As I write this article, one Sam Fender, of North Shields in the north-east of England, is number one in the album charts in the UK.
Sam went to a high school in my hometown, then joined the sixth form at my old high school.
He has talked about how a teacher at his high school (not the sixth form) helped him work on his writing.
He’s also talked about his dad being in a band and his brother being a drummer, and how this helped him become a musician and ultimately win a Brit Award and top the charts in the UK.
Not only am I immensely proud of Sam because he’s a young Geordie lad who went to my school, but his album is also brilliant. He talks about social issues relevant to an early twenty-something man from North Shields: male suicide, mental health, unemployment, benefits assessment, drinking culture, assumed white privilege.
He said he left sixth form with terrible grades and didn’t know what to do. (This is the only thing Sam and I have in common.)
On benefits, he worked in a pub, got his lucky break and gigged hard for five years before topping the charts.
At school I was also in a band. I was in a few of them. None of this was encouraged by the school. In fact, one year, we approached the head of my house and asked if we could perform rock Christmas songs at the annual house Christmas assembly.
To his credit, the house head was all for the idea. He asked us to leave it with him; so we did.
He came back to us later and the answer was no. The reasons? Well, it didn’t quite fit in with the plan. Not only were we different ages and in different school years – we straddled an enormous two academic years – we were also in different houses.
There were four houses at my school: Warkworth (my house), Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh, named after the four principal castles in Northumberland.
The guitarist was also in Warkworth, but the drummer was in Bamburgh and the bassist in Dunstanburgh (I hadn’t yet been relegated to the bass) and this was just impossible to overcome, it seemed.
This was the second time we’d been knocked back from trying to get a band project working in school. No matter how we tried, we didn’t seem to be able to get our fun life outside of school to fit into the dull life inside it.
I’ve no doubt this would be encouraged now, and credit to those that let that happen.
So what did I learn from this? I basically learned to stick two fingers up at them all and to get on with it and do it on my own.
We’re off to the Frankfurt Book Fair, and to visit family in the UK.
Normal service will be resumed in a couple of weeks, with the first in the new series of articles: What I Learned About Business from Being in a Band.
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