Pat Blythe – Mind F*ck Monday…..loneliness and loss…..and music

This is supposed to be a music column. I should be regaling you with all the Indie bands I’ve seen, the venues and clubs I’ve sashayed through, the festival stages I’ve covered, the photographs I’ve taken and cities I’ve traveled to (not to mention the food). The unfortunate thing is, for the past seven months I’ve done none of that (except for the food) and it’s starting to get damn frustrating!

There’s music all over the internet, artists of all stripes are streaming and there are endless “shows” to choose from. Many are now “ticketed events”. The small clubs and bars that provide live music are just starting to get their legs back. Even though the music’s playing and people are paying, it’s impossible to photograph through giant sheets of plastic, especially with a very vivid reflection of a television screen or three. It also forms an impediment between the band and the audience…..literally and metaphorically. It’s equally challenging to shoot with a mask on. I look down at the camera and any mask I’m wearing blocks part of my view. As for all that acrylic, I’m seriously thinking we should all start buying shares in plexiglass manufacturers.

Pretzel Logic performs at Timothy’s Pub September 19, 2020. Photo ©2020 Irene Sweeney Willis

Five concerts on my back deck were a fine taste of what’s possible and a reminder of what’s missing. With COVID now making a rather strong and pervasive appearance once again, the line on the graph seems to be going up…..a lot…..the near future is looking rather ominous for the restaurant and club circuit. So far as live music goes, at this writing, it’s all still a go. Right now it’s the in between, background “filler” tunes and even TVs that have to be turned down a notch or seven to conversation level (whatever the hell that is). Interesting specifics since a friend on FB noted the contrast between background noises and a band screaming into their set with Smoke on the Water! Maybe, just maybe it’s time to shut up and really “listen to the music” (and maybe turn those TVs off when the band is performing).

Just a small reminder of what we’re all missing!

Facebook seems to be increasingly more controlling regarding who I “see” and don’t “see” in my newsfeed and advertising has increased 100-fold. The connections among Instagram, FB, private texting messaging, google and even emailing are getting downright scary. Knowing many of us are spending increasing amounts of time in front of our screens, and taking full advantage, advertisers and the subsequent advertising is getting progressively more profuse and aggressive. All the search engines are spewing our information back to millions of companies around the world. Within in minutes of mentioning a product or service in any kind of communication format, an advert for said product or service will magically appear when you access that app again.  All those little watcher-bots just waiting for a mention of something……creepy! Add insult to injury, the constant barrage of messages by FB itself to advertise my events, sites, etc. and who I should “friend” is getting almost belligerent and very tiresome.

Really big, deeeeeep sigh………..

I subscribe to a weekly diatribe called Mindf*ck Monday, Life Advice That Doesn’t Suck. Written by Mark Manson (no relation!) he came highly recommended by my eldest son. An unrestricted, lay it all out, say it like it is, incisive, sharp, critical (in all senses) writer, Manson is the author of two books, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Everything is Fucked.

The Many Uses of the F Word – Episode #12 – Using Proper English

Depending on the week’s topic(s), Manson describes his Monday morning offerings as “the only weekly newsletter that isn’t afraid to spend a Friday night alone”; “the only weekly newsletter that will always listen to your complaining, even though it doesn’t care”; “the only weekly newsletter whose dad can beat up your dad”; “the only weekly newsletter that’s cooler than it sounds”…..and so on. In it are “three potentially life-changing ideas to help you be a slightly less awful human being.” This week’s subject matter was loneliness and it has been noodling around in my head for the past two days. For the link to Manson’s site, access to his articles, or to subscribe, click here https://markmanson.net/newsletters

DSC_0700

This just made me laugh!

Manson writes what we think with a sardonic (and sometimes cynical) sense of humour with a one two punch. This week’s piece is particularly insightful and addresses something that had not occurred to me regarding social media. He quotes a passage from a book, The Origins of Totalitarianism written in 1951 by philosopher Hannah Arendt whose ending (to quote Manson) “comes to a startling conclusion: she argued that loneliness makes people susceptible to the contempt and fragmentation that causes functional societies to collapse into extremism and violence. “

Alone or lonely?

Since it was announced almost nine months ago that the world was experiencing a pandemic, and life as we once lived it was over, two significant mental health issues have arisen; loneliness and fear. The latter I have discussed in a previous column as the new four-letter word, so today we delve into the former. The lack of physical, social connection (and by that I mean face-to-face, in person conversation) has turned many of us towards too much screen time. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Instagram, Facebook, etc. have, in many ways, disconnected us. It’s all a good starter kit, but in reality they are becoming social barriers, causing us to become more isolated and detached, exacerbating the feeling of disconnection and loneliness.

We all need a push!

It was sociologist Robert S. Weiss who determined there are two primary types of loneliness…..social and emotional. In his book Loneliness: The Experience of Emotional and Social Isolation Weiss states, “both types of loneliness have to be examined independently, because the satisfaction for the need of emotional loneliness cannot act as a counterbalance for social loneliness, and vice versa”.

Without getting all “sciencey” there’s a vast difference between “alone” and “lonely”. We can be alone without feeling lonely, but we can also feel lonely with a group of people. Being alone is a purely physical state. We all like our “alone time” away from the regular demands of our lives…..spa day, your favourite beverage (mine’s a G&T) and a good book, or maybe just putting the headphones on, zoning out and tuning in to your favourite music. Just a little personal “me time” to process, reinvigorate and regenerate.

Loneliness is an emotional state. A feeling of emptiness and sadness when there is a lack of social relationships or social interactions. Your mind and heart hurt. Our brains actually feel social pain much like physical pain. Reasons for loneliness are a bit of guesswork, observations and assumptions since it’s difficult to create an experimental setting.

However, according to a study by research scientist Louise Hawkley, “loneliness is correlated with social anxiety, social inhibition (shyness), sadness, hostility, distrust, and low self-esteem, characteristics that hamper one’s ability to interact in skillful and rewarding ways…lonely individuals tend to have a pessimistic general outlook: they are more negative than are individuals…they tend to blame themselves for not being able to achieve satisfactory social relationships. The negative self-protective lens through which lonely individuals view their social world also influences how they interpret and cope with stressful circumstances…they are more likely to disengage or withdraw from stressors.” 

The doctor is in

Without a constant or regular presence in one’s life, isolation and its byproduct, loneliness, is reaching its own pandemic proportions. ”Houston, we have a problem!” So what can we do about it? Is there a solution?

Get creative! There is no “one size fits all” answer. It will depend on individual needs. We can’t “fix” people but we can support them. Use the phone for what it was originally intended (ya I know, what a concept!)…..reach out and CALL someone. For all of us, don’t forget to check in on friends, neighbours and family. This is the perfect time to break down our own barriers and prise open barriers others put up. If you can, literally reach out and touch someone. Physical contact is vital to our health and overall well being. Sorry, but virtual hugs just don’t cut it.

We can also help ourselves. Stick your leg out of that box you’re in. Dip your big toe in the water. Rather than allowing detachment or disengagement to linger and build up, connect and join the conversation. Make plans, force yourself to get out more, even if it’s for a short walk, a drive in the country or bike ride. Enjoy the sunshine! Reach out, dial that number and actually talk to someone. If someone reaches out to you, don’t turn them away. They need the connection just as much as you.

Remember, the bottom line is…..it’s all about “us”!

I send this out to everyone

Countermeasure…….

A wee mention….. I was invited by Pat Silver of SING! Toronto to watch the story of a cappella group Countermeasure, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. I have to say right up front, I LOVE this band. Every time I hear their voices I get goosebumps. Talented is such a “meh” word to describe them. Hugely creative, gifted, brilliant….okay, exceptionally talented individuals and when they come together as a group they can literally take my breath away! Their new album is just out and for the first time they’ve invited “real” instruments to blend with their voices. The human voice…..one of our most precious instruments.

Carry Away – Countermeasure

Two key losses that reverberate….

Toronto musician and he of the dulcet vocal chords, Doug Baynham, passed away two days ago from complications due to stomach cancer. Doug performed in a number of Toronto bands including Dirty White Boys, Urgent and his own band BAYB. A gifted singer, musician and a very charismatic frontman, I met Doug in 1979 through Chris who had taken the band’s promo photographs a year earlier. I grabbed every opportunity to see the band perform until they broke up. Years later I would connect with Doug twice more…..performing in Stumblin’ Blind and when he stepped in to perform with the Yeah Yeah Yeah band days after the sudden and unexpected death of co-founder Don MacLean. He remembered Chris and that photo shoot too! Doug never lost those golden tones or his love of performing. Keep singing wherever you are! (Thanks to Kim Hunt who knew the names of BAYB’s band members!)

l-r – Wayne Siberry (guitar), Gord Wall (drums), Doug Platt (guitar) and Doug Baynham (bass/vox) 1978

Performing with Stumblin’ Blind at the Tara Inn 2017

Now with the shocking and stupefying passing of Eddie Van Halen yesterday, October 6, this year can’t be over fast enough! We’ve lost so many members of our music family. Eddie’s death personally touched two good friends of mine. I’ve included their FB memories below, separated by a Van Halen song inspired by Julian Taylor’s post.

I just heard the news that Eddie Van Halen has passed. It was Eddie that gave me my first big break into the USA with my Hanover Fist project. He selected my song as the lead song to a movie called the Wild Life while he was under contract with Universal as the music director for that film. I’ve never forgotten that by his good graces my music was given a chance to transcend from local to international. Godspeed Eddie, you will be missed by all.”

— Frank Zirone

Little Guitars – Van Halen

“In the summer of 86, the Kim Mitchell Band somehow got on the bill along with BTO, opening for Van Halen at Silver Stadium in Rochester. About 30 thousand people. Pretty cool.

So we were there in the afternoon for soundcheck, and naturally VH went first. When I saw Alex and Eddie, I was so shocked. They were at the height of their alcoholism, and both looked like death. They were drinking Colt 45 Malt Liquor from morning until night in those days. They sounded awful at soundcheck, and we were wondering how they were going to pull this show off.

Anyway, it came time for the show. BTO went on, and went over pretty well, then we were up, and although we played well, the crowd just wasn’t with us. At one point though there was suddenly a lot of noise, and I thought, “hey, we’ve won them over!” Wrong. The audience had caught a glimpse of Eddie watching us from the side of the stage!

After our set Eddie came by our dressing room to say that he dug the band, and especially Kim’s playing. That was pretty cool. Still, he looked pretty bad and even said, “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this show!”

Anyway, we took our places at the side of the stage and then the biggest R&R circus that I had ever witnessed began. Holy fuck!

I don’t know what drugs they did, but those guys were suddenly on fire. Eddie never stopped moving, and was playing his ass off. At the side of the stage, out of view of the audience, there was a little table set up. On the table was a beer, a shot glass full of whatever, and a cigarette in an ashtray. Eddie would run off the stage, down the shot, have a gulp of beer and take a drag on the cigarette, and then run back out to continue the mayhem. His tech would refill the shot glass and put up a fresh cigarette and beer when necessary. I just stood there taking this all in, thinking, “this is ROCK with a capital R!” They were bigger than GOD on that stage!

Not to mention the constant barrage of bras and panties that were constantly hitting Sammy Hagar. OMG! But that’s another story, that I can’t really tell here…

R.I.P. Eddie. You and the boys were the real deal”

— Paul DeLong

Running With the Devil – Van Halen

Jump – Van Halen

Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

Strange Kind of Woman – Deep Purple (on Italian TV)

Wake Me Up – Avicii

Better Days Ahead – Pat Metheny

Fox in the Field – Countermeasure

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon – Queen

Child in Time – Deep Purple

…..and holy shite, he hits those notes……LIVE!!!

The Fifth Dimension – Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In

How this song came to be is truly extraordinary……..

The Making of “I’m Not in Love” – 10CC

Cheers!

Photo of Pretzel Logic at Timothy’s Pub ©2020 Irene Sweeney Willis

B&W photo of BAYB ©1978-2020 the estate of Christopher Blythe The Picture Taker

Photos of Doug Bayhnam performing with Stumblin’ Blind ©2017-2020 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera

Photo montage ©2017-2020 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

3 Responses to “Pat Blythe – Mind F*ck Monday…..loneliness and loss…..and music”

  1. Damon Hines Says:

    Thanks again for a taste of a vastly more appealing and benign to downright beneficial contagion. Cheers, Pat.

    • Thanks Damon…..I think 🙂 I never know what my keyboard is going to produce until I start writing it. Cheers!

  2. Peter Crowley Says:

    Doug Baynham at the Gasworks

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