er …. you rang me! Who the Hell do you think you’re talking to?”
“Your opening line was, ‘Is that David Jandrell’, yes?”
“And I said, ‘yes’, did I not?”
“So I’ll ask the question again, who the Hell do you think you’re talking to?”
“Er ……. I have to ask ….er …….. for security purposes.”
“So, when you said ‘is that David Jandrell’, did I say ‘no’?
“Er…. no, you said ‘yes’.
“See, if I hadn’t been me when you asked me if I was David Jandrell, I’d have said ‘no’ wouldn’t I?”
“I suppose so.”
“So, who the hell do you think you’re talking to?”
“Well, for security reasons ………………..”
“You rang me!”
“You see, if I rang my bank or the HMRC or someone like that, I would have to prove to them that I was who I was claiming to be in case I was involved in some sort of scam. I can understand why that is necessary, you know, that’s if I ring someone.”
“Good, now we’re seeing eye to eye. This is the same thing.”
“No it isn’t. You rang me out of the blue and less than 30 seconds into our conversation you are asking me for personal details.”
“Well I can’t continue until you give them to me.”
“Yes. I don’t want to continue talking to you.”
“But ….. er ………”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you. Seeing as you rang me, I’ll give you my date of birth if you confirm to me who you are first.”
“How do I know that you are who you are claiming to be?”
“Er ….. because I told you?”
“Well anyone can do that!”
“What do you mean?”
“Well if I rang your bank and said, ‘Hello, I’m Nigel from PCS’ and they asked me to confirm your identity by giving your date of birth and asking me some security question and my response was, ‘I told you who I was’, are they going to give me full access to your account?”
“Er …. no.”
“Right. So I cannot continue with this conversation until you have convinced me that you are who you say you are.”
“How am I going to do that?”
“Well it’s going to be difficult I know but I’m really looking forward to listening to hear you try.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well there's no point in giving me your date of birth because I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what your first pet’s name was or what your mother’s maiden name was, so, you’re going to have to come up with something else. Treat it as a test of initiative.”
“Well ……. er…..”
“You can’t can you?”
“Are you going to end this call or shall I continue to deliberately run your phone bill up?”
“I’ll end it.”
I’d love to be in their training session when they play the recording of that back to the trainees...