I’m sat on a burgundy bench in the lobby of a Chinese restaurant and I’m starting to recognise the music playing softly in the background. What is it? I know this. Is this Tears in Heaven? A twangy stringed violin of some description plays the vocal melody, and I quietly sing along, going in and out with the new phrasing. It’s mostly there but it’s cloaked in an arrangement of traditional sounding instruments at a much slower tempo. I think about what had to happen for it to reach me here and now. I wonder if it was resting in a songbook that someone had and if it was given much thought as to what the song is about. Either way it seems an odd accompaniment while people eat their food. I think about Eric Clapton and the occasions he inevitably hears his own song in situations much like this.
I take in my surroundings and feel like I’m not really in the restaurant, but sort of in limbo between the front door and the counter – there’s seating in the back somewhere. My eyes are drawn to a brightly illuminated fish tank. Inside is pretty minimal; just a couple of fantails looking like they’re having difficulty deciding which direction to go in and a very typical looking sea shell used as fish furniture. I think a little about what creature would have grown this shell and I can’t decide as it sits divorced on the gravel and then I think of a hermit crab shuffling along wearing it.
I realise I’m still singing. Attributing this to a mixture of nervous energy somewhere between hunger and boredom I internalise the singing and switch to imagining a drum track along to the song. I used to play the drums and I still feel like mentally I’m in top form but in reality I haven’t played more than a handful of times in nearly a decade now. I see my drums each time I visit my parents. They’re there sitting in their cases stacked higher than the armchair that hides them in what is no longer my bedroom but now the spare guest room. The few times I have sat down behind a kit, I’ve found I couldn’t express what I was thinking and it was frustrating to be witness to such disparity between mind and body.
I took lessons when I was starting out and once when my usual teacher was absent there was a different guy who by way of introduction asked me to play a straight 4/4 beat. He listened while I stayed on the same basic pattern awaiting instruction or sign to stop. After a while he interrupted and showed me a few pointers on accentuating a thing here and there, to lean on certain beat and add a few ghost notes. Again, after a while of the endless loop he stopped me and played it back to me his way and told me add a bit of soul and that this time I needed to ‘really feel it’.